The capabilities of CAD/CAM programs are evolving beyond modeling and design. Increasingly, vendors are adding tools that provide intellectual property protection yet ease the transmission of data to other corporate software programs. New programs practically automate the conversion of model or drawing data into machine code. And vendors of rendering programs work to “suspend disbelief” with software that produces images that rival photographs. These are a few of the trends on display at various trade shows, including the recent SolidWorks show.
Easier CNC programming
For full 5-axis machining, look into a new release of Depocam that includes features for generating simultaneous, collision free 5-axis tool-paths (side-step machining) from existing 3-axis tool-paths. From NC Graphics (Cambridge) Ltd. (www.ncgraphics.net), the software features enable deep core machining and cavities using short cutters for improved surface finish and accuracy.
In addition, a 5-axis tip avoidance feature for ball cutters lets users tilt the tool axis to avoid tip cutting. More 5-axis developments will be released later this year. These will include flank or swarf machining. You will be able to set the cutter axis parallel to the surface of the part so that the tool is cutting on its flank, which is useful for machining surfaces that are curved in one direction. These tools improve metal removal rates, surface finish and eliminate the need for taper cutters on canted walls.
GibbsCAM from Gibbs and Associates (www.Gibbs-CAM.com) offers new macro capabilities that directly access information stored in SolidWorks tables and then uses that data to write CNC programs. If one or more values in the table are modified, the program automatically adjusts the process and updates the corresponding tool-path, which makes it easier to handle families of parts.
GibbsCAM also directly reads native SolidWorks part or assembly files, including imported data, letting you select between various configurations. These seamless capabilities preserve geometric information.
ArtCAM Insignia engraving and routing software includes support for simultaneous drilling operations, enhanced nesting features, and an improved interface. From Delcam (www.delcam.com), you can develop and manage models as a series of bitmap layers. You can also divide drawings into individual layers for vector and bitmap information.
PDF files can be imported into the software. During import, vector and bitmap artwork can be automatically separated into layers. All the tools for editing bitmaps and creating vectors from bitmaps ease the clean up of imported artwork and tracing vectors around different areas of the component. Nesting allows efficient use of material. Different numbers of multiple copies of various elements can be generated and arranged within a specified area in one operation.
On the machining side, the program offers additional support for drill banks. Multiple drill heads can be programmed to drill an array of holes simultaneously. The pattern of holes can be duplicated a number of times across a sheet of material.
See the light
More vendors offer software that creates photo realistic images, adds realistic shading to objects, or eases the analysis of optical features. For example, TracePro 4.0 and TracePro BridgeTM, from Lambda Research Corp., (www.lambdares.com) allows a seamless interface between mechanical design and optical analysis. TracePro Bridge addresses complex models and offers an expanded database of optical material and surface properties. It helps manage flow; insures data and documentation integrity, shortens the product development cycle, and streamlines documentation. This software is compatible with SolidWorks programs.
Optisworks 2007, from Optis (www.optis-world.com) integrates color management for realistic simulation results. Compatible with the new International Color Consortium standard, this program helps control the display of colors over all output devices, both in print and on-screen. Decisions can be made based on printed and on-screen colors, speeding the validation process. Improvements in the graphic user interface, such as dedicated dialog boxes, make it easy to define light sensors within a lighting system. The performance of Visual Ergonomics simulation has also been improved, and new algorithms reduce the time required to launch simulations.
Maxwell Render, from Next Limit Technologies (www.maxwellrender.com), is a physically correct, unbiased rendering engine. Through complex mathematical calculations, the software simulates light exactly as in the real world. Everything is reproduced as it would appear physically, including advanced lighting and high photographic quality, through governing physical equations for images. Colors are not RGB, but spectrally calculated. The appearance of materials is also calculated in a “physically” correct manner. This software handles architectural visualization, 3D simulation, product design and animation. The software features extremely detailed lighting and a free material library with hundreds of materials.
