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IMTS 2012: 3D Functionality in Next FeatureCAM Release

July 10, 2012
IMTS 2012: 3D Functionality in Next FeatureCAM Release 07/10/2012 FeatureCAM 2013 features step cutting to maximize metal removal with large roughing tools.
FeatureCAM 2013 features step cutting to maximize metal removal with large roughing tools.

The 2013 release of Delcam’s FeatureCAM software is timed for September, at IMTS. The developer reports this version of the feature-based CAM software will have a new series of options for three-axis milling and enhancements in five-axis machining, as well as improvements in the turning and mill-turn modules.

FeatureCAM was the world’s first feature-based programming software when it was launched in 1995. Intervening developments have ensured that the system retains its high-speed programming capability and ease of use. Also, a range of strategies has been added that provide more efficient toolpaths for more productivity on a range of machines.

The main change to the 2013 FeatureCAM product family is the introduction of three levels of 3D machining functionality, Delcam said. FeatureMILL 3D Lite achieves single-surface machining with a basic range of strategies, thereby performing as an introductory product for companies moving into 3D machining for the first time.

FeatureMILL 3D MX provides a greater number of strategies, including spiral finishing, flowline finishing and rotary machining; support for multiple-surface machining; and automated feature recognition. It is aimed at companies with conventional machine tools and those that are machining softer materials.

FeatureMILL HSM also contains all of the options for rest machining, such as pencil machining and corner clearance; and high-speed machining, including trochoidal machining and Delcam’s patented Race Line Machining. It will maximize the benefits of any investment in high-speed mills, according to Delcam, by offering strategies that maximize machine productivity while protecting the part, machine, and cutter from excessive wear.

FeatureCAM HSM also includes several of new functions. Step-cutting has been added within area clearance to remove large terraces that can be left on the part when using deeper roughing cuts. FeatureCAM will now produce extra toolpaths that step back up the terrace with the existing large tool, adding extra cuts at intermediate levels. This results in more material being removed, using the same tool within the same toolpath.

Automatic splitting of finishing between steep and shallow areas of the part has been available in FeatureCAM for a number of releases. Now, this option has been enhanced with the ability to use the scallop height to control the stepover. Using this value rather than setting a constant stepover distance gives better control of the surface finish.

Both roughing and finishing strategies now incorporate an “area filter” to remove small enclosed pockets within the part from the toolpath. Any attempt to cut these areas risks damage to the tool, even though it is mathematically possible to remove the material.

New five-axis strategies available in FeatureCAM 2013 include flowline machining between two curves, pencil machining and corner re-machining. These options for simultaneous five-axis machining help to achieve a better surface finish and ensure access to more areas within the part in a single set-up.

And, new options have been added to give smoother five-axis machining. A ‘look ahead’ capability will remove any sudden tool-axis changes during automatic collision avoidance; instead, it will ensure that a smooth transition takes place. Also, FeatureCAM now offers the ability to smooth the Azimuth and Elevation axes independently and so remove excessive five-axis movement. These options stabilize the rotary axis movement by maintaining a fixed tool axis as far as possible, thereby replacing constant five-axis movement with a series of 3+2-axis segments having full five-axis transitions between them.

A number of enhancements have been added to FeatureCAM’s turning and mill-turn modules. Definition has been improved of the initial stock and part alignment, making it more similar to the set-up process for milling; support has been added for semi-finish canned cycles; and curves of revolution can now be recognized from STL models. A new method has also been introduced allowing b-axis rotary milling to be carried out on features that would otherwise require the use of excessively long cutters.

The options for multi-spindle, multi-turret machines have been improved by fully integrating part transfers into the FeatureCAM output. Simulation and post-processing of these operations is also supported. In addition, the handling of synchronization points has been enhanced to simplify the optimization of the machining sequence between the various elements of the machine.