April 12, 2017 New Mexico SolidWorks User Group Meeting Minutes

Version 1

    The April 12th, 2017 meeting of the New Mexico SOLIDWORKS User Group was held at The BioScience Center in Albuquerque and featured Ken Merritt of SolidCAM. Ken presented a live demonstration of toolpath generation within SOLIDWORKS. We also had a wrap-up and review of SOLIDWORKS World 2017.


    As always, we welcome any feedback you have about the meeting location (positive or negative). 


    5:30 - 6:00 Arrive, Get Some Food, Meet Someone New

    6:00 - 6:05 Announcement and General Business

    6:05 - 7:00 Toolpath Generation with SolidCAM, Ken Merritt via internet link

    7:05 - 8:00  SolidWorks World Roundup

    8:00 - 8:15   Wrap Up / Prizes / Giveaways



    William Radigan, NMSUG Pres was describing and showing on his screen the new SolidWorks PDM Standard which replaces Workgroup (starting with SolidWorks 2017). Soon thereafter he was giving an impromptu presentation on the screen at the front of the room. The general consensus was SolidWorks PDM Standard would be a good presentation topic for a future meeting.


    We had some small sample parts from the HP MultiJet Fusion 3D printer. HP claims this new print technology is 10X faster than FDM and SLS printing technologies at half the cost. Allegedly HP has a printer on the horizon that will have a 100 inch envelope.


    TOOLPATH GENERATION WITH SolidCAM – Ken Merritt (via GoToMeeting)

    This presentation also included Tim Mika, SolidCAM account manager for the southwest. Ken Merritt is a SolidCAM senior application engineer. SolidCAM does direct sales and support worldwide with 100 resellers in 46 countries. SolidCAM is a SolidWorks Gold Partner. The SolidCam software is SolidWorks integrated add-on, meaning that the user does not need to leave SolidWorks to utilize the SolidCAM features. The “Worlds Best CAM inside the World’s Best CAD”


    What follows is a fast-paced attempt to note some of the highlights in Ken and Tim’s presentation. For more information contact Tim or Ken directly. Also, the SolidCAM website is remarkably thorough and informative (http://www.solidcam.com).


    SolidCAM has trademarked and patented technology called iMachining. This is the underlying code that reads the user input from the iMachining Technology Wizard (analogous to a Property Manager in the FMT) and optimizes the toolpath for each machining operation.


    SolidCAM adds a CAM part definition branch at the top of the SolidWorks Feature-Manager Tree. This includes the origin and reference geometry to manage toolpath creation. Since SOLIDCAM is within SWX there is no file translation to get the CAM data into a format that SWX can read.


    The iMachine Wizard prompts the user for all the parameters required to machine the model from the stock. The tool is selected from a tool table. Surfaces on the part to be machined are linked to the tool. From within the wizard, when the user hovers over tool input fields, color feedback is highlighted via a model graphic in the lower left corner. It looks very cool. iMachine takes into account the material properties, tool characteristics, machine characteristics, geometry, tool material, number of flutes and all other relevant data and then allows the user to move a graphical slide bar titled “Machining Level” which has a scale from 1 to 8. Moving the slider between levels determines the aggressiveness of the toolpath, feed rate, step-over depth and spindle speed. For an example, at level 8, the wizard set the following parameters for a ¼” tool: 14500 rpm, 150 inches per minute at a 45 degree cutting angle and a one-inch depth of cut.


    SolidCAM Workflow is to work through the Feature-Manager Tree from top to bottom starting with the type of machining operation. Save the results and let iMachine calculate the tool paths then simulate and produce the G-code. The simulation illustrates the tool path which is an advanced morphing spiral. The morphing spiral cut keeps the tool in contact with the workpiece and is continually removing chips.


    Right-clicking on the operations node in the Feature-Manager Tree will create a machine center simulation file that shows a graphical representation of the CNC machine where the engineer can zoom into the part or the fixture and watch as material is removed from the part. The simulation includes table movement and speed parameters characteristic to the machining center. When the material is removed from the part, the newly exposed surface is a different color. One simulation showed the mounting vise only and we watched the part creation without the clutter of the surrounding machine graphics. A color-banding feature allows the user to specify parameters to illustrate walls that are less than .035 thick for example. For clarification, it is important to note the simulation is from the SolidWorks/SolidCAM file before it is post-processed to G-code.


    Once the tool paths are all determined within SWX, you output the G-codes to a file that can be read by the machine. The G-code is a post processing function (this is because each machining center has its own G-code tweaking requirements). The post processor works like a printer driver. It converts the SOLIDCAM language into the machine language. You can save out, view and edit the G-code file, transfer it with thumb drive or send it over a network. It’s just a file. SolidCAM has five engineers whose job it is to write the post processing algorithms for new machines as they come out.


    Ken also illustrated how to handle model changes (ECO’s).  He took an existing part and from within SolidWorks, changed the overall length and overall width and an O-ring slot that was driving an pattern of holes around its perimeter. Once he finished editing the sketch the model updated and prompted the user about updating the toolpath information. Behind the scenes SolidCAM creates a direct link copy of the SWX model. While most of us are accustomed to working with the SolidWorks model, a user can access the SolidCAM model and work in the SolidCAM environment. One nice feature is that the user may choose to manually sync the SolidWorks and SolidCAM data and visually see which tool paths are impacted. This is analogous to rolling up and down the Feature-Manager Tree in a part file.


