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Optimize the Codes Generated by Mastercam Software

The journey between concept and finished product in CNC machining brings to mind designing through CAD/CAM software for a flawless transition. There is a translation of language, however, that must be translated between the 3D design and simulation on your CAD system, through the CAM software that applies code, and finally to the machine. This communication is key to optimize the CAM software code.


The Communication Stages

  1. Computer-aided drawings (CAD) software builds a 2D or 3D model of a design concept that can be viewed on a computer screen. This stage of production allows visualization of the finished product and provides physical properties that will be used by the CAM software. This allows for multiple views of the part and can have the size or features altered as needed to translate the concept into a realistic model.
  2. Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) takes the physical properties of the part and plots those geometries into code for fabrication. G codes are the language that CNC machines understand. These codes can be manually assigned and should be understood by machinists, but CAM software translates exact points from a CAD design into G code. This plots the tool path to take the raw material to its finished state. It should be noted that the CAM software doesn’t control the CNC machine.
  3. The initial programming of commands for CNC machines used to happen right at the machine. Motors and drives work in unison to execute the line and arc movements one by one. The commands also control spindle and feed speed and coolant. The more axes the more intricate and complicated the commands are to result in a harmonious tool path. Each machine manufacturer will have a unique language to initiate the G codes into action. One more step in the communication process is needed to match the codes of the CAM design to the language of the machine.


Post Processing

A post processor is a piece of software that specifically understands the code, or the language, of your CNC machine, sometimes called NC code. It is a necessary step to translate the CAM codes to the language of the machine. Without a post processor, manual adjustments to G codes may be needed at the machine. This delays production and introduces the opportunity for human error. Modifications made at the machine have not undergone simulation and may reduce efficiency, increase the scrap, or adjust the tool path incorrectly causing part or tool damage.

This software must be configured to the machine to output the appropriate code. This can be a simple process through a computer download or may require some coordination between machine manufacturer and CAM system.


Finding the Right Post Software

The key to finding post processor software is to work with both the CAM software and machine manufacturers. Start with the machine manufacturer’s recommendations because they know their machines best. When purchasing equipment it is important to consider partnerships or experience machine manufacturers may have with CAM software companies.

Some CAM systems come with post processors, and others are an added cost. With either option, it is important to look for an external CNC processor to give you the flexibility to handle many different controllers. Also to be considered in the purchase is the cost of customization. Many generic posts will satisfy the needs in a shop, but some programming may be necessary.

Software may be open or closed. Closed software means only the software supplier can access and change the data. Open software allows resellers, or users with a high level of expertise to detail their own guidelines. A good post will be capable of defining parameters such as work offsets, tool offsets, or other data management unique to your shop. Just like with machine maintenance, a little time spent upfront will reap the rewards to calibrate software and machines to work in harmony. Programmers may not immediately understand the value of optimizing their post-processing software, but the efficiencies of automated systems are quickly lost when manual adjustments are needed.

We work with Mastercam who provides engineers to team up with the CNC software experts and over 100 machine and tool builders to provide the best results for our processing. They have made it easy to optimize the CAM software code for efficient production in all our machines. With strategic partnerships like Mastercam, we are poised to provide you quality parts at competitive pricing.

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