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  1. #1
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    Integrated CAM Advantages?

    I've been in this industry for 20 years, and this experience has convinced me that the future of CAD/CAM lies in Integrated solutions. By Integrated CAM, I mean CAD/CAM software that runs inside of mainstream CAD systems like SolidWorks or Inventor.

    I compiled a list of advantages on my company site:
    http://www.ngms.us/integratedcam/integratedcam.htm

    I'm sure there are others advantages I've missed.

    Some of these advantages are compelling on their own; like eliminating data translation errors.

    But I am also finding that some work to help and reinforce the others. That is, Integrated CAM opens the possibility of new ways to approach machine tool programming. There are synergies at work that seem quite powerful.

    A simple example: SolidWorks supports Assemblies and configurations, and with an Integrated CAM system, you always have access to the design tree (which you can loose with stand-alone systems during the conversion process).

    Now I find myself making different configurations of the part for different phases of CNC machining. My first configuration might have many of the features suppressed and show all the clamps as part of an assembly. Later, I might only show cavity features, but with holes or features to be drilled or burned suppressed in the design tree (rather than capping surfaces like we did in the old days).

    Obviously, I am a believer in Integrated Systems, and have a commercial interest in them. And one sure way to start a flame-fest is to talk about the advantages of this brand CAM over another.

    So, I'd like to discuss this on a more academic level, and try not to talk about specific products.

    The question is, how do you see the advantages or disadvantages of Integrated CAM, and how have you used CAD functions in mainstream CAD (Solidworks, Inventor, PTC) to prepare a part for toolpaths?

  2. #2
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    Agree totally. At present, I model in Inventor and then take the modelled part into Edgecam which, despite claims to the contrary, does not support solid models terribly well. (It seems to extract surfaces from the solid and works with them instead). If the designer has left off features like chamfers or fillet edges, I can't machine them. (well, not easily anyway)

    A ridiuclous way to work really. To be able to do the whole design to manufacture process in a single app. would be the perfect way to work. I do wonder why Autodesk don't offer a CAM product.

  3. #3
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    Cool

    I've worked in 2 programs have integrated solutions, There are a number of benefits to working in a native enviroment, for once you can better see the design intent of a part and as you pointed out the ability to either hide or suppress features is a great plus for model manipulations. I dont work with a integrated solution right now due to a few shortcomings and lack of support in my neck of the woods for a certain cam add-in. I am using Esprit and Solidworks and while Esprit does not work directly inside solidworks you can import the native model and the design tree as well so Im happy. One caviat worth mentioning, Im sure in 20 years you've seen a lot of thing and I think you would agree that regardless of what cam software you've used the biggest hurdle to over it's not the integration of the cad/cam software per se, but a well built model and a builder that has some practical knowledge of manufacturing, too often have I seen models were the only reason for having a radius on every single edge a part has it's because it looks nice regardless of how complex or cost productive it may make the part....LOL Just my two cents.

  4. #4

    CAD/CAM

    How can a CAM package be truly integrated when you are installing a package from another vendor?
    To be truly integrated the CAM solution must run inside the CAD as you say. This is the only way it can work seamlessly.

    When CAD packages make a change to how they interact with their kernel they happen to be using what other affects does this have? How long will it take the "certified partner" to find this new undocumented feature? How long will it take the development team to fix the software to correct the error?

    As many will point out on this topic the so called "certified partners" are not always 100%. How can they be when it is a separate install to get CAM?
    There is a translation going on in the background to get the info to the CAM side. These cam engines really choke on imported files that have poor geometry.

    Just my $.02
    GreatLakes3D

  5. #5
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    I am a total newbe so don't kick me too hard. Is this not what featurecam does or am I missing something.

    archie =) =) =)

  6. #6
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    i agree and would like to add to the idea: I would like to see the electronics side integrated into the m-cad side and then integrate the cam handling too. I have to do design of both electronics and mechanical parts to design my systems, and I think it is nuts that i have to run 3 different programs to get from electronics to mech to cam. the interconnect between solidworks, inventor, Pro/E, etc to programs like orcad is getting getting better, but its still about a good as the cad to cam interface is now.

    i also agree that good designs start with designers who know how to fabricate things. since i started looking into cnc, i have modified my design habbits so that they can actually be machine without some obscene tooling set up.
    -Jeff

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by NexGenMfg View Post
    the future of CAD/CAM lies in Integrated solutions.
    I'm new to the CNC world, working in the wood products side, and I've been shown a really sweet program called "Top Solid" that does just what you're talking about. It is produced by the Missler company out of France, and in the rest of the world, it is well known; they have yet to really reach the American market.

    I've seen it working first hand running a thermwood CNC router, and the time it took to send the drawing to the router and start milling was hardly enough time to let your coffee even start to think about cooling down.

  8. #8
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    wow! sounds cool.
    -Jeff

  9. #9
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    Nio choice

    Quote Originally Posted by NexGenMfg View Post
    I've been in this industry for 20 years, and this experience has convinced me that the future of CAD/CAM lies in Integrated solutions. By Integrated CAM, I mean CAD/CAM software that runs inside of mainstream CAD systems like SolidWorks or Inventor.

    I compiled a list of advantages on my company site:
    http://www.ngms.us/integratedcam/integratedcam.htm

    I'm sure there are others advantages I've missed.

    Some of these advantages are compelling on their own; like eliminating data translation errors.

    But I am also finding that some work to help and reinforce the others. That is, Integrated CAM opens the possibility of new ways to approach machine tool programming. There are synergies at work that seem quite powerful.

    A simple example: SolidWorks supports Assemblies and configurations, and with an Integrated CAM system, you always have access to the design tree (which you can loose with stand-alone systems during the conversion process).

