As experienced CAM programmers and CNC machine operators become harder to find, one CAM software company is developing practical solutions.
Nearly two years have passed since Vero Software started to accelerate its growth with mergers and acquisitions. In 2011, Vero merged with Planit Holdings, a developer of CAD/CAM software for the production engineering, sheet metal, metal fabrication, and woodworking sectors. Earlier this year, Vero Software made two more significant acquisitions – Sescoi Int'l and the SURFCAM assets from Surfware Inc.
Today, according to CIMdata research, Vero Software is the world’s largest CAM specialist and the third largest CAD/CAM vendor.
Richard Smith, CEO of Vero Software, believes that the recent acquisitions will accelerate the company’s growth. In fact, after the merger with Planit, Smith made a point of saying, “With greater critical mass we will be able to continue to provide excellent service and support to both existing and new customers. We fully recognize the importance of product branding and customer loyalty, and therefore, it is important to emphasize that we will continue to invest in all of the products. We will move forward together with the expertise, knowledge, and resources necessary to deliver even higher levels of productivity to our customers.”
No doubt, the merger and acquisition adds depth to Vero’s focus on resolving shop floor issues. However, when it comes to delivering higher levels of productivity, look no further than the developments that have taken place with Edgecam.
Originally founded in 1983 under the name Pathtrace, Edgecam is a CAM system for NC part programming.
“Back in 1995 the philosophy behind the new name of Edgecam reflected the software’s leading edge as it moved from DOS to Windows-based with graphical icons replacing textual menus,” explains Raf Lobato, general manager, Edgecam. “Rather than basing Edgecam software on a solid-based kernel, we went the route of supporting all major solid kernels in 1999. This meant we did not need to translate the CAD data. To this day, many other systems still have problems transferring data via independent format, such as IGES. But all formats are readily imported into Edgecam with no loss of integrity.”
Vero Software officials believe that step gains in productivity can be made by building as much knowledge of specific design and machining processes within the software as possible. Evidence of these gains in productivity can be seen in the latest releases of Edgecam. Take, for example, Strategy Manager, the first flexible knowledge base manufacturing solution allowing users to dictate and store their own manufacturing processes easily. It was first introduced in 2002 and by today’s standards, it is considered a true value-added system for Edgecam users.
Not only does it capture the best practices from skilled programmers, it has the ability to mimic the decision-making process of the programmer, producing results that are consistent and repeatable.
Today’s Edgecam also includes Waveform Roughing, which maximizes material removal rates while prolonging both cutting tool and machine tool life. It produces rough milling tool paths that deliver shorter cycle times and improved surface finish. As one engineering subcontractor sees it, the revolutionary Waveform Roughing strategy in Edgecam CNC software is pushing the boundaries of traditional milling, while changing things for the better.
Waveform creates tool paths that, when viewed from above, the distance between the passes (known as stepover) varies. However, this variation allows the actual width of cut to stay the same and at the optimum level, meaning the spikes are removed. Chip load stays constant and the depth-of-cut employs the cutter’s entire flute length.
“It is all about gaining the confidence to accept a whole new way of thinking,” Lobato says. “Because it is going outside the normal boundaries of what has been achievable and realistic in the past, customers begin by using Waveform roughing with normal feeds and speeds. Then, they start to realize its enormous potential, and ramp-up the speed and feed rates, which plays a major role in reducing machine time. The added benefit being significantly increased tool life, creating a win-win for the user in terms of time and money saved.”
A New Approach to CAM
While Strategy Manager and Waveform certainly bring Edgecam to the forefront, the real game changer in the metalworking industry is Edgecam’s latest application known as Workflow, specifically designed to help manufacturers reduce costs, improve quality, and generate shorter lead times.
Basically, the Workflow tools aid in loading and positioning the component; choosing the manufacturing method and suitable machine tools; adding user defined stock or stock from a database; importing fixtures; selecting a machine and toolkit; and managing strategies to automate manufacturing. At each stage, Workflow takes decisions or makes suggestions as to how the goal is best achieved. However, the user can easily override the decisions if required, making the entire process flexible.
Workflow will have a significant impact on shortening programming time, and because it is simple to operate, the learning curve for new users is considerably reduced.
Consider this simple-stage process:
- File: Adopting the common Microsoft Office 2010 theme allows users to manage files and folders efficiently.
- Set-Up: This sets up datum position, and adds stock and fixtures through the interactive stock, fixture, and machine manager functions.
- Features: Using Edgecam’s automatic feature recognition, many types of manufacturing features can be located in seconds.
- Machining: Easily manipulated by drag and drop, a planning board applies a suggested order to manufacture.
- NC Code: The tool path is verified in the full machine simulator, checking for collisions, gouges, and limit over travel. The toolkit can be reviewed and edited before NC code is generated to complete the five-stage Workflow process.
Once each section is complete, the user moves seamlessly to the next stage, completing each process in turn. The result is a fully programmed, fully collision-checked part, with swift and accurate generated CNC code.
Currently, more than a 1,000 engineers from around the globe have attended Workflow webinars. Top concerns of employing this new application have been categorized and answered as follows:
- Importing fixtures: User defined fixtures, including vises, chucks, and clamps can be applied using the fixture manager.
- Loading and positioning the component: Now fully automatic, in many CAM systems the user must manually set the environment and use traditional commands to create a datum.
- Manufacturing method and suitable machine tools: The user is presented with a list of suitable machine tools based on the component’s geometry, which ensures machine limits are respected.
- Adding user-defined stock, or stock from a database: Based on dimensions, a selection of user-defined materials is listed with three categories: valid, normal, and invalid, which allows a suitable stock to be easily applied.
- Managing strategies to aid manufacturing: Edgecam engineers have developed suggested methods of manufacturing to machine the part on a feature-by-feature basis with logical cutter paths.
The traditional CAM commands remain available at all times, and the programmer can alternate between the two.
“Developed to address the many challenges facing manufacturing today, the driving force behind Workflow is the industry’s need to reduce costs with reliable and repeatable rapid NC code generation,” Lobato explains.
By its very nature, manufacturing thrives in a very competitive world. Customers demand price reductions and higher levels of quality. At the same time, material prices are increasing, while consumable tooling costs are also on the rise. This requires today’s manufacturers to look for ways to become more efficient, which may require expertise in finding ways to reduce time to market; improving quality from the design stage through the production stage; and generating consistent, predictable results.
Never before has there been a greater need to investigate new technology and innovative processes, and it just may be that Vero’s Edgecam is a solid starting point for moving ahead of the competition. By all indications, Edgecam with its Workflow application is today’s game changer.
Vero USA Inc.
About the author: Thomas J. Grasson is the Associate Publisher of AMD magazine and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.