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July 14, 2008
DP Technology: “Change Before You Have To”
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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A few weeks ago, I got acquainted with a CAM company that previously I had little exposure to or experience with – DP Technology. I was invited to the company’s World Conference 2008 in Denver, Colorado and spent a couple of days getting to know the company, its products, and some of its customers. I came away from the event impressed with just about everything I saw and heard, as well as a better understanding of the CAM industry in general and where DP Technology and its product line are heading. The experience was educational and insightful.

DP Technology Corp is a privately held company co-founded in 1982 by Daniel Frayssinet, who is the current CEO, and Paul Ricard, who is the current president. The company gets its name from the first names of the co-founders – (D)an and (P)aul. The company’s corporate headquarters is in Camarillo, California. The rest of the company is structured by function with offices in France, Germany, Italy, China, and Japan. DP Technology is the developer of the diverse ESPRIT CAM system sold and supported via the company’s regional offices and its network of resellers throughout the world. It also has close partnerships with several of the leading milling, turning, and EDM
machine manufacturers, such as Mori Seiki, Mazak, Citizen, and Sodick. An interesting aside is the fact that in Japan, Mori Seiki has over 10,000 of its machines connected to the Internet for troubleshooting and software update purposes.

DP Technology develops CAM software for a full range of machine tool applications. ESPRIT, DP Technology's flagship product line, is a full-spectrum programming system for milling, turning, wire EDM, and multitasking machine tools. ESPRIT's data exchange functionality reads data from most native formats, including Autodesk Inventor, CATIA, SolidWorks, Solid Edge, NX, ACIS, and Pro/ENGINEER. DP Technology also provides complementary add-ins for several CAD programs. ESPRIT literally gets its name from the French noun, esprit de corps, that translates to spirit of a body of persons or group spirit; sense of pride, honor, etc. shared by those in the same group or undertaking. Pretty
interesting origin for naming a product line, but seems appropriate in this case.

DP Technology continually reinforces its commitment to its technology and customers by dedicating approximately 20% of its annual revenues to ongoing product research and development. DP Technology currently has two patents pending on the technology embodied within ESPRIT. The products I saw demonstrated at the world Event all looked very Windows-compliant with a friendly UI and well-documented, meaning that they are probably relatively easy to learn and use. As a matter of fact, I spoke briefly with DP Technology’s CEO on this topic, and he said that one of the company’s main goals was ease of use, and greatly reducing the learning curve, which he said is usually on the
order of a year or more for most competing CAM products.

I spoke with DP Technology’s VP of marketing and R&D, Chuck Matthews, and when asked about the state of the CAM market, he said that it is largely fragmented into three distinct segments – hardcore CNC programmers who code CNC machines for their companies; integrated CAD/CAM vendors, such as Dassault, PTC, and Siemens PLM Software; and independent CAM vendors, such as DP Technology, Mastercam, and Gibbs & Associates (now owned by Cimatron). He said each has its own advantages, but thought that the dedicated efforts that independent companies specializing in CAM bring the most to the table, and obviously, he felt that DP Technology had the ability to serve up the
most impressive and satisfying course.

In his keynote presentation, CEO, Dan Frayssinet inferred that working with an independent CAM vendor is the way to go. He said, “Don’t continually reinvent the wheel when it comes to CAM software. Rent it, buy it, license it, share it – use it in a better way. He said, with regard to manufacturers, “Adopt appropriate technology and change before you have to based on what your competition is doing.” He also shared data from a company survey that showed that an amazing 99% of DP Technology’s ESPRIT customers were satisfied with product quality, functionality, and technical support. An enviable sentiment in anyone’s book.

Program any Machine Tool, Machine any Part Geometry

The company says that its ESPRIT system provides programming for virtually any CNC machine tool. ESPRIT’s full-spectrum functionality includes programming for 2-5 axis milling, 2-22 axis turning, 2-5 axis wire EDM, multitasking mill-turn machining, and B-axis machine tools. The company also claims that its ESPRIT system is valued by CNC programmers for its extensive suite of machining cycles, comprehensive tool control, and capacity to fully support an entire shop.

ESPRIT’s CAD to CAM interface directly imports just about any native part model from any source, fully intact, with no need for programmers to edit or rebuild geometry. ESPRIT directly machines from any combination of geometries — solids, surfaces, wireframe, or STL. Starting with complete and accurate part geometry eliminates nearly all of the difficulty in programming complicated parts and dramatically reduces programming time. These all add up to huge time savers, because CAM can be quite a bit different than CAD, and machine programming is often more practiced art than learned science.

