Hi, I’m Mike Dady, Application Engineer here at Alignex. The other day I was on the phone with a customer just getting started with CNC machining and programming. They were wondering which of the different CAM products would best suit their needs. Each product in the CAM product line brings a variety of different machining solutions that will help you optimize your operations. Let’s take a deeper look.
CAM Product Offerings
Alignex has several CAM products available and they are all powered by CAMWorks. This means that no matter what product you use, the machining data created can be integrated with other CAM Products. If a company starts out using SOLIDWORKS CAM Standard and then upgrades to one of the CAMWorks tools, all the legacy data they have can be used in the new product.
The CAM product that companies inquire about most frequently is SOLIDWORKS CAM. SOLIDWORKS CAM Standard is free with any SOLIDWORKS Standard, Professional or Premium license that is on subscription support and it is used for programming 2.5 Axis Milling of Part Models.
Even though SOLIDWORKS CAM could possibly be considered an “entry level” product, it is still powered by CAMWorks. This means users have access to the Automated Tools that have made CAMWorks an industry leader for years. Since CAMWorks is a Gold Partner Add-In for SOLIDWORKS, all the CAM operations are integrated into the SOLIDWORKS interface. This results in no efficiency lost by needing to switch between programs. Also, the machined features are fully associative to the model. So if the geometry for a model is updated, the machined features will automatically update to reflect the change.
Automatic Feature Recognition
Once we start working on models in CAM Standard, it is not long before we start using the first Automated Tool, Feature Recognition. The CAM software reviews the SOLIDWORKS Model and creates CAM Features based on the settings in the Technology Database.
Rules Based Machining
Once the CAM Features are recognized, Machining Operations are generated based on the Technology Database Rules for Machining Strategies. All of these rules can be customized to match the workflows employed by the company, or to match the standards required by a customer.
Tolerance Based Machining
We can also take advantage of 3D PMI that is included in models. With Tolerance Based Machining, we create rules to automatically choose our Machining Strategies based on the Tolerance of a Feature. This allows us to choose the correct operations to effectively hold the tolerances needed. We can specify by Tolerance Range, ISO Standards or by GD&T.
Once we have the machining operations set up and complete, we can then use Toolpath Simulation to review the toolpath and detect any potential errors. If any collisions are detected, the simulation can be stopped to examine the issue and make any changes necessary.
SOLIDWORKS CAM Professional includes all the capabilities and Automated Tools found in CAM Standard, plus 5 additional functions. The first added capability is machining configurations. This allows us to have multiple CAM programs for the same model. CAM programming for assembly models is also added. This function can be used multiple ways. A user can include fixturing components for collision detection or we can program nests created by the NestingWorks program discussed later. CAM Professional also adds programming for Turning operations, High Speed Milling to reduce rough milling times, and 3+2 programming to automatically establish indexing moves.
SOLIDWORKS Machinist is a stand-alone product that includes all the CAM programming capabilities of SOLIDWORKS CAM, but includes modeling capabilities as well.
SOLIDWORKS Machinist Standard has the same CAM functions as SOLIDWORKS CAM Standard, but also has Part Modeling and import capabilities.
The same paradigm is true for SOLIDWORKS Machinist Professional. It has all the same CAM capabilities as SOLIDWORKS CAM Professional, but adds Assembly Modeling and import. The SOLIDWORKS Machinist packages are great for companies that do not need the full modeling capabilities of SOLIDWORKS.
The CAMWorks solutions Alignex offers are for companies that have more complex machining operations than supported in the previous products. Like the SOLIDWORKS CAM Products, the CAMWorks solutions are fully integrated into SOLIDWORKS as well.
CAMWorks Standard has all the capabilities of SOLIDWORKS CAM Professional, with added support for Two Turret Turning, Sub-Spindle programming and Rotary Milling.
The remaining CAMWorks solutions add capabilities depending on the individual company’s needs. Milling Professional adds 3-Axis roughing and finishing, 3-Axis undercutting and Mill Turn support.
Turning Professional is geared more toward advanced turning operations. It adds capabilities for Mill Turning and other tools like Sync Manager for simultaneous machining and the CAMWorks Virtual Machine for true G-Code simulation.
For the machining company taking advantage of all the latest technology, there is CAMWorks Premium. This package includes all the capabilities outlined in the previous CAMWorks Packages plus 4 and 5 Axis simultaneous machining.
The last Alignex CAM product is NESTINGWorks. Just like the SOLIDWORKS and CAMWorks CAM solutions, this product is fully integrated in SOLIDWORKS. NESTINGWorks is used to optimize sheet metal and flat stock nesting manufactured with a router. The software automates the nesting process to reduce the amount of lost material and create a SOLIDWORKS assembly model of the nest. Once complete, SOLIDWORKS CAM or CAMWorks products are used to generate the G-Code to manufacture the parts.
So there you have it. No matter what your machining needs, Alignex has the SOLIDWORKS CAM or CAMWorks product to do the job. And with automated tools like Feature Recognition, Machine Strategies and Tolerance Based Machining, you’ll be making chips sooner than ever.
Written by Mike Dady
Mike Dady is an Application Engineer at Alignex, Inc. Mike spends his days working with customers to resolve their manufacturing issues and helps them to improve on existing product designs. If he’s not solving customer challenges, he’s probably at home customizing his snowmobile or working on a home improvement project.