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Trends in Simulation Software Make It More Powerful, Practical and Faster to Master

Silvere Proisy
By Silvère Proisy NCSIMUL North American Operations Manager, Hexagon Production Software

As more companies are embracing automation and efficiency methods, dedicated machining simulation software is a natural fit into today’s modern factories. In our experience, even small shops with under five employees are investing in these programs. Certainly, the rise of more complex multiaxis machinery installations is one driver. In this parallel universe of machine and simulation software development, the software in recent years has made significant improvements in ease of use, graphics and processing speed. These solutions are integrating the creation of optimized CNC programs, machining simulation, and the ability to publish the manufacturing data that operators and quality technicians need in the shop. In some cases, the programs integrate cutting tool libraries and enhance cutting tool conditions, which further underscores their value.

The simulation packages available today have their special nuances and strengths and should be reviewed and compared with each other. It’s important to ensure that the simulation software can integrate with your existing CAM program seamlessly. A Windows-based system is also wise with its familiar interface using buttons, ribbons and icons. Considering the complex processing that these programs do, they are becoming much easier and faster to figure out. In our case, NCSimul Solutions, which combines NCSimul Machine and NCSimul 4CAM, breaks down the procedure in three simple steps: investigate the existing CAM generated code and correct any coding syntax errors, simulate the cutting action to find and correct motion errors, and then validate the part dimensionally. Of course, there are actions to take within this hierarchy; however, the choices and results of those are presented in a clear, logical fashion with an efficient methodology to address the errors and make necessary corrections.

This may be an obvious point, but sometimes it’s the things in front of us that can be overlooked: When reviewing programs, you’ll want to ensure that the provider has your specific machine models’ G-codes, macros, and kinematics ready to pull up in a precisely accurate and high-resolution 3D view. User interface is also in play when implementing a new machine tool into the company. Modern CNC simulation software provides interactivity for the programmer between the 3D, G-code programs and useful information, which is available at any time to troubleshoot errors. The ability to read the native machine variables and macros is an important feature to ensure simulation integrity. Simulation software depth such as this can translate into a significant advantage in time spent and simulation accuracy. This capability is particularly helpful in the scenario in which a company moves from three-axis to five-axis equipment and machining. The ability to validate the G-code permits creating the programs for a new machine automatically and safely, saving days if not weeks of programming time. In advanced programs, existing three-axis toolpaths can be bumped up to five-axis with literally a click of the button. Upon creation of the new five-axis program, the review, simulate and validate process is applied to it to smooth out any technical hitches. Machining can then be initiated with confidence.

Industries with high-value parts, such as aerospace and power generation, have been the earliest adopters of dedicated machining simulation software programs. Naturally, the primary benefit of the early generations of simulation software was to avoid motion crashes involving the cutting tool and workpiece. Now that the programs offer a wider range of capabilities and greater depth—such as machine tool and cutting tool libraries and the ability to generate project documentation and data for those companies truly embarking on the Industry 4.0 path—more industry sectors are experiencing the value of integrating a dedicated simulation program into their project workflow. We are experiencing an uptick in power generation, medical, consumer products, heavy equipment and electronics OEM installations, as well as their subcontract suppliers from very small to top tier ranks.

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