A review of the manufacturing software technology found at this year's IMTS.
IMTS attendees were treated to a first-hand look at the burgeoning technology of manufacturing software. As a result of market pressures including stiffer global competition, shorter product cycles and more sophisticated machine tools, software development is headed in several directions that promise to have a significant impact on machining operations.
For example, the availability of more software packages supporting Windows NT and Windows 95, broadening the choice of platforms available to users, was an obvious trend among IMTS 98 software exhibitors. Several software producers offer advanced features such as solid-modeling, feature-based machining, and knowledge-based machining in lower-end packages.
IMTS 98 also showed a proliferation of shop-floor programming software capabilities allowing machine operators to interface with CAM programs. Several vendors offered improvements in CNC capabilities, data translation support, and post processing.
The following is a recap of some of the significant IMTS 98 software offerings.
Material removal verification
Vericut 4.0 software virtually eliminates manual verification of NC programs by simulating the material-removal process on a computer. The software simulates any cutter, holder, or component shape in true 3D geometry during turning operations. Users can preview all aspects of the machining process exactly as they take place and simultaneously check for machine collisions and verify NC part programs. CGTech, Irvine, Calif.
Version 7.1 of the Surfcam system delivers integration of toolpath verifiication within the Surf-cam window. Programmers can quickly rotate a part on screen to see toolpaths from any angle. This makes it easy to take precautions, particularly with complex parts, by eliminating time-consuming dry runs on the NC machine. The system is applicable to 2, 3, 4 and 5-axis milling, turning and laser cutting. Surfware, Westlake Village, Calif.
New software from Cimatron-Cimatron it NC automates the manufacturing process with Intelligent NC. This software combines advanced machining technologies to capture a user's knowledge, apply and adapt it to new geometry, and produce safe, efficient, high-quality toolpaths.
Using Automatic NC, the software provides the tools to capture an entire machining process, which can then be applied to technologically similar parts.
With Knowledge-Based Machining, it is possible to eliminate extra cutting time as Cimatron analyzes the geometry and determines regions to be machined with a similar strategy.
Knowledge of Stock Remaining allows for calculating the stock remaining after each toolpath and, using this information, optimizes subsequent cutter movement. Cimatron Technologies, Burlington, Ont.
Remote computers can automatically access important manufacturing information with Version 8 PC-based Machine Tool Controller software from Cam-Soft. Information such as number of parts run, idle time, run-time, current job loaded, operator's name, dates, scrap parts and maintenance reminders is available via standard RS232 cables or networks. Even user-defined programs written in Visual Basic can access this information. CamSoft Corp., Lake Elsinore, Calif.
Virtual Gibbs enhancements
Automated programming capabilities for Gibbs and Associates' Virtual Gibbs CAM system increase its functionality. Automatic Feature Recognition and Knowledge-Based Machining capabilities increase programming productivity. features include automatic roughing capabilities including "material-only" machining for both 2D and 3D solid models, high-speed machining of pockets and machining of open-sided pockets. Gibbs and Associates, Moorpark, Calif.
Windows-based CIMBlock Version 11.0 fabrication software provides enhancements to Smart-CAM applications and includes compatibility with SmartCAM V11.0 Planner (JOF) and graphics (PM4) database formats. For use with CNC burner, laser, punch, punch/plasma, punch/laser and waterjet machines, the software provides speedier nesting algorithms and more efficient material planning. The updated CIM-Block modules include Nesting and Nesting LT for optimizing true-shape nesting enabling users to layout more shapes with less scrap, and Remnant Tracker that includes all the Nesting module features plus material inventory management capabilities. Building Blocks Inc., Roswell, Ga.
Upgraded design software
Enhanced sweep capabilities, advanced blending, a new modeling kernel-Parasolid and built-in presentation quality rendering are features of Solid State Version 5. Fully compatible with ACIS-based Solid State Version 4 data, Version 5 contains new large-assembly management and part-selection techniques. The new tools define and manipulate select sets and enhance performance by unloading non-displayed selections. The software also allows for automatic and batch directory conversion of legacy data files while maintaining associativity, parameters, and the complete feature tree. Unigraphics Solutions, Madison, Ala.
