Manufacturing Engineering: In 2018, CNC Software Inc., Tolland, Conn., reached several milestones: its 35th anniversary as a company, 250,000th installation, a new user website and the introduction of Mastercam 2019. And now you’re getting ready to release Mastercam 2020 later this year. What’s new with this upcoming release?
Ben Mund: We’ve taken a broader look at how our software works with a view to speeding up manufacturing processes. The goal was to open up as many connections as we could for that incoming data thread, pulling information into Mastercam, processing it and then passing that information on. That’s vital for the future of manufacturing.
We’ve also added ways to improve process documentation and estimation, as well as continuing our work with others who are advancing connected manufacturing, including new manufacturer-specific tool libraries and expanded model-based definition support. We’ve also provided more CAD for CAM offerings so that operators have the CAD tools that they need to get the part on and off the machine quickly.
ME: What’s new in Mastercam toolpaths?
Mund: Toolpaths are, of course, our core technology. And for that, we’ve continued to expand and improve our core dynamic motion engine to increase the time savings that users have come to expect. We’re also including advances to our accelerated finishing toolpaths for shaped tools, often in collaboration with machine tool developers. We’ve made sure to touch as many aspects of a shop’s needs as we can, from faster, consolidated holemaking to high-precision, complex, multi-axis machining.
ME: A lot of the changes you make to Mastercam come out of your beta testing software development program. How does it work?
Mund: We have a very large, very strong public beta program that includes a lot of beta users, shops who will test our software and send us feedback. We have a roster of about a hundred pre-beta shops that help us with initial testing of new concepts and approaches. Once we’ve gone through that process, we make adjustments and open up our Public Beta program, where any shop worldwide that has current Mastercam maintenance can download the upcoming release and provide feedback to help shape the final product.
We get invaluable insight on everything from practical interface workflow to edge cases for specific toolpaths. Our community definitely makes us better.
ME: You also test Mastercam features at your company machine shop.
Mund: We’re one of the few CAM companies that has a functional machine shop, with multiple machine tools and manufacturing equipment, right here in our headquarters. We use this facility to really hammer on our software, pushing it to its limits. As we come up with new software, new toolpaths, and new techniques, we try to replicate the shop environment in several different configurations. We rotate makes and models of machine tools through the shop, which is dedicated to R&D testing of the software.
ME: To get Mastercam in the hands of users, CNC Software has an extensive reseller network. What value do your resellers add to the product?
Mund: The software is only part of our value proposition. Our real advantage is our reseller network. It provides us with hundreds of points of presence throughout the world. Not all of these are direct sales representatives, but they all can provide recommendations and expertise in how best to use Mastercam with different machines, cutting tools, and manufacturing situations.
ME: Support is a big part of that process as well, correct?
Mund: Our resellers are on the front line. The support network behind our CAM system is crucial, and we’ve cultivated it for 35 years. It’s one of the points that we’re the proudest of. We have people who have been with us for almost the entire life of the product—that’s a lot of experience that’s a direct benefit to the user.
And we’re fortunate that many of these resellers have a long-term outlook on customer commitment, passing their expertise on to one of their experienced people who have been with the software and the company for 10 to 15 years when they decide it’s time to retire. We are fortunate to have an exceptionally long-lived and highly skilled reseller network.
ME: In 2018, CIMdata ranked Mastercam the No. 1 CAM software used worldwide in both the educational and industrial categories, with nearly twice as many installed seats as the nearest competitor. How has the company been able to hold on to that position?
Mund: At the basic level, it comes down to community confidence and cutter paths. Our community is based on those broad-based, 250,000 installations. We have a very active and engaged community that talk to each other and back each other up and help each other.
Also, we’re still privately owned, which gives us flexibility. Our CEO, Meghan West, has done a lot in the last couple of years to make sure that we are poised for the next 35 years. And we’ve already talked about our resellers, who provide a great network of local service and support. And that lends itself to customer confidence.
ME: CNC Software also is involved in manufacturing programs at many high schools and colleges, correct?
Mund: Yes. We’re trying to get students excited about manufacturing as a career. In addition to working closely with local high schools and community colleges, we’ve partnered with the National Robotics League as a Diamond-level sponsor and participated in NASA HUNCH (High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware), an effort to bring high school students new educational experiences with NASA projects, as well as a number of other programs.
ME: You also are continuing to bring information about manufacturing to your own employees.
Mund: That’s a good point. In the classic non-fiction book, Mind of the Maker, by Dorothy L. Sayers, she notes that there is often a disconnect for the artist between making something and seeing the art that they’ve created in the real world. It can cause a little bit of disassociation for people about what they do and the value of what they do. That applies in manufacturing too.
