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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

CAM Software Developments at IMTS 2016 – Part 1

September 22nd, 2016 by Jeff Rowe


IMTS is all about the many aspects of manufacturing from a technology standpoint, so it’s only natural that a lot of the major CAM vendors were represented on the exhibition floor.

During the course of IMTS 2016 we visited and talked with several CAM vendors on what they specifically were showing at the event, as well as their take on the CAM industry in general.

Almost without exception, every CAM vendor we spoke with talked of faster rates for increased efficiency/productivity, greater levels of automation with less operator intervention required, better integration with CAD, ability to handle a broader range of machines, tools, and materials, new roughing and finishing strategies, and so on. Some touted cloud-based capabilities and the ability to exploit the benefits of model-based design. Admittedly, though, with fancy new wrappers, some of the CAM tools were basically repackaged with aging technology more than a decade old underlying a new user interface. However, there were some notable exceptions, and these really stood out from the pack as CAM innovations.

What follows are the results of some of the conversations we had while looking for the latest and greatest in CAM software and what was truly new.


At IMTS 2016 Autodesk ushered in its new 2017 CAM products for many advanced manufacturing applications ranging from CNC mill- and lathe-programming to complex mold and die manufacturing that combine the legacy in CAM software from Delcam with Autodesk’s 3D design and manufacturing software.

Autodesk’s 2017 CAM solutions include enhanced versions of FeatureCAM for automating CNC programming; PartMaker for precision part manufacturing with Swiss-type lathes; PowerMill for designing the most complex molds, dies and other components; PowerShape for designing complex 3D parts; and PowerInspect hardware-independent inspection software.

“Manufacturers need to iterate and innovate faster than ever before to stay competitive as the marketplace is redefined by a new future of making things,” said Mark Forth, manager of manufacturing industry strategy at Autodesk. “Autodesk’s new 2017 CAM products are designed to help our customers learn, improve and master advanced manufacturing techniques that ultimately lead to better designed and functional products being brought to market more quickly and efficiently.”

Autodesk FeatureCAM is for milling machines, turning and turn/mill centers, and wire electrical discharge machines (EDMs). The automation tools within FeatureCAM help manufacturers reduce programming time, allowing parts to be made faster. They also increase programming consistency for maintaining part quality. The 2017 version of the product includes the following improvements:

  • New programming capabilities for dual-path Swiss-type lathes, further improving its range of CNC machine support
  • Ability to import and view product and manufacturing information directly from a model in order to help visualize design specifications
  • Access to functionality that allows pre-drilling when using Vortex toolpaths, ruling out the need for helical ramp moves

FeatureCAM 2017

PartMaker 2017, enables part manufacturing with Swiss-type lathes, is now available within the FeatureCAM 2017

Autodesk PowerMill 2017 takes the ability to easily and effectively manufacture the most complex molds, dies and other components to new heights. This latest version includes the following new features:

  • More efficient 3D offset finishing toolpaths, greater simulation controls and constraint-based logic to optimize non-cutting link moves for safer, more efficient machining
  • For the first time, PowerMill also provides strategies to create turning routines for use on 5-axis mill-turn machines

IMTS Autodesk 1

Autodesk PowerMill

The following improvements were made to PowerShape 2017:

  • Accessibility shading to identify areas of a part that cannot be machined with 3-axis machining alone
  • A new rib capping tool allows users of EDM technology to automatically create surfaces in order to stop cutting tools from machining slots that will be produced by EDM. Hundreds of surfaces are created in a single command, saving hours of manual modeling.
  • The PowerShape electrode wizard offers improved EDM hardware integration.

