Manufacturing Engineering: Open Mind Technologies is celebrating its 25th anniversary. What are the most significant trends you’ve seen in CAM during that time?
Alan Levine: Twenty years ago, Open Mind first introduced CAM software capabilities to address five-axis machining in the mold and die industry and other general applications. Since that time five-axis technology has grown disproportionately larger when compared to the increase in overall manufacturing growth. Together with new five-axis technology, machine tools and control systems, CAM software has enabled productive use of indexing and simultaneous multi-axis machining. Additionally, many end users have redesigned components to leverage the benefits of five-axis machining, including increased quality due to fewer part set-ups, increased productivity with the use of shorter cutters, reduced assembly times due to the manufacture of more complex components rather than a series of simplified sub-components, and more.
In the last five to ten years, we have focused on innovations within CAM to increase user productivity. Some examples include applying high-performance roughing to multi-axis shaped surfaces and new solutions using conical barrel cutters that produce dramatic machining improvements and cycle time reductions.
Another trend is the
increasing importance of automation to reduce programming times and compensate for the lack of skilled programmers.
ME: What are key ways that hyperMILL CAM software has evolved to meet customer requirements along the way?
Levine: About 10 years ago, customers were primarily seeking high-performance toolpaths from a CAM software provider. Today, the customer expectation has increased to not only include high-quality toolpaths, but to increase the technology scope to connect to CAD systems, feature and macro technology, tool management systems, automation, simulation, probing, and more.
Manufacturers face continual pressure to increase all productivity metrics, including faster part production, high machine utilization, flexibility to produce families of parts and address broader applications, all at a lower cost per unit. These market pressures have increased the range of customer needs, so that a successful CAM system has to support this increased scope.
ME: What’s new in your hyperMILL CAM suite updates?
Levine: Introduced last year, hyperMILL 2019.1 offers several new features and enhancements, including an expanded Finishing Module in the hyperMILL MAXX Machining Performance Package; process optimizations such as a new thread milling module; a new function for reducing calculation times; tool database flexibility; and CAD optimization.
Now, the latest hyperMILL CAD/CAM suite, 2019.2, adds a range of new features including high-precision 3D finishing; five-axis tangent machining; high-performance turning; and new CAD-for-CAM technologies that integrate more CAD utilities directly into CAM strategies for faster programming.
ME: Manufacturers continually want to improve surface finishes—what differentiates hyperMILL and its surface finishing capabilities?
Levine: In demanding applications, customers want to reduce post-machining processing. This saves time and process steps. Open Mind recently added technology to focus on the production of a good part, more than just developing a good toolpath.
Two examples are a smooth overlap blending technique and high-precision finishing that works directly on part surfaces.
Smooth overlap techniques address the complex physical problems encountered in manufacturing, such as deflection between adjacent program areas that use different cutters, cutter wear, and spindle growth. The smooth overlap process adds some passes to overlap adjacent paths while simultaneously avoiding double-cut surfaces. The machined results are excellent, with nearly imperceptible marks at the joining of the adjacent paths.
High-precision cutting shifts the final toolpath locations from an approximated mesh surface to the actual design surface. Though sometimes the toolpath is moved by only a few microns, there is marked improvement in the visible resulting surfaces, with no remaining witness from the approximated mesh surface.
ME: In what industries are users best applying hyperMILL, and can you give any specific customer examples, including which hyperMILL features they are using?
Levine: The hyperMILL CAM system is applied to a wide variety of industries. Due to it offering modules, which customers can choose from based on their needs, it is a very flexible CAM solution, and NC programs can be conveniently generated for simple and complex components. That is why our CAM system is utilized in tool and mold making, automotive and aerospace industries, production machining, and the energy and medical sectors. For special tasks, we provide our customers with dedicated packages for the production of impellers, blisks, turbine blades, tire molds and tubes. By having robust solutions that apply to all industries, we perform well regardless of market trends.
ME: How does the current CAD/CAM software environment look and how do you see the overall business climate for the near-term future?
Levine: We see three trends developing that will be important for CAD/CAM software.
- There is a well-documented skills gap in industry. Manufacturers need to find workflow solutions to compensate for the labor shortage; hyperMILL offers many levels of programming automation, from recognition of geometric features to programming of standardized macros and smart macros with conditional logic.
The hyperMILL Automation Center provides a simple process to define scripts for partial or complete programming to reduce end-user programming steps. Even the most complex programming and production processes can be enormously accelerated with automation capabilities. Every year, we see double-digit growth rates in automation projects. The advanced capabilities offered by CAD/CAM systems add value to the programmer, as up to 80 percent of standard tasks can be covered by automated processes. In this way, the programmer can focus on more profitable and complex tasks.
- There is strong interest in the world regarding green and sustainable energy solutions. New products and replacement products with lower weight or higher fuel efficiency are in demand. In the aerospace industry, nearly all airplanes and engines will be changed in the next ten years due to weight reduction, increased efficiency, or reduced noise.Traditional benefits from high-value CAM programming also have an impact on green and efficient solutions. Calculation systems with high assurance allow time and material savings by reducing test cuts and process development. And high-efficiency solutions such as hyperMILL MAXX Machining save enormous amounts of time and reduce the machine usage to enable increased throughput.
- Additive manufacturing and hybrid manufacturing (additive and subtractive on the same machine) are increasing in popularity. Since most additive processes for metal do not leave a suitable surface finish, hybrid solutions enable a milled finish on the same machine and set-up that produced the additive portions.
Open Mind is active in additive manufacturing processes based on directed-energy deposition developments. Usage includes demonstrations with machine partners, university and research activities, and also some early adopter industrial end users that are working with additive and hybrid machining of metals.