Delcam (Birmingham, UK) has released the 2011 version of its PowerMILL CAM system for five-axis and high-speed machining. This release makes the programming of safe toolpaths easier than ever thanks to new stock-model-engagement options that protect both the cutting tool and the machine from excessive loading. Other enhancements include new editing capabilities to simplify the machining of duplicate items; more versatile control of feedrates for leads and links; and extra functionality for sketching, plus the completion of the move to the new clearer forms for the complete range of strategies.

The options to optimize tool loading will help overcome a constant conflict for programmers. On the one hand, they want to maximize productivity by setting feed-rates as fast as their machines will allow; on the other hand, they need to ensure safe speeds that will not break the tool. The need for safe machining has, of course, 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 new stock engagement technology can also be employed with all of the system’s finishing and rest-finishing strategies so 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 will 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 minimize tool changes.