Listed below are the previous releases of ALPHACAM, to view what features where introduced in each of the releases click the buttons below.
ALPHACAM 2022 continues its mission to help manufacturers save time and materials, increase accuracy and improve efficiency, with a range of enhancements across the breadth of the product. With improvements to CAD, clamps, automation, machining, nesting, working with solids, and much more, ALPHACAM 2022 sees significant advancements to improve workflows save time and help users go from CAD to machine code even quicker.
With more flexibility when working with arcs and many improvements to the imports for DXF, DWG and SpaceClaim files, getting engineering CAD out to the CNC machine has never been easier than with ALPHACAM 2022.0. ALPHACAM 2022.0 adds layer support for solids, improved DXF and DWG import options, and improved support for leader entities making it easier to work with CAD files. Also, with ALPHACAM 2022.0, when importing SpaceClaim assembly files the original part names from SpaceClaim are retained, making it much easier to identify the parts being worked with.
Further to the clamp inserter improvements from ALPHACAM 2021, support has been added for defining a clamp from multiple solid bodies or even an assembly. A new edit clamps/fixtures button has been added to the clamp inserter project manager page which allows the clamp or fixture to be edited directly on screen. Pop-up clamps now take material thickness into account when clamps pop up and down. These changes to clamps give even more real-world visualization capability inside ALPHACAM 2022.0.
ALPHACAM 2022.0 continues to help users automate more and more daily tasks. Several improvements have been made to the Automation Manager such as the ability to automatically assign fittings based on their workplane or work volume. The folder watcher functionality has been expanded to not only manage the watched folder but also move completed jobs and failed jobs to separate folders so their status can be tracked. Also, with ALPHACAM 2022.0 new options have been added to the Automation Manager for assembly handling that allow end-users to add assembly files to jobs, and individual solid bodies are extracted and added to the job as subcomponents for nesting.
Obviously, the heart of ALPHACAM is its machining capability. ALPHACAM 2022.0 sees improvements to its machining capabilities that will help users perform even more complex operations. A new option allows users to define a 2D/3D drive curve/spline that passes through the center of a part, through axis drive geometry preventing damage to more complex parts. Rough finish now allows geometry order to be maintained, enabling a reduced number of extra rapid distances between toolpaths and, therefore, minimizing cycle times.
A new option to combine open-ended faces has been added to the rough finish solid faces with tool side dialog to control how external corners are managed by not combining open-ended faces. When used, any open-ended faces will be treated as a single face and the tool will not follow around onto adjacent faces. This helps avoid excessive tooling depth which can sometimes be caused when adjacent faces are combined.
ALPHACAM 2022.0 includes numerous enhancements to its industry leading nesting technology, giving more control over how to manage nested parts.
Not all parts in a nest are created equal, and this latest release offers new and enhanced options to control nest settings for specific parts. The new extra part gap feature ensures that proper spacing between specified parts is maintained based on specifications for each part where a gap is required. The new ignore apertures setting allows users to tell the software to ignore any inner full depth toolpaths for specific parts. ALPHACAM 2022.0 also adds a new force strict part priority setting, making sure that parts needed urgently can be placed on available sheets in order of their priority.
In addition to greater part level control, ALPHACAM 2022.0 adds support for nesting vertical blade saw toolpaths. The saw cuts are nested with cuts fully overlapping and cut extensions can even be off the sheet for better material utilization.
Combined with an enhanced progress bar giving more detailed progress notifications, ALPHACAM 2022.0 represents the most advanced and intuitive nesting technology on the market.
Working with Solids
With solid models becoming more and more prevalent, ALPHACAM 2022.0 continues its improvements to make working with them easier. With ALPHACAM 2022.0 the selection of solid model faces has now been enhanced to highlight the face and its edges to show what will be selected.
ALPHACAM'S automatic feature extraction intelligence has been enhanced to include new method options that include the simplified solid body outlines command, perfect for simpler parts with no internal pockets or for parts with a molded outside profile that only requires the extremity profile to be used with a profiled tool. When run in conjunction with the contours feature extraction option, both sets of geometries are created in the assigned layers.
Importing solid model CAD files is now easier than ever with this release. Detailed part information can now be extracted and applied as attributes on the solid, including part property sets from Inventor parts and assemblies, and part level custom data from Solidworks parts and assemblies. DESIGNER users will benefit from VDF file import improvements, including the retention of layer structure, names and colors when inserting into an ALPHACAM job.
…And much more
ALPHACAM 2022.0 sees many other features and enhancements to help improve workflows, including improvements to sawing, simulation, API, user interface, queries, reports, advanced 5-axis machining, and drilling cycles.
The order of layers and machining styles can now be modified. The order defined in the layer mapping setup will be used for applying the toolpaths, and users can now control the order of the toolpaths while defining how the part will be machined. However, the Machining Order option can still be used for ordering operations by tool.
Automation Manager now shows the list of parts that could not be nested, so the operator can either cancel them or process them in a future job. An option to create a new job containing only the parts that could be nested is also available for further automation.
Enhancement to the user interface provide full control on which part properties the operator wants to see. In previous versions, users could only see the part names, and needed to click each part individually for more information. Now they can see key details such as height, quantity, if the part is nested, and any of the part’s properties.
The new Folder Watcher allows jobs to be processed autonomously via Automation Manager. This tool is ideal to use in both a well-established manufacturing process, as well as where orders are created through ERP software or any other system outside ALPHACAM. It watches a folder, and as soon as an order is created, it automatically processes it using Automation Manager without the user having to do anything.
Geometry Node editing has been improved to allow multiple elements to be converted to a single line or arc. Prompts will also appear about node selection when two or more nodes overlap. It’s also possible now, to break and join one or multiple paths without having to leave this command, making it a more complete tool for modifying and fixing 2D geometries.
ALPHACAM’s heavy investment in machining solids directly, without the need to create geometries, has led to a major improvement regarding automation. In the same way that geometries in layers can be machined using Machining Styles, solid model faces can now be added to layers. Machining styles are created from a variety of operations, and users can easily machine solid faces in that layer without having to manually select the faces.
Toolpath Overlapping Optimization
A new option to Optimize Toolpath Overlapping significantly improves material usage in nesting. It allows toolpaths around different parts to overlap, provided the tool doesn’t cause any damage. Additional distances are applied where required to protect the parts, while still allowing the toolpaths to overlap. He says the new option also brings notable nesting improvements when tools with a larger diameter are used inside the part, but a smaller tool is needed to cut the outer shape.The nesting engine uses the outer tool diameter to define the overlap.
Nesting With Geometry - Solids
Another enhancement enables solids to be nested with their geometries. Solids can now be placed in the nested sheet it’s possible to machine the solid after it’s been positioned there. Toolpaths can be applied directly to the solid and solid faces and the user can even carry out another operation to extract geometries from the solids, and then machine those geometries. It means that after nesting, it’s possible to machine geometries and solid features using more than 3-axis.
Using a new project manager page called Clamp Insert, clamps and fixtures can be dragged and dropped into drawings, and then an XY location chosen to insert them. Once they’re in place, ALPHACAM automatically reads the material thickness and places the clamp at the correct Z level. It’s also possible to define if the clamp will be positioned below or if it will be holding down the material, and allows the user to rotate the clamps on insert. This is part of a long-term project making it easier to use clamps in ALPHACAM, and that future releases will extend it to more complex clamps with several movable components, such as rails and pods.
NCSIMUL Essential has been integrated into ALPHACAM, replacing the external simulator in the router and mill modules, giving the ability to simulate 3 to 5 axis toolpaths and machines with movable clamps.
Another new innovation is Casebuilder, which is the result of a partnership with CABINET VISION. It was created specifically for small to medium-sized woodworking companies, and is used for quickly designing cabinets and case goods…and then with the click of a button processes the parts and generates NC code using ALPHACAM.
It as an easy-to-use order entry software tool for manufacturing kitchen and commercial cabinets. With minimal set-up users are quickly designing and sectioning cabinets, and outputting ARD files directly to ALPHACAM, for output to NC routers. Cabinets can be configured individually, including the quantity and position of doors, drawers, shelves and roll-outs, and then the system automatically generates ALPHACAM drawing files for all the components.
Nesting Offcuts - WORKPLAN
Finally, another integration; this one with WORKPLAN and nesting offcuts. ALPHACAM connects directly to a WORKPLAN server and uses the materials in its database, meaning the operator knows the exact amount of material in stock to run a job, as well as making it easier to manage offcuts.Users reserve sheets and define which offcuts will be generated by the job. Confirmation that the job has been processed, is done using WORKPLAN’s windows tablet application. The main material will be deducted from stock, and the offcuts added to the database, where they’ll be available for future jobs.
