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Posted by: 16. March 2012

When CAM-Integrated Simulation Isn’t Enough

This part began as a 3,000-pound forged aluminum sphere and required machining 51 square, tapered pockets, all of which point directly to center and require critical seal surfaces at precise locations. 
 
These days, most CAM software comes with built-in simulation capability to help users detect problems and optimize machining routines before the tool ever touches the part. Judging from testimonials from users of a number of different CAM systems, this functionality can be a major time-saver and is typically very much appreciated among all manner of shops. Some even view it as essential.

In some instances, however, CAM-integrated simulation goes only so far. Consider the part shown above, a component for a high-resolution diffractometer machined for the Department of Energy by Keller Technology. With no room for second chances, the Buffalo, New York-based manufacturer required a thorough prove-out of the machining process for this expensive, complex one-off. Although Keller’s CAM system would be more than adequate for verifying the tool paths themselves, the company needed to evaluate more than just the cutting tool’s interaction with the material. To ensure clearance on the part—which only barely fit on the company’s large five-axis Parpas machine—and to account for all spindle moves, the company needed an accurate representation of the full machining environment.

For that reason, Keller opted to use software designed specifically for simulation: Vericut from CGTech (Irvine, California). The difference, explains Steve Ziff, CAD/CAM manufacturing engineer at Keller, is that Vericut checks the actual post-processed machine code, whereas the shop’s CAM system is limited to only the internal CAM file. For more about the advantages Keller realizes from Vericut, read this article.   

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