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Faster and Easier Feature-Based Programming

Oct. 6, 2011
Delcam introduces 2012 version of feature-based machining program
New strategies in Delcam’s FeatureCAM 2012 include back boring (displayed here) and spiral roughing.

CNC software specialist Delcam has launched the 2012 version of its FeatureCAM program, a feature-based CAM system. The new release has a range of updates that make programming faster and easier, and allow machine shops to produce more efficient toolpaths that improve machine productivity.

A number of the improvements will make FeatureCAM even easier to use than previous versions. For example, a range of keyboard shortcuts has been added, including isometric view options that will allow faster programming. It has been made easier to select multiple items from the operations tree and to move all the features in a group, for example, a network of similar holes or all the operations on a particular spindle. In addition, warning or error messages can be displayed simply by hovering over the relevant icon in the Operations List.

Toolpath editing has been made much easier, according to Delcam. Toolpaths are displayed more clearly, selection of toolpaths has been simplified, and an “undo” option has been added.

Target part comparison has been extended to cover multi-axis operation for both milling and mill-turn equipment. As such, users can compare a model of the desired final shape with the shape achieved by the programmed toolpaths. FeatureCAM provides a quick check of any material remaining on the part, and of any gouges or collisions. Previously, this option was available only for 2- and 3-axis operations.

Two new strategies are available: back boring and spiral roughing. Back boring allows more parts to be completed in a single set-up, with larger bores able to be produced on the reverse side of the part. Spiral roughing can be used instead of Z-level roughing. It uses a single continuous toolpath instead of a series of levels and so gives a smoother finish with no dwell marks.

The most important improvement for increasing machine productivity comes from further developments in the use of stock models to cover 2D features, including bosses, sides, and slots. The models allow the user to visualize the stock remaining after each operation. This makes it easier to eliminate air cutting, and as a result to generate more efficient toolpaths with reduced machining times. The models also simplify the selection of the most appropriate tool sizes for rest-roughing and finishing operations.

A number of extra options have been added to the tooling database — a critical part of the automation in FeatureCAM as it allows optimal operating conditions to be associated with each tool. At most shops or manufacturing plants, the database will be developed by the most experienced user. This ensures that less-experienced operators use safe and efficient cutting parameters. The new options in FeatureCAM 2012 allow more variables to be specified, including maximum cut depth and the optimum ramp angles.

Fully automated de-burring and chamfering, when programming 2- or 2.5-axis parts, were added in FeatureCAM 2011. Now, tool selection for these operations has been improved, to avoid unnecessary tool changes.

Other improvements include a new option to automatically counterbore holes before drilling; the ability to have a negative leave allowance (such as a fitting allowance) for turning or wire EDM to produce undersized features without remodelling; and much improved performance on the largest part files with hundreds of thousands of entities.

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