Cadalyst MCAD Tech News #131 (October 21, 2004)

20 Oct, 2004 By: Joe Greco

Cadalyst MCAD Tech News

Last month we announced that every second monthly issue of Cadalyst's MCAD Tech Newsletter will now highlight the CAM and CAE industries. We initiated this new focus by covering some of the important announcements from the recent IMTS event held in Chicago. (Click here to view that issue.) Because that was such a huge show, this month we'll continue that coverage by detailing the IMTS announcements of several more companies.

TopSolid/Cam v2005
About a month before IMTS, Missler Software, a CAD/CAM company with its worldwide headquarters in France, announced TopSolid/Cam 2005. The company used the IMTS 2004 event to demonstrate its new version, which features both time-saving machining techniques as well as user interface enhancements. In manufacturing, one way to achieve faster machining cycles is to adjust the stepover amount between passes. TopSolid/Cam 2005 houses new Scallop Height Management capabilities that help to calculate the proper step-over amount, thus saving time.

Removing large amounts of material is obviously time-consuming, so to combat this, v2005 adds both trochoidal and plunge machining. The former moves the tool in small circles, which facilitates removal of greater depths of material, while the latter is a vertical drilling technique used to remove thick layers of material.

In addition to these new tools, the upgrade includes several other enhancements. For starters, users performing a lot of turning operations on noncylindrical components will like the way the software has been improved to automatically calculate the desired profile of revolution on these parts. In addition, the helicoidal cycle operation has been improved so it no longer requires a second operation to clean up material in certain vertical locations.

The user interface improvements referred to earlier don't involve pretty icons, but more importantly, better user interaction and feedback. For instance, the program now allows an operator to delete tool paths that are no longer necessary, and the software updates the remaining tool paths without having to recalculate everything. New visualization capabilities allow the operator to better understand the tool path when two parts of a work piece are very close together, thus reducing the risk of collision.

FeatureCAM v2005
Another product announced just before IMTS 2004 was FeatureCAM 2005. Developed by Engineering Geometry Systems of Salt Lake City, Utah, the most highly touted enhancement of this version seems to be interoperability. According to the company, this is due to three key additions: a new Import Wizard, support for more CAD formats when importing, and advanced hole feature recognition tools.

While other CAM programs employ wizards for importing CAD files, EGS takes this to the next level by helping the user set up key parameters regarding the model. For instance, the wizard first inquires about the machining direction, which helps ensure that the part will be imported into the proper orientation for machining. The next step of the wizard establishes the stock size, which you can base on the model being imported or any other values you desire. The final steps of the wizard determine the zero location and the center of rotation.

FeatureCAM 2005 can now import native Unigraphics files, from v11 to NX. This adds to EGS' impressive compatibility list, which includes SolidWorks, Solid Edge, Inventor, Wildfire, CATIA and AutoCAD, as well as STEP files.

Finally, for SolidWorks and Inventor users, FeatureCAM 2005 not only recognizes hole geometry, but also maintains the data associated with the holes. This automates hole machining by extracting the information required to make each one; including the location of the top and center of the hole, hole depth, thread information, and more.

TurboCADCAM v2.5
While they weren't at IMTS, Novato, California-based IMSI used the busy announcement period before the IMTS event to broadcast news of its own August upgrade. Version 2.5 of its low-cost TurboCADCAM, with integrated 2½D milling and turning, features several welcomed additions.

For openers, as with FeatureCAM, TurboCADCAM v2.5 improves interoperability, including new support for STEP and IGES file formats via data translators from Spatial. (Speaking of Spatial, TurboCADCAM's underlying geometry kernel has been updated to ACIS 11.) When it comes to handling its visualization needs, IMSI relies on another third-party company, Lightwork Design of Sheffield, United Kingdom. TurboCADCAM v2.5 includes the latest LightWorks v7.4 rendering engine. Finally, v2.5 also houses improved threading capabilities.

Other Products
In addition to these announcements around the time of IMTS, OpenMind Software introduced a minor upgrade, hyperMILL v8.1, in August. It features improved drilling when multiple tilt angles are involved as well as the ability to recognize features created in CATIA and Wildfire. Finally, during the same month, VX announced v10 of its flagship VX CAD/CAM software. It features a redesigned postprocessor as well as other enhancements. I plan to review it in an upcoming issue of this newsletter.