Finally, reverse engineering tools have improved fitting of surfaces to imported triangle meshes

Autodesk PowerInspect simplifies the inspection of complex shapes by providing a single solution for a wide range of measuring equipment. PowerInspect 2017 includes the following new features:

  • Support for portable measuring equipment, coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) and On Machine Verification (OMV) are offered in a single package for PowerInspect Ultimate users. This improves productivity and flexibility by making it easier for operators to select the most appropriate measuring equipment for each job.
  • The ViewCube feature offers specific benefits for visualizing inspection results and creating inspection reports
  • A single click mechanism to recall the principal CAD viewpoints, making the creation of consistent inspection report images faster and easier than ever before
  • Improvements to point-cloud performance now allows users to take advantage of the improved capabilities in the latest scanning equipment
  • A dedicated point-cloud single point item provides an easy way to evaluate target points from laser scan data

For more information:


BobCAD-CAM its new Version 29 CAD-CAM system at IMTS. The company showcased the advantages of its modular CAM software. According to the company, integrated CAD and CAM is an optimized design and manufacturing solution. True enough.

At IMTS 2016 show, BobCAD-CAM partnered with Melin Tool Co. to show the speeds and cutting power offered by adaptive toolpaths.

Melin Tool Co. Cutting with BobCAD-CAM CNC Programming Software

It’s safe to say that the majority of machine shops have and use a CNC mill, lathe, router, waterjet, laser or plasma cutting machine with a CNC controller will require some sort of a CAM product to run it. Whether it’s a newer CNC with high speed machining capabilities or an older CNC that has been retrofitted, a CAM product is necessary completing the automation process. While CAD is the starting place in innovation and turning an idea into a real world concept, CAM applies the “How” or the methods that are used to machine it. That’s the cutting strategies for roughing, semi-finishing and finishing, cutting conditions, and toolpath parameters.

Modular CAD-CAM refers to various levels of CNC machine technology that is integrated with CAD design.

BobCAD-CAM software is considered modular because the core structure of the software. The first level of the software can be added as a basic 2D or 2.5-axis milling product. The milling modules can also work with CNC Routers, waterjet, plasma, laser and burning machines because of the customizable post processing features of the software. Posting features can be adjusted that allow for G-code for running CNC machines.

Modular also extends to the ability to add higher levels of a core product such as the milling product. For example, a machine shop may only want or need 3-axis today, however, they may need rotary or 4th axis next week. The BobCAD-CAM modular milling software can have the 4th axis capabilities added to it at any time.

The primary advantage to this modular approach is that a machine shop doesn’t have to pay for more than it actually needs. For example, a shop might purchase a wire EDM at some point. The BobCAD-CAM Wire EDM module can be added only when it is needed for CNC programming the wire machine. Modular CAD-CAM increases efficiency for CNC manufacturing and keeps costs down while also increasing productivity.

For more information:


CAMWorks, known for its Tolerance-Based Machining approach uses tolerances, hole callouts, surface finishes, and other annotations to automatically generate CNC programs for SOLIDWORKS 3D parts. In the new release, Tolerance-Based Machining has been expanded to support ISO 286-2 (Limits and Fits).

The new release uses SOLIDWORKS 3D DimXpert and Model-Based Definition (MBD) 3D dimensions and annotations to automate the programming of CNC machined components.

CAMWorks 3-Axis Milling and Undercutting

CAMWorks was developed to reduce a 3D solid model into a set of discrete machining features, and apply a knowledge base that selects tools, feeds, speeds, and machining strategies to automate the creation of CNC toolpaths. Tolerance Based Machining enhances CAMWorks core architecture by adding the ability to read and react to non-geometric manufacturing information such as tolerances, surface finish, and other annotations in 3D models. This capability speeds up the CNC programming process with improvements in quality, and also creates a much stronger design-to-manufacturing process for machined components.

CAMWorks’ Jim Foster said, “In a world where every manufacturer is competing globally, we need to have tools that provide real breakthroughs in time-to-market. Tolerance Based Machining not only completes the digital thread between design and manufacture for machined components, but also significantly reduces CNC programming time, improves quality, and allows users to capture and reuse their best practices.”

For more information:

ESPRIT/DP Technology

ESPRIT introduced ProfitTurning in the latest version of ESPRIT CAM software. Basically, ProfitTurning is a lathe roughing strategy that significantly reduces machine cycle time for OD/ID/face cutting and other tasks. It also extends tool life by significantly minimizing wear. Compared to conventional ramping methods, ProfitTurning reduces machine cycle time as well as the frequency tooling inserts need to be replaced.

