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Delcam Asian Technical Summit: Day 2 – a touch late I know

Published 17 September 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: delcam, powermill, powershape, featurecam, partmaker, korean delcam user group meeting

Do forgive me for this, I didn’t get the chance to get this posted while out in Korea, so here’s the second day of the event’s thoughts and ponderings:

After an evening spent with some wonderful company in a traditional Korean resturant, the first day was all about 3D design and development tools, the second day of the Tech Summit is all about manufacturing and production, starting with PowerMill 10. This is the first of two releases this year, with PowerMill 2010 coming later on. The reason for this is that Delcam has added two key technologies that it’s customers have been crying out for. The first is multicore support has been added into PowerMill 10. This will split a tool-path into segments (according to the number of cores you have) and calculate one of each core. As with many things, some processes are more suited to parallel processing than others. In the world of CAM, it’s most useful when you’re using raster tool-paths. The good news is that many of PowerMill’s functions are raster based. The other operation or process type that gets real benefit from this is stock calculation, where the model is processed after each tool-path’s creation to maintain an accurate model of the remaining material.

Alongside this, release 10 also gets background processing capabilities. In the current release, you define your tool-path, then calculate it. This locks up PowerMill while the chunking is done. From the release 10 onwards, you can set-up tool-paths, add them to a queue, then continue to work on your part, adding more operations to the queue while your machine is calculating the tool-paths in the background.

Where the benefits can be gained with multi-threading support

It’s important to note two things, the background processing does not require multi-core workstations. The other relates to working on multiple jobs at one time. As default, PowerMill allows two sessions. In previous releases, this allowed you to open two jobs you’re working on and run them both in parallel. But the background processing tool uses one of those session licenses. So, while you can queue up multiple calculation tasks, you’re not going to be able to run two sessions without an additional license. If you have networked flex licenses, this shouldn’t be a problem, but if you’re running a standalone workstation and often use two sessions, you might run into difficulties.

PowerMill 2010

While these new tools are going to the PowerMill 10 release, Delcam aren’t done for PowerMill for this year. PowerMil 2010 will be another major release later this year, with redesigned forms and dlalogs giving you access to operation variables in a much quicker way without switching dialogs. There will be new roughing operations that will avoid thiun slithers of material, which is something those of you using insert-based cutter will know is a problem (the slithers can rip the inserts straight out and these things ain’t cheap). Corner Clearance when roughing is going to be improved and will removes materials left in corners in successive layers – it’s similar to trochoidial roughing, but works across more operations.

The last two major updates are a new smoothing algorithm which can be applied across a whole toolpath, adding arcs across all areas of a toolpath to create a seemless toolpath – previously, the addition of arc was reserved for corners – and should give you a much better surface finish. Finally, the new Tool Holder Profile tools can help you to find the most appropriate toolholder for your machining task. This is done by finding the minimum profile that can safely fit into every area of the part across all of the tool-paths. It then gives you that information when you’re working on tool holder selection(by means of a graphical representation), allowing you to find the best holder for the job and to make adjustments to other settings (such as overhang) to get the best results.

Oh and there’s also new tools for assist with collision avoidance in 5 axis operations. While it’s not a new feature per-se, it’s been optimised to give you a much smoother tool-path and machine movement (previous releases could give you quite harsh machine movements).

Delcam PartMaker

This is another company that Delcam acquired a few years ago. PartMaker is predominately used to program both swiss lathes and turn mill applications. For those unfamiliar with Swiss Lathes, they’re typically used to create smaller parts using sliding stock and multiple spindles. The combination of constant feed and moving material and the multiple spindles means that you can highly compress and optimise your operations (synchronising between the two machining spindles) and build parts at a very high rate.

Of course, the programming software is essential, because if you can shave fractions of seconds out of a single part, then when you multiply that by part volumes (we’re talking 100,000+ units), even the most modest of time savings can quickly stack up to greater productivity. Also, the complex nature of these types of machines, particularly when you consider some have 11 or more axis of movement, means you need some bullet proof coding tools.

