In 2007 I spent nearly 6 months reviewing our process's. I was tasked with designing the ultimate Interior fitout factory. I went to AWISA in Sydney in July 2006 and then the AWFS show in Vegas the following year (2007). I looked at every single piece of CAD software I could find and every single piece of CAM software I could find. It was very forward thinking of my boss to pay for this and the trips overseas it required. For the record I still had to do chargeable work as well, since you can't hold up production after all.
The one thing I discovered is; to truely automate processes outside of the kitchen industry you have to find a CAD & CAM package that gets you close enough (which is still miles away as it happens) and then spend an awful lot of time & money customizing the software itself and creating interfaces between them.
The holy grail of custom design automation to the factory and beyong does not exist.
Staying with CAM software for the benefit of this topic. All of the packages I looked at, at the time, and likely still had precious little in the way of grain management tools. If they had a means to import parts from Inventor, it was more often than not archaic (only supported via 3rd party file formats) or required an extremely manual process within the CAM software to actually do anything with the data there after.
Some packages had the odd feature that was near perfect, but was completely innapropriate throughout the rest of the software it meant purchasing it was never an option. As a result you would have to buy several CAM packages from different software houses to get all those near perfect features with no hoep of ever being able to use them all together. So thats never going to happen.
So I have research knowledge for a lot of these packages and have witnessed numerous demos but the only practical experience I have with CAM software lies with AlphaCAM.
Nevertheless I will list my comments below each of the packages Paul Lists.
I came across this crowd in '07, they don't offer support for Routers so no point going any further.
Straight away we have a viable option here for 2.5D machining. If you can only afford 1 CAM package and need to do 3D 3 axis machining then you have to rule them out unfortunately.
Nevertheless, they claim to handle native Inventor Assemblies which are processed to flat planes, tool pathed and then nested, thats no small feat so I will only believe that when I see it. I struggle to believe it can handle multiple material types and grain directions, how will it behave when it comes up against a non planar part. Can it exclude certain materials, since I don't want solid timber carcase rails being CNC'd. Can it reject parts under a certain size, that aren't appropriate for that given CNC bed or holding/fixing system? All those kinds of questions will quickly determine how often a tool like that will really be used.
There's no questioning their nesting engine, to be a successful metal based nesting package, it has to excellent with material yields and creating flexible but reliable nests. It just wouldn't be able to compete in the market otherwise, they really are tonnes of them out there. As a result those kinds of nesting engines lend themselves well to Cabinet nesting, especially n our industry with exotic veneers on marine grade ply, the combined costs of the material can be astronomical.
I'm going to have another close look at these guys over the coming months.
I came across these guys briefly on my travels in '07. I had to refresh my memory bu it appears these guys aren't viable on the basis they don't support Routers, but more importantly the software doesn't appear to support, boring and variable depth machining for pockets and rebates etc.
Class leading sheet metal nesting software with a world reknown nesting engine. Pointless if you are in the business of wood, AlphaCAM now uses the Radan Nesting engine. I was told about plans too bring the Radan engine into replace AlphaCAM's awful nesting engine back in late '05 early '06, it was then confirmed to my by the AlphaCAM bigwigs at the AWFS show in '07, its taken until October 2010 (or maybe it was Jan this year, I know it was delayed) before it was finally integrated into AlphaCAM 2011. It is an improvement I must say albeit with bugs as to be expected. At least we have it now.
Just had a look at Router-Cim I'm not convinced by it, their website is also rubbish. Again its a case of maybe being ok if you only want to nest stuff. But what happens when you want to do some 3D machining with your 3-axis CNC.
One other point I considered in my '07 study was are there CAM packages out there capable of nesting and then tool pathing 3D solids? It seems logical (maybe a luxury and uneccesary in most cases, but it can be extremely handy) given todays standard of 3D modelling being accepted as the best way to Draft furniture or just about anything. I will touch on this later.