    Tool information comes from Tool-Tables. It looks like you can have different tool tables in different locations and in different directories and manage them from File Locations in SolidWorks options. You can even have machine specific tool tables that load only when the specific machining center is specified.


    Automatic functionality-SolidCAM finds hole wizard holes (it captures the HW variables) including arrays and patterns and automatically builds the tool paths and selects tools necessary to do that job. The user still has full access to the auto-created toolpaths so you can tweak or adjust the toolpaths as needed.


    Ken played a video that showed machining 17-4 PH stainless steel. This material work hardens when it gets hot, yet the chips were all silver, meaning the chips and tool and part were not heating up. They were using a 3/16 inch diameter tool, .625 depth of cut, 12000 rpm spindle speed at 70 inches per minute. Wow! MAGIC!


    You can use SolidCAM to drive so-called miniature or toy milling machines. They demo some of these at their trade show booth. They have a 1990s toy mill with a Mach Motion controller that can cut 17-4 PH stainless at 18,000 rpm, and 200 inches per minute. WOW!


    One video illustrated an operation that took 2 hours and 26 minutes to run and wore out the tool. After iMachine toolpath generation the same operation took 7 minutes 20 seconds and the tool was still new after four completed parts.


    SOLIDCAM has great support, free training webinars and seminars, and online classes. Much like SolidWorks they provide licenses for STEM-based classrooms and educational curriculums.


    Ongoing debate: Which is better, G-code simulation (after the post processor) or SolidCAM/SolidWorks software simulation (before the post-processor)? NOTE: Changing the G-code at the machine level violates ISO-9000 control.


    Question: Is there an API? Yes but it is not very extensive. What do you need that doesn’t exist already?


    Question: Is there an option for optimizing a toolpath that will drill 100 holes for example? Yes. You have the option to use a default or select from advanced criteria like shortest path, specific diameters in a specific order or drill certain faces in specific order and more.


    Question: How much is a license? $1000 for SOLIDCAM Express. There are eight canned license options from $1000 thru $18,995. There is a maintenance package for each license, $400 to $700/year on subscription/maintenance. The more consecutive years on maintenance the steeper the discount up to 33% for four consecutive years or more.


    Question: Do you need SolidWorks to run SolidCAM? Yes. SolidCAM is not a stand-alone product.



    GREG YOUNG, MCAD. Greg talked about the SolidWorks 3D Interconnect capability in SWX 2017. You can bring in CAD models from other packages including their mass properties. This is more than just a native import. You can bring in a native Creo or SolidEdge or Inventor part and go right to work.


    MIKE PELOCK, MCAD. This was Mike’s 16th SolidWorks World in a row. From 2002-2004 he attended as a user. He has attended as a reseller ever since. It is a Monday thru Wednesday event but they do certifications on Sunday. You get one free test per year if you are on maintenance. Monday nights is a CSWE event where only 2-3% of all attendees are treated to a party. Tuesday night is a main event. This year they bused all 5000 attendees to Paramount studios. The Wednesday morning general session always previews the next-years version.


    DAVE FURRY, NMSUG member. Dave arrived in Los Angeles early to participate in some pre-arranged SolidWorks beta testing. He played with SolidWorks Visualize (formerly Bunkspeed). He played with SolidWorks TreeHouse which is an add-on included with all versions that creates a graphical tree map to depict a BOM. Dave enjoyed an appearance by Mark Tremonti, founding member and guitarist for the bands Creed and Alter Bridge. Tremonti regaled the audience with some riffs from his SolidWorks designed electric guitar. Dave attended several sessions on the new PDM Standard. He indicated that a business that is entrenched with Workgroup would be well advised to contract with a migration specialist to help with the transition to PDM Standard. Dave walked by the Staple Center every day and was disappointed the Lakers were not in town. The coolest thing he saw was a 20 foot tall robot with a pilot’s chair.


    RANDY LYNN (did not attend this year) mentioned that it costs about $1000 to attend SolidWorks World but user group leaders and presenters get a free admission. You can eat and drink for free once you are there.



    Announcements: Here is some tentative information on upcoming meetings.


    June 14th – We will celebrate the 10th year of NMSUG. Richard Doyle, SolidWorks User Group Coordinator is coming. Rachel York from SolidWorks will talk about the “certification game.” We also hope Brad Blake from MarkForged can demonstrate their 3D carbon fiber printer.


    August 9th - DriveWorks, SolidWorks CAM (Toolpath generation from within SolidWorks).


    October 1lth – the topic for this meeting may be SolidWorks PDM Standard



    SolidCAM sent a box of schwag that included some crude T-shirts, polo shirts (XXL), mousepads and magnets.


    Yet Again, Professor Eduardo Gamillo drove up from Las Cruces with some of his Engineering Technology 317 Advanced Manufacturing students expressly to attend our user-group meeting. Eduardo has been making the three-hour drive (one-way) to our meetings for at least a couple of years now. He always has a few students in tow. They hang out afterwards and visit before making the trip back to Las Cruces. This time however, Eduardo came with eight students (a record). Seven of them rode in two cars and Jagg Lovato followed them up on his motorcycle. For his effort and dedication, Jagg got first pick from the schwag pile.


    Eduardo, Jagg, Steven, Jake, Austin, Blake, Daniel, Macklin, and Devon, we hope you made it back safe and in time to attend class on Thursday morning. Be sure you stay in touch – especially you guys with summer internships in Albuquerque.