Process Optimization Starts with CAM
The right cutting tool path can optimize a machining process by up to 50%, and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) software is critical to successful optimization because it allows manufacturers to integrate advanced machining strategies into their part programs. Unfortunately, although shops often have highly capable CAM software packages to generate those toolpaths, they often fail to use the software to its full potential. In many instances, they use the advanced CAM functions that are recommended for their operations, but those functions don’t necessarily apply to the other key elements of complete process optimization – namely, the shop’s machines, tooling, cutting operations/parameters and, most importantly, part materials.
However, what shops also need to keep in mind is that all of these key elements are closely interrelated, and adjusting one means the others also must be evaluated and adjusted for true optimization. In actuality, shops often fail to apply the best available cutting tools, strategies and other advanced technologies, such as CAM software, together. Instead, they apply one or two and hope for the best.
With that said, shops must evaluate the features of their CAM system and determine if those features match up with the part materials. When they fail to do so, they restrict themselves to only the features their CAM system suggests and miss out on the benefits of new advanced features that would help in optimization.
Additionally, shops may purchase the wrong CAM software for their particular applications and materials. For instance, some software packages/functions are better suited for aerospace applications and others might be geared more toward automotive parts. In addition to the cost of the initial investment, incompatible CAM software also would cost them in terms of manufacturing productivity. If the goal is optimum results, shops need a CAM package that provides the needed codes/features for the desired toolpaths.
Consider a shop that wants to create a volume mill-based toolpath, but its current CAM software does not provide such an option. To make matters worse, the shop may not realize this. The result is an ordinary tool path, which yields longer cut times – all because no one in the engineering department questioned why a particular CAM programming option or operation was selected for the application. This is because they are programming experts, not application experts.
Some small shops may not even validate a program. They create the program and do a CAM simulation, but not through an actual simulation software package that would provide a much more accurate evaluation. Without valid simulation, they run the machine and hope the codes produced by the CAM software/post processor not only are correct, but most importantly are suitable for the part material, machine and tooling.
To optimize their processes and ensure that they use the ideal resources for their specific applications, shops need to begin with a top-to-bottom workflow review. If they are on the verge of investing in CAM software, have they considered the best options for their types of jobs? If they already have made the investment, does their CAM system match up well with their needs? Are they using the correct tools for their processes and their materials? Are they setting up their jobs with the right parameters to achieve the results they need? The answers to these and other questions can help point the way to better results.
A CAM system only provides optimal results if it can accomplish everything a shop expects from it. Shops that analyze the full spectrum of their needs can make smart choices about CAM software investments. Seco is happy to help its customers resolve any part of these challenges, whether or not our products form part of the solution.
AM I USING THE RIGHT CAM PROGRAM?
In Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) programming, the development of an effective and efficient program requires a detailed understanding of multiple factors: the application at hand, the part, its design specifications and material, as well as the type of machine tool being used, cutting tools and software.
Remember, a combination of the best machining technology paired with effective CAM programming will yield the most productive results and help you overcome manufacturing challenges like these.
- Lack of CAM programming competency
- A lack of process security
- Suboptimal existing solutions
- Properly validating CAM programs before the make it to the shop floor
- Insufficient hardware and software capacity