Multiple Process Jobs | Automation Manager
A new job type has been introduced in ALPHACAM 2020.1. The Multiple Process Jobs functionality makes it simpler to create jobs and orders in Automation Manager, which need to be outputted to more than one machine or require any secondary processing at the same machine.
In the past, users had to create multiple jobs to process complex operations in Automation Manager, but now, a single job can be created, containing all the different machines and manufacturing processes that the part goes through.
An example: machining the top and back of a part. In the latest version of the software, those two processes can easily be worked as a single job. NC code will simply be created for both of them automatically, which is also the case for additional machines and other processes.
This improvement streamlines how complex manufacturing processes are handled in Automation Manager. Once the process is defined, and the Multiple Process Job is created, the operator can easily repeat the same complex job many times for different parts. Also, the user interface will help show exactly which processes and machines the part will go through.
Output File Options | Automation Manager
Several enhancements have been made to Automation Manager’s output file options. Firstly, the new File Name Configuration dialog creates names from job information, job files, or any custom text.
Secondly, a number of improvements to Report Creation include the ability to generate up to four different layouts, which can also be printed. All the materials being used can be included in one report; and a report can be produced for each material and each nested sheet.
This fine-tune control means users can tailor Automation Manager output entirely to their specific requirements.
Rough/Finish Of Solid Faces With Tool Side
The Rough/Finish of solid faces with Tool Side function now supports cylindrical faces to be machined. Planar and cylindrical faces can be combined in a single selection. For solid faces that are perpendicular or undercuts, an active work plane can be used to define the preferred approach angle (scanning direction).
In the previous release we introduced the ability to machine solid faces directly for rough/finish and sawing. This has now been enhanced to allow simple planar faces to be machined without creating new geometry.
Cylindrical And Planar Faces Selection
Cylindrical faces as well as planar faces can now be selected, and ALPHACAM automatically finds the best angle for machining them. This calculation is carried out while keeping a fixed angle for the tool in a work plane, guaranteeing that most controllers will be able to support compensation (G41/G42), and Lead-In/Out generated by ALPHACAM.
Before this improvement, users had to carry out several steps to machine a selection of faces using the tool side. Now, instead of creating workplanes and extracting geometries, they simply select the faces for machining, and ALPHACAM calculates the required tool angle and workplane to machine a selection of faces. This is a real time saver.
Waterjet Cutting And Sawing Surfaces And Solids | Stone
Stone companies will find specific improvements for waterjet cutting, and for sawing surfaces and solids. ALPHACAM 2020.1 includes a waterjet tool as well as new machining cycles. Users can now create waterjet tools and specify parameters specific to waterjet cutting. Abrasive Flow Rates can be defined in the new tool type, as well as how far the nozzle should be from the top of the material.
In addition to the existing machining cycles, the latest release introduces three waterjet operations which can follow a profile, clear areas, or cut and pierce holes, in both 3- and 5-axis machining. A simulation can be run, to check for possible collisions between the nozzle and material.
The software has been successfully driving waterjet and saw + waterjet machine tools for many years. But this new waterjet tool and cycles provide a consistent and highly professional way of calculating toolpaths.
Boundaries With Disc/Saw Cutting
The new release now defines boundaries when cutting surfaces and solids with a disc/saw. Users define multiple boundaries, and ALPHACAM will avoid machining those areas. This gives much better control, making it possible to avoid areas which should be machined in another step, and even avoid other machine components.
One of the major highlights of the 2020.0 release of ALPHACAM are enhancements to the Post-processor engine, delivering what is described as best-in-class cutting edge technology.
Post-Processor Driven Simulation
ALPHACAM delivers on top-level functionality and flexibility. Post-driven Simulations are simply head-and-shoulders above any other Simulation system.
The enhancements mean the post-processor engine directly configures and deploys a simulation session, resulting in more realistic motion, as well as the ability to support cycles such as M6, and additional hardware that has previously been underutilized or ignored. This new functionality is truly an Industry-first and will surely to become a new standard.
Automation Manager Wizards
Automation Manager now goes beyond automating your process by providing a guided and intuitive interface which allows you to get to work in the shortest time possible.
The Automation suite has been enhanced, improving the user’s experience and productivity when creating and deploying job configurations. Whether setting up a first automation job, or whether the user is involved in complex and dynamic environments, the new Setup Wizards will make short work of daily production tasks.
Direct Machine Solid Faces
ALPHACAM allows you to interact with your solids beyond feature recognition by efficiently machining a solid face directly and with total granularity of control.
ALPHACAM sets a new standard by allowing direct interaction. Previously, we enhanced our solids interaction by allowing users to saw a solid face directly. The Rough/Finish command (profiling) now allows the user to directly select and machine a solid face. And if your machine supports tool compensation on custom orientations (planes), this option provides the ability to create precision parts with minimal effort, via the use of G41/G42.
Advanced 5-Axis functionality has been updated to include numerous improvements.
Two new key features include the ability to integrate the Toolpath Optimiser into a core cycle which can then be stored in a machining style and deployed with Automation; and the Advanced 5-Axis functionality has been updated to include Barrel Mill and Double Profile Tools. Improvements in SWARF machining, multi-axis roughing and toolpath smoothing are also included in ALPHACAM 2020.0.
Intelligent Offset Command
The geometry offset command is now intelligent and dynamic, making all operations more productive, whether the user wants to simply retain attributes and information on the geometry, or to completely re-assign machining cycle parameters to a newly created offset.
This new feature delivers an intuitive and simple way of changing toolpaths for everything from simple tasks such as passing associative/dynamic profile machining data, to complex ones including re-assigning a boundary to a 3D surfacing method.
Nested Part Order
ALPHACAM allows you to re-define the order and sequence of paths in a nested sheet with incredible flexibility. Even in complex parts with multiple operations.
Improvements In Saw Cycle
While ALPHACAM has always enjoyed a superior sawing command, we have now increased the flexibility and functionality for real-world conditions, providing you with unprecedented control over the Sawing Cycle.
Improvements In Parametric Rules
ALPHACAM now delivers best-in-class functionality for managing complex situations in parametric environments. Create simple rules which may impact a multitude of layers or parameters in one compact conditional statement.
ALPHACAM 2019 R1
New Nesting Interface
Users of ALPHACAM 2019 R1 will find that a completely redesigned and compact nesting interface provides a streamlined way to quickly create and deploy nest projects, giving greater flexibility and productivity.
Drag-and-drop support for manually nested parts means it is easier for programmers to begin the process of manual nesting.
Another process which reduces the number of steps, is the ability to automatically align a part to a neighbouring angled part on the nest. Parts are matched in this way by simply selecting which elements must be aligned.
An update to the Automation Manager does away with the need to create a CSV file when producing assemblies, which he says is a major plus for any manufacturer. “Given a part thickness, the Auto Associate Material function automatically assigns a material from the database. It compares the thickness, solid or otherwize, and selects an appropriate material within a set tolerance.
When importing CSV files for sub-components, the main parametric job can now pass detailed information to sub-components in an assembly. This means complex and parametric objects can now be fully controlled with complete selection of parameters, static and dynamic hardware, fittings and other data.
Automation jobs now benefit from the new Tool Ordering utility. “This allows the user to completely re-assign the tool sequence in job, giving freedom of execution, optimization and better control.
When importing a part to a job in Automation Manager, the system interrogates the geometries – including solid – to find the part sizes (X, Y, Z), which can then be used throughout the interface, leading to greater clarity, better reporting, and enhanced automation.
Reporting is enhanced with the ability to query and display additional part information. This is managed by interrogating the incoming CAD file to determine parameters such as the X, Y and Z dimensions.
3D Machining Enhancements
Moving on to two enhancements for 3D Machining – firstly, a much-improved Automatic Collision Detection algorithm avoids gouging non-machined faces and surfaces in the Select Solid Faces function. It also allows for full control over which faces should stay untouched. This intelligent algorithm can even automatically create 2D boundaries for the end user. Overall, this enhancement improves machining functionality and gives greater productivity through intelligent boundary creation.
Secondly, Cylindrical-Parallel Machining has been improved to the extent that optimized toolpaths can now be created for parts under conditions which were previously impossible. This update greatly enhances functionality in previous releases, by including complex geometries, opening new possibilities for 4-axis machining.
Sawing Module Enhanced Interface
Enhancing the interface in the Sawing module now allows users to efficiently select solid faces for sawing, from a solid model. Applying a sawing strategy directly to a solid face considerably improves productivity, with greater reliability.
