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Unread 10-08-2018, 10:28 AM
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Best Cam Software Revised

As I hope more newer teams will take a journey into using a CNC machine. I wish to help provide a solution of my findings and compare them against what others have found.

For our team, we are looking for affordable solutions, and have found the millright m3, to be affordable starting around $500.

Next comes the CAM software, and what I really wish to discuss. I think HSMExpress with Solidworks is the way to go given the current support of Solidworks for teams. I'll be keeping an eye out if Solidworks has any plans on including their CAM solutions to teams, but in the meantime there is one thing I would like to offer in addition to HSM express.

As many of you know HSM express lacks in tab support, and so I've been working on a solution to fix this.

It is *This*

This works alongside with HSM's Editor using the backplot features. So what you do is make the CAD. Run the CAM post the GCode, and then use this to make the tabs. Here is a snip of how it looks in the Project File:
SetTabSize = 0.08 0.25
AddTab = 65 1.50
AddTab = 292 0.50

Where all you have to do is provide a line number and optional offset from that anchor point. You can define the size of the tab globally or individually as well. At the time of posting this, I still need to test this as it is very new, but the goal is to provide something that is easy and quick. A couple of examples are included to see this in action.

As an added bonus this software also allows your CNC machine to play music on the stepper motors. I've shown a sample of this *here*
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Unread 10-08-2018, 12:38 PM
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Re: Best Cam Software Revised

One of the most versatile and best of all free cam programs out there would be fusion360 by autodesk, they are also the creators of HSMExpress which is a dumbed down version of the CAM software in fusion, I would recommend checking out a youtube channel called "NYC CNC" and watching some of their CAM tutorials
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Unread 10-08-2018, 12:47 PM
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Re: Best Cam Software Revised

HSM is actually an Autodesk product. It works with Solidworks or Inventor. You (Team member and mentors) can download any version of it as part of Autodesk's sponsorship of First.
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Unread 10-08-2018, 12:55 PM
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Re: Best Cam Software Revised

Quote:
Originally Posted by JamesTerm View Post
I'll be keeping an eye out if Solidworks has any plans on including their CAM solutions to teams
SOLIDWORKS CAM is included in SOLIDWORKS Student 2018-2019, which is the version provided to teams for the 2019 season. It is available now if you fill out the form to request sponsorship. It is nice once you get it set up, since it automatically generates operations from solid models, but takes a long time to set up and the postprocessor for Mach3 is not great. Here's a thread I made about it a while ago.
Also, you can get HSMWorks Ultimate through Autodesk Education for students/mentors.
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Unread 10-08-2018, 05:04 PM
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Re: Best Cam Software Revised

Quote:
Originally Posted by jnicho15 View Post
SOLIDWORKS CAM is included in SOLIDWORKS Student 2018-2019, which is the version provided to teams for the 2019 season.
Thanks for this post, I am interested in seeing what they have to offer, but cautiously optimistic on the work-flow and any issues they may currently have. For me personally it's about the tab support and to be able to do everything else Express does... without being any more complicated to use.
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Unread 10-08-2018, 05:34 PM
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Re: Best Cam Software Revised

Mastercam has previously offered their products for free as part of the Virtual KoP. Not sure on the status of it for this year, but we use Mastercam for Solidworks here at AndyMark to run our CNC router (it supports tabs, and nesting!) and our Haas VF4.
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Unread 10-08-2018, 06:13 PM
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Re: Best Cam Software Revised

Not RADAN
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Unread 10-09-2018, 04:21 PM
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Re: Best Cam Software Revised

Thanks all for this information.
Since the time of my post... I've updated the same link/archive with a completed example and added some features and fixed bugs to make it work pretty well. To me, I tend to throw a rope across the ravine and come back later to make it a bridge... life is iterative, and I want a good baseline solution as a fallback in-case some of these other solutions fall short. At least if my code solution fails I can do something about it. My goal is to make a next batch of parts using this tab software, to make sure it completely works, and then jump on to some of these other solutions and see what they have to offer for future cuts. Thanks again!
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Unread 10-09-2018, 06:43 PM
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Re: Best Cam Software Revised

Quote:
Originally Posted by JamesTerm View Post
Thanks all for this information.
Since the time of my post... I've updated the same link/archive with a completed example and added some features and fixed bugs to make it work pretty well. To me, I tend to throw a rope across the ravine and come back later to make it a bridge... life is iterative, and I want a good baseline solution as a fallback in-case some of these other solutions fall short. At least if my code solution fails I can do something about it. My goal is to make a next batch of parts using this tab software, to make sure it completely works, and then jump on to some of these other solutions and see what they have to offer for future cuts. Thanks again!
Fwiw my team just got mach3 and are about to start setting it up on our new router, 'll post updates here if you would find it useful. Ive heard good things about it
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Unread 10-09-2018, 08:41 PM
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Re: Best Cam Software Revised

Quote:
Originally Posted by gorrilla View Post
Fwiw my team just got mach3 and are about to start setting it up on our new router, 'll post updates here if you would find it useful. Ive heard good things about it
That would be helpful... Thanks!
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Unread 10-09-2018, 10:07 PM
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Re: Best Cam Software Revised

I rather like Esprit for CAM at the moment, although it's a pretty esoteric bit of software. Previously used HSMworks in high school, and had no issues with it besides the lack of tabbing.
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Unread 10-09-2018, 10:55 PM
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Re: Best Cam Software Revised

So far, I've used Bobcam, Fusion CAM, HSM Express for Solidworks and the Inventor equivalent, Mastercam, and am trying out Solidworks CAM 2018 now.
Some thoughts on each:
1. Bobcam is a pretty interesting software, but it doesn't feel as polished as some of the other options out there. The workflow is very similar to that of Fusion/HSMworks. It does have a Solidworks plugin, which can be pretty handy. I don't think it supports tabbing on its own, but it looks like there's a Bobnest program for nesting and tabbing.

