Software Add-Ons for Multi-Axis Machining Raise Productivity

May 17, 2012
Mastercam X6 enhancements, extensions include stock recognition, tool-axis control, and more
Blade Expert is an add-on for multi-axis machining that simplifies toolpath creation for multi-bladed parts, like fans, propellers, impellers, turbines, and marine screws.

Multi-axis machining can increase a shop’s manufacturing competitiveness dramatically, and CNC Software notes that its Mastercam X6 software introduces a new multi-axis add-on — Mastercam Blade Expert — as well as many multi-axis enhancements.

Mastercam is CNC Software Inc.’s Windows-based CAD/CAM software for 2- through 5-axis routing, mill/turn machining, 2- and 4-axis wire EDM processing, 2D and 3D design, surface and solid modeling, artistic relief cutting, and Swiss machining.

The first multi-axis function highlighted is the new program’s Cut Patterns add-on, which guide the tool along specified paths. These patterns can be simple 2D and 3D wireframe, solid primitives, or complex multisurface grids, and Mastercam’s multi-axis machining has several types of toolpaths to govern the cut pattern. This includes multi-surface, 5-axis roughing and finishing, including depth cuts, plunge roughing, and flowline machining. For any type of toolpath, the operator can trim a toolpath to the new stock model, and trimming to stock reduces the amount of time the tool is not in contact with the material.

Other multi-axis toolpath types include “stock recognition,” which trims toolpaths to eliminate air-cuts and reduce cycle times; “swarf fanning” and “swarf machining,” which are used over multi-surface floors, as well as “rail swarf cutting” which adds process control capability. Machinists can produce 5-axis parts using spiral, zigzag, or one-way tool motion.

Mastercam said its Tool Axis Control add-on makes it possible to orient a tool’s center axis so it can be manipulated as it follows the cut pattern. Operators have complete and dynamic control over the tool axis, lead/lag, entry/exit, and tilt, which simplifies difficult multi-axis jobs. Full entry and exit control lets them determine exactly where and how the cutter enters and leaves the part. An automatic point generator increases precision, as well as advanced gouge checking and a 5-axis safe zone around the part.

For programming 5-axis parts, it may be necessary to bring the cutter, arbor, or holder very close to the part or fixture with the cutter, arbor, or the holder. Mastercam is recommending the Collision Control function for its “near miss tolerance” fields, so operators can specify how close they to get with any part of the tool and how to avoid those situations.

Mastercam’s Blade Expert add-on reportedly simplifies toolpath creation for multi-bladed parts, including fans, propellers, impellers, turbines, and marine screws, among others.

Lastly, the software developer said its Port Expert add-on creates accurate toolpaths for efficient engine cylinder head porting. The Port Expert toolpaths use 3-axis machining as far into the port as possible, and then convert automatically to 5-axis motion with minimum tilt. This leaves no fishtails or inefficient reverse moves, and smoothly transitions where the toolpaths meet at the middle of the port.

About the Author

Robert Brooks | Content Director

Robert Brooks has been a business-to-business reporter, writer, editor, and columnist for more than 20 years, specializing in the primary metal and basic manufacturing industries. His work has covered a wide range of topics, including process technology, resource development, material selection, product design, workforce development, and industrial market strategies, among others. Currently, he specializes in subjects related to metal component and product design, development, and manufacturing — including castings, forgings, machined parts, and fabrications.

Brooks is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A. English, Political Science) and Emory University (M.A. English.)

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