Apr 27, 2010

Delcam PowerMILL's 64-bit version boosts programming and machining productivity

New options in PowerMILL 2010 reduce excessive head movement during five-axis machining.

Delcam has been further increased the levels of productivity that are possible with its PowerMILL CAM system with the launch of the first 64-bit version of this program for five-axis and high-speed machining. 64-bit technology removes the memory limitations of 32-bit computers so allowing more efficient toolpath generation, especially for companies machining large or complex parts.

A series of webinars and user meetings are planned to launch the new release. For a complete list of these events, please go to www.powermill.com/globalpreview/. PowerMILL 2010 will also be demonstrated at a number of exhibitions over the coming months, including MetalTech Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, Die & Mould China in Shanghai, PDx/Amerimold in Cincinnati, EASTEC in Massachusetts, BIEMH in Bilbao, Spain, and MACH in Birmingham, UK.

The 2010 release also continues to improve user productivity by extending the use of the latest background-processing and multi-threading technologies available in recent hardware. The combination of these two developments is estimated to reduce calculation times by up to 25%, although this will depend on the size and complexity of the part.

In addition to the hardware-related performance improvements, PowerMILL 2010 includes more than 50 other major enhancements to give faster and easier programming, more efficient toolpaths and better surface quality in the finished parts. This is the largest number of improvements in a single release for over five years and reflects the continued high levels of investment in product development at Delcam.

The most obvious change for existing users will be an updating of all the toolpath-creation forms to a new and improved layout. The forms make it simpler for new users to find the commands they need, while also giving experienced operators more logical access to the more advanced options. In addition, there is a new toolbar for faster and easier creation and editing of workplanes.

A new series of strategies for the roughing and finishing of corners has been added. These give more efficient and smoother clearance of these areas, especially when a large tool has been used for roughing initially that has left a significant amount of material in the corner.

Rest roughing has been enhanced to give better control over the start points for each segment of the toolpath. This will give substantial savings in overall machining time by minimising any air cutting.

Offset roughing, a popular approach for high-speed machining, has been enhanced so thin slivers of material that may damage the cutter are not left for the final pass. PowerMILL will now identify these potential problems automatically and adjust the final stepover to give more even and, therefore, safer material thicknesses.

A number of improvements have been made to give smoother toolpaths for semi-finishing and finishing. These minimise the stresses put on the cutter and machine tool, and result in a better surface finish. They are related to Delcam’s patented Race-Line strategies for roughing and act in a similar way across the full extent of the toolpath. For example, sharp changes in direction in 3D-offset toolpaths are now automatically made much smoother as the tool approaches and leaves. This approach also gives a more accurate result than simply introducing an arc at the point of change.

In a related development, more options have been added to the collision avoidance functionality to give more control over the direction chosen by PowerMILL to avoid the problem. These are particularly useful in any areas where there might be a sudden change in direction. In addition, the ability to specify a look-ahead distance has been added to the collision avoidance capability in order to ensure a smooth transition when tool-axis changes are required. It is also now possible to specify a tolerance for the contact angle with five-axis machining, so reducing excessive movement of the machine head.

Constant-Z toolpaths have been enhanced to include the detection of flat areas and the automatic insertion of extra Z-levels to machine these exactly. In addition, a filter has been added to remove small enclosed segments from the toolpath as these can damage the cutter. The "Steep and Shallow” machining combination strategy uses these latest additions for the steep sections and a range of new options has been added for the shallow areas.

Finally, a new option has been added that specifies the safe profile of the toolholder for any group of toolpaths. This helps to identify a single toolholder shape that can be used for the complete program without any risk of causing a gouge or collision.