Updates for this release are the introduction of 5 axis operations. There’s also greater integration with PowerMill, allowing you to switch data from PartMaker to PowerMill to work on very complex operations, then integrate those operations back in PartMaker. While the origins of the Swiss lathe lies in the Swiss watch making industry, the machines have been adopted across many industries sectors, from aerospace to medical, so while the term lathe may give you an impression of axisymmetric parts, almost anything can be machined as long as it can fit within the bar size.

FeatureCAM

FeatureCAM is another of Delcam’s recently acquisition that’s become more integrated into the product portfolio. Alongside PowerMill and PartMaker, it may seem redundant that Delcam has another part programming tool, but each has it’s own areas of speciality and concentration – and as such, there’s different language and terminology for each. To give you an idea of what FeatureCAM is about is about firstly formalising your knowledge and best practice in terms of machining operations variables (speeds, feeds, step-over etc), cutter preferences and such. It’s then about providing a knowledge-based environment in which you can generate part programs very quickly indeed. It does this by recognising features within your parts (as such, it’s inherently most suited to prismatic parts) then generating operations to create those features. The feature-based nature of the system also gives a better environment for CAD/CAM integration, as the system can reload updated geometry, find which boundaries have changes, which features have shifted, been added or removed, then update the program accordingly.

Where the benefits can be gained with multi-threading support

It’s important to note two things, the background processing does not require multi-core workstations. The other relates to working on multiple jobs at one time. As default, PowerMill allows two sessions. In previous releases, this allowed you to open two jobs you’re working on and run them both in parallel. But the background processing tool uses one of those session licenses. So, while you can queue up multiple calculation tasks, you’re not going to be able to run two sessions without an additional license. If you have networked flex licenses, this shouldn’t be a problem, but if you’re running a standalone workstation and often use two sessions, you might run into difficulties.

PowerMill 2010

While these new tools are going to the PowerMill 10 release, Delcam aren’t done for PowerMill for this year. PowerMil 2010 will be another major release later this year, with redesigned forms and dlalogs giving you access to operation variables in a much quicker way without switching dialogs. There will be new roughing operations that will avoid thiun slithers of material, which is something those of you using insert-based cutter will know is a problem (the slithers can rip the inserts straight out and these things ain’t cheap). Corner Clearance when roughing is going to be improved and will removes materials left in corners in successive layers – it’s similar to trochoidial roughing, but works across more operations.

The last two major updates are a new smoothing algorithm which can be applied across a whole toolpath, adding arcs across all areas of a toolpath to create a seemless toolpath – previously, the addition of arc was reserved for corners – and should give you a much better surface finish. Finally, the new Tool Holder Profile tools can help you to find the most appropriate toolholder for your machining task. This is done by finding the minimum profile that can safely fit into every area of the part across all of the tool-paths. It then gives you that information when you’re working on tool holder selection(by means of a graphical representation), allowing you to find the best holder for the job and to make adjustments to other settings (such as overhang) to get the best results.

Oh and there’s also new tools for assist with collision avoidance in 5 axis operations. While it’s not a new feature per-se, it’s been optimised to give you a much smoother tool-path and machine movement (previous releases could give you quite harsh machine movements).

Delcam PartMaker

This is another company that Delcam acquired a few years ago. PartMaker is predominately used to program both swiss lathes and turn mill applications. For those unfamiliar with Swiss Lathes, they’re typically used to create smaller parts using sliding stock and multiple spindles. The combination of constant feed and moving material and the multiple spindles means that you can highly compress and optimise your operations (synchronising between the two machining spindles) and build parts at a very high rate.

Of course, the programming software is essential, because if you can shave fractions of seconds out of a single part, then when you multiply that by part volumes (we’re talking 100,000+ units), even the most modest of time savings can quickly stack up to greater productivity. Also, the complex nature of these types of machines, particularly when you consider some have 11 or more axis of movement, means you need some bullet proof coding tools.