Mastercam Version 7 features a host of enhancements including associativity, re-machining, and enhanced solids-based toolpath verification. The new release brings full associativity to pocketing, contouring and drilling. Geometry and toolpath are linked, so when the model or tooling information is changed, an updated toolpath can be instantly generated. Using Windows "drag and drop" techniques, users can copy and paste parameters, toolpaths and tool definitions from one operation to another.
Multisurface machining enhancements include constant scallop machining for consistent finishes across a sloped surface, leftover removal machines areas to be re-cut with a smaller tool for a finer finish, pencil tracing walks a cutter along an intersection of surfaces to clean out hard-to-reach areas, and flowline machining that cuts a set of surfaces using the natural shape to define the cutter path to produce a smoother finish with less hand work. CNC Software Inc., Tol-land, Conn.
Wide-access viewing software
With IntraVision STEP viewing software, team members worldwide can share, communicate, and review all types of data used in the creation, support, and maintenance of product information. IntraVISION's implementation of STEP technology provides standard access to important geometry and product configuration data relating to parts and assemblies. Through its native support of STEP, IGES, VDAFS and DXF/DWG, IntraVision preserves the geometric definition and product structure. This provides access to true model data and measurement values rather than approximations. InterData Access Inc., Westchester, Ill.
Shop-floor cutter-path changes
With Prospector software from Softech, machinists can program and make changes to cutter paths on the shop floor, rather than in the CAM room. This knowledge-based software allows tailoring of an entire project to meet real-time considerations, reduce or eliminate human error, and increase machine utilization. The software speaks machinists' language and requires minimal training. Soft-ech Inc., Troy, Mich.
Windows NT-based CNC
OpenCNC software running on Windows NT allows for integrating control with Manufacturing Execution Systems or Enterprise Resource Planning applications without proprietary hardware. OpenCNC on Microsoft Windows NT also allows for easy machine retrofit. Manufacturing Data Systems Inc., Ann Arbor, Mich.
DNC communications package
With the Focal*Point Windows 95/NT shop floor DNC communications software, users can organize and control NC programs by part number, operation number, revision level, or machine type. Focal*Point's Network*Overlay furnishes a fully networked DNC solution, providing programmers and machine operators the ability to access specific features within the DNC system from their own computers. CNC Innovations Inc., Enfield, Conn.
Shop management software
Visual EstiTrack is a 32-bit Windows 95/NT solution for estimating and production control. Visual EstiTrack Estimating Only can be purchased as a stand-alone module with others added as needed, including Bill of Materials, Speeds & Feeds, Shop Management, Job Costing, Auto-matic/Priority or Drag and Drop Scheduling, Bar Coding, Real Time Shop Floor Data Collection, and FIFO/LIFO Inventory Lot Control. In addition, a totally integrated accounting system-Visual Books can be added. Henning Software Inc., Hudson, Ohio.
CNC milling and turning
Version 5.0 of FeatureCAM, offering feature-based technology for sophisticated milling and turning, is compatible with Auto-CAD r.14. Tool databases can be imported and exported for transferring files to other PCs or network systems. Version 5.0 also imports IGES files eight times faster than the previous version.
FeatureCAM, incorporating FeatureMILL, FeatureMILL3D and FeatureTURN, allows for optimum verification of toolpaths, cutting strategies, and collision detection of toolholder or rapid moves. Engineering Geometry Systems, Salt Lake City.
Mold and die, 5-side machining
Tebis' Version 3.1 release 7 of its high-end CAD/CAM and shop floor software provides a platform for 5-side machining of molds and dies. Hardware and software capabilities include accurate and usable file translations of large surface and solids-based models; verification tools for CAD data quality; flexible, automatic NC programming; manufacturing process simulation; consideration of machine-tool kinetics and working envelopes; full 3D CAD/CAM including 2.5D for linear work; and integration with digital CNC controls into a single, compact unit. Tebis, Troy, Mich.
Cost estimating and process planning for welding, grinding, gear cutting, press work, and EDM is offered by Version 6.0 of the Costimator computer-aided cost estimating system. This is in addition to existing capabilities of Costimator for milling, drilling, and turning. Version 6.0 has new databases for parts inventory and gage and fixture, and it incorporates a database of machine tools, dealers, and suppliers into an existing library of machine times and labor standards. A graphing and charting feature transforms complex numerical data from estimates and routings into 15 different graph and chart formats. Manufacturers Technologies Inc., W. Springfield, Maine.
