For those that do, what are you using to create the tool paths?
We’ve been using Inventor for the CAD and then translating to stp so that tool paths can be created in Key Creator (school’s CAD), but the loss in associativity in the transfer creates a pinch point in the work flow waiting for tool paths. Anybody got alternatives out there that work with Inventor?
Several members of our team (and a few other local teams) took a machine shop class at the local community college (El Camino College). Now that we’ve passed the class, we have full access to the school’s machine shop.
They use Mastercam, which imports directly from Inventor. We also tried Inventor to STP to Mastercam, which was a mess.
So far, we’ve made 2 parts paperless, and redrew a third.
With the exception of parts made on our lathe and drilling simple holes with a drill press, all of our processes are completely paperless. Parts made on the lathe are not paperless only because its CNC capabilities leave a lot to be desired – though the potential to use it as such is there.
Nearly all parts are designed in Solidworks, though sometimes we’ll use Microsoft Visio for simple, two-dimensional parts.
For parts made on the mill, I use MasterCAM V.9 to create all of the toolpaths. We have a license of MasterCAM X as well, but I prefer V.9. The mill has onboard software to execute the code.
For our plasma cutter, we use SheetCAM to automatically generate toolpaths. It’s a very fast process, as SheetCAM is very good at determining kerf compensation on its own and generates the toolpaths in less than a second. The plasma cutter is driven by software called Mach3. It’s pretty easy to use, though the interface is a bit cludgy.
Finally, our laser cutter behaves as a printer, so we can print parts to it directly from within Microsoft Visio.
We’re able to make parts reasonably quickly and they’re accurate. It’s enormously helpful and we’ve been able to eliminate a lot of work remaking parts that aren’t up to snuff because of human error. I don’t know if I could go back to doing all of this any other way.
Just to make it easier on the machinest that go there, I give them inventor files, step files and a paper drawing so there is no confusion. They say they have had the most success with inventor files though.
Our team mostly has drawing in Inventor and CAD so we can just use the CAD files and use GibbsCAM to machine them. We used inventor to gibbs one time to machine our frame but most of our CAMing is done from CAD files.
I’ve since discovered that the school is a couple revs behind in Key Creator and plans to update this summer which wil help for next season. Thanks to everybody for thier feedback. MasterCAM looks like the ultimate solution though… anybody tried for a donation from them before?