Autodesk has updated its well-established FeatureCAM application with upgrades, improvements and elements designed to make it easier and more productive to use.
FeatureCAM is a familiar CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) program from Autodesk; it has been pretty much the go-to solution for over two decades. There is always a challenge to make the very good even better, and the company believes it has made a major step forward with FeatureCAM 2019.
As its name suggests, FeatureCAM offers a feature-based CAM approach. Instead of having to program a machine stage by stage, the operator can program it using everyday shop terms, such as ‘turn’, ‘bore’, ‘bolt’ and so on.” It has sufficient intelligence to recognize needs and requirements from such terms and will automatically adopt the right speed and torque strengths without having to be instructed, line by line.
Faster and more customizable
FeatureCAM allows the user to program a process more quickly and to get consistent results across a wider variety of parts – and machines as well. It has a huge range of customizable settings supplied with the program. The user can even set customized settings as their default, which saves a lot of time in going through layers and layers to get to the right parameters.
There are other software apps that offer similar features but FeatureCAM has the advantage that it is built as features, from the ground up. Every non-essential step that can be taken out of the process helps with speed and consistency, in software programs as much as in Lean Manufacturing.
The Directed Automated Feature Recognition (DAFR) capability automatically recognizes holes, bosses, sides, and pockets in a single workflow, which enables faster programming. While standard AFR slices the model in the active Z axis and produces complete features as it makes its way down the model, DAFR allows the user to select the features they want even before recognition begins.
Saving time while cutting material
This is not as step-by-step as existing software. It minimizes programming time and helps to reduce cycle time. In a break with convention, DAFR can also be used in turning projects; it gives users the option to choose index angles. This helps to reduce the number of Z axes required and so speeds up cutting. Center drilling programming has been enhanced with the introduction of additional parameter controls for center drills.
Both custom tip and included angles can now be set on the tool, which means that center drills can be used for defining more accurate chamfers. There is no need for additional operations to adjust tip angles; the NC code is automatically adjusted in the process. Safety and part accuracy are greatly improved and cycle times can be cut significantly. Setup, creation and editing have been amended to improve the user experience.
FeatureCAM 2019 has introduced Tabs in place of the ‘wizard’ in the setups dialog, which helps to speed up decisions enormously. FeatureCAM 2019 also combines the Z axis selection functions into a single button, which is more intelligent. It also makes for better edge picking.
Grids, threads and roughing it
Snapping grids have new options for displaying lines, dynamic scaling and grid size control. The curvature tool now has an additional tool to indicate the draft angle of chosen faces. In another step to improve ease of use – and productivity – the Thread list now features thread families grouped together, along with access to more standard threads, such as ACME and Trapezoidal. The Tool Post window colors and icons help identify main and sub-spindle operations, as well as tool or spindles for Swiss machining.
A number of hidden menu options are now in the features dialog, including log and initialization files and post-processing debug options. Roughing and finishing passes can be set in grooves. The new back cutting feature addresses the use of new inserts, such as the Sandvik™ prime turning™ range.
The new tool pass strategy allows you to turn in all directions with the same insert. This extends insert life, while improving metal removal rates. It also makes Using for better machine utilization, reductions in setup time and fewer tool changes. It all helps to cut cycle time and component cost.
Radial patterns and Swiss programming
Radial pattern cutting traditionally required either continuous motion of the C axis or linear motion in the pattern plane. FeatureCAM 2019’s new option allows the same linear motion for each instance in the pattern, to maximize accuracy, followed by a rotation in the C axis to access each subsequent pattern. This is particularly useful for machines with limited travel, which cannot cut below the center line of rotation.
There are new developments for Swiss programming. Fixed angle tool holders can now be used, to machine angle features without any need for coordinate transformation.
The new feature recognition add-in splits full-term length into user-defined shorter sections, which reduces the risk of the part dislodging from the guide bush. Improvements to threading include the option to generate a thread path from a curve, and to generate a chamfer when exiting. A Swiss configuration file is now available with the installed directory.
Collaboration and security
The reality of design and manufacturing in the 21st century is that ideas have to be made faster than ever, which means that collaboration between offices in different parts of the world is an inevitable, daily reality. Gartner Research reported that intellectual property – new designs, innovations and breakthroughs – enable manufacturers to drive profitability through the opportunity to charge premium prices for a period, before the competition catches up. Collaboration across time zones helps to shorten development it also heightens the need for security. As Oracle’s Vikram Singla observed; do you store jewellery and similar valuables at home or in a bank? Cloud-based storage is more secure – from theft or disaster – than anything a single company could offer.
Subscribers to FeatureCAM can benefit from cloud storage via Autodesk Drive offering collaborative data-sharing for organisations needing to share files with others for viewing, editing, uploading, and managing.
Autodesk FeatureCAM 2019 is offering a free, 30-day trial. Those wishing to see how FeatureCAM 2019 can help transform their manufacturing activities can download the free trial, by visiting www.autodesk.com/products/featurecam/free-trial
To learn more about FeatureCAM 2019 visit www.autodesk.com/featurecam