That struck a chord with me because for the last few years, we at CNC Software have actually done something that helps resolve that disconnect. We get everyone in the company together and have customers speak to us about how they use our product. The whole company benefits from that, but it’s particularly helpful for our development staff, which works really hard to produce the software but often doesn’t get to see the end result. It’s been fantastic.
In the latest release of its Simcenter 3D, Siemens PLM Software introduces new simulation capabilities, stronger connections to the broader Simcenter portfolio and an expansion of the integrated, multi-disciplinary environment to cover an extended simulation solution footprint, which will help engineers reduce the time, cost and effort required to predict product performance, according to Siemens. The simulation solution has also been updated to include simulation of the additive manufacturing process and to cover areas such as transmission simulation, aerostructure margin of safety analysis and fluid-structure interaction.
Simcenter 3D can now automate the creation and simulation of transmission simulation models within a single, integrated environment. Integrating this traditionally multi-step, error-prone process into a single tool can reduce an engineer’s effort by up to 80 percent, leading to a more efficient simulation process, according to the company. “Creating a complex transmission multibody model is a very time-consuming process, often requiring the use of multiple software tools,” said Horim Yang, senior research engineer, Hyundai Motor Co. “Simcenter 3D is well-suited for our engineering purposes and can reduce the overall time spent on transmission modeling and simulation.”
The latest release of Simcenter 3D offers new ties to the digital thread through synergies with the Simcenter portfolio. New connections between Simcenter 3D and Simcenter STAR-CCM+ software enable aero-acoustics and aero-vibro-acoustic simulations, allowing customers to eliminate the source of unwanted noise for improved cabin comfort. Simcenter 3D can also connect with the routing application within NX software to obtain electrical cord layouts and connection points. Simcenter 3D can then simulate electrical cord deformation within moving assemblies so engineers can make sure wire harnesses don’t get caught on moving parts and adjust as needed for cord routing.
Simcenter 3D Aerostructures can now streamline the end-to-end aircraft structural analysis and margin of safety process by up to 30 percent. Also, topology optimization is now more robust and easier to use, according to Siemens, and adds design objectives or constraints for structural integrity of a part when subjected to critical loads.
A new additive manufacturing process simulation tool helps manufacturers achieve a quality print that matches the desired shape on the first try, saving resources, cost and time.
Moore Nanotechnology Systems (Nanotech), Keene, N.H., has released its next-generation NanoCAM4 software package (N4), which provides accuracy and programming functionality for the ultra-precision optical market. N4 allows users to design and directly transfer their complex optical surfaces to Nanotech’s machine tools. Nanotech partnered with lead customers, technology institutions and software providers during the development cycle, providing opportunities to make incremental changes prior to the release.
N4 enables improved form accuracies and direct importing/exporting of STEP, IGES or Point Clouds through the actual Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines (NURBS) raw data, thus eliminating the need for cumbersome and less-accurate point-cloud conversion, and the output provides a smooth form and surface definition, according to Nanotech. N4 is available in four different base modules.
Software developer Open Mind Technologies AG, Wessling, Germany, and Needham, Mass., has introduced hyperMILL 2019.1, a new version of its CAD/CAM software suite. It has 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.
The expanded functions offer further improvements in cycle time, surface finish and user convenience, according to Alan Levine, managing director of Open Mind Technologies USA Inc. The new five-axis Prismatic fillet finishing function in hyperMILL MAXX machining enables the geometry and automatic inclination of barrel cutters to be applied similar to high-feed cutters, using a plunging and pulling movement at high feed rates. Also, the Profile Milling technique has a new option that improves surface finish.
Among the process improvements in 2019.1, the updated Thread Milling module is easy to program and supports a large number of thread milling types, while simplifying selection and milling direction options, according to Open Mind. Also new is the elimination of cycle recalculation requirements, improving processing speed. Recalculation cycles are no longer required when job ID numbers are changed or when fixture positions change.
In addition, for improved tool management, users now have the option to individually expand the tool database in hyperMILL 2019.1, allowing the ability to store order numbers, pricing and tool life detail.
Boothroyd Dewhurst Inc., Wakefield, R.I., developer of Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DFMA) software, has announced the availability of DFMA 2019 for analyzing parts and assemblies to reduce part count, control cost, and improve quality, performance and manufacturing efficiencies.
Using DFMA, engineering and manufacturing teams are better able to assess part-assembly strategies, learn new design skills, benchmark existing and competitor products, add focus and structure to design reviews, integrate design and manufacturing, and support system-wide decision making, according to Boothroyd Dewhurst.
DFMA software utilizes an intuitive question-and-answer interface that identifies opportunities for substantial cost reduction in a product. By applying industry-tested minimum part count criteria, the software finds parts that can be consolidated or eliminated while maintaining 100 percent functionality, according to the company.
The outcome of a DFMA-based design is a more elegant product that is both functionally efficient and easy to assemble, the company stated.
Software Update is edited by Editor in Chief Alan Rooks.