DP Technology’s R&D Director of Product and Engineering, Ivan Kristic, said, “ESPRIT 2016’s ProfitTurning toolpath maintains consistent cutting forces and chip loads, allowing cutting speeds to be significantly increased. By employing trochoidal turning and controlled engagement techniques, the ProfitTurning toolpath also reduces vibration and residual stresses, which in turn makes it particularly well-suited to thin walls or hard materials, especially super alloys. The net result is significantly reduced cycle times.”

ESPRIT ProfitTurning Comparative Test

ESPRIT 2016 uses a physics-based cutting engine that provides the foundation for the technologies that include ProfitTurning. While traditional cutting strategies consider only the geometry of materials, ESPRIT 2016 taps deeper into the science of how different industrial materials can be cut in the most efficient ways possible. Its new toolpath technology uses the principles of physics to formulate unique strategies for each cutting challenge. To do that, ESPRIT 2016 inputs all relevant factors in the toolpath algorithm such as tool material, tool shape, workpiece material, tool speed, feed rate, chip deforming, chip load, machine tool power, acceleration and deceleration. This helps establish control of the cutting environment, allowing for optimal cutting along the toolpath.

For more information:


The new hyperMILL MAXX Machining performance package incorporates 5-axis tangent machining of arbitrary faces with conical barrel cutters. According to the company, using conical barrel cutters enables performance increases of up to 90 percent compared to conventional production methods. hyperMILL MAXX can accommodate cutting tools that have radii of up to 1000 mm. This unique tool feature allows for greater step-over distances that reduce tool paths while improving the theoretical roughness. The result is faster production times with optimum surface quality. In addition to this module, the hyperMILL MAXX Machining package includes new capabilities for roughing and drilling.

New hyperMILL strategies for 5-axis machining can increase production, tool life, and machine service life. The conical interpolation results with the “Fast movement optimized” tool positions on conicals around the pole. What this means is that simultaneous 5-axis movement is generated with less acceleration of machine axes.

hyperMILL MAXX Machining Aerospace Structural Part

The 5-axis Optimized Rest Roughing creates high-speed cutting (HSC) tool paths for the rest machining that follows a previous roughing. The definition of the tilt angles for the B- and C-axes is relatively simple. The operator can choose whether to automatically create the tilt angle in the “3D mode” within a specified angular range or generate it from the plane normals. All connecting paths between the tilt angles are optimized and checked for collisions. This indexed machining strategy offers advantages, including shorter tools that can improve stability and performance – in particular, deep cavities and hard-to-reach areas can be processed with this cycle.

OPEN MIND has given hyperMILL 2016.2 additional extensions for 3D operations. One new feature is 3D plane level machining where toolpaths for finishing levels can be generated. New functions available for 3D optimized rest material roughing include:

  • The “avoid areas” option can be used to exclude specific areas from processing
  • The “undercut optimization” feature avoids unnecessary redundant movements in undercut areas when performing multi-axis machining on stock
  • “Plane level detection” is used when plane level needs to be machined using a different step down and an intermediate step is added automatically.

On the CAD for CAM side, in hyperCAD-S, plane curves or texts can now be created without distorting the geometry angle on a cylindrical surface or rotational faces. The direction, scaling and mirroring can also be modified.

With the “Compare and merge” function, users can compare various versions of CAD models and select the geometry elements to insert them into an existing document. All geometries not modified remain in hyperMILL, so, only the updated fields have to be reprogrammed. This can be a real time saver.

For more information:

Next week we’ll continue the discussion of what was new for CAM software at IMTS 2016 in Part 2.

Editor’s Note: We spoke to all of the aforementioned companies and recorded video interviews with several of them. Check out the website later this week to view the videos.

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One Response to “CAM Software Developments at IMTS 2016 – Part 1”

  1. Richard Williams says:

    Autodesk has gathered together some really good CAM programs to feather its nest with. I think this will pay off handsomely soon. What good is a great design if you cannot make a great part?

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