Parametric Rules now have a new ‘Else’ condition, which provides a complete ‘If…Then…Else’ structure. It means complex rules can be synthesized into significantly shorter statements, providing four major benefits: ease of use, ease of maintenance, reliability and productivity.
3D WORKPLANes Edition
A new, dedicated option when editing 3D workplanes considerably reduces the risk of mistakes. Users simply change all the properties of a plane with a single click, which improves productivity, and, as no toolpaths have been modified, there is no need for associativity to change.
Custom Line Width in Line Properties
Changes to the Custom Line Width in Line Properties provides greater functionality for the presentation of drawings and prints. With Custom Line Widths now possible through the main interface and API, it allows the user to set true custom line widths both by layer and at the individual geometry level.
The ability to provide universal control over the stock in an Auto-Z operation means the user can set the reference level on a geometry to the top or bottom, truly allowing for complex environment and application, which delivers industry-leading automation capabilities.
Two enhancements to the User Interface: the first allows a selection window to be created, selecting anything it touches or includes; and users can now resize the preview window in their NC code, to fully show the posted code, regardless of how long or complex it is.
ALPHACAM 2018 R2
New Nesting Engine
Tests on the new nesting engine unveiled in ALPHACAM 2018 R2 show a 17 per cent improvement in material yield.
Toolpath optimization and part handling, the nesting engine also provides faster calculation times, along with improved feedback and graphics.
Parametric Rules have now been migrated to C# and have an enhanced GUI and functionality, allowing for greater control, improved UX and simpler, more streamlined, logic statements, which he says has improved productivity and reliability.
Face Milling Cycle
The Face Milling Cycle has been enhanced, and is now part of ALPHACAM’s Core Functionality, creating intelligent toolpaths, allowing user to face (surface) mill irregular and multiple geometries. This improves productivity, as the user doesn’t need to create several operations to achieve the same result.
Intersecting Geometry Function
Productivity has also been improved through the new Order by Intersecting Geometry function which saves significant time when ordering the sequence of a complex job. It works by letting the user select a previously created geometry to define the order of geometries or toolpaths, based on those which intersect the selected geometry first.
The Parametric Sketcher is now considerably more powerful, thanks to an updated UI, meaning the window can be resized. This provides greater visibility over the Parameters and Actions list, which will be essential for managing complex projects. There are also improvements to the Sketcher’s geometry creation tools, for creating fillets and chamfers as part of the Geometry creation tool set. This improves productivity as it does away with the need to calculate those points.
Dimensioning System Enhancements
Enhancements to ALPHACAM’s dimensioning system provide greater clarity when printing and presenting information. User-defined suffixes for both the primary and alternate units – as well as a scale factor – mean that two separate values can now be displayed.
CAD Models Import
Importing CAD models has been updated through the support of SolidWorks configurations. ALPHACAM now has a new interface for users to select which configuration of an assembly to import, without the need to ascertain that the last version saved in SolidWorks matches the one they want.
ALPHACAM 2018 R1
Automation Manager | Sub-Components
There is now the ability in Automation Manager to have a connection between ‘parent-child’ parts, as job files can now be added to another job file as a sub-component. This enhances the management of parts that should be manufactured in groups.
The sub-components have similar properties to the main components, such as layer mapping, along with material and nesting properties. The sub-components will be loaded automatically with the main ‘parent’ component.
Automation Manager | Drawing And Fittings
Drawings and fittings can now be added to specified datum points. When processing a job the fittings will automatically be inserted at a pre-defined position, and can also be used in parametric drawings. ALPHACAM also contains a small sample library of fitting types.
This new item of functionality allows parametric or constrained parts that require inserted fittings to be easily created.
Automation Manager | Machine Tables Collisions Avoidance
And there is a new option in Automation Manager to avoid machine table collisions, with the ability to check Z levels on toolpaths. The new Tolerance Collision Check can be selected from the Machine Table Collision Method drop-down list, and a Z-level tolerance and material Z0 specified...for example, at the top or bottom of the part. Users will be warned if any toolpaths cutting deeper than the material thickness plus the tolerance are detected.
Automation Manager | Preview Without Processing
Another enhancement to the Automation Manager in ALPHACAM 2018 R1 is being able to preview job files and sub-components without having to process the job, speeding up productivity. And users can also access 13 additional nesting extension options.
Nesting itself has an important new feature allowing the nesting engine to automatically use the best available user-selected sheets. Previously, the sheets would be used in the order picked, and therefore, the nest wasn’t always optimized for best sheet usage. Now, users can select multiple sheets, and the nesting function automatically picks the best combination, which can significantly reduce material usage.
Following customer requests, the TimeStudy function has now been reinstated as a 64-bit Addin, giving users their total machining time in a few seconds without any special settings or configuring reports. TimeStudy is a quick and easy way to report machining time, taking into account the units, Machine Tool Rapid Rate, Tool Change Time, Part Load/Unload Time and efficiency rate. It also displays the time specified to each operation, as well as the total machining time.
New Minimum 3D Bounding Rectangle
A new Geometry option creates the minimum 3D bounding rectangle to enclose solids and surfaces. The box can be aligned using feature extraction settings, and also defined by material. And additional stock can be specified in any of the bounding box faces. The new function means users can easily define the minimum amount of material needed to machine a solid or surface, and define the work volume required.
Cylindrical Parallel Strategy Improvements
The Cylindrical Parallel strategy for 3D machining has been improved to give easier control over the start/end Angles and CW/CCW direction. The start angle can be less or greater than the end angle, and the CW checkbox now dynamically updates the on-screen cutting area, providing graphical feedback on the area to be cut, and the tool’s starting position.
This simplifies toolpath creation by letting the user specify any combination of angles, and gives an appropriate graphical feedback on the machining area.
Lathes | Machine Dialogs Update
Turning dialogs now use the new machining dialogs style. Following the improvement in the milling C-Axis machining dialogs, the turning dialogs have all been updated and modernized, containing images and tooltips, which improve ease of use.
Lathes | New C/L Drilling And Tapping Cycles
The commands have been combined and a new cycle added, for pecking, boring and chamfering. This brings the center line drilling functionality close to matching the C-Y Axis drilling functions, and means all drilling options are available, which, before, could only be used in C-Axis and C/L drilling.
Stone | Guard Visualization Support
Guard visualization has an increased support when creating the disk cutting toolpaths, improving the Geometry Disk Cutting and the Surface Disk Cutting cycles. The Guard can also be visualized when selecting elements in layer mapping, and changing tools during an operation, along with selecting toolpath elements from the layers tab.
This helps users to graphically see the disk guard when creating toolpaths, and how the guard will be orientated during cutting.
Stone | Extra Profile Walls Passes
There is a new option for including extra passes at profile walls, when roughing in the Cut with Disk operation. These extra passes can be set irrespective of the specified width of cut, and ensures excessive stock is removed from the profile walls for finishing.
Users no longer have to create an extra operation or define a small width of cut to remove unwanted stock at the walls.
ALPHACAM 2017 R2
Automation Manager includes enhancements to simplify the workflow, including Multi-drill control, new Styles functionality, and further support for additional CAD file formats.
The introduction of Automation Manager Plus across all levels of ALPHACAM allows advanced automation to support the processing of Constrained Drawings and Parametric Sketches, and Part Grain Direction through sheet Grain Direction and Alignment Vector options. It also includes the Cabinet Door Manufacture (CDM) module.
ALPHACAM 2017 R2 also sees the first release of its integration with robot simulation software, meaning that output toolpaths generated within ALPHACAM can be passed directly to RoboDK’s Offline Programming (OLP) to simulate robot kinematics, along with a range of applications and activities such as robot milling. RoboDK then outputs the OLP to the robot controller.
As part of the Hexagon Customer Experience Improvement Program, ALPHACAM integrates Microsoft Analytics to gather software usage statistics.
Reverse Cut Option
A new Reverse Cut Direction option has been added to Rough/Finish and Stone Cut Shape, creating toolpaths in the opposite direction to the tool direction on the geometry. This is particularly useful when creating multiple passes around a shape which need to go in alternate directions, such as polishing and sanding profiled edges.
Tabbed Style Dialogs
Tabbed style dialogs have been introduced, and all strategies have Extents visualization of the area to be cut with dynamic cut directions and start positions.
Stone | Surfaces & Solids Cutting
For Stone, cutting surfaces and solids with a disk has been made easier, as the user no longer has to create the work plane before starting. The work plane can be created dynamically with on-screen feedback.