Another vital part of the CAM puzzle is ESPRIT’s universal post processor that creates the G-code needed to fully exploit any machine tool. ESPRIT provides out-of-the-box operation with a complete library of pre-defined post processors. Additional factory-certified posts are available for most leading machine tool brands, and ESPRIT’s open architecture lets you adjust any post processor to suit your personal preferences and shopfloor requirements.

Dynamic Solid Simulation and Verification

As big a deal as simulation and verification are in the CAD world, these abilities are just as important in the CAM world, as well – in some cases more important because physical tools and stock material are expensive items. ESPRIT’s dynamic solid verification eliminates the need for expensive dry runs on an NC machine. Machining processes have a higher probability of succeeding because you can compare accurately rendered “as designed ” versus “as machined” parts. ESPRIT’s real-time simulation and comprehensive collision detection ensure that even the most complex of parts will be machined correctly the first time. ESPRIT provides verification
information of a part program simulated within a complete machining environment, including elements such as machine tool, fixtures, clamps, stock, and workpiece. This ability to simulate and verify minimizes downtime, maximizes manufacturing efficiency, and cuts machining costs while validating comprehensive machining processes.

The ESPRIT Product Line

ESPRIT is DP Technology’s Parasolid-based family of CAM software products for programming CNC (computer numerical control) machine tools, and includes:

ESPRIT SolidMill for 2-5 axis milling machines

ESPRIT can be used for quick jobs, yet can also handle complex production milling work. Whether programming 2 1/2-axis parts or 5-axis machining, ESPRIT provides the programming power and the ease-of-use necessary for getting the job done. ESPRIT automatically generates optimized toolpaths, minimizing cycle time.

ESPRIT SolidMill Production adds 5-axis machining capability to ESPRIT's milling cycles. Programmers can use multiple fixture offset with local or global work coordinates to machine any part face, using any ESPRIT machining cycle.

ESPRIT rotary milling is performed directly from the 3D features of solid models or from flat 2D features. ESPRIT programs rotary contouring, pocketing and drilling utilizing a simultaneous 4th axis. ESPRIT converts one of the standard 3-axis movements (X, Y, or Z) into a rotary C-axis movement, wrapping the profile around a rotary axis and employing an optional Y-axis offset for straight walls.

ESPRIT's pocketing cycle provides full tool control and extensive automation for roughing and finishing pockets. ESPRIT can dramatically simplify programming whether machining straight-forward squares or complex pockets with irregular boundaries, multi-level islands, and multiple bosses and sub-pockets. The variety of pocket machining and finishing patterns provided by ESPRIT yields virtually unlimited options for pocket milling.

ESPRIT SolidTurn for single or multi turret/spindle turning

Traditional turning centers are being rapidly supplemented by multi-axis machines with the ability to produce complex parts unattended. Whether you are looking for a CAM system to automate traditional turning – from roughing and grooving to threading and finishing – for faster, more accurate results, or to maximize multi-axis machine tools.

Multi-axis Swiss-style turning centers can be programmed with ESPRIT for realizing their potential for single set-up, unattended machining. ESPRIT accommodates the special demands of of Swiss machines and creates programs that take full advantage of Swiss-style capabilities with comprehensive tool path creation, simulation, collision detection, and accurate G-code generation.

Control production (multi-turret or multi-spindle) turning with ESPRIT’s program synchronization, dynamic simulation, and accurate collision detection. Work simultaneously on the front and/or back of the work piece with one, two or more cutting tools. ESPRIT unlocks the potential of a turning center, cycle times are dramatically reduced, and parts are completed in a single set-up. ESPRIT’s comprehensive suite of machining cycles includes all part handling cycles — from initial material bar feeds and stock chucking, through steady rests, and part cut-off and pick-up.

ESPRIT streamlines and standardizes traditional lathe machining, with a minimum investment of time and training. ESPRIT offers contour profile cutting for facing and OD or ID turning, a universal machining cycle driving single-point tools for a wide variety of machining tasks. ESPRIT’s roughing cycle enables work from castings, pre-roughed, irregular-shaped, or bar stock, and has options for controlling every aspect of machine movement — from clearances to differing Z and X stock allowances. For drilling and hole making, choose between ESPRIT’s pre-programmed machining cycles and your machine tool’s canned cycles, or use a combination of both.

