November 13, 2006
Parametric 5-Axis Machining
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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One of TopSolid'Cam's greatest forces is its ability to manage all machining processes thereby making it one of the only CAM solutions on the market which is able to machine all parts by offering the most suitable machining process. TopSolid'Cam is capable of piloting turning, 2-axis milling, 3-axis milling, 4- and 5-axis continued milling, 4- and 5-axis continued turning, synchronization and complex simulation.

Today, the optimization of the digital calculation of objects has led designers to create shapes which can only be made by using machines able to operate in 5 continuous axis. Before looking at what TopSolid'Cam proposes for the machining of such parts, let's take a look at the 2 main cases where continuous 5 -xis machining is used:
  • Machining of parts which cannot be made without a 5-axis machine tool. In general 5-axis machining is required to manage accessibility constraints to certain areas of the part and means that the part cannot be made on machines with fewer axis.
  • Machining of parts which can be carried out on 3-axis machines. In this case the main reason behind using a 5 axis machine (when the part could in fact be machined on a 3 axis machine) is to allow the use of shorter tools which offer better cutting conditions and thereby reduce manufacturing times.
  • Spinning wheels, aeronautical parts, air ducts of certain cylinder heads are some examples of parts which can only be manufactured using a 5-axis machine tool. TopSolid'Cam offers two main strategies for the machining of such parts:
  • 5-axis sweeping - with this machining method, the tool never works at the extremity, where the cutting speed is worst. Accessibility problems to certain areas of the part are eliminated and thereby turnaround times are reduced.
  • Swarf machining - This machining method limits the number of machining passes by using the side of the tool instead of its extremity. Machining is therefore cleaner and faster.
  • For parts which may be machined on a 3-axis machine, TopSolid'Cam can transform a classical 3-axis toolpath into a 5-axis toolpath. This option permits the use of shorter tools which offers better cutting conditions, a reduction of possible vibrations and a significant reduction in machining times. (This function is frequently used by mold makers, for whom the automatic management of collisions, now available in TopSolid'Cam, is very important. This means that the tool orientation is automatically modified in the case of a collision or rubbing with the part.)

    We have seen that TopSolid'Cam offers continuous 5-axis machining solutions to its customers which reduce machining times, increase part quality and reduce tool costs. TopSolid'Cam also proposes other powerful functions which are essential for continuous 5 axis machining:
  • Collision management: TopSolid'Cam automatically modifies the orientation angles of tools in order to avoid collisions.
  • Simulation: Simulation is a key issue in all machining processes, especially in continuous 5-axis machining. TopSolid'Cam manages all interoperation movements, collision prevention, axes movements, rest material, etc. Unlike many CAM solutions on the market today, TopSolid'Cam does not only simulate the tool but also the machine and the part and thereby permits a good machining of the part.
  • TopSolid'Cam manages all machining processes from 2D to 5 axis machining. One of the main interests of TopSolid'Cam is the richness of functionalities it offers to its operators. The sub-contractor who today works in 2D may, in the future, need to machine complex 5 axis parts in order to stay competitive. With TopSolid'Cam such a company can take on new complex parts with TopSolid'Cam without the fear of having to change software if its work processes change.

    TopSolid'Cam offers:
  • Polyvalence for all machining operations enabling sub-contractors to carry out all machining operations they may encounter including 2D, 3D and 5D milling, turning and wire electroerosion.
  • An integrated simulation which enables operators to easily manage accessibility problems during the programming of complex lathes/milling machines.
  • Excellent management of the stock so that all machining operations take into account the correct stock model.
  • Automatic machining linked to the topology of the models
  • Automatic recognition of features such as holes, pockets, grooves, bosses, etc.

  • Commentary

    by Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

    I met with Missler Software for the first time a couple of months ago at IMTS in Chicago and spent a lot of time looking at TopSolid'Cam. As a matter of fact, I came back to the exhibit booth three times because of the breadth and depth it had. I realized early on in the demos, that TopSolid'Cam would be well suited for mold making and for machining the complex shapes that are omnipresent in the aerospace and automotive industries.