Stone | Automatic Detection Of Unsawn Areas
The Stone module now includes support for automatic detection of unsawn areas of the selected parts, and the option to add a Water Jet Cut Path operation, with two new tabs added to the sawing Dialog for the Water Jet Cut Parameters and its Lead In/Out settings.
This is an essential addition to support the many combination Saw and Jet machines in the market.
Sawing has been enhanced by controlling how the foul avoidance is applied. It can be applied to None or All of the selected machining geometries. Alternatively, a separate selection can be made for the avoidance geometries. Foul avoidance geometries appear in a new branch of the Operation tree, where geometries can be added or removed, and the selection remade.
In ALPHACAM’s powerful nesting function, offcuts generated from nested sheets are now written to the new Sheet Database. Sheets may have been created from the database or just-as-drawn in the active drawing. The offcut will be created under the correct sheet, matching the material and thickness, which can be viewed as Attributes on the sheet.
2017 R2 continues ALPHACAM’s theme of improving user experience, by updating many Dialog boxes, including Profiling, 3D Machining, Lathe Turning Cycles and Stone, providing a more intuitive and consistent approach across the modules, to include new Images, Tooltips and Help Links.
Lathe Turning Cycles benefits from these new style dialogs, for Facing, Diameter Roughing, Face Roughing, Contour Roughing and Twin Turret Balance Roughing – again, to include new Images, Tooltips and Help Links.
4K Monitors Support
Support for 4K monitors has been improved with the addition of Scaling Options, to make the icons larger for higher 4K dpi settings – accessed from the Appearance section in the Ribbon Bar Configuration.
Input CAD Extensions
The Input CAD Extensions add-in now supports all imported file types. The dialog will only be displayed if the CAD file imported something that can be processed – for example, at least one instance of geometry, text or spline. Otherwize the dialog won’t be shown.
CAD Format & Geometry
There is also a new tool which is useful for tidying up imported geometry from CAD formats such as DXF and DWG, where the designer may have created several overlaying entities which are used in design, but are not required for manufacturing via CNC. This is the Common Line Removal option which has been added to the dialog, enabling it to run automatically on CAD import. It will be particularly valuable when batch processing CAD data through Automation Manager.
ALPHACAM 2017 R1
Work Planes | User Interface
The Work Planes Project Manager Page includes a new command button in the local toolbar called “Work Plane Properties”.
This displays a window with a grid containing details of the work planes in the active drawing, including the name and offset number.
The names and offset numbers can be edited in this grid.
Project Manager | User Interface
It is now possible to rename the move clamp/fixture operation in the Quick Edit window. The new name will be displayed in the tree in the Operations Project Manager page and NC output.
Drawing Notes | User Interface
New Option – Open with Drawing if note exists. When enabled, this Add-ins Dialog will only be displayed if the opened drawing file already contains some Notes.
Area Estimate | Nested Sheet | User InterfaceArea Estimate of Nested sheets now takes drill Holes into account when calculating the percentage scrap area.
Cylindrical Parallel | Width of Cut | Machining
The option to set the width of cut as a distance has been added.
Clicking the pick button in the Cylindrical Parallel dialog displays the Calculate Width of Cut dialog, enabling you to enter a value or pick a point in the active drawing. The width of cut is entered as a distance.
When this dialog is closed, the width of cut is calculated in degrees and entered into the Degrees field.
Cylindrical Parallel | Dynamic Preview | Machining
When editing settings in the Machining Data tab of the Cylindrical Parallel dialog, the Drawing Area will update with a preview of the tool and holder, if applicable.
The machining area is indicated by a transparent shaded area around the part that is automatically updated when settings are changed in the dialog. This allows you to visualize the effect that a change has on the operation.
Machining Dialogs | Machining
As part of the next phase in the development of machining dialogs, the new 3D Machining command has been developed.
The command displays a launch dialog from which the strategy can be selected and miscellaneous settings applied.
Dialogs for each strategy have been enhanced to include tabs, images, tooltips and help file links.
The following strategies are available in the 3D Machining command:
- Along Intersection.
- Constant Cusp.
- Cylindrical Parallel.
- Cylindrical Profiling.
- Drive Curves.
- Z Contour Roughing.
Sawing | Improved Foul Avoidance | Machining
When using a saw to cut parts, the risk of fouling other parts is increased due to the size of the blade.
Sawing operations will now check for fouling against all geometries selected for the same operation. Toolpaths will be trimmed, if necessary.
Sawing | Saw Cut New Command | Machining
New Options for extending saw paths by Distance, to Boundary or Pick Point, with Reversing options.
This can be very useful in Stone where the saw cuts can be extended to be just outside the sheet in order to prevent plunging of the saw.
Drill/Tap Holes Auto Z | Machining
Additional depth control settings have been added to the Levels and Cycle Data tab of the Drill/Tap Holes (Auto Z) dialog. These allow for the tip angle of the tool and the cone angle of the hole, therefore reducing the risk of the tool colliding with the solid.
The settings are available with the Drilling Pecking and Boring cycles.
Width of Cut as % of Diameter | Machining
A new option has been added to the Width of Cut as % of Diameter section called Residual Contour Pocket.
This allows you to have different settings for the main and secondary pocketing tools width of cut when the Take account of Previous Machining option is checked in the Pocketing dialogs.
Input CAD | Solid Model Assemblies | Machining
The Input Cad Dialog now has a new "Assemblies" tab containing options to save and align every Solid Body to individual part files with configurable Save Location and Naming Conventions.
Input CAD | Importer Scale Option | Machining
Due to the importer working in some arbitrary units, a scale was added on import option for mm/Inch when reading in postscript, AI and PDF files.
SOLIDWORKS | Machining
In previous releases of ALPHACAM, it was necessary to use the CADLinks add-in to export assemblies from SOLIDWORKS. This add-in created an XML file and a Parasolid transmit file which ALPHACAM would look for when importing the SOLIDWORKS assembly file (.SLDASM).
In 2017 R1, ALPHACAM can load SOLIDWORKS assemblies directly without the need to use the CADLinks add-in. It is critical that all of the files (sub-assemblies and part files) referenced by the assembly are accessible (usually, they need to be in the same folder as the .SLDASM file).
Solid Edge | Machining
Native Solid Edge Assembly support is not possible at this time but we have improved the way that the CADLinks add-in for Solid Edge interacts with ALPHACAM.
If you have both Solid Edge and ALPHACAM installed on the same PC, you can install the CADLinks add-in for Solid Edge and then use the CADLinks button to export assemblies directly into ALPHACAM.
Lathe Threading | Lathe
A new field has been added to the Threading dialog called Rapid Distance above Part. This enables you to set the distance from the part to which the tool will retract between each cut.
Auto-Update Milling Material | Lathe
A new checkbox called Associate for auto-update has been added to the Material dialog. When this option is checked, the material will be automatically updated based on previous milling operations.
This can be used as the stock material for a 3D Z Contour Roughing operation.
Cut Shape | Stone
A new option has been added to the General tab called Auto Break-out cut (Open paths only). A configurable partial cut, in the reverse direction, can be created at the end of an open profile.
This avoids exiting the material with a full width of cut, which could cause damage to brittle materials.
Cut Holes Auto Z | Stone
Dialogs for the Cut Holes and Cut Holes Auto Z commands have been updated to the tabbed style.
New options have also been added. It is now possible to eject a slug of material from a tool
The feedrate of the tool can now be reduced by a specified amount when it approaches the bottom of the hole.
New parameters have been added for break through and slug eject. New attributes have been added to assist with post processor creation:
Cut with Disk | Stone
Dialogs for the Cut with Disk command have been updated to the tabbed style.
Geometry to machine and the profile along which machining will occur are now selected from the dialog using pick buttons. It is now possible to select a profile from either the Drawing Area or a separate drawing file. Commonly used side profiles can be drawn and stored in a library folder, saving time.
Loaded profiles are placed onto a work plane automatically. The position of the work plane and profile can be defined. The direction of the geometry and / or profile can be reversed and the tool side can be changed as part of the operation.
The dynamic preview is available for this command. When editing settings in the General and Levels and Cuts tabs of the dialog, the Drawing Area will update with a preview of the side profile, displayed as a rendered surface around the geometry. The tool and holder will be displayed, if applicable.
Rough or Finish | Router
A new option has been added to the General tab called Auto Break-out cut (Open paths only). A configurable partial cut, in the reverse direction, can be created at the end of an open profile.
This avoids exiting the material with a full width of cut, which could cause damage to grained timber components due to the grain and cut directions.