Steve why do you think Router-Cim is good, it appears to me that Sigmanest is a lot more scalable (maybe too much, they have an insane number of modules) and advanced than Router-Cim.
Can you give some examples of why you think they are the best options with Inventor?
I looked at FeatureCAM and Hypermill in '07 I'm not sure InventorCAM was around then, or at least not with that name. Simply because I highly doubt i didn't google Cam software for Inventor, which surely would turn up a result for InventorCAM even if it was 10 pages back. Yes I was looking back that far through google search pages at times.
All these kinds of packages are wonderful for the engineering industry and specifically for machine centers.
You can forget it though for woodworking, would be completely inpractical to run a profile head along a timber molding in something like that. Although I suppose if you had to it would work and you could combine it with a seperate dedicated nesting package. I'm not sure how you would get on with finding someone to write a post for a Router though. But I know nothing about writing posts.
We could probably do a lot more with the CNC machine.
Our CNC Programmer has to deal with files from many different sources including the Architect or Designer, Subcontractors and freelancers.
You should do more with the CNC machine, its sacrilege if you don't.
I'll give AlphaCAM its dues there, it is very good at working with a broad range of data, it has got me out of several dirty surface situations.
PaulMunford wrote:The whole DWG file can then be brought in to Alphacam in one hit, ready to add Ghost tools and Machining styles before being nested up.
So do you create a 'flat' assembly and then a single view in an Inventor DWG? Do you then import the Inventor DWG into AlphaCAM? What do you do about all the duplicate and open geometries? Its hideous dealing with those in AlphaCAM. I assume you use layers and tool styles in AlphaCAM? If so do you apply them automatically? Do you have custom macros for ACAM?
Right, now my 2 cents (OK might be way more than 2 cents).
I give AlphaCAM a really hard time, mainly because of its historically rubbish nesting engine. Nesting parts over the top of one another, off the edge of sheets, can't nest a part with a lead in to save its life, gets awfully confused at times if a part has various toolpaths in the middle of it and generally is hideously wasteful with material. Its quite often very obvious you could have saved the company money by nesting it in AutoCAD manually. Really not acceptable in my book what so ever, what's the point? Some of the sheets of flooring material we use is around $1000NZD per square meter, and has 3 month lead times for delivery. Some of the species of veneer we have used have been just about priceless.
When it comes to 3D machining and tool pathing profile cutters it really does do a pretty good job, we have had great success and pulled off some very impressive and at times highly intricate work.
It is a good all round CAM package, they haven't got too caught up on providing CAD tools like some of their competitors have. Now they have the Radan nesting engine, hopefully the only way is up.
The big downside though, is their support leaves something to be desired, their customer BETA testing is non existent (I have asked numerous times, I'm great at breaking software). Their feedback mechanisms are rubbish and I gave up using their forums a long long time ago, I really don't think customers should be solely supporting each other on the OEM forums, sure official AlphaCAM staff post every now n then, but rarely when you really needed them.
A lot of our troubles have come from the SCM Xilog post and plug in. It used to be quite good when AlphaCAM were involved with it, but it has gone to the dogs in the last 4 years, and we seem to be stuck with it. Again support locally in NZ for AlphaCAM is appalling. Maybe I have been spoilt by Autodesk, but realistically taking into account the size of Autodesk its still inappropriate.
Great, I want it. Well I want to have a good crack at it, but as is always the difficulty with CAM software, to really test it you need to run its code on the CNC. No post then no test, they are very few CAM companies out there with post that will work on an SCM Record 125.
I loved their support, they have a good online community, the wood module is well developed and the dev team are extremely keen to interact with the customers and listen to suggestions. They spent probably 4-5 hours with me over 3 different phone calls of web sessions, I hadn't paid them a cent. Its supported well all over the world, including here in NZ, and has a great API. Although I believe AlphaCAM's API is also pretty good.
I believe in this software, and thing in all reality it probably is the best all round CAM package in the world.
