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Code it, Cut it, Ship It - Now that’s ROI

Published 11 December 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with:

I spent today at Delcam‘s HQ just a few miles from where I live (which is a distinct pleasure, there’s no jetlag involved in travelling to Small Heath, Birmingham) and we went through the latest releases of both PowerMill and FeatureCAM, both CAM /NC programing products, but two very different systems, aimed at pretty different spectrums of the user community. But what struck me while going through the updates, is that CAM, often in stark constrat to 3D CAD, provides a more easily identifiable return on investment for adoption of new releases.

Take the latest releases of your workhorse CAD system. Yes, there’s some new things in there. In some major packages, there have been some pretty revolutionary updates to core technology this year. That said, ask yourself, over the last, say three years, what has each release actually brought to you as a user and your company? Can you get your job done more quickly, to a better quality, to a higher degree of accuracy - to any great extent or are you still using the tools as you did 3 years ago? I’m guess it would be very hard to quantify such things in such explicit terms.

CAM, on the other hand, differs. And differs Greatly.

CAM is all about speed and quality. Speed in terms of programming the part from your client (either an internal customer or an external client) and getting the NC code ready to upload to the machine controller. the quicker you do it, the quicker you can start cutting material. When it comes to the actual NC code, the more efficient it is, the greater the surface finish you can achieve off the machine tool (which reduces hand finishing) and the quicker the job is done, out the door and on its way to the client. The more profitable your business is. If a machine shop isn’t cutting metal, it’s loosing money - its as cut-throat as that.

CAM is key to doing that correctly. if you cut metal, to a higher quality in a shorter space of time, its worth the investment - particularly if you can squeeze more out of your machine tool investment, which typically greatly out weight the cost of the maintenance. Take the following example:

#1: This is a perfect example showing a reasonably complex simultaneous 5-axis toolpath - you can see from the video that the table and head movement are erratic. That means cutter loading is inconsistent, there are dramatic changes speed and feed and the whole thing adds up to poor quality surface finish..

#2: This video shows the same toolpath with Azimuth smoothing applied (as found in PowerMill9). You can see that the application of the new smoothing algorithms has a dramatic effect on the tool-path and machine movement - and that will always result in a better surface finish. When you’re dealing with machining, that’s worth its weight in gold.

If you are a PowerMill customer, then you get this upgrade if you’re on maintenance. if you use 5 axis, then your machine will last longer (due to reduced stress), your cutters will last longer and you’ll get a higher quality part, in a shorter space of time. Now THAT is Return on Investment.

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T-Splines 2.0: coming soon

Published 08 December 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: design, t-splines, sub-divisional surfaces

Matt, CEO of T-Splines, just posted up this video, showing the next rev of the company’s ultra impressive T-Splines application that builds directly into both Rhino and Maya. If you’re not familiar with it, it brings sub-divisional modelling tech to those two applications. I’m not familiar with the Maya implementation, but the Rhino work is incredible. If you’re looking to develop organice forms, but with precise control, then this is worth checking out.

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Meanwhile in Germany… All new RP contender

Published 08 December 2008

Posted by Stephen Holmes

Article tagged with: digitalis, huntsman advanced materials

Enough of the fancy talk from Las Vegas, the real news was coming from frosty Frankfurt where new rapid manufacturing contender Huntsman Advanced Materials unveiled the Digitalis.

The heavy piece of kit won the Euromold Gold Award 2008, a fact attributed to the team work behind the project as we were constantly reminded throughout the press briefing. What this level of grafting by the boys in Basel has achieved apart from a rather unglamorous statuette is some impressive new technology; primarily the MicroLightSwitch UV exposure system.

This new technology focusses 40,000 points of UV light from the micro-mechanical shutter system over radiation-curable resin, giving a broader spectrum of applications for rapid manufacturing, and giving benchmarks of over twice the speed on other RM/RP machines (the clearest explanation being that 40,000 points of light are better than one laser).

Huntsman already produce over 9,000 products around the world and believe there’s still space to squeeze into the RP/RM market with a machine of their own, possibly a risky strategy considering the downturn of finances recently. Five years in the making might be the reason why they’ve chosen the midst of a recession for the release, and it’s our guess that it is why it’s here with only one resin as a standalone model. Engineers at the launch were quick to add that other resins, including colour, would be a definite addition, as would another machine launch next year.

As for the competition, a few faces could be seen amongst the crowd at the launch, but everyone else did their best to ignore the machine’s presence - with some blatantly unfazed by the news. Regardless of their views, it will be interesting to see where the uptake will come from.

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AU2008 Day 2: Notso Live*

Published 04 December 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: rendering, visualisation, autodesk inventor, autodesk showcase, mudbox, mould design, multitouch, concept models, design review

It seems people just love watching badly recorded videos of technology products. So here’s some more for you - be warned, these are the worst of the bunch in terms of motion-sickness-inducing-quality, but there’s some good content there.

#1: Autodesk has been planning some form of mould design tool for many many years. Things got accelerated in the last two years that should see some interesting things coming out. Firstly, the plastics parts design tool, which feature the same core technology developed by ImpactXoft’s founder, Attilio Rimoldi that was perhaps best known as Functional Design in the Catia world. This lets you create intelligent components which maintain design intent in terms of thin walls for injection moulded parts, no matter how you build the feature set that describe that geometry. Alongside this, the dev team has built a pretty full looking set of mould design tools, that runs the gamut of core/cavity design, mould stack creation, gates, runners, slides etc as well as that all important documentation. What’s interesting is that this has been on Alpha test in China for quite some time, having the corners knocked off it and from vaguely recollected discussions last year, the idea was to prove it out in China before releasing it globally - looks like its coming…

#2: Showcase + Inventor: Showcase is an intriguing product. It’s currently used mostly in the Automotive industry, but the potential (read: if they lower the price) is massive across a much wider spread of the 3D using spectrum. It looks like a rendering/visualisation tool. Which is correct. You can set-up the scenes, assign materials, take advantage of HDR images for scenery set-up. But the real value is in the way that you can create presentations (in terms of camera movements around your object) to focus on points of a design (saved as Snapshots), alternatives for colour schemes. With that additional functionality, it moves beyond rendering and enables design review, presentation and exploration. It seems like Autodesk are prepping an Inventor integration (presumably standalone) that lets that user community jump all over this stuff and use it. What’s also interesting is that the there’s recently been the addition of ‘real-time’ rendering too (leveraging tech from the Opticore aquisition) that adds progressive rendering ala PhotoView360 and HyperShot et al.

And finally…

A few photos from AU2008 and the Design Matters showcase of products developed using Autodesk products - this is one of my favourite parts of any user event. You connect much more with the technology when you see what its used for. Oh and the last one is from Autodesk Labs - Multitouch + Mudbox

Series of detail parts from the Shelby Cobra GT500

Sweet Architectural Model - San Francisco’s Cathedral of Light

Hollow body Surfboard from 42 Surfboards: Built using sustainably harvested wood and designed in Inventor.

These two show the Super Bee concept car by Chrysler. It was a lovely concept model, but I don’t think you can beat the original Coronet Super Bee.

Love that they reused the same iconic graphic

This is pretty cool - HP TouchSmart machine + Autodesk Mudbox. This machine is $1600 + has fully functional touchscreen interaction capability.

* I left AU this morning and I’m now firmly ensconced in Exton, Pennsylvania, seeing the Femap team at Siemens PLM

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