Updates for this release are the introduction of 5 axis operations. There’s also greater integration with PowerMill, allowing you to switch data from PartMaker to PowerMill to work on very complex operations, then integrate those operations back in PartMaker. While the origins of the Swiss lathe lies in the Swiss watch making industry, the machines have been adopted across many industries sectors, from aerospace to medical, so while the term lathe may give you an impression of axisymmetric parts, almost anything can be machined as long as it can fit within the bar size.

FeatureCAM

FeatureCAM is another of Delcam’s recently acquisition that’s become more integrated into the product portfolio. Alongside PowerMill and PartMaker, it may seem redundant that Delcam has another part programming tool, but each has it’s own areas of speciality and concentration – and as such, there’s different language and terminology for each. To give you an idea of what FeatureCAM is about is about firstly formalising your knowledge and best practice in terms of machining operations variables (speeds, feeds, step-over etc), cutter preferences and such. It’s then about providing a knowledge-based environment in which you can generate part programs very quickly indeed. It does this by recognising features within your parts (as such, it’s inherently most suited to prismatic parts) then generating operations to create those features. The feature-based nature of the system also gives a better environment for CAD/CAM integration, as the system can reload updated geometry, find which boundaries have changes, which features have shifted, been added or removed, then update the program accordingly.

Point of thought

The past two days brought home something I’ve been thinking about for a while and that’s the CAM industry in general. While there’s an increasingly degree of consolidation (something that’s only going to increase), it’s still a highly fragmented industry, both in terms of geography and in terms of functionality. While the geographic fragmentation isn’t going to change much until the larger vendors start to swallow up the smaller vendors out there and others disappear. Obviously there’s an economic crisis which might see smaller CAM vendors get into trouble and sell out before it’s too late, but there’s also an age issue. Quite a number of CAM vendors are privately owned by the person or people that started them in the late 70s and 80s. Many of these people are getting towards retirement age and you’ll see greater consolidation due to that reason alone.

In terms of functionality fragmentation, this is also something that’s inevitable. Within the world of CAM, there are many processes, many machine types and many different variables, meaning that the proliferation of systems is natural. The type of machine tool you run often filters out your list of software available, particularly if you choose not to go with your machine tool vendor’s recommendations. While if you’re running a 5 axis machine tool, you have a wide selection, when it comes to systems such as the more complex mill/turn or swiss lathe type machines, the list isn’t as quite as extensive.

Also consider your company’s requirements and where you need to place the priority for your CAM work. Are you looking for the greatest surface finish on a highly complex part, are you looking to create high volumes of parts using a mill/turn where reduction of part cycle time is key or are you looking at quick turn around one offs or small volumes with minimum machine set-up time, where part programming needs to be quick.

What’s interesting is it’s a rare occasion indeed when you’d find tools to support all these options and requirements from a single vendor. While Delcam’s name was built within the world of mould and die design and machining, the last 10 years have seen the company hugely expand its offering, both in terms of a wider spread of CAM-variants, but also in terms of new processes, both upstream and downstream. The solution set now covers everything, from conceptualisation and design, through tooling design, NC programming right through to inspection. you’re now seeing greater integration between all of the systems and cross pollination of technology between the various constituent systems. PowerShape gets mesh handling tools from CopyCAD, PartMaker now swaps data with PowerMill etc etc etc. It’s highly impressive and something that many other vendors could learn a thing or two from.

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F**k the Napkin: SketchBook Mobile for iPhone

Published 16 September 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: autodesk, iphone, sketchbook, sketchbook mobile.

Image Courtesy of Andrew Meehan, industrial designer

Fresh from DEVELOP3D.com’s sister web-site, Mac:Design: Tomorrow (if all goes according to plan), Autodesk will launch it’s first commercial application for Apple’s iPhone platform. Taking its technology based from the SketchBook products that have been Windows and Mac-based for sometime, the system strips things down to the basics and provides a mobile platform for sketching – using iPhone (or iPod Touch) multi-touch interactivity.

I had the pleasure of having this application (which has been in Beta for sometime) on my iPod during my recent travels and it’s compelling indeed. Sketching is perhaps the one thing that connects designers, engineers and civilians – everyone doodles, sketches and draws – it’s just that some are better than others. So let’s take a look at what we’re got to play with.