ESPRIT provides seven grooving cycles with a variety of optional tool movements, including single plunge, multiple plunge, peck grooving, zigzag grooving, and even contouring with grooving tools. For thread machining, ESPRIT offers multiple threading options, including single or multi-point, with straight or tapered threads, and constant or variable leads. ESPRIT automatically calculates the depth and number of cuts, with a manual override option.

ESPRIT SolidWire for 2 – 5 axis wire EDM

ESPRIT provides a universal electrical discharge machining (EDM) contouring cycle to machine any contoured mold, die, core, cavity, shape or profile for small lots of sub-micron precision parts or as a workhorse for production machining. This versatile machining cycle supports straight or tapered rough and skim cuts while optimizing wire cutting paths. Strategies for all styles of EDM machining such as punch, die, multi-cavity parts, and unattended machining are included. Between cuts ESPRIT automatically handles all the necessary wire-cut and wire-thread instructions, and part-handling functions of the machine: flushing, tank fill, and tank drain.

The complex tapers common to mold components, forming dies, and cutting tools with the advanced conics capability of ESPRIT’s contour cycle can be programmed. When cutting a radius during tapering, built-in advanced conics allows you to alternate between cylindrical constant radius corners and conical constant taper corners. ESPRIT also provides independent programmable upper and lower radius control. While tapering into sharp corners, ESPRIT offers you the flexibility to maintain sharp corners top and bottom or machine a blended radius on the secondary plane.

Parts with extremely complex tapers or completely independent freeform shapes, top and bottom, with ESPRIT’s XY (lower), UV (upper) 4-axis contouring cycle can also be programmed. Select any two three-dimensional profiles and the 4-axis cutting process is automatically synchronized; you can add an unlimited number of additional synchronization lines. ESPRIT adds tabs automatically and creates skim cuts for unattended machining. Get 4-axis programming for any geometric shape with any number of elements: 3D, non-planar, UV and XY profiles, and non-planar fixturing.

Handling slugs efficiently during EDM machining becomes more difficult with decreasing workpiece size. ESPRIT provides a special EDM no-core pocket machining cycle to erode away all the material inside a given cavity without creating a slug. With no-core cutting, a start hole is drilled into the workpiece and ESPRIT recognizes and automatically machines only the slug, preventing wire breakage and minimizing machining time

ESPRIT SolidMillTurn for multitasking mill-turn machining

Today, multitasking machine tools with mill, turn, and drill capabilities are becoming increasingly popular in metalworking. These sophisticated machines allow manufacturers to perform simultaneous milling and turning operations, on the front and back of a part, in a single setup. Mill-turn machines represent an enormous potential for profitability, but possess inherent programming challenges due to their complexity. The right CAM system is a key factor for success in the mill-turn equation.

ESPRIT delivers an approach for solving the issues that arise with programming complex multitasking machines, such a post processor writing and machine definition. Imagine programming your multitasking machine with a complete, pre-configured solution— developed in cooperation with the machine tool builders and tested extensively at the factory level.

ESPRIT provides an integrated programming environment specifically designed for multitasking, multi-function CNC machine tools. ESPRIT supports any combination of independent, synchronized, and synchronous milling and turning utilizing any configuration of A, B, C, X, Y, and Z axes. ESPRIT’s five levels of functionality for 2–5 axis machining fully support your mill-turn needs, including milling with full, simultaneous 3-axis and 5-axis 3D multi-surface solid machining.

ESPRIT’s full 5-axis control lets you easily program the non-perpendicular multi-axis tool movements required to machine the intricate features and compound angles of medical components, complex valves, tool holders, oil drilling tools, etc. ESPRIT provides advanced 5-axis control for its machining cycles including facing, boring, grooving, threading, contouring, pocketing, hole making, and 3D finishing

ESPRIT features five levels of C and Y-axis machining functionality providing support for a full range of multitasking machine tools. Choose from milling contour and profile cutting, pocketing, or a variety of drilling machining cycles. Perform 2 1/2-axis milling operations on your lathe using Z, X, and C, or Z, X, and Y axes. Slotting and cross drilling can be accomplished by “wrapping” pockets, holes, and profiles around a rotary C-axis movement. For off-center, Y-axis milling, ESPRIT provides an extensive set of milling cycles including facing, pocketing, contouring, rest machining, hole making and more. Use these cycles on the C, Y, and B axes to machine features at
compound angles on the part face, ID, or OD.