5 Axis Toolpaths Transfer | Simulator
The transfer of 5-axis toolpaths between ALPHACAM and the external Simulator has been optimized. Complex operations that contain toolpaths comprising thousands of individual elements will be faster.
Machine Configuration | Simulator
Simulation was restricted to having to have one Head rotation about Z. We now support XY on Head or Table in all simulations.
Feature Extraction | Automation Manager
A new checkbox called Extract Solid Body Outline has been added to the Feature Extraction Contour Settings section of the Layer Mapping Setup tab.This enables you to extract the solid body outline of the part.
"From Job" Option | Automation Manager
For non-nested job files, the option “From Job” is now available in the Machining Order drop-down menu in the Processing tab.
Layer Mapping Setups Tree | Automation Manager
It is now possible to copy and paste styles in the layer mapping setups tree by right-clicking and selecting Copy or Paste on the menu.
Settings are retained when copying, enhancing efficiency by removing the need to re-apply settings each time a style is applied to a layer. It is also possible to copy and paste a complete setup, if required.
Sheet Database | Automation Manager
ALPHACAM 2017 R1 includes an internal update to the database engine, meaning that the Sheet Database and Automation Manager databases will no longer be compatible with their previous versions.
Sheet Database and Automation Manager will be upgraded automatically after running them for the first time in ALPHACAM 2017 R1. An information message will be displayed informing you of the upgrade.
Previous versions of Sheet Database and Automation Manager will work normally, however, after upgrading any changes made in the old version will not be reflected in new versions and vice-versa.
Parametric Sketcher | Geometry
The Create Panel command dialog has a new checkbox called "Create as a Work Volume" that enables you to create a panel as a work volume in the Drawing Area.
This is useful with many post processors that require the work volume dimensions for the NC controller.
Program Stops | Simulation
If program stops are included in the operation, they will now be recognized by the internal simulation and external simulator.
For the external simulator, program stops will be recognized in the same way if "Stop at Program Stop" is checked in the Stop Options drop-down menu on the main toolbar.
Clamp Moves Speed Control | SimulationFor Shaded Simulation (not Solid), by default, the speed of clamp moves is controlled by the rapid speed read from the Post ($900). The new Feed Rate option added to the Define Clamp dialog box can be used to override this behaviour.
ALPHACAM 2016 R2
A number of new and enhanced items in the latest release of ALPHACAM software provide improvements with automation, machining and feature extraction. ALPHACAM 2016 R2 also contains a range of general improvements, along with new user interface commands for faster and simpler ways of working.
ALPHACAM ClipboardALPHACAM Clipboard enables entities to be cut, copied and pasted in the Drawing Area between different versions of the software open on the same PC. An additional option has been added for pre-drilled holes as the entry type on waveform roughing operations.
Work PlanesA new method has been added for extracting contours in work planes – by selecting faces to create the work plane for the extraction direction. “This improved feature extraction on user-selected multiple angled faces, is a real time-saver,” says EMEA Sales Manager Michael Pettit. “Feature Extraction has also been enhanced using an updated algorithm for finding contours.”
Some machining dialogs now have a new tab containing specific options for either 2D or 3D lead-in and lead-out paths, and there is also an option to save and open user-configured lead settings in addition to the defaults. “It’s now possible to copy all settings both ways between the lead-in and lead-out section.”
Tool Angle Direction Entry
A new option achieves tool angle direction entry into a part when machining features such as grooves and slots. Selecting Sloping / Ramp Angle in the Lead-In/Out dialogs accesses this new function. “When this checkbox is ticked it can be set to the same angle as the tool in the aggregate holder.” And there are changes to the separate, standalone, dialogs used for editing the leads of existing operations. Both the 2D and 3D versions of these dialogs – which are accessed by right clicking in the Project Manager – now have an apply button, for previewing leads before accepting changes.
The Project Manager’s Insert page now contains commands for automatically inserting files in user-configured positions when they’re dragged into the Drawing Area. And additional dialogs create ‘new’ and ‘edit existing’ configurations can be selected from either the screen or user layers, specifying one or more snap points.
Surface Machining Pattern
A new surface machining pattern has been added to the advanced 5-axis cycle. Flowline creates a toolpath aligned to either the U or V direction of the machining surface. “The user can determine the toolpath’s style, choosing the direction of the surface parameter lines. As only a single face is required, calculation is extremely fast.” A typical application for Flowline is where a specific surface texture, or grain, is required.
5 axis Progress Bar
Still with 5-axis, the progress bar showing machining has been improved to give more feedback during complex toolpath calculations.
A number of updates to ALPHACAM’s powerful Automation Manager include changes to Job Settings, Machining Order, Layer Mapping, and added support for nesting small parts into defined zones.
Job Settings: When adding new files to a job, Automation Manager sets parameters for Layer Mapping Setup, Material and Machining Order to ‘From Job’ by default. They can be overwritten if necessary, for a particular file.
Machining Order: The new Machining Order tab replaces the former Tool Ordering tab, defining the order of machining operations. The order lists are associated with layer mapping setups and machining styles...and multiple machining lists can be configured.
Layer Mapping: A New Drawing Layer command button has been added to the ribbon bar in the Layer Mapping Setup tab enabling users to create layers manually, and add layer names without having to import them from a drawing.
DXF/DWG Import Support For Z Levels From Parallel Planes: The Layer Mapping Setup tab has a new import option for DXF, DWG and ALPHACAM drawings and functions, meaning that parts which would have had work planes are simplified to Auto Z, and can be nested correctly.
Added Support For Nesting Small Parts Into Defined Zones: After drawing a sheet and adding it to the sheet database, parts can be defined as small parts for nesting zones by using the new Small Nested Part option in the Processing tab.
GeometryAmong many changes to how ALPHACAM 2016 R2 handles geometry, new ribbon bar command buttons have been added to the Parametric Sketcher dialog, enabling users to associate an image with Parametric Sketches (.aeps) and Variables (.aepsvars). The associated images will be displayed in the Project Manager’s Insert page. Another benefit is that the dialog displayed when using the Run Parametric Sketch command is resizeable, and a toggle button switches between the associated image and preview.
Enhancements have been made to the Cut Spline/Polyline command for the machining of sharp internal and external corners. A new option within the Panelling command function now automatically closes geometries in each panel by creating geometry elements along the panel edges.
Processing time is reduced when creating a simplified version of a detailed model where roughing paths do not require a high level of detail. Using the 3D / STL Utilities / Simplify command, the number of facets in a model can be reduced as a percentage of facets in the original. “This simplified STL model either replaces the original, or is created in addition to it.”
ALPHACAM 2016 R1
A number of new and enhanced items in the latest release of ALPHACAM software focus on automation, reducing users’ CAD/CAM time.
Automation ManagerThe 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.
“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.”
Parametric SketcherParametric Sketcher provides a simple way of parametrically generating geometries for files that are used regularly, without the need for complicated constraints or routines. “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.
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.
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 optimizes time on the CNC machine by automatically updating stock, ensuring that subsequent toolpaths are only relevant to the residual material."
Enhanced Sawing Options
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.”
Roll-Split Nesting function
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.”
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.
GUI Development & Other enhancements
ALPHACAM continues to develop its GUI with 2016 R1. “There’ve 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 dialog.”
As well the major updates, there are a number of minor enhancements, including further improvements to ALPHACAM’s advanced 5-axis toolpath creation; one of which is to Machining Styles, which now remembers the selection criteria without showing the dialog 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.”
ALPHACAM 2015 R2
ALPHACAM 2015 R2 is 64-bit compatible, meaning its programs can utilize all the available memory. “With 32-bit computers only able to work with 2GB, irrespective of how much memory is onboard, some large files are extremely difficult to work with,” says ALPHACAM Technical Manager Paul Green. “We gave a high priority to this development, as it means end users can now process large files without any issues arising.”
Amongst the full array of new and enhanced functionality in ALPHACAM 2015 R2:
New GUI Customisable Radial MenuThe GUI includes a new fully customisable radial menu. “It means users can set up as few or as many commands as they need.”
Advanced 5-Axis Machining EnhancementsFor Advanced 5-Axis Machining, while the previous release of ALPHACAM introduced surface machining, considerable enhancements in 2015 R2 give many more advanced options, including wire frame machining for effective trimming, and multi-axis roughing which allows roughing to the actual contour, removing any unnecessary fresh-air machining. Side Wall Axial Relief Feed (SWARF) machining reduces 5-axis cycle times and gives a better surface finish through effective side-of-tool machining. The strategy is to finish the part in one cut, through constant cutting conditions giving increased material removal and a constant low cutting force, along with simultaneous 5-axis vector orientation providing full access to machining areas.
