A CAD/CAM Update

Each year, CIMdata updates the NC Software and Related Services Market Assessment Report. Following is a brief summary of some market and technology changes the upcoming Version 12 discusses.


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Each year, CIMdata updates the NC Software and Related Services Market Assessment Report. Following is a brief summary of some market and technology changes the upcoming Version 12 discusses.

Ownership changes: The CAM software market remains fragmented, but CIMdata senses greater receptivity to outside investment, acquiring, merging or being acquired. Missler acquired CN Industries, Cimatron obtained a new ownership group, Open Mind was purchased by Man and Machine, MachineWorks was spun off of LightWorks, Intercim Austin was spun off of Intercim, Vero International acquired Machinist Strategist technology from NC Graphics and Hemisphere Capitol invested in Vero.

Capturing best practices: Libraries of machining strategies tailored to a company’s best practices can be established. The EdgeCAM Strategy Manager from Pathtrace provides such capability by the use of machining rules and knowledge- and feature-based machining. The strategies can then be applied to current and future machining tasks. Thus, machining methods can be kept consistent, process variables are minimized, tooling can be optimized, best practices are maximized and programming time can be reduced.

Hybrid modelers: Hybrid modelers are becoming more prevalent. They work with wireframes, surfaces and solids. Complex geometries can be created in a single hybrid environment. Users can work in either a solid or surface mode, and solid and surface operations can be mixed within a model. The same modeling tools are used whether the model is defined in surfaces, solids or a combination of both. This approach takes a burden off users, because they do not see a difference between a surface and a solid. Suppliers include Cimatron and Vero International.

Concurrent engineering tools: Concurrent engineering is a method for concurrent design of products and the design of the process and tools to build those products. Tools to effectively implement the concept have only recently become a reality. The use of Web-based collaboration tools to permit design engineers and manufacturing engineers in different parts of the world to do a review and mark-up are offered by EDS, PTC and IBM/Dassault. Software to quickly compare old and new CAD designs and thereby manage engineering change orders has been introduced by vendors such as Cimatron.

Evolving technology: Many companies have produced new technology systems. CATIA Version 5, EDS Unigraphics NX, the PTC Expert line, GibbsCAM, Pathtrace EdgeCAM, Vero International Visi Series and Cimatron E are either new systems or products introducing new technology bases.

Step Reduction Milling (SRM): SRM was introduced by Surfware to automate and optimize Z-level roughing. For each operation, the user specifies the cutting tools to be used, when they should be used and the final step height from the roughing process. The final step height is established to match the finishing tools to be used. The software computes and establishes the Z-level roughing tool paths for each tool.

3+2 machining or five-axis positioning: Along with greater use of simultaneous five-axis milling, 3+2 machining is becoming more common in mold and die machining. A two-axis tilting rotary table is added to a three-axis machining center so parts can be positioned at different angles. Parts are cut as in three-axis milling. This is useful for cutting deep cavities or deep standing cores in molds. Open Mind, Delcam and Cimatron provide supporting software. The tool path looks like a continuous five-axis tool path.

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM): PLM encompasses functions such as PDM, CAD/CAM and digital manufacturing. Most manufacturers are moving toward enterprise solutions, so there is continuing demand for more information throughout design, manufacturing engineering and production.