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Integrated CAM Packs a Punch for CNC Machining

Marc Bissell  Senior Applications Specialist CAMWorks/ HCL Technologies
By Marc Bissell Senior Applications Specialist, CAMWorks/HCL Technologies

Manufacturing Engineering: What are the latest technical trends in CAD/CAM software development?

New CAMWorks 2021 software shows a five-axis spiral swarf milling operation on an impeller.

Marc Bissell: Some of the biggest technology trends are in smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0 initiatives. These encompass automation and digital transformation, giving manufacturers technologies needed to help them be substantially more productive.

Today’s technologies also make working remotely more feasible than ever, and the COVID-19 pandemic is hastening both the demand for automation and increasing the need for smart solutions in remote manufacturing.

Implementing automation and moving to digital manufacturing can be daunting and has some specific challenges. Many manufacturing companies may see it as something that comes with a large price tag or requires a long, complex implementation. However, manufacturing companies can take steps to gradually incorporate more automation into their machine shops and immediately see the benefits of using some of today’s advanced technologies.

CAD/CAM software that is fully integrated—such as SOLIDWORKS, SOLIDWORKS CAM and CAMWorks—provides several benefits. First, designers and the programmers use the same software environment to design the part, program machinable features, create the toolpaths and generate the NC code. With an integrated system, the CAD and CAM models become one. Teams can take parts all the way from conceptual design to a final product within the same software interface. All the CAD and CAM data is stored in a single file, so there’s no need to maintain separate CAD and CAM files and no data translation issues. There is also no risk in machining an obsolete part because the toolpaths are fully associative to the design model and they update automatically when a design or engineering change occurs.

Another trend is automation tools, such as feature-based programming and knowledge-based machining, which have several benefits over operations-based CAD/CAM software. The databases of machining knowledge in the CAD/CAM software will select the appropriate tools (from a tool crib that matches the shop’s available tools), calculate the optimal feed/speed rates, apply the appropriate roughing and finishing toolpaths, and generate the NC code.

Taking this a step further, with the SOLIDWORKS CAM and CAMWorks Technology Database (TechDB), programmers can edit any of the automatically selected options and save them to a company-owned feature and strategy library. This allows manufacturers to capture their best practices and reuse them automatically. This helps standardize and automate tooling and CNC programming processes.

ME: What’s new with your latest CAD/CAM software?

Bissell: HCL recently released CAMWorks ShopFloor, which delivers powerful CAD/CAM functionality to machinists without the need to have a full CAD/CAM system on the shop floor. Once the CNC programmer has completed the part programming in SOLIDWORKS CAM or CAMWorks, they publish the ShopFloor file for the machinist. All the CAD/CAM data necessary to manufacture the part is included in one digital file, allowing companies to move beyond the use of 2D drawings or static PDF files.

A PVC fitting mold is machined using full toolpath simulation in the new CAMWorks ShopFloor application.

When the machinist opens the file in the ShopFloor application, they have access to digital setup sheets, tool lists and the G-code program to help in the setup of the CNC machine. With the complete CAD viewer included, they can display the native design model with GD&T dimensional information and annotations of the 3D part model. They can rotate, zoom, pan and section view the model. They can also take linear, radial, angular, and area measurements. In addition, the MBD and PMI data can be viewed, searched and filtered.

Toolpath simulation options give the machinist the ability to do a step-through simulation and review each operation at the machine, without the need to walk the machine through each cutting step or dry-running the program. A CNC Editor powered by Cimco is also included, which allows the machinist to view and edit G-code, renew the CNC program to view the impact of the edits made, back-plot directly from the G-code, make any final changes, and send the program to the CNC machine.

ME: How are users applying new CAD/CAM tools and techniques in manufacturing?

Bissell: Several of our customers are using integrated CAD/CAM while working remotely. They use SOLIDWORKS for design, CAMWorks or SOLIDWORKS CAM for remote programming, with CAMWorks Virtual Machine for simulation and CAMWorks ShopFloor on the shop floor to ensure that communication between engineering and machining is in sync. Also, several other customers are embracing and utilizing the automation available in SOLIDWORKS and CAMWorks, including API applications, to automate the CNC programming process. This has allowed them to grow their business and stay productive through the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

ME: What impact are some of the newer additive tools having today in CAD/CAM?