Total shop control
Shop functions such as quoting, order entry, shipping, scheduling, job costing, inventory, purchasing, job tracking, bar coding and accounting are handled by the Bottom Line Shop System. The software system also offers data collection, integration, including bar code scanning, touch screen PC entry, and an electronic time clock for tracking labor costs. E2 Systems Inc., Cincinnati.
A comprehensive CAD system for manufacturing engineers, moldmakers, and tool and die shops, the Cadkey Design Suite featuring Cadkey 98 is a Windows-based mechanical 3D/2D system that can be used with leading PC-CAM systems. Using the solid-modeling features of FastSurf, Cadkey's hybrid modeling environment enables users to quickly and easily modify solids, surfaces, or wireframe models, as well as generate 2D engineering drawings using the software's 3D model-to-drawing associativity. Manufacturing engineers can verify the integrity of CAD databases received from other CAD/CAM/CAE systems in Cadkey before starting the toolpathgeneration phase. Baystate Technologies Inc., Marlborough, Maine.
Uniting design and machining
Under the Solid Manufacturing concept, design and manufacturing, operating through a single inter-face, coexist as equal contributors to improved productivity and faster time to market. Solid Manufacturing bonds together a series of CAD products with a series of modular, full-function CAM packages. All are 32-bit Windows applications with standard Windows interfaces.
The software offers an end-toend automated design and manufacturing environment for 2D and 3D design (wireframe, freeform surfaces, or solids), mold and pattern design. Output code is created and verified for programming CNC mill, laser, punch, lathe, wire EDM, and other machine tools. Vero International Inc., East Hartford, Conn.
CAD for complex shapes
PowerShape software bridges the gap between conventional CAD systems and the needs of moldmakers for such features as creating surfaces from curves, filleting, parting lines, and dynamic surface manipulation. New features of the software include enhanced capability for appending and dividing surfaces, upgraded workplane and grid displays, accelerated shading, and upgraded Boolean operations.
Companion software—PowerInspect—allows inspecting complex finished parts by directly comparing data generated by the CMM's probe to the original CAD file.
Enhancements to PowerMill-CAM software used by moldmakers and tooling shops speed up processing and improve the graphical user interface. Delcam International Inc., Windsor, Ont.
NC program verification
A solid-modeling engine, generating "views" for machining operations that are optimized for speed and accuracy, provides full and accurate NC-program error detection.
The software—N-See 2000 CMS—reports tool collisions with fixtures and clamps, rapid feeds into the part, tool shank and holder collisions, and gouges. Errors are marked on the model and listed in an error log. N-See Software, Silver Spring, Md.
CNC+PC: The best of both worlds
Garnering much attention at IMTS 98 was the display of Mazak's new Mazatrol Fusion 640 CNC control. The 64-bit control unites the power of an advanced CNC with the communications flexibility of a PC. The new system offers shorter cycle times, reduced lead times, and more management information. With its fused PC, the control can provide information such as status reports on spindle load and speeds, part counts, operation status, and tool efficiency.
With its 64-bit RISC CPU, Mazak's Fusion 640 CNC provides fast computing speeds for spindle and axis controllers, fast and efficient look-ahead machining capabilities, smooth high-gain servo control and toolpath optimization. These capabilities alone may save up to 20% in cycle times when executing existing Mazatrol or EIA/ISO programs.
The Windows 95 user interface provides bi-directional communications between the fused PC and CNC and with other factory PCs. It can simultaneously execute one CNC program while inputting another (Mazatrol or EIA/ISO) or running any compatible Windows 95 software.
The control features a new knowledge-based navigation system that stores all necessary database information for new tools and pre-verified cutting conditions. The continuously updated database contains the latest information from Mazak and its vendors on materials, tools, speeds, and feeds. Users can add and share company-specific information through the knowledge database.
For both turning and milling, the navigation system displays 3D solid models in color based on actual cutting data. Machining time for each cutting process is also displayed graphically