A quick download from the App Store and an install (the app will cost 2.99 in the US, 1.79 in the UK, 2.39 euro) later you’re ready. Hit the Icon and up it loads. The system gives you a quick walk through of the key functions and shortcuts and interactivity (as well as their being a complete help system embedded in the tool). The interface is pretty transparent. You’re presented with a full screen drawing surface. While the iPhone’s display runs at 480x320 pixel, what you’re actually look at is a 600x400 pixel drawing area. two fingered pinch gives you zoom, dragging those dual digits gives you pan, allowing you to work at the level and in the area you choose. Images can be brought in from the iPhone gallery and used as the basis for a sketch (or as I used it for, for mark up – making it a slick workflow tool) or you can dive in and start drawing.

The tools and options are all accessed through the small icon to the bottom of the screen, tap this once and a marking/radial menu pops up. This gives you the most commonly used commands. From the top and clockwise, you have pencil, airbrush, paint-brush, eraser. You then have the brush control (more on that shortly), layers (the system supports transparent layers – six for the iPhone 3GS but three for other variants – due to lower processor speed), the colour wheel (controlled using swatches or a colour wheel) and perhaps most interestingly for the technical/ID user, Symmetry.

Symmetry lets you build up both sides of a sketch quickly and easily, then you turn it off to add detail. Image courtesy of me (which is why it’s crap)

Depending on your orientation (portrait or landscape), SketchBook Mobile will take readings from the iPhone sensors and assign symmetry centrally and vertically (if you have it in landscape, it’ll run the axis of symmetry up the centre of the page). In the centre, you have the brush resize control – tapping, holding and dragging left/right will change the size of your brush, with a value readout.

Brush presets and control is first class and something often missing from other iphone drawing apps

In terms of brush options, there’s a veritable feast of options, using the same brush engine as the desktop version of SketchBook Pro – you’ve got full control over size, width, transparency for pencil, brush, airbrush, different stroke type and texturing tools – there’s also, of course, the flood fill command too.

The layers are a tool that’s going to make life much easier, as we’ve already said, there’s 3 available on the Ipod Touch while the 3GS gets 6. Even with 3, that’s pretty usable and the ability to merge layers down gives you added flexibility and control. Multi-touch and multi-tap is used where sensible, the corners of the UI are ‘hot’ – for clearing a layer, fit to view, undo and redo (10 levels of both), while tap hold brings up a colour picker tool.

Alongside preset swatches, the colour wheel gives you full colour control.

All in all, the whole experience is pretty wonderful. There are other drawing applications out there for the iPhone, but this is a professional grade tool, layer control and symmetry bring the tools a design-led user might need and you’re working on an image big enough for real communication, rather than a quick thumbnail.

There’s a video tutorial coming shortly, but in the meantime, take a look at the Flickr page for the beta testers, download the application (come on, it’s only 3 bucks – probably the cheapest Autodesk product out there) and have a bash.

Sketching is still the predominate method of communication all the way through the design process and while the moleskine and pen combo isn’t going to go away and this isn’t going to change the status quo, it is a nice indicator of where things might be headed. As Carl over at Core77.com said in his post on the app, “the tactile feedback that makes paper such an enduring medium is unchallenged here, though they’ve given it a good shot: there’s some very good brush rendering technology that makes pencil strokes look like pencil strokes, and “synthetic touch sensitivity” to simulate the effects of increased pressure, despite the lack of true pressure-sensitivity in the iPhone screen.”

Simple tools are often the best and while SketchBook Mobile has a few things missing (text would be handy, as would a sync app – you currently need to email or post images out), it’s as near a complete set of sketching tools as anyone would need. The best thing is, it’s cheap as chips, so if you’re iPhoned up, then have a bash. And post your results on the Flickr group if you dare.

Just remember, if you do happen to be sketching Stonehenge, remember to put the correct dimensions on it.