Bissell: As the demand for additive manufacturing has grown, demand to support it using CAD/CAM has also grown. As a result, HCL has developed CAMWorks Additive Manufacturing, powered by Materialise technology, which is the first (and only) additive-subtractive solution available for SOLIDWORKS. This allows users to prepare models for 3D metal printers inside SOLIDWORKS. The 3D printer model is then used as stock, and CAMWorks generates the CNC subtractive machining operations and toolpaths needed to remove the build supports and machine other user-defined areas of the part, all inside SOLIDWORKS. The design, additive and subtractive information are all stored in a single file, making it fully associative with the SOLIDWORKS model. Design changes are updated in the additive and subtractive programming.

ME: Are CAD/CAM systems becoming easier to use?

Bissell: Yes, they are definitely becoming easier to use. The technologies described above, including feature-based programming, automatic feature recognition and knowledge-based machining help manufacturers use automation to streamline design-to-manufacture processes, increase productivity and deliver higher-quality parts. Technology is ever improving, which means manufacturers are pressured to deliver more, faster. Staying competitive in today’s market requires adoption of advanced CAD/CAM technologies. CAMWorks automation is making CAD/CAM easier to use, particularly for new programmers who can benefit from years of experience and best practices from the top programmers and machinists, captured within the TechDB.

ME: Toolpath simulation is also key to speeding and automating metalcutting productivity. What are some of the key trends in toolpath and machine simulation?

Bissell: The key trends focus on significant improvements in both performance and accuracy, virtual twin comparison, program optimization, and machine recognition or awareness. Accurate, true G-code simulation is essential to avoid machine collisions and broken tools. Thanks to performance improvements in simulation, programmers get near-instantaneous feedback and simulation that can be used interactively to create each operation.

For example, rather than creating an operation and running simulation after the fact, only to discover a machining parameter needs to be changed, CAMWorks allows the programmer to run both toolpath and step-through simulation on-the-fly as they create an operation, adjust machining parameters, and see the result before accepting the operation. Also, using CAMWorks’ latest probing technology, as the user creates probing operations the toolpaths are instantly displayed, and when the parameters are changed toolpaths immediately update. Going forward, machine simulation will become interactive rather than after-the-fact, and will move up to become part of the CAM programming workflow.

New TrendMiner 2021.R1 Software Released

TrendMiner 2021.R1 data analytics software offers users both data dashboards and code-based data analysis that help bridge the knowledge gap between engineers and data scientists.

Software AG’s TrendMiner, Hasselt, Belgium, has released TrendMiner 2021.R1 software, which helps bridge the knowledge gap between engineers and data scientists. This latest release brings a new functionality of notebook integration, which helps users access both data dashboards and code-based data analysis.

TrendMiner enables operational experts in process industries to analyze, monitor, and predict operational performance using sensor-generated time-series data. TrendMiner’s goal is to empower engineers with analytics for improving operational excellence without relying on data scientists.

In the 2021.R1 release, users can jump from looking at data in a TrendMiner view to working with it in a code-based data science environment.

With their data science libraries of choice (e.g., Pandas, NumPy, SciPy, SciKit-Learn), engineers can create and run custom scripts for advanced statistical analyses and use AutoML capabilities to build machine learning models for anomaly detection. They can also operationalize the resulting notebook visualizations (also created with libraries of their choice such as Matplotlib, Plotly, Seaborn) as dashboard tiles in TrendMiner DashHub.

ModuleWorks Adds New 2021 Components

CAD/CAM software components developer ModuleWorks GmbH, Aachen, Germany, has released its 2020.12 CAD/CAM software components, including rotary machining for conical workpieces; adaptive turning with non-round inserts; roll-in moves; smart measuring functions for subtractive and additive simulation; and user-defined finishing curves.

Complex workpiece geometries, such as those found in injection molds and conical screw compressors, pose a special challenge for rotary machining. The latest ModuleWorks rotary machining components align the tool perpendicular to the cone-shaped floor to optimize the toolpath pattern for conical shapes. This minimizes the number of depth steps for roughing, eliminates step-downs for finishing and minimizes the number of linking movements to improve cutting conditions and speed up the production of conical parts.