I'm not sure which standalone package you are referring to.
I think I would rather use Cabinetvision, 20/20 or any of those other bigger companies who create that kind of software. eCabinet systems is a great free one. Suits the 'Makers' trend as well, design what you want and then farm it out to anyone in the ecabinet systems network who wants to make it. Better still if you have a Thermwood CNC its fully integrated with their controllers. Great stuff I just don't like their machines, but I do like their concept (Great factory and great people too, I had the pleasure of visiting them in '07).
Nope - I've never programmed a CNC machine - I took the Standard router course in '97 but I've near used Alphacam in earnest. Having said that I work pretty closely with our CNC programmer, this is a solution we've arrived at together after many experiments.
I've shown this thread to Roy - Our programmer. I hope that he will pitch in too!
- Roy reports no overlapping geometries from Inventor. Not like the stuff he has to deal with from AutoCAD...
Here's one more to thrown into the pot:
Anyone tried this one?
I stumbled across this about 18 months ago it was introduced to me as OgeeTek 3D analyzer, it looks very promising, and works with AlphaCAM, bonus!
I really need to investigate it properly and if possible trial it. I vaguely remember something putting me off it when I first looked at it, and may be why I haven't since. but here is a link to their youtube channel, http://www.youtube.com/user/OgeeTek#p/u/43/ZMy0yhH
Paul, I was going to post this one myself, had it 'up my sleeve' you beat me to it. but I do have this one, which was very impressive 4 years ago, but the developer wasn't willing to work with us so we thought stuff ya. It formed the basis of the CAD 2 CAM add in for AlphaCAM which is now fully integrated from the advanced 3D module and up I believe. http://milllister.com/
Here is a link to http://www.ecabinetsystems.com/ if anyone is interested. We can't use it (as well as most cabinet/kitchen design packages) because they aren't capable of creating compound angled backs to the cabinets. Not acceptable on a Boat where space is a premium.
Now here comes a favorite of mine. It was the only package that fulfilled all of the requirements I went to the AWFS show with.
Designed for programming wood based products
Could toolpath custom profile tools in 5-axis. Stairwell handrails etc..
3D 3-axis & 5-axis machining, with a series of different strategies.
3D nesting with the ability to add 5-axis toolpaths where necessary (pretty wild stuff if you ask me, and most CAM software guys)
Support for boring machines & multidrills.
nest reports & labels.
Fully integrated with dedicated 3D CAD system.
Full Machine simulation and collision detection.
What took my breath away was this. 2 hours before the end of the last day, I stumble across their stand. I casually ask them same opening question I asked every CAM guy over the 3-4 days. Can this program 3D nest and then apply a 5-axis toolpath to a select few of those parts using the 3D solid that has been nested? Now all of the big 'brand' CAM software guys just looked at me like I was from another planet, and proceeded to show me other more 'sane' features of their software. This guy just smiled and said 'of course', I was staggered, struggled for my words and finally said prove it. It took him less than 5 minutes. He modeled up a few simple parts on the CAD side (which is awesome as well BTW, another topic though) one of which had a chamfered edge, and then nested them onto a 3D CNC router (yes nesting the parts on a 3D model of the machine itself). I watched as 3D solids were orientated and nested appropriately, then he tool pathed the perimeter of the part, a pocket, drilled a hole of two, and then used a 5-axis toolpath to machine the chamfer. I was sold.
Trouble is our company is well and truly down the Inventor path and changing an entire design office over to a new CAD/CAM package is a monolithic task I wouldn't wish on anyone.
Yeah he's correct, no overlapping, we have lots of parts with chamfered edges though. so essentially in plan view you have 3 different profiles you could extrude from in an inventor sketch. those kinds of parts are a pain to clean up in alphacam.
sheet metal flat patterns do a majestic job of sorting those out though. Closed loop and on int & external layers, the beginnings of something wonderful for applying tool styles to, and also fixing orientation for grain etc.. Shame its just not quite there.