Get it from the Apple Store

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Delcam Asian Technical Summit – Day #1

Published 08 September 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: powermill, powershape, medical, korean delcam user group meeting

First up is Hankook Delcam’s chairman, the ever charming Mr Jeong, former doorman and teacher. He’s quite the gentleman and has become something of a legend. his attitude shows his background, believing that if you’re a good teacher, then you can become a success is business, particularly when you find the right staff and help them to become success, through both mentoring, support and a lack of blame culture within his organisation. That and whatever his competitors, his company will do it at least twice as big, whether that’s magazine advertising or trade show stands. And it seems to work has Hankook Delcam is the largest CAD/CAM company in Korea.

Next up is a look into Delcam’s Tribrid modelling approach. yes. Tribrid modelling. Let me explain. the term hybrid modelling has been around for sometime, where systems allow you to work with both solid and surface modelling technology in equal measure. What the ‘Tri’ tag brings into this mix is the ability to work with solids, surfaces and tessellated meshes. Where this becomes useful is the integrate of geometry more complex than surface models, typically either reverse engineered or modelled to represent highly organic features, whether that’s texture, decoration or other complex features.

For sometime, Delcam has had the ability to work with these three types of geometry (solid, surface, mesh) in separate applications. For example, PowerShape took care of solid and surface modelling, while CopyCAD (for reverse engineering) and ArtCAM (for decoration design) handled mesh-based geometry. Now you can work with all three within PowerShape and use the most appropriate modelling methodology to solve your design problems. (we took a look at this new offering back in June 2008, so check the web-site for back issues) and of course, take them through to manufacture.

Finally, there’s big news on the solid modelling front is that in the next major release, PowerShape will see the integration of the Parasolid kernel. Why? the reasons offered are that it gives PowerShape a faster, more robust geometry modelling system, better interoperability, which then brings a better solution for those working in a supply chain environment.
To support this, the next release, PowerShape 2010 will see the introduction of the Solid Doctor to assist with converting poor quality data into reliable Parasolid models, by initially categorising faults, then providing fixes to build a watertight model. While for simple model this isn’t much of an issue, but when it’s customers are receiving poorly quality models, featuring 10,000 surfaces from Catia, then something is needed to provide some assistance and get the job done.

Delcam in Footwear

Delcam has always been active in the Footwear industry (naming Nike, Adidas and Wolverine amongst many others as clients), but the company’s acquisition of Crispin Systems in 2007 gave this a greater boost in the last few years. For those that haven’t looked at it, Footwear design is a very complex process, not only because of the various constituent parts (sole, upper, etc etc) but of the non-proportional scaling to create the multitude of international footwear sizes (referred to as grading).

Footwear design begins with a Last, to provide the basis for the shoe design, and the Crispin tools allows you to reverse engineer these from scanned data (they’re typically handcrafted). you then use a series of specialist tools to create the detail and form of the shoe, then create the flat pattern for cutting materials from sheets. Of course, this is Delcam and the company also provides the tools to create the production ready data, both in terms of mould development and machining for soles and other components, but also production and documentation for TechPacks (which define the production and assembly information) as well as tools for nesting (to reduce scrap wasted material) and cutting components from both paper (for patterns) and leather.

Setting out Healthcare plans

The big news for this event is the launch of Delcam’s Healthcare Division, which formalises and expands the company’s existing activities in the medical field. Chris Lawrie, Healthcare Business Development Manager explained how lessons learned and technologies learned in the engineering sector can be applied to the medical world.

Current medical activity maxillofacial (facial reconstruction), dental, prosthetic limbs, orthotic insoles, shoes and implants, general implants, dental reconstruction and cranioplasty. What makes the huge difference is customising each of these for the form and needs of each patient. Of course, capturing this data requires that the form is captured, which Delcam solves at present by taking CT data and converting them into useful 3D data using a system from Simpleware. Once that data is captured, the tools within Delcam’s tools (solids, surfaces and mesh modelling) are used to create and re-engineer the components required, then manufacture them. Many of Delcam’s products are already used in medical, for example, PartMaker has 70% of it’s customers in the medical field (as swiss lathes, with PartMaker specialised in, are commonly used to provide components at very high part rates).