Enhanced Feature Extraction
Enhanced Feature Extraction makes it easier to find features on orthogonal panel faces. “There is now the option of finding holes and contours on any panel face at the same time, speeding up panel processing.”
Another major aspect of new functionality has been added to Part Management, with full associativity between a part and its copy. Whenever an original part is amended on ALPHACAM 2015 R2, there is the option to automatically update the copy.
Improved Visual Render
Improved on-screen realism is achieved through Rendered Z-Level Geometries and Material Textures. “By rendering Z-level parts we’re making them visually clearer to the user,” says Paul Green. “And users can now apply any texture, whether it be metal, wood, granite, plastic or composite, so that it looks on-screen how it will look on the machine. Rendered clamps and fixtures can also be shown on a full machine configuration.”
Rough Finish Cycle
A command in the Rough Finish cycle – Previous Tool Profile – automatically uses the profile of the previous tool to generate the new tool path to machine corners where form and shaped tools have left material there.
A new function in Nesting now identifies parts by name, rather than number as in previous releases. “As well as the part names showing in the nest on-screen, they also appear in reports. It helps to make in formation more relevant – users can see at a glance which part is on a nested sheet.”
Solidworks Assembly Support considerably speeds up processing. While ALPHACAM has been able to import Solidworks files of individual parts for many years, one click now brings in a full assembly file containing all the parts.
Subtle changes to Part Modeler give higher quality image previews, along with commands for part manipulation including rotation around a specific point or axes, and zoom to a cursor.
ALPHACAM 2015 R1
The inclusion of a host of new and enhanced functionality in ALPHACAM 2015 R1 from Hexagon ensures manufacturers can compete in a global economy.
The latest release is the largest ever delivered by the ALPHACAM development team and a release they are very proud of. The focus has been on helping manufacturers drive down costs, by speeding up their design and production processes, improving efficiency, productivity and profitability.
New advanced 5-axis machining module
A new advanced 5-axis machining module is introduced in ALPHACAM 2015 R1, which includes a comprehensive set of strategies with advanced tool axis control and intelligent collision avoidance, to quickly and accurately machine surface and solid models.
The incorporation of the Moduleworks technology shows ALPHACAM's commitment to the complex Advanced 5 axis market. The new toolpaths can also be analysed against the machine tool constraints using ALPHACAM’s 5-axis independent toolpath optimiser.
New ribbon bar interface
He says, a new ribbon bar interface brings ALPHACAM 2015 R1 right up to date as far as interface technology exists, the new interface enables users to quickly find the commands they need, as they are arranged in logical groups, assembled together under tabs.
Each tab relates to a type of activity, such as creating geometry, or machining. Clear icons and text labels ensure that commands are easily recognisable and accessible.
Quick Access Toolbar
The Quick Access Toolbar can be displayed above or below the ribbon bar and includes the most commonly used commands, such as Open and Save. Users can customize the ribbon bar by adding their own favourites. 50 new icons have been integrated in ALPHACAM. All modules, including Alphaedit, have the new ribbon GUI.
aggregate tool holders
Also new in 2015 R1 is aggregate tool holders enabling users to define them with geometry extrusions and rotations, STL and solid CAD models. Users can now create a library of toolholders. These toolholders, or aggregates, can either be extruded, evolved geometry or solids. Common applications of aggregates are horizontal routing and drilling. C-axis aggregates are also supported in ALPHACAM simulation.
Project Manager updates
Significant updates to the Project Manager give it a more contemporary look, including specific icons for each Operation type. And the new look File menu now includes a Recent Files page listing ALPHACAM and CAD parts files, displaying a preview image and their properties.
Multi drill heads graphical support
Multi drill heads now have graphical support – as with the aggregates, they can be defined using geometry extrusions and rotations, STL and solid CAD models. Tools are loaded and selected in Project Manager and fully simulated.
Using the View Comparison function compares the part with the machining operations meaning manufacturers can see whether there is any stock left, and allows them to select an alternative or extra machining operation.
Google Sketchup import
Finally, the ability to import files from Google Sketchup adds to the extensive list of third-party file formats which ALPHACAM supports.
ALPHACAM 2014 R2 - Key Features
New intuitive graphical user interface for Automatic Feature Extraction. The use of tabs, descriptive images for each and every command and explanatory tool-tips greatly improve navigation through and use of the commands.
Enhancements to Feature include improve partial hole extraction, new developed diameter extraction for lathe and support for the F4 ‘Close & Finish’ key when 2D and 3D edge extracting.
5-Axis Toolpath Optimiser
The new 5-Axis Optimiser improves 4 & 5-Axis simultaneous toolpaths. Calculating the shortest rotary axis moves eliminates rollover wherever possible resulting in improved simulation, toolpath accuracy and part surface finish. Retraction from the part when rotary axis limits are reached is now automatic. Another benefit of this command is the simplification of 5-Axis Post Processor creation.
Clamps and Fixtures
Major improvements to moving Clamps & Fixtures. Clamps can now be constrained by a single geometry ensuring interference checking is undertaken at the optimum position on the clamp. Material to check against can be of any shape and clamps can now pop up and down to represent releasing and gripping of the material.
New No Nest Zones allow users to identify bad (damaged) areas of single or multiple sheets which are then avoided when nesting. Apertures within parts can also now be avoided to stop small parts within them moving, for example. New Kit function allows parts to be grouped together to aid their retrieval after nesting and part identification on the sheet.
ALPHACAM 2014 R1
Solid Lathe Tools and Turrets
Multi - Processing of 3D Machining Operations
Improved Tool Selection Dialog
ALPHACAM Latest Release - 2013 R2
This page contains a general overview of the new features within ALPHACAM 2013 R2. Please see the ALPHACAM 2013 R2 Release Notes for additional, important information, including an extensive listing of all new product features, enhancements, changes, fixes as well as post processor and API enhancements.
Windows 8 Support
New Solid Simulator
- Machine Configuration components
- Milling/routing operations
- 3 axis machining
- 4/5 axis positioning
- 4/5 axis simultaneous
- Nutated head/table combinations
- Additional XY part rotation combinations
New NC Output Manager Add-In
- Output via single or multiple preset configurations
- File location
- File type
- Post processor
- Output of specific operation setups to separate NC files
- NC Output Manager
- Raster to Vector
- Split Nest
BTL Translator - Additional Process Report
- Birds Mouth
- Ridge or Valley Cut
- Lap Joint
- Free Contour
Cabinet Door Panelling (CDM) Enhancements
- New Handle Drilling functionality
- Nesting Zones support
- Performance improvements with large databases
Part Modeler Enhancements
All Part Modeler CAD Loaders are now included in the Part Modeler license.
- NX, ACIS, Inventor, CATIA V5, Creo Parametric
- Move pockets and bosses around the model. They can either be moved from the original CAD datum position or relative to a user defined position using the Translation and Rotation options.
- Modify areas of features, for example, pocket walls and boss heights, on an imported 3rd party model. Individual faces can be moved using Translation and Rotation in X, Y or Z or a combination of these.
- These enhancements will greatly improve preparation for manufacture when working with 3rd party models.
- Copy (New) - Copies the entities and keeps the original entities. Note: All associated features such as thread data and surface finish will be copied. If the original entities are edited, the copied (mirrored) entities will not be updated.
- Move (New) - Moves the entities about a defined mirror plane.
- Reference - Copies the entities and keeps the original entities. Note: If the original entities are edited, the copied (mirrored) entities will be updated. Any associated features such as thread data will not be transferred
- When a profile to be extruded or swept includes gaps and/or overlaps it can be analysed to identify them.
- The Analyse Profile dialog has been enhanced to improve the feedback and make it easier to identify the issues.
- Cylindrical Profiling machining method has been migrated down from the Ultimate level modules into the Advanced level modules
- New Program Stop command
- New Find Operation Text command
- Automatic Support Tag improvements
- Oscillation improvements
- Reports improvements
- Waves add-in - new option to automatically link/blend XY wave lines
- Split Nest add-in - Save Sheets to Drawings command now supports sheets created by the Paneling command
- Many API enhancements
- Much more...
New Reporting Application
The new ALPHACAM Reports functionality allows for design and creation of robust documentation such as nested job reports, setup sheets, tool listings, and part labels. Reports can be designed by the user for the user, including company logo, barcode labels, etc.
Being able to create user configurable reports and labels improves both part and program traceability.
Tool Path Oscillation
Automatic Support Tags
Support tags can be added automatically to any contour tool path (including 5-axis), allowing the part to stay attached to the material being machined.
This overcomes the issue of small parts moving during the nesting process, reducing material wastage and improving part quality.