2. Fusion is what 1072 uses right now. Run on all the students' Apple computers, and given that we use Onshape (whose native CAM add-ins I have yet to try) it's the next best thing for Cloud use. It has Cloud parts and revision control, as well as Cloud tool libraries. I can easily generate and load cut templates for all our parts. Note that such templates are available for HSMworks and Mastercam as well, so I highly recommend you make use of them.
Fusion gives you pretty good control over all aspect of your machining. The only downside is that one has to select each individual pocket contour for finishing, so if you are machining something like a bellypan, it can take quite some time to select the pockets for finishing. If you are satisfied with an adaptive clearing finish, there's no need to select each individual pocket, as the adaptive clear only needs the outer contour of the part.

3. HSM Express for Solidworks is just a slightly worse version of Fusion. It has a worse time identifying the internal and externals of a contour, and is missing several options that Fusion and HSM for Inventor have (although I can't remember them off the top of my head other than tabbing). Other than that, it's pretty much the same as Fusion, minus the cloud tool library stuff.
HSM Ultimate for Inventor is almost the same as Fusion. I'm not sure if it handles cloud-based tool libraries.

4. Mastercam has a similar workflow to Fusion/HSMworks, but it's a lot harder to use. It was clearly designed by an engineer in the early 2000's in terms of UI, so although the buttons appear more rounded today, the organization of tools isn't great. It definitely gives you more control over your machining operation, but given its difficulty compared to Fusion, we'll be sticking with the latter. Even loading toolpaths from a template, it takes somewhat longer to set everything up compared to Fusion.
The big thing that Mastercam gets over the other options is nesting. Its nesting is fantastic, so if you regularly have a lot of gussets to cut on a router (unlike our tiny Tormach 1100's 9.5"x18" work area), it is definitely worth the time to learn.
The biggest downside of Mastercam is that they only give out a single free license to each time by default. I'm not sure if you can get the Mastercam add-in for Solidworks either, but having more than a single license is a good idea.

5. Solidworks CAM 2018 looks pretty futuristic, but it does have one critical flaw-speed. It can auto-detect pockets, holes, etc. and automagically select the correct tool for the job from your tool library, but it makes separate operations for each pocket in the job. Because it makes so many independent operations, if you enable "rest machining" with adaptive clearing strategies, it takes an era to generate paths even for simple parts because it has to go through each roughing pass before it to finish generation. Plus, the workflow for setting up the magic is very different from the other traditional CAM softwares, and I've been struggling to edit even basic things such as stepdown and stepover on the auto-generator for roughing passes.
If you can get it working, I have no doubt it would be the best CAM software for a CNC mill, as long as you're ok with not having rest machining. You can, in theory, use 4-5 clicks to generate and export the G-code for any part, especially given the standardized nature of design in FRC (plates and 2x1s).
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Last edited by asid61 : 10-09-2018 at 10:58 PM.
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Unread 10-10-2018, 12:16 AM
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Re: Best Cam Software Revised

Quote:
Originally Posted by asid61 View Post
4. Mastercam has a similar workflow to Fusion/HSMworks, but it's a lot harder to use. It was clearly designed by an engineer in the early 2000's in terms of UI, so although the buttons appear more rounded today, the organization of tools isn't great. It definitely gives you more control over your machining operation, but given its difficulty compared to Fusion, we'll be sticking with the latter. Even loading toolpaths from a template, it takes somewhat longer to set everything up compared to Fusion.
The big thing that Mastercam gets over the other options is nesting. Its nesting is fantastic, so if you regularly have a lot of gussets to cut on a router (unlike our tiny Tormach 1100's 9.5"x18" work area), it is definitely worth the time to learn.
The biggest downside of Mastercam is that they only give out a single free license to each time by default. I'm not sure if you can get the Mastercam add-in for Solidworks either, but having more than a single license is a good idea.
FRC licenses come with both standalone and MasterCAM for Solidworks.

I don't think you could try to run standalone on one computer and MC for SW on another though...but not sure.
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Unread 10-10-2018, 10:11 AM
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Re: Best Cam Software Revised

Quote:
Originally Posted by asid61 View Post
So far, I've used Bobcam, Fusion CAM, HSM Express for Solidworks and the Inventor equivalent, Mastercam, and am trying out Solidworks CAM 2018 now.
Thanks for the detailed description of each product, that will indeed be a time saver of searching. So of these (and others mentioned), which of them directly plug-in to Solidworks, besides HSM Express and Solidworks CAM?

I guess the title "Best" can mean different things... the product we are targeting is something easy to use for new teams that have strong ties to Solidworks (i.e. a seemless transition to CAM from it)... that said, I'm not sure yet about an all auto black box solution either, it may be risky to lose the control I have now with Express. Using a lesser grade CNC machine like the m3 needs the ability to specify custom settings such as custom tooling for feed rate and multiple pass contour cuts with custom depth, and needs to be quick and responsive to use like HSM Express. We are not ready yet for advance 3D CNC work (but we'll get there eventually).

I'll be happy to see some benchmarks along these lines.
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Unread 10-10-2018, 04:00 PM
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Re: Best Cam Software Revised

Mastercam for Solidworks is directly integrated into Solidworks as well. You can view toolpaths as well as the files, and make adjustments to the native Solidworks files and (sometimes) have the CAM update automatically, depending on how features changed, etc. It's pretty useful for iterative design, especially in FRC.
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