VX CAD/CAM v1030 Sep, 2004 By: Don LaCourse Cadalyst
All-in-one CAD/CAM package
VX CAD/CAM is known for its ability to import and heal advanced surface data from other 3D CAD applications, a fact that has helped it find a niche in industrial design, mold making, and CAM applications in particular. Version 10 builds on this foundation with new global shape deformation (morphing) tools, new point cloud tools, standard parts and mold base libraries, and many enhancements to the VX CAM application.
Figure 1. This helicopter engine was designed in VX CAD/CAM by Masquito Aircraft (www.masquito.be).
VX CAD/CAM is a hybrid mechanical CAD application built on the proprietary VX modeling kernel. Hybrid means the product supports integrated advanced surface and solid modeling tools, and has done so since it was first introduced in 1999. VX CAD/CAM is the flagship product from VX Corp., a developer of 3D MCAD tools since 1985.
New Modeling ToolsVersion 10 includes some interesting new modeling (figure 1) and editing tools. The most exciting is a series of Morph Shape (global shape deformation) commands that let you deform any shape (open or closed) by controlled warping of face geometry (figure 2).
Figure 2: VX CAD/CAM v10 s new model morphing capabilities let you explore new shapes by dragging pulling and warping existing models with tools that provide symmetry with dimensional precision.
The commands let you grab a point, edge, or curve on any face and move (or drag) it to deform the original shape (figures 3a-3e ). This change is an historical operation, meaning you can parametrically edit it later in the design. The deformation spans seams of multiple surfaces.
Like many VX commands, this one provides a number of ways to control how a deformation proceeds (such as along direction, along path, to point, and about axis), what surfaces are locked, which ones can move, and other things that affect the shape of the deformation. The range of deformations possible with these tools is quite impressive.
V X cad/cam v10
Another area where VX CAD/CAM excels is reverse engineering using scan data from 3D scanning and CMM (coordinate measuring machines) devices such as Romer CimCore (www.romer.com) and MicroScribe (www.immersion.com. Version 10's ScanShape tools are significantly expanded (figure 4). With them you can section scan data to fit surfaces through smaller subsections. VX reports significant speed enhancements to the overall process and the ability to handle 360° scan data.
Many modeling commands are enhanced. The Bi-rail Loft now supports rails from a cylinder or cone, and the FEM Patch lets you orient surface direction (figure 5). It recreates fillets after draft is applied and automatically identifies all holes associated with an imported face.
Figure 3a: The Morph Shape commands let you grab a point, edge, or curve on any face and change it, Morph by offset
The Morph Shape commands are not unique in the industry. They're similar to the Global Shape and Zone Modeling commands in think3's thinkdesign and the Blue Dot/Blue Surf commands in Solid Edge. They are however, very easy to use considering the number of options available.
VX CAD/CAM's ScanShape commands are unique to the suite of midrange mechanical applications available today. To date, I haven't reviewed any other product with similar tools or the ability to achieve what VX CAD/CAM can do with these commands. It's very impressive.
Figure 3b: The Morph Shape commands let you grab a point, edge, or curve on any face and change it, Morph curve to curve (before)
New Part Library Tools
A continuing trend in today's mechanical CAD applications is the integration of tools that were once third-party applications. VX CAD/CAM v10 now ships with built-in parametric libraries for mold and die designers that include complete mold base assemblies and standard components (figure 6).
These are welcome tools. The mold base library comes with everything you need, but the selection is limited to DME Series A and B mold bases. The company indicates that it will add HASCO mold bases to the library soon.
Figure 3c: The Morph Shape commands let you grab a point, edge, or curve on any face and change it, Morph curve to curve (after)
2D Layout and DraftingVX CAD/CAM contains a complete drafting environment that you can use to create detailed layouts of your 3D models. A bonus is the ability to detail both open surface and closed solid models in a similar manner, without limitations.
