Software for CAD/CAM increases efficiency and expands capabilities

Sam Roberts has over two decades of programming experience, including manual and CNC operations. But he still recalls the moment in 1999 when Mastercam CAD/CAM software was introduced to him (CNC Software Inc. Tolland, Connecticut). Roberts, a G-code-proficient machinist, was immediately impressed by the software.

He said, "I saw Mastercam" and was able to experience its capabilities. "This is a lot more than just typing G-code every day."

Roberts saw an opportunity to start his own machine shop in 2001. 3D-Machine Inc was founded by Roberts, who had Mastercam Version 6 and a Haas VF-3 horizontal machining center. The full-service machine shop is located 25 miles northwest from Atlanta in Powder Springs. It specializes in precision turning and milling parts with weights ranging from less than 1 oz to over 30,000 lbs. Hydro and nuclear power, aerospace, communications and medical are just a few of the industries served.

3D-Machine's growth has been steady over the past 20-years. The original 1,200-sqft facility was expanded to 38,000sqft. This means that there are more employees. 23 people work here currently. There is also larger machinery such as a horizontal boring machine, lathes, and vertical turning lathes.

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Roberts uses the software to manage his shop's production and design needs. 3D-Machine keeps up to date with Mastercam capabilities through keeping up to date with the latest releases. This includes the latest release featuring Mastercam Mill, Mastercam Lathe and Mastercam Wire. The company also participates in Mastercam 2021's Beta Program. Roberts is grateful for the software's wide range of toolpaths. He recently discovered Lathe Custom Thread, which Roberts considers a unique toolpath.

New tool paths allow for custom thread forms, and the new toolpath expands support to model chucks. The CAM software now supports collet chucks for individual components, expanding the support range of machines.

A programmer can select chained geometry from Lathe Custom Thread to choose the thread cross-section or one of these parametric definitions: Square, Rope, Trapezoidal, Buttress, Square, or Square. Mastercam Mill-Turn simulation enhancements are available, along with support for selected Swiss machining.

3D-Machine recently produced a part made of carbon steel for a cable reel. The part has a pitch of 0.9375 inches (23.8125mm), and a radius of 0.406 inches (10.3124mm). To roughen and finish it, a button tool measuring 12mm (0.4724") was used.

This part, also known as a hoist drum uses a wire rope or cable for lifting or lowering loads. These grooves prevent steel cables from becoming overlapping and potentially damaging the cable. They also prevent inconsistent lifting and lowering of objects. The drum was large enough to be machined on a large VTL. Vertical machining isn't the only option. Horizontal machining can also be done with this toolpath. The machinist used a left-hand spiral to cut the shape.

Roberts said that it took seven hours to create the groove. If you lay it out straight, it would have a length of 212 feet. To make the part, we used a mill and a rotating tool to rough it up. The deburr was done on a VTL in seven-hour. The deburr happened during the creation of the chain.

Roberts and his team use Verify to ensure that a part's form is exact. This CAM software feature allows programmers to check for gouges and view the finished part shapes. It also lets them visualize fixtures being included in its simulation screen. This increases productivity and helps to address problems before they are even cut.

3D-Machine programmers maintain manufacturer-specific, easy-to-use tool libraries loaded with accurate tool dimensions and data. You can save time by importing tool data directly into your CAM program.

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Roberts said, "When I make set-up sheets, they include the description of the tool and a tool holder as well as any pull-outs required." "If machinists adhere to the rules that we give them on the shop floor, they don’t damage the holder or hit clamps, there are no surprises."

Roberts and his staff created a fixture database due to the large number of fixtures that Mastercam can create and machine. So far, they have acquired over 100 fixtures. Anyone can import a fixture along with their part into the CAM software if they are producing a part.

Roberts said, "It's just a great tool." We were able to eliminate repetitive tasks that we might have had 20 years ago by keeping a database of all our fixtures. We don't have to reinvent the wheel each time we start a new job.