ESPRIT simulates and synchronizes virtually any combination of mill-turn (2-5 axis) and turning cutting cycles, multiple spindles, multiple turrets — up to 22-axes — in one display. View a combined listing of all your milling and turning operations and their associated cycle times. You can verify how a part is machined eliminating any potential machine crashes along with the ability to move, copy, edit, and synchronize your operations to minimize cycle times

ESPRIT Mold for 3- and 5-axis high-speed milling

ESPRIT Mold is an automated 3-axis and 5-axis CAM system. Utilizing knowledge of in-process stock, remaining material, and integrated simulation and verification ESPRIT Mold delivers programming for a wide variety of 3D machining applications.

ESPRIT Mold automatically manages the in-process stock model, allowing the user to combine milling strategies from 2½–axis to 5-axis for optimized tool paths. With 20 different milling strategies, ESPRIT Mold is a member of the ESPRIT family of CAM software which also includes ESPRIT SolidMill, ESPRIT SolidTurn, ESPRIT SolidMillTurn, and ESPRIT SolidWire.

ESPRIT Mold 3-axis Machining is a tool for producing models, prototypes, injection molds, die casting molds and sheet metal molds.

ESPRIT Mold 3+2 Machining provides optimized machining for improved surface finish utilizing A and B axes to incline the cutting tools. Shorter, more rigid cutting tools and direct machining of undercut areas are possible using this tool.

ESPRIT Mold 5-axis Machining is a set of functions for the latest 4- and 5-axis machine tools. All rapid movements between machining zones, even with different index angles, are automatically generated collision-free with respect to the in-process stock.

KnowlegeBase for leveraging knowlege

Lastly, ESPRIT can provide an extensive KnowledgeBase that lets you leverage your shop’s most important strategic assets — its best machining practices developed over the years — for maximized productivity and competitiveness. ESPRIT’s KnowledgeBase provides a push-button approach for any programmer or operator for determining the best method to machine a given part or feature by automatically selecting the most appropriate machining cycles, cutting tools, and machining parameters. The KnowledgeBase frees CNC programmers from repetitive parts programming, letting them focus on strategic process planning to further improve best practices.

With ESPRIT’s KnowledgeBase, process-specific information is stored securely and is readily available to any operator or programmer. ESPRIT uses the accumulated “knowledge” of a shop’s best practices and preferred methods to automate CNC programming. The multi-user SQL database built into ESPRIT’s KnowledgeBase provides a central repository for accumulating shop-wide machining experiences.

ESPRIT’s Automated Feature Recognition is a KnowledgeBase component providing CNC programmers with a new level of productivity-enhancing speed and accuracy. Automated Feature Recognition subdivides a given part into features like pockets, slots, shoulders, and holes. Each feature has a set of known physical characteristics including height, thickness, draft, volume, and area. This KnowledgeBase component automatically categorizes these features into feature cases based on a shop’s standards, terminology, and each feature’s characteristics.

The Process KnowledgeBase provides detailed tool control and extensive process automation, automatically choosing the most suitable process to machine a given feature — including machining cycles, cutting tools, speeds and feeds, and all associated machining parameters. When a process is applied, process steps are automatically adjusted to accommodate the feature geometry and other feature characteristics. Programmers can also create new processes and update details of existing processes with the Process Manager. All machining parameters are presented in a color-coded display for a clear visual representation of each parameter’s source and condition.

A Speeds and Feeds calculator presents the best cutting speeds and feeds for each machining situation based upon the part material class and condition, cutting tool style and material, machining operation, and axial and radial depths of cut. The Speeds and Feeds KnowledgeBase Manager allows programmers to add and update cutting speeds for any given situation, and the optional CUTDATA database simplifies programming with over 100,000 speed and feed recommendations.

The Cutting Tool Manager provides an effective method for managing cutting tool information for consistent and accurate tool selection. The powerful Cutting Tool KnowledgeBase, a multi-user database, works integrally with the Process KnowledgeBase to provide automated tool selection and can be accessed whenever needed.

The company says that its entire Esprit 2009 product line will be launched at IMTS in Chicago in early September, and will ship in late September.

DP Technology and its ESPRIT product line are things I did not know much about before attending their World Event. However, having been there provided me with a great introductory opportunity and sparked my interest to pay more attention to them going forward. So, to echo what we heard at the DP Technology World Event, “To remain competitive, change before you have to.”

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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.