    TopSolid'CAM is a part of Missler Software's integrated CAD/CAM product line. The CAM-software optimizes CAM-programming for all kinds of parts. TopSolid'CAM can be integrated into different manufacturing styles and production requirements through its dynamic libraries.

    It can also minimize or eliminate repetitive tasks. For example, instead of a user creating multiple tasks, it creates the tasks based on manufacturing knowledge obtained from the product design. Through parametric technologies, it automatically chooses the fastest and most economical way to machine parts. This ability enables associating specific tools with a particular machining task. When a design change is implemented, the associated machining process is changed, including the optimization of cutter sizes, feeds and speeds required to produce the new part based on the design change.

    TopSolid'CAM has an associative database allowing it to adapt to particular production methods and machinery. For an example, when adapting tolerances from design to machining, the software automatically re-dimensions the part.

    Some of the highlights that I noted during demonstrations of TopSolid'Cam 2006 included:
  • The automatic transformation of 3-axis tool paths in 5-axis tool paths, that is a significant capability for mold makers. It permits the use of shorter tools to machine parts, which, in turn favor better cutting conditions, a decrease in vibration, and reduced cycle times.
  • TopSolid'Cam 2006 automatically empties 5-axis pockets that reduce the number of steps necessary to perform this task. The new version of TopSolid'Cam automatically evacuates the holes followed by pocket wall finishing using the swarf machining technique. This function is particularly useful in the aerospace industry.
  • Drilling on wire-frame geometry that allows the machining of identical holes, not modeled in the CAD file, and which have different orientations. In addition, it enables faster 5-axis drilling.
  • Production management that gives operators the ability to manage production by "assembling" several different parts and their machining processes on the same machine. In other words, an operator can assemble parts already programmed without needing to re-program the parts. This function lets operators manage production. If a machine breaks down, an operator can change the machine without re-programming parts.
  • TopSolid'Cam 2006 offers turning cycles adapted to Swiss turn lathes. In fact, all turning cycles such as roughing, finishing, and breakdown have been adapted to the Swiss turning process, providing gains for Swiss turning operations.
  • Tool length management by separating 3D machining processes allows mold makers to make surface and cutting condition improvements. This function automatically divides the machining operations in such a way that they are carried out by both a short and long tool. In this way, cutting conditions are optimized and cycle times are reduced.
  • TopSolid'Cam 2006 manages gun drills used for deep drilling. This function offers special cycles for gun drills that are used primarily by mold makers for drilling cooling circuits in mold plates.
  • I am by no means an expert on CAM software, but based on competing products, TopSolid'CAM seems more open and parametric than most other CAM software that I've seen, because it automates a lot of processes and provides parts programming optimization. I'm sure I'll hear from competitors on this last statement, but TopSolid'CAM seemed well thought and approachable for the complex processes it is able to handle. After all, the purpose of a CAM tool is to cut metal, not air.

    The Week's Top 5

    At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.

    Redneck Engineering, a South Carolina company crafting custom motorcycles is building better bikes faster with SolidWorks. SolidWorks is Redneck's first CAD software product. Owner Vince "Nobody" Doll learned to use SolidWorks software last year in a four-day crash course and has since shortened his concept-to-product cycle by 75 percent. SolidWorks Office Premium and its integrated COSMOS analysis software also enabled Redneck to develop its first line of "soft tails," or bikes with rear suspension. The software made it relatively easy to achieve the proper fork trail - the offset of the front wheel axle from the fork
    axis - and COSMOSMotion helped ensure that bikes stay flat while steering. Doll can analyze suspension design, including compression, rebound rates, and swing-arm action. SolidWorks has also taken over calculation work Doll previously performed with cumbersome spreadsheets.

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    -- Jeff Rowe, Contributing Editor.


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