Version 10 adds some new 2D functionalities worth mentioning. Hidden-line creation is faster—the company notes a 10X improvement in creating complex hidden-line views. Also new are an option for creating Bent Section views (figure 7), a Do Not Section attribute, a weld symbol generator, and controls that synchronize layer use between the model and the drawing.
Figure 3d: The Morph Shape commands let you grab a point, edge, or curve on any face and change it, Morph with curve
Machining with VX CAMEarlier in my career I spent two years as mold designer—a stark contrast to my previous ten years as a product designer. The hours were long. I had to work with 3D part data from many different CAD systems, pump out multiple mold designs at the same time, and send that data directly to the CAM operators on the shop floor.
You're going to be hard-pressed to find a good midrange mechanical CAD application with integrated CAM capability. VX CAM, with 2.5- to 5-axis tool path capabilities should contain everything you need to satisfy folks on the shop floor (figure 8 ).
Figure 3e: The Morph Shape commands let you grab a point, edge, or curve on any face and change it, Morph with point
Version 10 extends the CAM module further with a new 5-axis side cut operation, multiface chamfering, toolpath transformations (arrays), CAM sketching, boosted performance during solid verification, and a native VX postprocessor.
The major improvements to VX CAM actually began in a prior release, when the user interface was completely revamped. Because of this, v10 makes it very easy for beginners to create and visualize toolpaths.
Figure 4. New point-cloud manipulation capabilities in VX v10, such as thinning, sectioning, and surfacing, let you process very large point cloud files from a number of high-end scanners. This scanned part was imported directly into VX CAM..
System RequirementsFor best results, VX Corp. recommends that you run VX CAD/CAM v10 on an Intel or AMD 1GHz or greater workstation with 1GB PC 133MHz SDRAM, 200MB of empty hard disk space, 1GB or more swap space, a three-button mouse, and an NVIDIA chipset video card capable of 1280X1024 16-bit resolution. At a minimum, you need an Intel or AMD 700MHz workstation with 512MB PC 133 SDRAM, 512MB swap space, and any Microsoft-supported video card capable of 1024X768 16-bit resolution. VX CAD/CAM v10 supports Windows 2000/XP.
Figure 5. VX CAD/CAM v10 enhances its bi-rail loft by allowing rails that form part of a cylinder or coneas shown here in the transparent portion of the image.
Bottom LineI last reviewed VX v6.5 in the August 2002 issue of Cadalyst. Version 10 is yet another step in the right direction for VX's flagship product line.
Figure 6. In addition to optional third-party parts libraries, a new parts library specifically for mold and die designers is included at no extra cost with VX CAD/CAM v10.
You may wonder if there's anything I don't like about this product. There is, but it's mostly cosmetic.
The user interface was redesigned in v6.5. It improved the flow of user input considerably, but the command input dialog boxes can still get quite long and, when displayed with others, can block a significant amount of the display from view. This is still the case in v10. I recommend moving the dialog boxes to a left vertical panel like the history, assembly, and CAM manager dialog boxes.
Figure 7. New drafting tools for automatic, associative 2D drawing layouts appear in VX v10. The Bend Section View defines complex cross-section views.
Other complaints that I had in my previous review have been addressed. The history manager now shows an industry-standard icon-based, expandable tree structure. We've come to expect this structure, and it makes the history easier to understand.
For AutoCAD Users
The bottom line is that VX CAD/CAM v10 is well worth a good strong look. If you work with a lot of imported data from different systems, as in the tool and die industry, VX is a perfect fit. If you're an industrial designer looking for shape deformation tools that can be applied to both surfaces and solids, VX CAD/CAM is now a serious contender. If you just want a basic modeling tool with drafting, there is a scaled-down version available for $995.Highly Recommended.
Figure 8. VX CAD/CAM v10 offers many CAM enhancements including a new 2–5-axis postprocessor with a substantial built-in library of machines new 5-axis toolpaths, and enhanced toolpath transformation tools
About the Author: Don LaCourse
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