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Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »
ESPRIT CAM Software: 21st Century CAM
April 6th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe
A few weeks ago at SOLIDWORKS World, I got reacquainted with a CAM company that previously I had only limited experience with – DP Technology. After talking with Don Davies, DP Technology’s VP of Americas, I came away from the event impressed with the company, as well as where DP Technology and its ESPIRIT product line are heading as ESPRIT CAM Software.
DP Technology Corp is a privately held company co-founded in 1982 by Daniel Frayssinet and Paul Ricard. 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, India, 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. ESPRIT has also developed close partnerships with several leading milling, turning, and wire-EDM machine tool manufacturers, such as Okuma, Mazak, DMG Mori, Citizen, Mitsubishi, GF AgiCharmilles, and Sodick.
DP Technology develops CAM software for a full range of machine tool applications. ESPRIT CAM, 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 (Creo). DP Technology also provides complementary add-ins for several CAD programs.
ESPRIT CAM MillTurn and 5-Axis Machining Provide Comprehensive Simulation of the Machine Tool Environment
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. Interesting origin for naming a product line, but seems appropriate in this case.
At SOLIDWORKS World 2017, we caught up with Don Davies, VP of Americas, DP Technology Corp. for his take on things happening within his company, as well as the CAM industry in general.
Don Davies, VP of Americas, DP Technology Corp. at SOLIDWORKS World 2017
DP Technology continually reinforces its commitment to its technology and customers by dedicating approximately 25% of its annual revenues to ongoing product research and development. Davies said the company also has what he called “shadow R&D,” who are application engineers in the field developing post processors and simulation solutions with machine tool OEMs and dealers.
As it has been for some time, still one of the company’s main goals is 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. Learning is one thing, mastering is another, and DP Technology is more interested in providing its customers the potential at mastery.
When asked about the state of the CAM market, Davies said that it is largely fragmented into distinct segments – integrated CAD/CAM vendors, such as Dassault Systemes, PTC, and Siemens PLM Software; and independent CAM vendors, such as DP Technology, Mastercam, SolidCAM, CAMWorks, etc. 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 comprehensive product/technology lineup in the competitive CAM market.
Program any Machine Tool, Machine Any Part Geometry, Surfaces or Solids
The company says that its ESPRIT system provides programming for virtually any CNC machine tool. ESPRIT’s full-spectrum functionality includes programming for multi-axis milling, turning, and wire EDM; multitasking mill-turn machines; 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 can eliminate nearly all the difficulty in programming complicated parts and can dramatically reduce 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 shop floor requirements.
Davies said, “Post processors are absolutely huge because these are the machine tool drivers, analogous to printer drivers. They are vital for CAM systems to work effectively and are essential for productivity and error-free machining. They must hand shake with ESPRIT’s simulation environment. As far as NC code generation is concerned, users often expect and need code to be edited, but this is dysfunctional and, ultimately, shouldn’t have to be done. Our target is to always make sure that the NC Code coming out of ESPRIT requires zero editing. We spend a tremendous amount time and effort towards achieving that goal.’’
In the following video, Paul Ricard, President of DP Technology, spoke with MCADCafé at IMTS 2016 about the history of ESPRIT CAD/CAM software, what’s new in the CAM industry, and what’s new in ESPRIT.
DP Technology President, Paul Ricard, interviewed by MCADCafé at IMTS
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 machine tools, cutting 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.
Cloud-Enabled CAM and Smart Manufacturing
Davies said that cloud-enabled CAM is going in many directions, but handshaking with the cloud and the data that’s out there, along with ability to deal with BIG data is absolutely essential for success.
To further reinforce cloud-enabled CAM, DP Technology has partnered with, MachiningCloud, an independent provider of CNC cutting tool and work holding product data, and is a single source of access to the most current product data from a wide variety of suppliers, such as Kennametal and Ingersoll. Davies said that MachiningCloud is similar to iTunes for downloading 3D digital components. The MC app allows you to quickly filter the digitized tooling and holder data along with all their detailed components very quickly, streamlining the process of developing tool lists for process planning. This is compared to historically wading through multiple catalogs to find this data and the hours to days long process. This digital data can not only be used for process planning, but can be imported directly into ESPRIT for simulation purposes. Additionally, feeds and speeds data defined by the vendor can also be utilized.
The ability to create digital/virtual environments that mimic the real world to quickly create process plans and simulate complex machines is the reality of today’s CAM.. Not surprisingly, Davies predicts VR inside of CAM systems in the not too distant future, which is an extension of cloud-enabled CAM.
ESPRIT and MachiningCloud have a close relationship promoting Smart Manufacturing/Industrie 4.0 through their adherence to Industrie 4.0 principles, including interoperability, virtualization, decentralization, connectivity, the Internet of Things (IoT), and dealing with and handling BIG data.
ESPRIT CAM Provides Solutions for Demanding Swiss Machining
KnowlegeBase Leverages More Than just Knowledge
ESPRIT can provide an extensive KnowledgeBase that leverages a 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 part programming, letting them focus on strategic process planning to further improve best practices by quickly recognizing and setting up rules for automating machining.
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 clear visual representation of each parameter’s source and condition.
Differentiators and CAM Trends
Davies said that DP Technology is a very CAM-centric company whose primary competitive differentiator is the level of support it provides its customers. The company’s goal is to get back to customers on support calls in 30 minutes or less. Also, all support staff receive broad CAM product and process education and rotate between various roles, such as support, teaching, development, and on-site experience, to facilitate their overall education.
With regard to CAM trends, beyond the ability to handle multi-axis and multi-turret machines, as well as continuing improved ability to deal with BIG data, Davies says he sees continued CAM industry consolidation that scares end users due to their CAM investments. Since machines are such a huge investment, they need and are expected to be able to hold tolerances for 20+ years. So, in his view, a comprehensive software family from one vendor that is able to function across a wide range of machines and processes for the long term is a panacea and one that DP Technology can fulfill.
My time with DP Technology and its ESPRIT product line provided me with a great re-introductory opportunity and sparked my interest to pay more attention to them going forward. The company seems right in step with the fact that machine tools and processes are getting more complex, and DP Technology is providing the ability for customers to get the most out of them.
For More Information: ESPRIT CAM Software