The use and application of CAD/CAM technology into your CNC machining workflow-process can make the differences in producing parts perfectly and efficiently while maintaining and enhancing the high level of quality that you need in each step of the process.
CAD Files & Their Compatibility
CAD workflow begins with how you can acquire and manage your part model. With today’s developments in hardware design software technology, most CNC manufacturing businesses start with a 3D model of a part either designed by you in your CAD software from a print or provided by a client. AutoCAD, Solid Works, Pro Engineer and SpaceClaim are examples of quality Design products that provide simple, yet highly advanced design and novel solutions in the world today. These products are nowadays more and more affordable and can even allow groups of designers to collaborate on assembly projects from different locations, solve geometry problems, repair bad geometry easily and just anything else can be imagined within the scope of design and innovation. Therefore it’s essential that a CAD/CAM system offers the ability to import or open CAD design files.
Using a CAD design product that offers CAM plug-ins will accelerate workflow efficiency such as SolidWorks and the BobCAM for SolidWorks Gold Partner CAM product. This means that designed part files do not have to be transferred into another CAM product, reducing file, surface and geometry issues and bringing the design to machining process.
CAM Job Management
Once the part file is prepared for a move into the tool path and programming stage you will see that most CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) software products provide a standard “Job Tree” method of organizing machining strategies into a productive workflow such that tools can be added, tool path strategies can be used and a program can be created in its proper sequence.
You need to check with software provider for the library of post configuration files, mainly the one for your specific machine tool. While this is one of the biggest topics of CAD/CAM software and why CAD/CAM even exists, Workflow efficiency can be achieved just by having the software provider assist you in the designing or modification of posts. A correct post processor eliminates the need for you to have to hand edit code. Thus helping you to spend your time focusing on the machining side of it all.
Toolpath & Machining Strategies
The next stage in the process of using CAD/CAM software involves the designing of Toolpath (cutter-path) which is the actual path that the cutting tool takes to machine the part. A CAM Tree-Job Manager will help you keep each machining operation organized and properly sequenced such that the g-code program produces the best possible cycle time for the job. 2, 3, 4 & 5 axis tool paths are all developed to produce efficient roughing and finishing cycles.
New users design programs in a fraction of time over tool path creation without using wizards and secondly, nothing is forgotten or left behind in making tool path that is accurate and properly calculated based off of the tools you setup for the job. Toolpath Wizards start by permitting you to choose the areas of the part to apply a specified toolpath (planar, spiral, z-level etc) within a boundary or an entire part, set clearances and height of rapid moves for the tool.
Then you can select the type of cutting pattern (zig-zag or single direction cutting), cutting direction (climb or conventional), roughing parameters, custom tolerance and cut-depth options, lead-in and out options, toolpath linking options (how you want to connect one path to another) and other custom machine options. When finished you will automatically generate the toolpath so you can visually see it.
Developments in workflow efficiency can also be achieved by using High Speed toolpaths. As CAD/CAM providers continue to develop their technology you could see high speed toolpaths available for more complex 3 Axis machining such as the advanced 2 & 3 Axis high speed Adaptive Roughing strategy that BobCAD-CAM software makes use of.
Simulation & The G-Code Program
The final stage in the CAD/CAM programming phase is toolpath simulation & designing of an NC Program file that can be sent to the machine tool. The simulation process allows the programmer to visually see the process and catch any errors within the program, gouges or collisions as an error detection stage.
Typically a number-color system is used to visually detect deviation areas, tools and machining operations. Advanced Machine Simulation helps you to use your machines Kinematics to simulate the actual machines motion as well as the tool path operations. Without a g-code program CAD/CAM is incomplete. This is a crucial stage of the process due to potential loss of valuable time due to hand editing g-code programs.
Enhancing Efficiency & Beyond
These are general stages of CAD/CAM CNC programming process along with set examples of how one can improve the efficiency of a programming workflow by using it. While it is quite easy to say that CAD/CAM software must be easy to use, what is equally important is availability of training. Does the software come with training? If it does, then what forms is it available in? Are there training videos allow you to learn on your own time? The more options available, the better the ability to achieve operator certification as a professional.
We conclude the discussion here and hope that this blog piece has enlightened you on the efficiency of CAD/CAM Software for CNC machining.
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