A number of new and enhanced items in the latest release of Alphacam software focus on automation, reducing users’ CAD/CAM time.

The new Automation Manager means 2D and 3D CAD files, along with solid models from third party software, can now be batch processed, from file preparation right through to applying  toolpaths, with NC code being generated automatically. In addition, the files create a full report structure, along with labels and bar coding.

EMEA sales manager, Michael Pettit, says: “In a standard CAD/CAM system each file would have to be processed individually by inserting the file, extracting the features, applying tool directions and toolpaths, saving the file and NC code, then generating the required reports. But Alphacam takes a group, or batch, of files and automates the complete processing of the parts.

“Overall, this will save the end user days and weeks, potentially even months of programming time in a year.”

Three additional enhancements – Parametric Sketcher, File Inserter, and 2D Transform – combine to make further operations quicker and easier.

Parametric Sketcher provides a simple way of parametrically generating geometries for files that are used regularly, without the need for complicated constraints or routines.

Michael says: “Common CAD geometry is created automatically, regenerating the file with any required variables, meaning there is no need to redraw similar components or families of parts. They are built using standard geometry commands and parts with the same form but different sizes are created by simply modifying the values of one or more variables.”

File Inserter, the new geometry creation tool, allows pre-defined elements such as hinges and locks on a door to be inserted easily onto a newly-created drawing from the parametric sketcher. And the new geometry modification tool, 2D Transform, combines a number of commands, making it simpler to manipulate operations such as distort, scale, move and rotate.

Michael Pettit says with machine time becoming increasingly more expensive, Alphacam 2016 R1’s new Auto-Update Material function is critical, giving the option to associate a material to auto-update after each cutting operation.

“It optimises time on the CNC machine by automatically updating stock, ensuring that subsequent toolpaths are only relevant to the residual material.”

Enhanced sawing options for wood and stone make it easier to cut intricate shapes such as internal arcs, while also providing a scratch cut for laminates, removing pockets with a sawing blade, and support for canned cycles.

As CNC machinery becomes more sophisticated Alphacam continues to develop automating the movement of pods, rails and clamps. Again, this speeds up the machining process even more, giving the user full control directly from the CAM station.

A new function has been added to Alphacam’s powerful nesting module – Roll-Split. 

“Certain manufacturers need to nest shapes onto rolled sheets, so the nest can be quite long. In 2016 R1 they can now split the roll to the required dimensions for a specific machine bed. The parts are nested on a sheet which represents the length of the roll required as a long rectangle. Maximum and minimum distances are set, and Alphacam determines the best position for the sheet ends,” continues Michael.

He says because of increasing complexity, both of modern parts and CNC machines, accurate simulation covering all aspects of machining is vital before sending the component to the machine. Further enhancements have been added to the simulation function, which now supports solid tool holders of any type – Solid, STL, extrusions and rotations – for collision detection.

Alphacam continues to develop its GUI with 2016 R1. “There have been significant changes to the interface in recent releases, and we always make it as easy and as modern as possible. Users now have the option to use a tab format or wizard when using the machining dialogue.”  

As well as the major updates, there is a number of minor enhancements, including further improvements to Alphacam’s advanced five-axis toolpath creation; one of which is to Machining Styles, which now remembers the selection criteria without showing the dialogue box. Also, layer assignment has been added to the drive surface.

“Alphacam 2016 R1 has been geared to assist users in their everyday bread and butter task of generating quick, accurate, NC code, by automating their processes to save considerable amounts of time,” concludes Michael.