HyperShot, from Bunkspeed, (www.bunkspeed.com) is a real-time rendering program that delivers photographic imagery instantly, accurately, and without special expertise or knowledge. It converts 3D data into photo-realistic images in minutes. Retouching is eliminated. The Ford Motor Co. used this program to develop advanced media images for the Ford Interceptor concept muscle car so that the media could begin reporting on the car before it was fully built. Ford uses this software to see how a vehicle will look in a naturally lit 2-D environment.
Connecting with enterprise systems
RuleStream, from RuleStream Corp., (www.rulestream.com) automates processes associated with Engineer-to-Order (ETO) operations, such as generating 3D models and complex drawings, executing calculations, and writing the Bills of Materials (BoMs). It allows faster and more accurate quotation processing and ordering for non-standard products and systems.
The program can be scaled to suit corporate needs, offers robust knowledge management tools, and integrates with other packages to support multiple divisions across the globe with a central knowledge repository. Among the features is a knowledge-capture-and-reuse program that lets manufacturers accelerate product planning and production. The rules-driven product management (RPM) software helps manufacturers engaged in fabrication and assembly, automotive and aerospace/defense companies, and architectural and engineering firms. An integrated IP database lets manufacturers automate complex decisions across organizations and their supply chain.
Fläkt Woods offers TactonWorks from Taction Systems (www.tacton.com) to streamline the design-to-order process. Fläkt Woods is a manufacturer of air conditioning and ventilation devices, including cooling, filtration, heat recovery, diffusion, fire safety and ventilation. The program makes design-to-order work more efficient. Sales teams can generate eDrawings and downloadable files (3D models and 2D CAD drawings) of the company’s products when they configure fans on the web.
TactonWorks is a SolidWorks add-in that runs the Tacton Configurator engine. You can configure complex products and automatically generate complete SolidWorks assemblies and drawings on the fly. As soon as you change a requirement, the program updates the assembly in the same window, displaying the effect of each change in 3D.
Agni Link, from Elmo Solutions Inc., (www.elmo.com) is a companion application to CAD/PLM software that establishes a direct, on-line connection between CAD product data and its counterpart in the ERP environment. Every time a CAD document is updated, Agni Link analyzes both CAD and ERP data, resolves discrepancies, and presents a form to edit the data. Once edited data are confirmed, the software will simultaneously update product data in both CAD and ERP environments, ensuring perfect synchronization without redundant data entry.
The program also automatically updates the ERP Bills of Materials (BoM) to reflect any changes in CAD assembly composition. With some data elements, such as Raw Materials and Component type, the program will only allow valid entries as defined by the ERP application. The software is based on the Elmo software foundation.
Keytech (www.keytech.de) integrates major CAD systems to ERP systems. Scalable, the software suite from Keytech Software GMBH begins with document management and goes into integrated PLM systems. Specified processes such as change and release management are easy to implement and use.
The software ensures quick, flexible and secure access to all valid technical information. You can integrate to major 2D and 3D CAD systems, restrict Web access to all information and files, create Structure and Where Used functions for parts, documents and folders, and create and manage image files for viewing and plotting. It is compatible with SolidWorks, Solid Edge, Pro/ENGINEER, Unigraphics, Inventor, CATIA, IDEAS CoCreate/ME10, AutoCAD, LogoCAD, EPLAN, PADS PowerLOGIC, and PowerPCB.
Cimmetry Systems, an Agile Software company, (www.cimmetrysystems.com) offers 2D, 3D and EDA native document visualization for AutoCAD 2007 SP1, Cadence Allegro 15.7, and Mentor Expedition 2005 with the release of Service Pack 3 for AutoVue 19.1 (Windows). Whether you view such documents within an organization or outside of it, native document viewing lets you instantly view markups and collaborate on documents without file conversion.
Enterprise Rights Management software, from Liquid Machines (www.liquidmachines.com), integrates with SolidWorks suite of tools. This software eases collaboration on product development and manufacturing. You can control versions, sensitive content, as well as usage rights with the actual data. Access and usage control permissions travel with the protected intellectual property.