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Embracing New Technologies, Sharing Tools Can Help Unlock Keys to CAD/CAM Productivity

Pat Waurzyniak
By Patrick Waurzyniak Contributing Editor, SME Media
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Ben Mund, Senior Market Analyst, CNC Software Inc., Tolland, CT www.mastercam.com

Manufacturing Engineering: What’s new in your latest Mastercam CAD/CAM software?
Ben Mund: We just opened up our public beta for Mastercam 2019. We started broad public beta releases several years ago and they’ve been a huge factor in moving the software forward. We get a lot of shops out there giving their practical input about exactly what they need before the release officially hits the streets.

The current version features expansions to multiaxis cutting and our Dynamic Motion and Accelerated Finishing techniques that are geared towards both high-precision finishes and faster cut time. We also have a range of advancements that extend beyond toolpath creation. Specific CAD tools for NC programmers, preparation and process documentation, new tool support and advanced simulation are among the most popular with shops.

ME: What are machinists looking for most in CAM software today?
Mund: We spend a lot of time working with shops, and their goals stay fairly consistent. What changes is how we meet those goals.
Machinists are practical above all else. They’re under constant pressure for faster cycle times, the ability to use the latest in machine and tooling advances, increased automation and easier programming. This need accelerates every year, so the primary goal for companies like Mastercam is to keep ahead of these needs with aggressive innovation and strong relationships with machine manufacturers, tooling creators and other connected manufacturing software.

ME: How are some customers using your latest CAM capabilities to boost shop productivity?
Mund: That’s a great question, because general productivity really is the driver for most shops. Three broad areas in which we’ve seen shops get a productivity bump are embracing what’s new, sharing what’s proven, and exploring what they already have. Let me go into a little detail on that.

First, embracing what’s new. Products like Mastercam always push to develop new manufacturing techniques and to connect with other machine, tooling and software suppliers. Shops that commit time to seeing what new technology is available in the latest release can yield big productivity gains.

Second, sharing what’s proven. Many CAM packages can save libraries of a shop’s preferred cutting strategies, including tooling, toolpath and customized settings, that can be applied to similar incoming jobs. This can be invaluable as more experienced machinists begin to retire—it helps pass along not only industry knowledge to the younger shop members, but hard-won learning about how to best cut parts in your shop with your equipment.
Third, exploring what you already have. This doesn’t just apply to Mastercam or your specific CAM software, but to all your shop’s equipment. There are almost always benefits and tools that go unused simply because you may not have the time to learn them. But spending the time to dig further into what you already own can yield big dividends. An example from Mastercam is our Dynamic Motion technology. We’ve seen several customers program with traditional toolpaths because they either weren’t aware that they already had access to Dynamic Motion, or because they didn’t have the time to learn it. Once they gave it a try, however, the dramatic time savings that come from that technique was a huge boon to their productivity almost immediately. And best of all, they got that productivity boost without spending any additional money because it was already in their seat of Mastercam.

ME: What new features will be see in Mastercam for aero/defense machining?
Mund: One thing we’ve been spotlighting with aerospace companies is our expanded precision multiaxis capabilities and the efficiency boost that can be gained from coupling them with our Dynamic Motion technology. Dynamic Motion removes a lot of material much faster than previous techniques, allowing machinists to get to the refined precision multiaxis cutting sooner.
Another emerging technique is programming for specially shaped tools such as ‘circle segment’ cutters. We worked directly with toolmaker Emuge to develop optimized ways to use these tools and the results are impressive. We use specialized multiaxis motion to use as much of the shaped cutting surface as possible, with the end result being a part that comes off the machine faster and with a better finish.

ME: Simulation is getting better, and more critical to manufacturing. How does Mastercam use embedded/internal simulation tools?
Mund: Simulation is not only important, but absolutely vital with today’s increasingly complex machines and increasingly connected manufacturing. Accurate simulation helps ensure correct programming and reduces scrap and long-term costs. We treat our simulation just as we do our toolpaths—there’s always a way to make it better, more inclusive, more useful. We continually add tools that go beyond just showing the tool’s motion on the part and machine, including toolpath analysis and visual information to give richer data about not just where the tool is, but what it’s doing.

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This aluminum space station docking ring is cut using Mastercam’s Accelerated Finishing and an Emuge circle segment end mill. The result is a faster process and a more precise finish. Image courtesy CNC Software Inc.

We also look to link with our partners to help simulate a more fully connected manufacturing flow. Probing, for example, is much more easily controlled and understood when it’s properly simulated through the CAM system.

ME: How are advances in additive manufacturing affecting the CAD/CAM market and the development of CAM software?
Mund: Additive manufacturing continues to rapidly expand in exciting ways and is moving towards becoming a standard part of many shops’ manufacturing toolboxes. Although we’re not ready for public announcements right now, we’re determining what additive approaches are the most useful to our users and how we might best address them.

