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Delcam has released the 2011 version of its Powermill CAM system for five-axis and high-speed machining.

This release is claimed to make the programming of safe toolpaths easier using stock-model engagement options that protect both the cutting tool and the machine from excessive loading.

Other features include new editing capabilities to simplify the machining of duplicate items; more versatile control of feed rates for leads and links; and extra functionality for sketching, as well as the completion of a move to the new, clearer forms for the complete range of strategies.

Options to optimise tool loading are designed to help overcome a constant conflict for programmers.

The need for safe machining has become more critical as a growing number of companies are introducing lights-out, unmanned operation overnight or during weekends.

A number of CAM programs incorporate strategies based on the extent of cutter engagement to give more consistent loading on the tool and so allow higher feed rates.

However, these options are usually limited to the initial roughing operations, or to only roughing and rest-roughing.

Powermill’s stock engagement technology can also be employed with all of the system’s finishing and rest-finishing strategies, ensuring that the safest possible toolpaths are run on the machine at all stages.

The key to this more comprehensive solution is the accuracy of the stock models produced within Powermill after each machining stage has been completed.

These models give a precise representation of the material still remaining on the part and are used to ensure that the cutter is never asked to remove more material than it can safely cut.

At the same time, the stock models also ensure that toolpaths are not produced where there is no material remaining so the machine tool is never left cutting air.

The new toolpath editing options in Powermill are designed to make it easier to produce multiple copies of any duplicated item, for example, when machining a series of cavities into a mould tool.

The user can now specify an array of multiple copies in one operation, using approaches such as a number of rows and columns, or a radial spacing around a central point.

Once the copies have been produced, the complete series of toolpaths can be re-sequenced to minimise tool changes.

Enhancements to feed-rate optimisation have been introduced to give better control of leads and links at the points of cutter engagement and exit.

Typically, the feed rate as the cutter enters and exits the material needs to be slower than that set for the main length of the toolpath.

Setting the entry speed too high will risk damage to the cutter and the spindle, and can even move smaller parts on their fixtures.

Exit speeds are critical when machining brittle materials, such as graphite electrodes, since the cutter can chip the surface of the part if it is moving too quickly.

Powermill users can now avoid these problems by setting specific entry and exit feed rates, either as percentages of the feed rate for the main toolpath or as absolute values.

Powermill has incorporated sketching functionality for several years, for example, to draw boundaries within the model to limit individual machining strategies to particular areas of the part.

This has been enhanced with a number of new editing options, including the ability to offset or transform curves and to flatten 3D curves into 2D curves, or to project 2D curves onto 3D surfaces.

Delcam supplies software and services that help manufacturing companies to maximise their profitability by increasing productivity, improving quality and reducing lead times. The company is the world's largest specialist supplier of computer-aided machining software, with its PowerMILL, FeatureCAM, Partmaker and ArtCAM programs making up the most comprehensive range of CAM systems from any developer.

This broad selection allows Delcam to offer a CAM system capable of machining virtually any product, in any material on any type of equipment. Delcam also develops product design, tooling design and quality control programs. The unique Tribrid Modelling approach to design incorporates solid modelling, surface modelling and triangle modelling in a single program, enabling complete design and reverse engineering projects to be undertaken without transferring data between software.

Delcam's Powerinspect offers fast, reliable comparison of parts, prototypes and tooling against CAD data on all types of inspection equipment and even on machine tools. This versatility has made it the world's leading hardware-independent inspection software. Related programs are available for checking machine tool set-up and part location. Delcam software is used in over 80 countries worldwide by around 40,000 organisations, from large multi-nationals to small sub-contractors, in industries including aerospace, automotive, dental, engineering, footwear, medical and toolmaking.

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