Software Advances Moving More Programming to Shop Floor
Used to be programmers were programmers and machine operators were machine operators and never the 'twain would meet. New developments in milling machinery and software, however, is changing all that ...
Used to be programmers were programmers and machine operators were machine operators and never the ‘twain would meet. New developments in milling machinery and software, however, is changing all that as more and more shops are passing on CAM programming responsibilities to the operator on the shop floor cutting the metal.
A typical mold shop reaps a number of benefits by moving CAM programming to the machine, says John Sare, Canadian reseller and FSP relations, Gibbs and Associates (Keswick, Ont.). “The machinist knows best how he likes to cut the part,” says Sare. “Shops that run CAM off-line leave the operator little choice but to manually edit or send the program back to the programming room for correction and verification. All this takes time and costs money.”
The major factor pushing the trend to shop floor programming is more user-friendly software on controls, says Sare. Gibbs software package, GibbsCAM (150) is an icon-based system that’s as easy to use as Windows, claims Sare. The program allows the operator to check all cutter paths and other part-rendering parameters at the machine. GibbsCAM allows common editing tasks to be done on the shop floor in a graphic environment with instant verification reducing downtime. The graphical interface with machine controls also reduces training requirements and eliminates the need for the operator to learn more complicated “G-code” programming language. Machine builders using GibbsCAM include Fadal Engineering, Cincinatti Milacron, Mori Seki and Tree. Control builders incorporating GibbsCAM into controls include Allan Bradley, Mitsubishi and Siemens.
Another software package, VERICUT 4.1, is an example of how software is helping to automate programming and high speed machining. VERICUT 4.1 (151), manufactured by CGTech (Irvine, CA), uses the industry standard chip thinning technique to optimize NC program feed rates, ensuring a constant chip thickness for all cutting operations. The company claims the software virtually eliminates the process of manually proving-out NC programs by simulating the material removal process on a computer. NC programmers can correct errors and remove inefficient motion before cutter paths are generated.
Sare compares the revolution in programming software to the change that took place in offices when PCs changed from DOS-based operating systems to Windows. “Graphics-based software packages like GibbsCAM is doing the same for the shop floor that Windows did for the office. It is creating a common language and system that everyone understands and can use,” says Sare.