CAM software permits companies to manufacture goods faster, more efficiently, and at a lower cost, by simplifying and streamlining the toolpath generation process.  But, even as CAM packages have continued to evolve over the past 40 years and expand their ability to process higher levels of throughput, they have done little to make more efficient toolpaths.  Hence, a high level of inefficiency exists in conventional toolpath generation, despite the otherwise high-performance levels of modern CAM systems.

“Millions of manufacturers believe that the toolpaths native to their CAM systems are designed for optimal performance,” said Gregory M. Saisselin, vice president of Worldwide Sales for Celertitive Technologies, a developer of toolpath generation software, “but they are not.  Productivity is lost because the toolpaths actually prevent the machine tools from operating at their full capability. In the vast majority of cases, they are running, at best, at 50% percent of their productivity potential.”

Conventional toolpaths force a machine tool to drive a cutting tool along a path that repeatedly varies the material removal rate, with numerous requirements to start and stop, and with sharp directional changes.  Machining loads become extremely high in such instances, yet make up a relatively small percentage of the overall toolpath length. 

But, since milling parameters – such as spindle speed, feed rate, cut depth and cut width – must be set conservatively enough to allow the tool to survive these moments of brief, but intense tool load, it makes these parameters quite inefficient for machining the rest of the part.  This results in unnecessarily long machining times, and significantly reduced productivity potential.

Toolpaths transforming machining productivity — For many manufacturers, using more efficient toolpaths to drive their existing machining equipment has proven to be a much more cost-efficient and workable solution to managing the variables of order size and improving production throughput, compared to investing capital into new machinery and the labor requirements to support it.  Groundbreaking toolpath technology has helped manufacturers reduce costs, produce more parts, and lower project bids, while utilizing their existing equipment and infrastructure.

This machine-efficiency transformation is being played out in thousands of machine shops and manufacturing plants in the United States and worldwide.  Spearheading this change is a science-based toolpath, called VoluMill™, developed by Celeritive Technologies Inc., for high-efficiency, rough-milling operations.

VoluMill is a science-based toolpath technology that equips machine tools and cutting tools to operate at peak performance.  It performs all of the complex calculations required to determine the best cutting strategy for any part.  Its toolpaths drive cutting tools along a path that maintains a consistent tool load and has no sharp corners or sharp directional changes: the resulting toolpath is smooth and flowing with no repeated stopping and starting.  VoluMill keeps a constant step-over whenever possible, resulting in shorter path lengths than other approaches.  This produces even machining loads with uniform chip formation, and excellent heat evacuation.

By avoiding sharp directional changes and controlling the rate of material removal, the toolpath makes it possible for tools to cut faster and deeper, while greatly reducing stress.  The toolpath evens the loads on machine tools and cutting tools, significantly extending tool life.

“This toolpath solution increases the productivity for any two-axis, three-axis or two-plus-three-axis rough-milling application,” Saisselin continued. “It dramatically reduces machine cycle times, enabling the production of more parts per hour.  This means increased profitability and increased asset utilization for the shop.”