Cadalyst MCAD Tech News #129 (Sept. 16, 2004)

15 Sep, 2004 By: Joe Greco

Cadalyst MCAD Tech News

It's That Time Again

CAM/CAE Product Introductions Proliferate at IMTS 2004

This is the debut of Cadalyst?s MCAD Tech News with a CAM/CAE focus. The third Thursday of each month, MCAD Tech News will highlight these industry segments, covering trends, product reviews, and more. MCAD Tech News will continue to deliver its general MCAD coverage the first Thursday of each month. In this first CAM/CAE-focused issue, I?ll recap some of the highlights of IMTS 2004.

IMTS 2004
IMTS 2004, the International Manufacturing Technology Show, ran September 8-15 in Chicago. IMTS is one of the world?s largest manufacturing-related trade shows — eight days long with more than 85,000 visitors — and it?s held only every other year, so many CAM product developers traditionally save product announcements for show time. This year was no exception, as I counted almost a dozen product updates during the months leading up to IMTS, and many companies also demonstrated those products for the first time at the show. The introductions were so numerous, in fact, that I'll use this issue to discuss updated products from four of the industry?s leaders and save the remainder for next month?s CAM/CAE issue.

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PowerMILL 5.5 from Delcam
In August, Delcam launched PowerMILL 5.5, the latest release of its five-axis CAM software, and the system was on display at IMTS. One new tool allows users to automatically identify the flat surfaces within the part and perform rest machining on them. You can enter the area from outside the block as well as use workplanes to undertake positional five-axis machining of flat sloping surfaces. The program can perform rough and finish machining of flat surfaces -- a nice feature.

Version 5.5 contains new commands and builds on several popular tools that premiered in v5 last year. For example, v5 introduced a machine simulation option; v5.5 enhances this by adding collision checking between the various parts of the machine tool and the model as well as indicating areas where the machine tool is moving outside its operating parameters. In addition, v5 included a new three-axis stock model approach that resulted in faster toolpath calculation times and increased machining accuracy. Now Delcam has enhanced this method so you can apply it to positional five-axis rest roughing operations as well. In addition to the usual speed and reliability enhancements, Delcam has also updated the user interface to make the software look and feel more like Windows XP.

Delcam also announced a new free CAD viewer that supports most major native formats, including CATIA v4 and v5, Pro/ENGINEER 2001 and Wildfire, SDRC, Unigraphics, SolidWorks, and Solid Edge. It also supports neutral file formats such as Parasolid XT, IGES, VDA, and STEP. For more information, visit:

EdgeCAM v9 from Pathtrace
Another popular CAM developer, Pathtrace, also recently announced a major upgrade with v9 of its flagship product, EdgeCAM, which it also was demonstrating at IMTS. Perhaps the most significant new feature of this release is the Strategy Manager, which lets you create templates that store machining operations. You can reuse this information as the need arises — for instance, to machine a similar component. According to the company, you just need to understand how to use a simple flow chart; Strategy Manager doesn?t require knowledge of high-level programming languages.

Version 9 of EdgeCAM adds a feature called Tool Selector, which provides the optimum tool selection for feature-based machining, using the available tools in stock. This ensures optimized cycle times, in line with currently available tooling, giving maximum machining efficiency.

The new release also offers several enhanced profile machining features. For instance, multipass profiling lets you use both semifinishing and finishing passes in one command, saving time. In addition, for machining tight pockets, the software now has enhanced start and end position controls that let you select the center of an area when specifying the plunge and retract points. The company also points to faster roughing capabilities as an important v9 enhancement.

EdgeCAM 9 users will reportedly enjoy improved interoperability with other MCAD systems such as CATIA v5 and Autodesk Inventor 9. In fact, Pathtrace just received certification from Autodesk to be one of its Global Preferred CAM Partners. The update adds support for the DWG 2005 format as well.

Like Delcam, Pathtrace is touting a new XP-style user interface as well as program features you can customize by dragging tools and commands to create new toolbars and menus, as in Microsoft products. The company has also improved its on-screen help, which now includes more explanatory images and even videos. For more information on the update, go to:

ESPRIT 2005 from DP Technology
IMTS 2004 was the place to be if you wanted to see DP Technology introduce the new version of its flagship product, ESPRIT. A major enhancement in version 2005 is what the company is calling its prepackaged solution for Multitasking Mill-Turn Machining. This is an out-of-the-box system that eliminates potential costly implementation when you need to write postprocessors for multitasking machines, which is much more time-consuming than for traditional single-operation machines. (Multitasking machines are those that support many operations, such as milling and turning.)

Other new tools enhance the machine setup process. When performing a machine setup, the program now offers more dynamic and realistic views of the entire process, including part, fixtures, and machine tool, with collision detection simulation between the part and tool and tool holder. Also, the entire user interface for the machine setup has been redesigned to make it easier to define the physical characteristics of the NC machine, including the machine?s coordinate systems. The updated user interface for machine setup is also available in v2005?s Wire EDM module.

Speaking of Wire EDM, v2005 makes its programming easier. This is because the update automatically recognizes whether selected geometry is a 2-axis or 4-axis part. Then it further analyzes the part geometry, and based on user-defined options and rules, automatically defines machining parameters such as lands, taper angles, and corner types.

HSM (high-speed machining) is an important strategy for DP Technology, and v2005 expands on ESPRIT?s capabilities by introducing new milling settings called Morph Move and Spiral Move in its high-speed surface roughing routines. For more information, go to:

Part Manufacturing Solution from UGS
Finally, the company recognized as having the greatest CAM-related revenue, UGS, used IMTS 2004 to launch what it calls the Part Manufacturing solution, a product that brings together all the disciplines involved in making products, from manufacturers and industrial engineers to NC programmers, tool and fixture designers, and shop floor personnel. In using such a system, manufacturers will spend less time searching for data, presumably decreasing the errors that result from using incorrect or out-of-date information, according to the company. The system transforms basic data storage into a manufacturing information management system that gives a company a meaningful competitive advantage, UGS reports.

UGS also announced improvements in its ability to support multitasking machines. For instance, a new Synchronization Manager helps users understand and control the flow of each phase of the machining process. For details, go to:

More CAM Coming
These are just some of the products announced or demonstrated at IMTS. Next month we?ll overview the CAM product announcements of other companies such as Missler Software (TopSolid/Cam 2005) and Engineering Geometry Systems (FeatureCAM).

As usual, these product updates revealed some trends. For instance, more developers such as UGS and DP Technology are increasing support for time-saving, multitasking, mill-turn combination machines. Several vendors announced better simulation tools. If you like to stay on top of the latest CAM developments, keep your calendar open for September 6-13, 2006, and consider spending a few days in Chicago.