ME: How’s the current business climate looking this year?
Mund: The business climate is very encouraging. We closed out 2017 on an even better note than our forecasts indicated, and we’ve had an exceptionally strong start to 2018. Based on our observations, we were expecting that the manufacturing sector would be a little stronger in the first half of 2018 than the second, and so far that seems to be playing out. Manufacturing in the US continues to strengthen, and there continues to be general global manufacturing growth with some exciting hotspots continuing into this year.

It’s also interesting to take a step back and look at the manufacturing output for the last decade. We saw the beginnings of a steep decline in 2008 and hit an alarming valley in early 2009 with the financial crisis in full swing. Manufacturing and everything that supplies it took an enormous hit. Since the end of 2009 until today, however, it’s been nearly constant slow, steady growth in manufacturing output, and that’s brought machine tool manufacturers, software suppliers, shops and machinists along with it. It’s exciting that everyone—us, you, your readers—are all part of an industry that’s proven to be the backbone of economic recovery.

New Releases

NC simulation developer CGTech (Irvine, CA) is shipping its new Vericut Version 8.1.2 CNC machine simulation and optimization software. In addition to new features making it more powerful and easier to use, more than 150 customer-driven enhancements and software requests have been implemented in the update, according to the company.

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The CGTech Vericut Version 8.1.2 software features high-fidelity simulation of an impeller component in the program’s Force optimization module. Image courtesy CGTech

“We have thousands of customers and their needs vary greatly,” said Gene Granata, Vericut product manager. “Vericut is designed to meet the needs of all types of shops—from the small job shop with simple parts, to the OEM and Tier 1 supplier that regularly pushes the limits of CNC technology.”

Additive material deposition can now be seen in Vericut’s Reviewer and NC Program Review. Additive errors and red error color are applied to deposited material when any of the additive functions being checked are not compliant, making it easy to spot potential problems in additive processes. A single click identifies the error source.

The Vericut update includes enhancements in optimization for the program’s Force and OptiPath modules. Users can optimize more complex NC programs, including looping, branching, If/Then, and Do-While code, while retaining all decision-making logic. Optimized NC programs and subroutines are ready to run with no edits by the user. Force charts that graphically document the cutting process are enhanced with higher fidelity, so they can display even tiny material volumes and forces encountered.

Vero Software (Gloucester, UK) has released its latest VISI 2018 R1 update that provides a variety of new and enhanced CAD and CAM items of functionality for users in the mold and die market. VISI 2018 R1 introduces a new Mold Tool module based on VISI’s Assembly-Ng technology. The module provides greater flexibility when constructing supplier and non-standard tool configurations. Customizable templates, including the management of blank and predrilled plates, allow for easy tool layout creation and enhanced editing at any stage of the design process, according to the company.

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The new VISI 2018 R1 update from Vero Software offers users several enhancements, including the plastic Flow warpage prediction module to improve accuracy and performance by reducing calculation times. Image courtesy Vero Software

“The new Mold Tool provides a greater level of flexibility for both tool creation and advanced editing. This allows for adjustments to be made at any stage of a tool design’s development,” said VISI Product Manager Marco Cafasso. “All assembly components are automatically updated when plate adjustments are made, including component cavity manufacturing data.”

As part of a wider project of using established and proven group technology, the Reverse Engineering Suite has been officially released in 2018 R1, allowing for a point cloud to be loaded from an external file, and the optimized mesh created by setting different refining and smoothing options. The ability to create project design and manufacturing technical reports has been included within the system’s snapshot manager using data captured throughout CAD and CAM project stages.

Further enhancements have been made within the plastic Flow warpage prediction module to improve result accuracy for complex technical polymers. These improvements have been achieved by a complete revision of the algorithms for the Holding phase. Pressure and flow rate calculation adjustments, combined with the new shape solver, significantly improve the performance by reducing the calculation time up to 40%, according to the company.

Acquisitions

Hexagon PPM (Madison, AL) has acquired Plant Design Solutions (PDS; Houston), a software and services distributor. With this acquisition, the CADWorx & Analysis Solutions group, part of Hexagon PPM, will transition to a US direct sales model during the first quarter of 2018. No financial details of the transaction were disclosed.

“Over the years, we’ve had many requests from clients across the United States who want to work more directly with us,” said Rick Allen, president of CADWorx & Analysis Solutions. “As these requests have grown, we have chosen to move to a direct sales model to more closely serve our US clients. The US is our largest market and it’s important to have this direct interaction in the development of our products.”

PDS and all of its employees are now part of Hexagon PPM, a provider of asset lifecycle solutions for design, construction, and operation of industrial facilities. PPM is part of Hexagon, a global provider of information technology solutions.

Moves

PLM research firm CIMdata Inc. (Ann Arbor, MI) has created its latest PLM member service with the Medical Device PLM Action Group, an association of medical device companies within CIMdata’s global PLM Community Program.

The group is an industry-specific PLM advocacy group, as well as a defining organization for unfulfilled common interest PLM-related capabilities. Action Group members will participate in regular meetings to review and discuss research and other actions to address PLM-related topics of common interest with the goal of driving PLM best practices and solution provider development. The group is led by CIMdata Executive Consultant James L. Roche.

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