Woodworking hobbyists now have their own version of the market-leading commercial CNC routing software, Alphacam.
Alphacam Express drives desktop routers found in hobbyists’ garages, workshops and sheds throughout the manufacturing world. Alphacam General Manager Nick Spurrett says it will revolutionise woodworking as a hobby. “At the moment enthusiasts are probably programming on their PC in longhand, typing in their own NC code – X to here, Y to there, Z to here – line by line, and that has its restrictions when it comes to creating complex designs.”
But as Alphacam Express is a full CAM system, hobbyists will be able to produce any 2D and 2-1/2D component. “The only limitation is the user’s imagination. Today they’re limited by what they can type into their computer...but they’ll be able to design anything with Alphacam Express, they can even load an existing CAD file.
“Although they’ll be able to produce more complex designs in a shorter time than it takes to create simple designs without it, a hobbyist’s pleasure comes from the item being completed, and Alphacam Express dramatically increases the range of components they can make on their router.”
Alphacam Express drives almost all controller-based routers, with over 50 post processors available, including BIESSE Rover, Heidenhain, Fanuc, OSAI, SCM and Siemens.
Amongst its functions:
• Nesting. Automatic nesting makes it easy to maximise material utilisation. Parts can be selected from the screen, their orientation fixed – particularly important if grain direction needs to be maintained – or rotated to any angle. Nesting supports tool lead-in/out and multiple depth parts where an onion skin is required.
• Geometry; Import, Creation and Editing. 2D geometries can be imported as industry-standard formats such as dxf, or easily created within Alphacam Express. Easy to use CAD tools such as dimensioning and hatching mean that detailed drawings can be quickly produced.
• Contouring. Geometries can be contoured using tools of any size and shape, even profiled from cutters. A tool lead-in/out can be applied to each path, ramped to enhance surface finish and improve tool life.
• Pocketing. Closed geometries can be pocketed with an unlimited number of closed geometry islands.
• 3D Engraving. Artwork and text is easily created and machined, contouring geometries with a form tool, automatically retracting the tool when it meets a sharp corner.
Before buying the software, users can trial it completely free for 30 days, with the NC code available after purchase.
As the software will be upgraded every year Nick Spurrett says the license lasts for 12 months, so customers will always have the very latest release. Full back-up support is available, including a number of videos on the http://www.alphacamexpress.com/ website which take woodwork hobbyists through everything they need to know to bring them up to speed on the software.
As a reduced functionality version of the market-leading commercial software, Alphacam Express has the strength of the general Alphacam developers behind it, and was created after research showed that the commercial standard entry level contained more functionality than hobbyists needed. But if the user’s requirements change it is easy to upgrade Alphacam Express to the full version of Alphacam used by woodworking companies throughout the country.