Delcam Asian Technical Summit 2010 – Day 2

Day 2 of the Delcam’s Asian Technical Summit started with a demo of PowerMILL, the CAM solution that Delcam is largely known for. Delcam claims to be “the world’s leading global CAM specialist”. Their 5-axis milling solution is widely used by a number of manufacturers worldwide. Here is a video showing a machine running two sets of tool paths to machine both sides of an aluminum propeller blade simultaneously. This is called pinch milling.

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The interesting thing is that machining happens on both sides simultaneously, and more  importantly synchronously. This cancels the radial forces gives a smoother finish while allowing deeper cuts. PowerSHAPE generated toolpaths in such a way that one tool does a semi-finishing job while the other does a finishing job. Amazing.

We were shown an impressive list of PowerMILL users. China’s state run First Auto Works Group which builds certain Audi cars has a whopping 63 seats of PowerMill and is the largest PowerMILL customer.

Delcam has recognized the growing importance of robotics in Manufacturing and has decided to develop it’s own robotics solution called PowerMILL Robot. Here is a screen shot.

PowerMILL Robot can program robots with up to 8 axes as easily as programming a 5-axis NC machine. It supports popular robots from KUKA, ABB, Fanuc, Motoman, Staubli, etc. It offers a wide range of robot options from 3 to 8 axes, both linear and rotary. The axes can even be manually adjusted to avoid singularities. Using accurate 3D simulation you can see exactly how the robot will behave before it even starts machining anything.

The PowerMILL demo also included a number of improvements in PowerMILL Pro 2011. One interesting improvement was in the area of smoothing and surface finish. Usually as the tool moves around while machining it orients itself along the normal to the surface being machined. So when machining the surface of a part which has an extrusion like a rib protruding out, the machine head needs to rotate wildly back and forth. This leads to poor surface finish. They have modified their toolpath generation algorithm to minimize such abrupt movements in an intelligent way.

Earlier this month, Delcam announced that the 2011 version of Delcam for SolidWorks, its integrated CAM system for SolidWorks, has been awarded Certified Gold Product status by SolidWorks. They didn’t call the product PowerMILL for SolidWorks because Delcam for SolidWorks is actually two products, PowerMILL and FeatureCAM, tightly integrated into SolidWorks.

As I was getting ready to listen to the next presentation I got a SOS call from my wife regarding an emergency situation with our elder son. I cut short my stay in Pune and took the next flight back home to Goa. Fortunately, the situation turned out to be more of a scare although the kid is recovering and not yet in the pink of health. I must thank Daniel Raravi and Vineet Seth from Delcam India who immediately rebooked my flights and saw to it that I could be home with my family when they needed me most. I really appreciate it. If you want to know more about day 2 of the Delcam event I suggest you keep an eye on the DEVELOP3D blog.

Delcam is an interesting company. And I don’t mean that with reference to their products alone. They are just a different bunch of people. Extremely warm and friendly. They are mainly a CAM software vendor and unfortunately they market PowerSHAPE, their CAD offering, as a companion to PowerMILL, which in fact it is. They have an extremely wide range of products and over time I hope learn and write more about them. In case you are interested I had done a 7 part series on PowerSHAPE back in December last year.

Disclosure: Delcam paid for my airfare and hotel stay.