Applied tags can be edited easily and included as part of a machining style.
Small parts can now be identified and nested into specific areas of a sheet. This means that small parts can be restricted to the area of maximum hold down (e.g., the center of a vacuum clamped sheet) and therefore have the least chance of moving during machining.
This contributes to cutting material wastage and improving the quality of the part.
Combined Pocketing and Finishing
Pocket area clearance and finish contour machining can now be combined into a single machining operation. This improves the quality of the part and reduces programming time.
In addition, while this produces a single operation, the pocketing properties and/or the finishing properties can be easily edited independently.
A new Paneling command allows for large geometries to be broken into sectioned pieces and automatically placed within separate panels (sheets).
The resulting panels are automatically gapped apart, similar to nested sheets, and moved away from the original geometries for easy identification and access.
Opened geometries are automatically closed along the panel edges, allowing for easy machining.
- A new Chamfering cycle has been added. This new cycle supports drill type and flat type tools defined with taper angles automatically calculates the required machining depth from a given chamfer depth.
All selected holes, including Auto Z support, will be analyzed to ensure the tool can enter the hole where there is a flat on the bottom of the tool, and that the tool diameter is sufficient to complete the full depth of chamfer.
- Many new options have been added to the existing Drilling, Pecking, Tapping and Boring cycles.
- The All cycles can now be output as Local Linear as well as the existing Global Linear.
This output produces 3+2 type NC code with work plane support, versus full 5-axis code with tool vectors that is produced by Global Linear. This provides better support for indexing type machines and machines that utilize plane rotation functionality.
Part Modeler Enhancements
- New Window Selection Introduced for Remove Face Procedures.
- Allows multiple faces of a feature to be selected easily to allow removal of the "dumb" feature.
- Allows faces that are FULLY within a window selection to be selected (Left to Right window selection).
- Allows faces that are PARTIALLY within the window selection to be selected (Right to Left window selection).
- Various enhancements have been made to the Drawing Application within Part Modeler.
- The introduction of "Force Aligned Parallel" dimension button, found on the "Modifier" Toolbar.
- The introduction of the "Construction" line button, found on the "Locate" Toolbar. This button is also available in the Model application.
- Active Component indicated in Model Window.
- When two or more components are present in the model space, the active (selected) component is now indicated in the Model Window by a red tick
- Simplified product installation
Many CLS licensing enhancements
Can now import Hexagon’s VISI part files
SolidWorks 2013 part file support
New Material Selection options in Z Contour Roughing
Open elements (Machine ► Set/Unset Open Elements) is now available in the Standard levels
Tool Axis Conversion enhancements
Many API enhancements
New Waveform 3D Roughing Machining StrategyThis new roughing strategy is a high speed machining technique that maintains a constant tool cutting load by ensuring the tool engagement into the material is consistent. The tool path moves in a smooth path to avoid sharp changes in direction which maintains the machine tool’s velocity and can dramatically decrease the machining cycle time.
This strategy is superior to the traditional Roughing cycle where machinable geometry features are offset (inward or outward) by a stepover. TRADITIONAL tool paths have to run slower feeds and speeds due to the variable width of cut conditions encountered in corners. Tool load spikes as chip thickness increases in areas where the tool finds more material than it did while cutting in a straight line.
New Feature Extraction Options
- New “Open Air Pocket” Feature Extraction method
- When using this new Feature Extraction method, the contour finder will attempt to return pocketed areas and outline geometries rather than purely closed contours. In addition, for open areas which extend across the entire part, the ends of those closed geometries are automatically set as open elements, allowing them to be machined correctly.
- This is quite beneficial for parts such as a simple cabinet side, as shown in the image to the right.
- Improved part alignment control
- The default X and Y datum (reference) point can now be configured for automatic solid part alignment. The default Z-level zero point can now also be set to the middle of the part. In addition, the Align Part command now supports selection of multiple solids.
- New options to automatically run a Geometry Query after feature extraction.
New Automatic Rapid ManagerThis new feature utilizes a new Global Safe Rapid Level property in conjunction with the Machine Configuration settings to help safely manage the rapid positioning moves between work planes and other multiple axis operations.
In addition, rapid positioning moves have been improved on all multiple axis operations so that the tool stays normal to the start/end points during approach and retract.
These enhancements can dramatically improve the simulation results on multiple axis parts.
Additional Operation Associativity and Editability Improvements
- 3D Project and/or Slow Down For Corners can now be easily applied and/or edited directly from the operation’s menu in the Project Manager.
In addition, these settings are now associated and maintained within the operation. So when an operation is edited/updated, these settings are automatically reapplied.
- Special Edits Manager - If special edits, such as Tool Axis Conversion, 3D Project, or Slow Down For Corners, have been applied to an operation, this new command becomes available and can be used to set the sequence in which these edits should be (re)applied when the operation is edited or updated. The order that these edits are applied can greatly impact the resulting tool path.
- Improved feedback and support for manually edited tool paths - When manually editing a tool path (e.g., via most commands within Machine ►Edit Machining) the user is now informed if the intended edit will prevent future editing or updating of the operation.
In addition, there is now a new Discard Tool Path Edits command that removes any previously applied manual edits (e.g., Support Tags) and returns the operation to an editable state.
3D Polyline Boundaries
Closed 3D polylines can now be used as boundaries for 3D machining operations without having to first convert them to 2D geometries, saving several steps and valuable time.
- Blum Exchange Format (BXF) Translator - This new add-in provides the ability to read BXF files exported from Blum's Dynaplan software and convert them to ALPHACAM drawings.
There is also an option to automatically send the converted files (ALPHACAM drawings) to the CAD to CAM Style-Layer Processing parts list ready for processing.
- AutoQueries - This new add-in provides the ability to apply multiple Geometry Queries at one time.
- Geometry Z Levels from Parallel Planes - This new add-in provides the ability to convert identical (duplicate) geometries residing on parallel work planes to a single geometry with top/bottom Z levels applied (for Auto Z machining), removing them from their work planes.
This command is particularly useful for imported CAD (e.g., DXF) file geometries which contain a “thickness”, having one geometry that represents the “top” and another that represents the “bottom”.
- Input CAD Extensions - This new add-in provides the following additional (special) geometry manipulation options when importing DXF/DWG files…
- Create Geometry Z Levels from Parallel Planes
- Convert Splines to Lines/Arcs
- Run Geometry Query or AutoQuery
Part Modeler Enhancements
- New optional CAD loader that allows Autodesk Inventor parts and assemblies to be loaded into Part Modeler.
- The Creo Parametric loader has been updated to support Creo Parametric version 2.0 models.
- The new 3D Construction menu ► Operation ► Remove Face command allows you to remove features from a 3rd party solid model (a model with no history of features in the tree browser).
- Enhanced Surface Finish Attributes dialog.
- The Surface Attribute Viewer has been integrated into the dialog; move between tabs for visual feedback of face settings
- New Formed Size setting (Surface Finish drop-down list) denotes the face is already to size and requires no machining (i.e. a cast/forged finish or previously machined face – no stock to remove)
- Use the Machined Faces Viewer to see which faces are ‘to size’ and which require machining
- Surface Attribute colors are only displayed when dialog is active to ensure surface finish colors do not overwrite user defined colors
- Rendered image on tapped holes
- Enhanced editing procedures editing a procedure by double-clicking the feature on the model
- Many CLS licensing enhancements, including multiple Servercode support
- Default Coolant value can now be set within tool definition
- Auto 3D leads for Machine Surface with Tool Side
- Auto 3D leads for Cut Between 2 Geometries
- Can now 3D project geometries, polylines or splines to STL parts
- Multiple tool notes can now be applied to Operations and saved within Machining Styles
- New Feedrate Modifier (%) for lead-in/out moves
- Take Account Previous Machining now supports existing saw paths
- New Tool Offset from Center Line option in Cylindrical Parallel machining strategy
- Many API enhancements
Aspire for ALPHACAM
- A very exciting new partnership brings a special version of Vectric's award winning Aspire software for artistic 3D design which has a direct link with ALPHACAM.
- Combining the Aspire designing tools with the ALPHACAM machining features makes for a very powerful combination.
Continued Improvements to Tool Path Associativity and Operation Editing/Updating
- All machining operation types are now fully editable. This includes all machining Add-Ins (e.g., Face Milling, Thread Milling, Boring Along 2D Line, etc.) which also now support operation editing functions, Machining Styles, etc.
- New operation commands provide the ability to regain associativity if lost. This is particularly useful for Partial Machining operations and Turning cycles.