What’s interesting is that the medical field is crying out for assistance with these process and according to Lawrie, there’s a huge opportunity for companies with experience within the aerospace field (due to the knowledge of handling and machining complex alloys and metals) to readapt that experience to fulfil this need

Alongside the use of Delcam’s existing and generally applicable tools such as PowerShape and PowerMill, the company is also developing bespoke applications for the medical field. A good example is the DentCAD and DentMill set of tools which allow you to reverse engineer from teeth, then manufacture implants and such.

Delcam are tagging their set of tools as the Digital Laboratory and the aim is to assist the medical professional with bringing these technologies and production processes to the mainstream by taking their technology, adapting the language and inputs within the field and creating a set of tools that allow the medical sector to reduce both costs and time scale (casting is commonly used, but is a very lengthy process) – but also to create solutions which speed recovery times and improve the life of patients. Take the example FaceMaker being used to assist someone suffering from facial cancer. Rather than increasing patient trauma by putting them through the lengthy process of building a physical cast from their face, the systems Delcam are developing can capture the data needed within seconds, without any form of invasion and deliver a better prothetic that better suits their needs. Then, when repeat prescriptions are needed, a replacement can be manufactured without further invasion or stress.

In terms of process support, Delcam are also developing a set of web-based tools for workflow and process management (based on their PS-Team system) that allows everyone involved in the process (which are typically geographically dispersed) to see the process and how each project progresses, from store front, through design and into production, delivery, implementation and invoicing. All fully traceable and auditable, which for the medical field is a huge issue.

That about wraps up the presentations for today, and we’re off to visit Hyundai Motors, so I’ll be back at you tomorrow with more. Toodles.

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Al goes to Korea: Day # 1

Published 08 September 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: delcam, powermill, copycad, powerinspect, korea, korean delcam user group meeting. powershape, tribrid modelling

It starts with a phone call from Peter, an good friend and industry marketing wizard. “Hello Alistar, would you like to go to Korea?” Of course the answer is a massive yes. I put it in our shared calender on the DEVELOP3D server farm and get the immediate reply from Martyn. Two words.

Korea? Bastard.

So, six months later, I’ve flown around 8,00 miles, changed time zone twice, been to Dubai for cheese on toast and a beer, and here I am. In Gyeongju, South Korea. Why am I here? The answer is thus.

I’ve been invited for two things, both relating to Delcam, masters of all things CAD/CAM. Firstly, Delcam are holding its Asian Technical Summit. The company traditionally holds three of these across the globe (Europe, North America and Asia), collecting journalist and media to give them a briefing on how the business is performing, its plans for the future and to show off both its customers and its range solutions (which unlike many so called PLM providers) actually does provide tools to get you from concept to production and beyond. That’s the next two days and we’ll learn (me, by sitting here and you, by reading, hopefully) what the company has planned. Then once that’s done, it’s to the Korean Delcam User Group Meeting.

This is a special year, being the 20th such event and I’ve heard stories about the scale of this event before, but this year should be something else. In the next few days, over 1,000 (probably 1,300) Delcam users within South Korea will congregate at the event to learn about the future of products which are core to their working methodologies and gain some insight into what’s coming next.

Now, consider the size of the population of South Korea that’s around a 7th of the US. When you attend your typical CAD user event, you get a mix of resellers, employees and others (including us press/media types), so the number of attendees usually looks larger than is truly the case if you’re looking for a true representation of user acceptance. the Hankook Delcam (as the company is known here) has managed to cram over a thousand users into an event tailored to a single set of software applications. That is quite impressive and I can’t wait to find out more.

In the meantime, I’ve been off exploring the local history and getting into all manner of escapades so far involving rogue taxi cabs, buddhist monasteries and wondering how lax it is of me not to have learned even the most basic of Korean for this trip – like “Please. Can you take me to my hotel, my feet hurt.” Tomorrow’s another day. Should be fun. Stay tuned.

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