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Methods Machine Tools Learning Lab: Software on Demand

Five-axis machining has a lot of advantages, and can make the machining process more productive. However, for a lot of machinists it is still a pretty scary and difficult process. Taking the difficulty out of 5-axis machining is one of the goals of CAMplete Solutions Inc., Kitchener, Ontario. Established in 1988, the company has developed in-house applications tailored specifically for a limited number of 5-axis and multitasking machines, including those offered by Methods Machine Tools Inc., Sudbury, Mass. CAMplete offers TruePath software for 5-axis milling, and TurnMill software for multitasking machines. 

From design to manufacturing, the typical partmaking process involves creating a part drawing from prototype, importing that prototype or designing a part directly for machining, specifying work materials, selecting tooling and applying  a toolpath, according to Jeff Fritsch, product manager for CAMplete.  

“Five-axis machining is a niche market, with a high level of technology, and there are a small number of shops that can do it well, since it involves complex shapes, machines, tooling and fixturing. As a result, the partmaking process for 5-axis can create complex problems,” he said.

Fritsch noted that the traditional CAM cycle is a “black box”. The process goes from conventional post processing, to CAM posting, milling machine and finished part, then the process starts over again. “How many times do you have to go through this process to get a good part—three, four, five times? Very few shops can make good parts on a 5-axis machine the first time, and the result is longer cycle times and setup times, higher tool costs and lower productivity.” 

According to Fritsch, TrueCut can solve this problem. The software includes detailed information on each different machine it is used on and is used to program the part on the shop’s existing CAM software. TrueCut imports CAM files, automatically does post processing, creates detailed fixture models, finds collisions and over travels, and resolves other issues typically missed by the original CAM software. 

“TruePath can then optimize fixtures and tool lengths and send final proven programs to the machine to make parts right the first time,” said Fritsch. “It reduces prove out costs. A shop wants to be able to program, post, optimize and verify an operation within minutes, not hours. We are almost to the point where, using TruePath, a shop can get a part design in the morning, program it for a 5-axis machine, and ship a finished part in the evening.” 

Methods Machine Tools offers TruePath training classes for customers that are or will be using TruePath on its machines.

The Learning Lab session also explored the TurnMill software for multitasking machines. 

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