Delcam has launched the 2011 version of its FeatureCAM feature-based CAM system, which incorporates support for 64-bit computers, improved data exchange from a wider range of design software, the ability to use stock models and new strategies across the complete program, from turning to five-axis machining. The program also features a more modern interface to make programming easier than ever. All these developments will ensure that FeatureCAM retains the leadership in programming speed and ease of use it has held since its launch in 1995, when it was the world’s first feature-based programming system.
Details on the new release, plus the option to download a trial version, can be found on the FeatureCAM 2011 learning zone at www.delcam.tv/fc2011/lz.
As the first release to support 64-bit hardware, FeatureCAM 2011 will be faster than any previous version. 64-bit technology removes the memory limitations of 32-bit computers so allowing more efficient toolpath generation, especially for companies machining large or complex parts. User productivity has also been increased by extending the use of the latest multi-threading technologies available in recent hardware. In addition, improved memory management within the software further reduces calculation times, with the greatest benefits again coming when programming larger or more complex components.
The improved data exchange has been achieved by enabling Delcam’s Exchange software to be used as an additional import mechanism so that all the formats supported by Exchange can be imported into FeatureCAM. These include direct translations from systems such as CATIA V5, Siemens NX and Solid Edge, Pro/Engineer, AutoCAD Inventor, SolidWorks and Rhino, as well as support for standard formats like Parasolid, ACIS, IGES and STEP.
Support for the use of stock models is being added progressively, starting with Z-level roughing operations. The software eliminates air cutting much more easily than other methods, saving programming time, and generates more efficient toolpaths to reduce machining times significantly.
The main enhancement for turning is the addition of a new style of finishing that uses separate passes to cut the faces and the diameters of the component. This approach gives a better surface finish, improved tool life and more efficient clearance of the chips generated during the first pass over the part.
Fully-automated de-burring and chamfering is now available when programming 2- or 2.5-axis parts. The ability to incorporate chamfers, even when they were not shown in the original CAD model, was added in FeatureCAM 2010. The automation of this option will allow faster programming of these finishing operations.
Another 2-axis enhancement is the ability to machine parts larger than the travel of the machine tool. If the machine has a table that can index around the Z axis, FeatureCAM can divide the component into pieces and generate the required series of machining operations.
Finish machining of flat areas has been made more efficient with improved detection of these surfaces. FeatureCAM will then automatically add the appropriate extra Z-level into the toolpath to give accurate finishing. This option will be most beneficial when machining a series of pockets with flat bottoms at different heights.
Over recent releases, the milling capabilities within FeatureCAM have been enhanced greatly through the incorporation of strategies from Delcam’s PowerMILL system for high-speed and five-axis machining. This has continued in the 2011 version with the incorporation of Delcam’s patented Race Line Machining strategy into FeatureCAM. With this approach to offset machining, the roughing passes are smoothed out progressively as the toolpaths move further from the main form.
For five-axis machining, more options have been added to the collision avoidance functionality. These give the user more control over the movements chosen by the software to avoid potential problems and so will help to reduce sudden changes in direction.
FeatureCAM 2011 also includes improvements in the more fundamental process of five-axis drilling, with new options to program and edit five-axis hole creation, even when the items are supplied as simple circles in space rather than fully-defined solids.
Finally, programming of wire EDM has been improved with the ability to work directly from solid models in a similar way to FeatureCAM’s milling, turning and drilling options. In addition, a new automatic ordering command will make it easier to combine operations needed to produce different features, while improved control over retract moves will simplify the programming of 4-axis wire EDM equipment.
All these new options can be accessed through the improved interface. This incorporates a more modern style of icon throughout the system, with images that more clearly illustrate the various options. They make the software even easier for new users to learn and for casual operators to use.