March 29th, 2018

It’s great when you hear that a company is doing well, and the order book is up.  In many of these cases, the conversation continues to the fact that machine shop capacity is overloaded, and they are looking to spend large sums of money on a new machine.  At OnePLM, we work closely with many machine tool companies and we hope they won’t be to upset if we say, “hold on a minute; are you sure your getting the most out of what you’ve already got”.

Over the past couple of years there’s been some significant innovations in roughing strategies and these can have a major impact on cycle time reduction.  For many years toolpaths created within a CAM system replicated toolpaths strategies that may have been produced using manual methods.  Claims of efficiency gains by using these toolpath strategies, although true are nothing compared to the gains that can be realised using these latest developments.

So how has roughing milling strategy changed and how can this significant reduction in rouging cycle time be realised.  A typical traditional rough milling strategy would morph the toolpath from the outside shape of the stock until it represented the shape of the finished part.  The problem with this solution was the change in load on the tool as it engaged into corners and acceleration and deceleration as the tool changed direction.  These new strategies throw this morphing idea out of the window, focusing instead on how to best remove the required volume of material, while create a path that provides for constant cutting conditions that maintains the feedrate.   In so doing, feedrates don’t have to be reduced to cater for poor cutting conditions.  In addition, these improved cutting characteristics lead to significantly reduced wear on both the tool and machine, which in turn lead to additional cost savings in tooling consumption.

To those used to a ‘traditional’ tool path, these new toolpath strategies are quite alien.  They most definitely cannot be created manually but instead require a CAM system that has developed these strategies.  Siemens NX CAM V12 includes these strategies within the Cavity milling operation, providing the opportunity for a significant step increase in productivity.  In addition, Siemens NX CAM has integrated Volumill and Voluturn operations, these toolpaths, are created by the company Celerative technologies whose focus is developing the best optimised roughing strategies for both milling and turning.

For those companies that have a CAM system that includes these types of strategy, I would encourage you to try them.  However, there are many companies that don’t run the most up to date CAM software; being satisfied overall with the functionality a specific version provided, they chose not to upgrade with each release, freezing the opportunity for productivity improvement at that point.  For those people the step change to a latest CAM solution to take advantage of these new strategies is daunting.  Do you upgrade your existing system to the latest version, or use the step change as an opportunity to look at alternative CAM solutions that might be better for your business going forward?  I’m obviously bias, and you would expect me suggest that if you don’t already use NX CAM, you should take a look at it.  However, there is an alternative to upgrading your whole CAM system to take advantage of these toolpaths.  Celerative have developed a standalone version of Volumill that enables engineers to create these highly efficient toolpaths independently.  This provides a simple cost-effective addition to an existing CAM solution.

All companies should be investigating the productivity opportunity these toolpath strategies provide, either integrated into their existing CAM solution or as a standalone roughing toolpath generator.  If you want to know more, contact us at OnePLM.