ModuleWorks Smart Measure is a touch-screen tool that enables users to interactively measure distances, radiuses, angles, clearances and depths on stocks and meshes. New functions have been added for the ModuleWorks 2020.12 release that enable users to measure the distance between two arcs and to measure features on the workpiece while the turning simulation is running. For lathe operations, users can now measure the stock radius; the edge angle; the surface radius; the stock inner depth after drilling or boring operations; and wall distances after grooving operations.

Doosan Chooses ModuleWorks Simulation

Doosan Machine Tools has integrated new ModuleWorks simulation components into the company’s simulations.

Doosan Machine Tools, Pine Brook, N.J., has integrated the ModuleWorks cutting simulation technology into its Sketch Turn product. The ModuleWorks software replaces Doosan’s previous cutting simulation engine and is part of Doosan’s strategy to optimize the availability and effectiveness of machining information on the shop floor.

Sketch Turn is an automated NC programming environment that assists operators in creating and editing machining programs for Doosan turning centers. The integrated ModuleWorks simulation software enhances Sketch Turn with stock removal verification for mill, turn and combined mill-turn applications. The graphic simulation and NC program are displayed next to each other on the Sketch Turn interface to enable operators to identify problems and edit the G-code.

Siemens Adds Simcenter 3D 2021

Siemens Digital Industries Software, Plano, Texas, has released its Simcenter 3D software, part of the company’s portfolio of simulation and test solutions. In the 2021 release, Simcenter 3D improves its unified and shared engineering platform for all simulation disciplines.

With new enhancements to the AI-driven user experience, new simulation types as well as refinements in accuracy and enhanced performance speed, Simcenter 3D 2021 can help companies understand the performance of their designs early in the development process.

In many applications, product innovation includes the engineering of the advanced material used in them, which is why new materials are being introduced at unprecedented speed. Cracking is an important consideration for advanced materials; however micro and meso cracking in advanced materials is difficult to model with the finite element method. The Simcenter 3D software now includes full representative volume element (RVE) separation and 2D and 3D automatic insertion of cracks or cohesive zones in materials. Macro and microstructural models now allow for full mesh separation for a crack to propagate completely through a material.

PTC Finalizes Arena Solutions Acquisition

PTC, Boston, has completed its acquisition of Arena Solutions Inc., Foster City, Calif., the developer of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions. The addition of Arena Solutions bolsters PTC’s position with pure SaaS solutions in addition to the company’s earlier 2019 acquisition of Onshape.

In December, PTC agreed to buy Arena for $715 million in cash. Arena Solutions ended calendar year 2020 with approximately $50 million in annualized recurring revenue, reflecting double-digit growth over 2019.

With the closing of the Arena Solutions acquisition, PTC expanded its SaaS business unit, which now includes Arena, Onshape, and PTC’s Vuforia augmented reality technology. The expanded business unit will be led by long-time PTC Global Sales Leader Mike DiTullio, reporting directly to PTC’s CEO Jim Heppelmann. Jamie Pappas, a 25-year PTC sales veteran, has been elevated to succeed DiTullio as head of global sales.

PTC continues to expect that the transaction will be neutral to PTC’s fiscal year 2021 cash flow from operations target of $365 million and free cash flow target of $340 million (which reflects the deduction of approximately $25 million of capital expenditures from cash flow from operations) and accretive to fiscal year 2022 and beyond.

Siemens Adds Enterprise-Wide Quality to Teamcenter

The latest Simcenter 3D software can now evaluate sound performance with auralization.

Siemens Digital Industries Software, Plano, Texas, released Teamcenter Quality software. This new suite of solutions provides a closed-loop approach for quality management, from design to the shop floor and back again. Teamcenter Quality helps keep product development, quality planning and continuous improvement processes in synchronization to help maximize the value of change and configuration management capabilities on the Teamcenter platform.

The new extension to the Teamcenter portfolio allows engineers to set quality requirements early in the design process and establish the parameters required to ensure the product produced will meet quality standards. Teamcenter Quality is accessed through a web interface and includes AI-enabled user guidance with Teamcenter Assistant functionality.

Software Update is edited by Contributing Editor Patrick Waurzyniak; contact him at

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