    Now I find myself making different configurations of the part for different phases of CNC machining. My first configuration might have many of the features suppressed and show all the clamps as part of an assembly. Later, I might only show cavity features, but with holes or features to be drilled or burned suppressed in the design tree (rather than capping surfaces like we did in the old days).

    Obviously, I am a believer in Integrated Systems, and have a commercial interest in them. And one sure way to start a flame-fest is to talk about the advantages of this brand CAM over another.

    So, I'd like to discuss this on a more academic level, and try not to talk about specific products.

    The question is, how do you see the advantages or disadvantages of Integrated CAM, and how have you used CAD functions in mainstream CAD (Solidworks, Inventor, PTC) to prepare a part for toolpaths?


    We are doing free form shapes and trying various iterations and letting people handle them. Just about impossible to program by hand. Intergration with the design software is just common, lean sense. Less one handles complicated models the less mistakes can be made. Bit of a no brainer.

  10. #10
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    Are you desigining your models?

    The problem with Integrated CAM occurs not when you have control of the whole design cycle. If you're machining your own parts and designs, it's IMHO better to have it all integrated, being a user of Pro/E and Pro/NC, I see the many advantages of it.

    If there's true associativity and a good NC package, you can do a lot. Using Pro/NC I used to see many disadvantages against Standalone CAM packages, as Pro/NC was outdated and felt like a last minute, second thought module. In the last few releases they put Pro/NC higher on the relevance list and we saw MANY upgrades for it, now they've included a good module based on a Standalone Program and have done a somewhat good integration (probably much improved in future releases).

    This happens with many other Integrated CAM packages. Wether it be problems with Integration or just a secondary module without all the power of the Bigger Standalone packages. Associativity is a great thing to have, but many of the bigger packages offer this to some extent.

    The difference is noted when your customer gives you a digital model. Standalone CAM systems rely on data import and so, they have really good methods and are optimized to work with different source models.

    Now there are many tools (Import Data Doctor, on Pro/E for example) that help you import models and then you somewhat mantain the integrated advantage: you can use Machining assemblies for the setups, and now many of the bigger players (NX and Wildfire 4) have added good feature recognition and control for imported geometry. But then again it comes to how well your main package handles imported data, which on some of the midlevel packages, my experience have ranged to acceptable to outright disastrous on some cases. (Of course it also depends on the source data).


    So if you're a production company, Integrated is the way to go, wether it be an integrated associative external package or an In house developed solution, you'll find advantages and disadvantages to each and have to evaluate each package on it's own and on your field/way of work.

    Now, if you're a contract machining shop and machine parts from lots of different sources, not always modeled by your people, then the panorama is not as black and white. There are many advantages to Standalone CAM packages that you MUST evaluate. Also you have to analyze, if the data import module of your Integrated system is up to the task of receiving ANYTHING you throw at it. (As most of the standalone CAM packages excel at data import).

    Having worked at a Mold making shop, can see the advantage of an Integrated package, which is good with imports, as you sometimes need to import a part model, and then design the mold around it. Or sometimes you need to use a great modelling system to design complex plastic parts.

    Another experience in a JobShop, teached me that standalone CAM packages are way better at tackling parts for machining and being developed around machining an imported part, you can see how the workflow is much better for that type of work.

    just my two cents.

  11. #11
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    If your using Solidworks and something else, it's not really an integrated package. Cad systems that offer Cam as an option are truly integrated. The problem with that is... Most Cad packages offer poor Cam applications.

    Edgecam does a good job of reading the Solidworks/Inventor files and creating toolpath. The problem is that their ability to create toolpaths from the model might be limited to the "features" it finds, or that the user defines. Great for prismatic blocks, but not for open ended shapes with lots of boss's.

    Mastercam is an integrated CadCam package. Their Cad is pretty good. They offer Parasolid modeling and their toolpaths are very strong. Of course Mastercam Solids does not have the power that SWorks/Inventor have for modeling.

    But as a machinist, you need to consider the package that lets you get the best toolpaths, with the most control. Mastercam will read Sworks and Inventor files without any additional cost. It does a good job of importing other formats also. They have a new function called "Change Recognition" which will tell you what has changed on a modified model. Very nice tool.

    Mastercam is due to come out with a package that will run inside of Solidworks. They might be worth looking at when it's available. Powerful toolpath control right in the Solidworks environment.

    Mike Mattera
    Tips For Manufacturing Training CD's, DVD's for Mastercam, SolidWorks, Inventor, G-Code Training & More
    http://www.tipsforcadcam.com

  12. #12
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    I like the CAM in Catia. I like to get down to the nuts and bolts of programming and Catia will let you and also allows you to highly automate.
    It will handle pretty much anything you can throw at it.
    I tooled a Point cloud to vector surface with 47000 surfaces no problem!
    Tried the same model in Master Cam and Surf Cam and they ran out of memory.

    I have used CAM in ProE and NX and both are pretty cumbersome and non intuitive "legacy from there Cad environment". ProE Cam just seemed to limited while NX is a lot more robust it still falls short of Catia.

    I have demoed Inventor Cam and Solid Cam a while ago and was pretty disappointed with its ability's and functionality. I think the integration is just not what it needs to be yet.

    Integrated cam has the advantage of utilizing the more advanced mathematical algorithms in these higher end Cad programs. Witch in turn not only adds ability but speed and precision in compilation of complex surfacing tool paths.

    While some stand alone CAM are pretty good they all fall short of the power harnessed by the many years the major Cad programs have chiseled into there backbones.

    The one thing stand alone CAM has over Integrated is a broader selection. Although most are highly over priced with what they offer. There are a few that are a more cost effective solution if you don't need to be opportunistic?

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