December 22, 2008
CAM Express Now Available With Synchronous Technology
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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Siemens PLM Software announced that CAM Express software with synchronous technology is shipping to customers worldwide. CAM Express, the core CAM component of the Velocity Series portfolio, incorporates Siemens PLM Software’s new history-free, feature-based design technology.

CAM Express version 6.0.1 includes additional model editing tools that leverage synchronous technology for more effective set up in preparation for NC programming. By leveraging synchronous technology, this latest release includes the ability to edit multi-CAD data as if it were native and to make those edits much faster.

“CAM Express is the first application beyond CAD in which we have implemented our new synchronous technology,” said Bill McClure, vice president of development for Velocity Series, Siemens PLM Software. “This fundamentally shows the extensibility of the technology as we expand its use into other areas of PLM.”

Modeling with synchronous technology is a key addition to the model editing tools in CAM Express. Other model edit functions include tools for wireframe, surface extraction, sewing, projections, trim/extend and simple solids. This complete set of model editing tools in this latest release allow NC programmers to make the changes they require without waiting for model refreshes or customer edits.

As a CAD-neutral CAM system, CAM Express is able to make edits faster than the authoring CAD system. The source of the model is unimportant. Synchronous technology enables intelligent selections with grab and manipulate features by topology.

“Synchronous technology will automatically discover geometric conditions apparent in the model and preserve them during edits,” said Dr. Ken Versprille, PLM Research Director, CPDA.

Velocity Series is a comprehensive family of modular, integrated solutions addressing the PLM needs of the mid-market. Consisting of a preconfigured family of digital product design, analysis and data management software offerings, Velocity Series leverages the industry’s best practices to provide significant breakthroughs in ease-of-use and deployment.

Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

Earlier this year Siemens PLM Software announced a new CAD methodology that it claimed was the biggest MCAD breakthrough in a decade called Synchronous Technology. That’s a pretty bold claim, but the concept and its implications were pretty intriguing, but how does Synchronous Technology fit into the CAM equation with CAM Express?

Are CAD and CAM still that different from each other? In almost all cases I have to answer, “Yes, they still are considerably different from each other.” At first glance, CAD and CAM seem to be more similar than they are different, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. Sure, CAD and CAM share some similarities – you create something – one digital, one physical. However, in the final analysis, today CAD and CAM are still probably different in more ways than they are similar.

Aside from the obvious, the major differences between CAD and CAM really come down to three things:
  • Features – In CAD and CAM there are two basic kinds of features – design features and manufacturing features. Design features are what define a part in a CAD system and can be additive or subtractive. Feature-based CAD packages display features and operations in history trees and parts and assemblies can be directly manipulated and modified using the history trees. Also, history trees can provide beneficial overviews to manufacturing because they provide insight into how a design was created, as well as help understand a designer’s intent. Manufacturing features, on the other hand, group geometry that will have manufacturing processes, such as machining applied to it.
    Manufacturing features can get complicated quickly, because although some are the direct result of a machining operation, just as many could be the indirect result of machining another feature. Synchronous Technology for this aspect of CAM will have a definite impact, but just how much remains to be seen.
  • Workflow – By its nature, CAM is generally much more process oriented than CAD, and the order or sequence in which different processes are performed can be critical in the CAM world. In other words, CAD defines a part, whereas CAM defines a part’s manufacturing processes and how the part takes shape from rough stock to final product. Therefore, workflow is more important to CAM. Also, the concept of time is an important aspect of CAM that really isn’t a factor at all in CAD. This situation is analogous to the importance of time in animated graphics, but of no concern to static graphics. Time is especially important on the manufacturing side because a part continually
    changes with different machining processes over time. Again, Synchronous Technology for this aspect of CAM will have impact, but it’s a mystery of how much until implementation reports emerge.
  • Interoperability – Even with all the advances that have been made in the area of interoperability between CAD and CAM, this age-old problem is still a major issue today. Unfortunately, design intent is often still lost as design data moves from CAD to CAM. Data incompatibility is still a huge problem, costing in the tens of billions of dollars annually. Synchronous Technology for this aspect of CAM should have a huge impact.
  • While a few vendors of CAD products have managed to include CAM functions into their products, the more common approach is to have a suite of products for handling the CAD and CAM functions of design, management, and manufacturing. Although the situation continues to improve, there are still major compromises for whatever approach is taken. On the one hand, CAD users don’t want to be constrained by having to predict or simulate manufacturing processes. On the other hand, CAM users don’t want to be forced to produce parts that are either too expensive to produce, or can’t be realistically produced at all. So it’s a tough dilemma getting CAD and CAM software products
    and practitioners to work together.

    Using NX, Solid Edge, and now CAM Express as launch pads for Synchronous Technology, Siemens PLM Software has become the latest MCAD company to tout the advantages of non-history-based design methods.

    Synchronous Technology was preceded by Direct Modeling (really, direct model editing) technology. While most parametric modelers, such as SolidWorks, Pro/ENGINEER, and Inventor rely on feature history, several do not. Some of the more notable non-history-based modeling packages include those from CoCreate, SpaceClaim, IronCAD, and Kubotek.

    Today, many mechanical CAD products are still parametric, history-based applications. However, a history-free architecture can make it easier to import design data and make design changes to 3D models without the need to know how a design was originally created. Some users may not like the absence of the history at first, however, I think that many users will appreciate that changes can be made faster to a CAD design or CAM process without having to deal with its history.

    Parametric history-based modeling can be a powerful design method, but it can also be complicated and make models created using this method difficult to work with, especially late in the design process, because of dependencies created earlier. This is what makes non-history-based packages attractive for design teams that perform design changes or reuse design data without having to worry about constraints, parametrics, and history-based feature trees. These advantages are what drew Siemens PLM Software into the fold, first on the CAD side, and now CAM, as well.

    So, while Synchronous Technology sounds promising for CAD and now CAM, will history-based, parametric modeling disappear? A history-free design approach can provide benefits, but the history-based, parametric methods won’t be totally discarded. While there are benefits to history-based methods, they aren’t always the best methods, and it seems that a growing number of vendors are thinking along the same lines, now including Siemens PLM Software with NX, Solid Edge, and CAM Express.

    2009 Monthly Topics

    Every month during the coming year we will provide a focused look at a technology area that will be of interest to all of our readers. We will also provide coverage of some of the major vendor and industry shows and conferences that provide a pulse on our industry and where it’s going. Finally, we will review several MCAD-related software applications and hardware, such as mobile workstations as they are released throughout the year.

    If there is anything that we missed and you would like to see covered, please contact me directly at

    January – Using Adobe Creative Suite 4 (CS4) for MCAD applications

    February – CAE Trends – analysis/simulation – FEA, CFD

          Event Coverage – SolidWorks World 2007

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    -- Jeff Rowe, Contributing Editor.

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