Alphacam, from Planit, is a completely integrated CAD/CAM software solution with advanced features. It is designed to offer businesses enhanced productivity, exceptional reliability and additional flexibility. The latest release of Alphacam – Version 8 – has been significantly restructured and the software now has four levels of feature sets, these are Essential, Standard, Advanced and Ultimate.
Aimed at engravers and sign-makers, as well as companies requiring component identification numbering, the new Essential level of Alphacam replaces a previous module called Basic/2D. Although Essential is the entry-level product it has a full suite of CAD tools included and is able to modify toolpaths so any design changes become quicker and easier to update.
Also in Essential is a Digitise function which allows the user to trace an image via a digitising tablet and directly create a toolpath. This is ideal for signage where an image or logo needs to be incorporated within text.
Another new feature is 3D Engraving which allows typed text to be machined as a geometric feature with profiled edges. A standard suite of cutting/engraving tools is included with the software but defining user tools is straightforward.
With the new feature sets Essential includes an onscreen Nesting module, which will automatically rectangular nest any parts shown on the screen. This allows different geometries to be selected to create a simple parts list and nested in quantities to match production batch volumes.
Says sales director Martin Measures: “Essential is ideal for the signage industry, it allows customers to make a cost-effective investment in Alphacam as a future-proof software package. Not being specific to one control system, Alphacam is flexible and will produce NC code for any machine on the market.”
Users upgrading to Alphacam Standard are getting a lot more functionality thanks to the way the feature sets have been developed. For example, from 3D digitised data a section can be taken through a model and the software allows a surface to be wrapped on to it to drive a 3- or 4-axis machine tool. Freeform 3D contoured surface profiles can be constructed, or imported via an IGES file, and machined using Z contour roughing and 3D surface machining.
For companies using 3-axis machine tools and surface models Alphacam Standard is ideal. “A mould maker could use the Standard package to translate a moulded component design into a finished mould tool with Z contour roughing and straight-line 3D machining to generate the finished shape,” says Martin Measures.
Meanwhile, companies using profiling equipment can also benefit from Alphacam Standard as the full Nesting functionality allows a complete nesting list to be built up. For raw material savings the software will alter the angle of the profiled components to optimise sheet utilisation.
The new Advanced level offers full machine simulation, with full visualisation of the tool cutting, the part and any fixturing with automated stops at any collision points. More than 10 machining strategies that improve 3D cutting on 3-axis machining centres are included, such as straight-line, spiral, up/down, tool side cutting, parameter line machining, parallel machining and radial up-cut machining. Advanced is also capable of carrying out 5-axis machining in a 3+2 format.
Within Advanced a Constraints manager, which is a fully parametric engine encapsulated within Alphacam, allows any family of parts to be drawn just once. Sets of parameters are applied which allows the user to just change the physical size of the part on the screen and re-post process for highly efficient NC code generation.
Ahead of any CAM software current available, Alphacam Ultimate provides full 3D 5-axis machining support and has benefitted from the extensive development of machining solid models. Any 3D solid models, including Inventor, Catia, ProEngineer, Solid Works, Solid Edge 3D models can be read by Alphacam and machined directly from the solid model. As Martin Measures explains: “This is very important in the aerospace sector because the tiered suppliers are often only issued a native solid model, which they must machine from without any translation.”
He concludes: “The changes to the feature sets in version 8 will deliver the maximum return on the CAM investment. For example, any customer coming in at the entry level is getting far more functionality for the money. Moving up to the Standard and Advanced level now gets users what was once considered to be the very best CAM functionality. And, companies using Alphacam Ultimate are getting full 5-axis simulation, which is important for simultaneous 5-axis machining to avoid collision damage.”