- Tool Axis Conversion can now be applied to an operation directly from within the Project Manager. In addition, these settings are now stored (associated) with the operation and can be easily edited or updated as needed.
- New API components provide the ability for tool path operations generated by user add-ins (e.g., VBA macros) to support associativity, editing and updating. Including Machining Styles, adding geometry, copying operations, boundaries, etc.
New Constant Cusp 3D Machining Strategy
- New Constant Cusp 3D machining strategy gives a consistent surface finish over the entire part.
- The use of Guide Curves support provides precise directional control of the machining direction to maximize surface finish and control over the number of offset passes helps target specific areas of the part
Solid Viewing Support for All Modules/Levels
- Solid bodies contained within ALPHACAM drawings are now visible and maintained in all ALPHACAM product levels, including Alphacad and the new ALPHACAM Shop Floor Editor (formerly Alphaview+). This prevents loss of data when working between multiple levels of ALPHACAM as well as enhanced realism when checking parts on the shop floor.
Refreshed ALPHACAM APM User Interface
- The ALPHACAM Automated Parametric Manufacturing (APM) user interface has been updated to coincide with ALPHACAM’s core look and feel. This includes updated toolbars and graphics, as well as support for visual themes and large icons.
Part Modeler Enhancements
- New optional CAD loader that allows Creo Parametric models to be loaded into Part Modeler
- Improved working with Surface Finish Attributes
- New Helical Groove feature
- New Emboss/Engrave feature
- Threads on models can now be rendered
- Improved editing procedures
- Simulation improvements
- Links for Multiple X/Y Cuts
- CLS licensing enhancements
- GUI and ease of use enhancements
- API enhancements
- General maintenance
- Many more…
New Parallel and Flat Area 3D Machining Strategies
- Much improved Parallel and Flat Area 3D machining strategies for cutting solid models and surfaces provide reduced cutting time, improved surface finish and improved tool life.
- Automatic exclusion of flat areas on parts allowing for flat rather than ball ended cutters to be used.
- Steep and shallow areas of parts detected allowing for different strategies to be adopted, such as a smaller tool step-over in a steeper gradient to that used in a shallow area.
- Options to always down or up mill, and loop or round sharp external corners.
New Geometry Query Manager
- The Geometry Query Manager allows for a set of rules to be defined and applied to the current ALPHACAM drawing. Based on these rules, geometries are moved onto specifically named user layers. Machining Styles can then be applied to these layers automating the generation of tool paths. AutoStyles and CAD to CAM (add-in) have also been updated to take advantage of this new functionality, proving further automation improvements.
- Adaptive Feed Rate Support for Z Contour Roughing
- This new feature in Z Contour Roughing provides the ability to automatically adjust the tool’s feed rate throughout the tool path, taking into account the effective width of cut. While machining a full width of cut, the feed rate can be automatically reduced to lessen the tool load. Conversely, while machining a narrower width of cut, the feed rate can be automatically increased to reduce machining time, without overloading the tool.
New Automatic Work Plane Ordering
New Extract Solid Edge for Sawing
Editable Spline/Polyline Tool Paths
- Tool paths created via Cut Spline/Polyline, including simultaneous 5-axis operations, can now be modified and updated via the Project Manager.
- Automatic 3D Lead-In/Out Support for Cut Spline/Polyline
- 3D Lead-In/Out moves can now be applied automatically during the Cut Spline/Polyline process.
New Fabricate | Containing Loop command, new Inventor Export add-in, simulation improvements, improved true shape nesting, CLS licensing enhancements, GUI enhancements, CAD to CAM (add-in) enhancements, many more…
User Interface Enhancements
- New gradient screen background, for both shaded and wireframe modes
- Reconfigured and simplified default toolbar configuration and layout
- Several new, more specific toolbars for easier organization and access to ALPHACAM commands
- New functionality to automatically apply lead-in/out moves during the Rough or Finish process
- Enhanced options to allow Arc Radius and Approach/Retract Angle values to be specified independently for lead-in and lead-out moves
- New Set as Default and Get Defaults options when applying lead-in/out moves allows for current settings to be easily saved and recalled (these defaults are also used when applying automatic leads in Rough or Finish process)
- Can now edit Lead-In/Outs for an operation via the Project Manager
Editable and Associative 3D Machining Operations
- Can now edit machining data for most 3D machining operations from the Project Manager
- New Set Start Point and Set Center Point commands added to right-click menu in the Project Manager’s Operation tab. These commands allow these points to be easily changed without having to reapply the tool path. Upon changing these points, the tool path is automatically updated to reflect the change.
- The surfaces, solids and boundaries used for machining and foul checking are now displayed within the operation in the Project Manager. In addition solids, surfaces, boundaries can be easily added to or removed from the operation via the right-click menu for the respective item. When adding/removing objects from the operation, the operation is automatically updated to reflect the changes.
- Many 3D machining operations now maintain associativity for commands such as move, rotate, scale, etc. When the original geometry is modified (e.g., moved, scaled, etc.) the operation can be updated and the respective tool paths are regenerated to reflect the change to the geometry.
Editable and Associative Profiled-Side Operations
- Profiled Side operations can now be edited and updated after re-opening the drawing
- New Edit Reference Point command added to the right-click menu in the Project Manager’s Operation tab for Profiled Side operations. Upon changing these points, the operation is updated automatically and the tool paths are regenerated to reflect the change.
- New Edit Side Profile command added to the right-click menu in the Project Manager’s Operation tab for Profiled Side operations. This command makes it easy to replace one profile-side tool path with another without having to redo the entire operation.
- The profile geometry now maintains associativity with its tool paths. When the original profile geometry is modified (e.g., filleted, scaled, etc.) the operation can be updated and the respective tool paths are regenerated to reflect the change to the geometry.
New Rest Machining / Pencil Tracing 3D Machining Strategy
- Much improved Rest Machining / Pencil Trace 3D machining strategies have been implementation from Planit 3D machining engine
New Redo command allows reversing of the Undo command (or multiple Undo commands). In addition, along with this comes much improved Undo support.
Move to Own Operation
New Move to Own Operation command allows for a geometry to be easily moved from within its current sub-operation to its own sub-operation, the operation can then be edited independently of the original grouping.
Many Ease of Use Commands Added to the Project Manager Context Menus
- New Update command allows updating of individual operations
- New Delete Layer command allows user layers to be easily deleted
- New Create Group command allows to easily group select objects
- New Remove Group command allows easy ungrouping of selected objects
Wire Module Enhancements
- Wire operations are now be edited and updated
- Now contains Machining Style support
- 4-axis cuts are now supported within work planes
- Improved interface now contains an updated toolbar
- An open AutoStyle can now be applied directly to the active drawing from the main editing dialog
- A new AutoStyle can now be created directly from the main editing dialog
- Can now save the open AutoStyle as a different AutoStyle directly from the main editing dialog
- Improved portability support allows AutoStyle files to be more reliably copied from one computer to another
- New IGES Healing extra cost option provides cleaner, more robust IGES conversion
- New Waves add-in adds three new commands that allow easy creation of sine wave type geometries. These sine wave geometries can then be used to create various types of textures (e.g., wave boards, textured walls, etc.).
- Much improved support for machining of large STL parts
- New Include Surfaces option within 3D Solid Machining allows for surfaces and solids to be machined together
- New Auto option when specifying values for Cut Between Z Levels within 3D surface/solid machining
- New Include Surfaces option within 3D Solid Machining allows for surfaces and solids to be machined together
- New option to output STL files as binary (much smaller file size)
- CAD | Magnify command now exists in Standard and Essential levels
- CAD | Move Dimension command now exists in Essential level
New Cylindrical Parallel 3D Machining Strategy
Support for rotary cutting functionality in Mill, Router, and Stone modules. Fixed XY, YZ, XZ rotational orientation in Standard and Advanced levels of Mill, Router and Stone and full 4-axis support in Ultimate levels of Lathe, Mill, Router, and Stone.
New Z Contour Roughing Strategy for 2D Pocketing
Usage of the Planit Z Contour Roughing engine for 2D pocketing, provides all the power and efficiency of 3D Z Contour Roughing, such as climb or conventional cutting, tool path links, high speed cornering and more, without the need for Solids/Surfaces.
New Rough/Finish Options to Produce Multiple Roughing Cuts
Enhanced Rough/Finish options to produce multiple horizontal (XY) roughing cuts in a single process.
New Wrap Around Geometry Functionality
Designed to complement the existing Wrap onto Surface feature, without the need for surfaces. Allows wrapping of a variety of objects, such as 2D geometry, 3D polylines, splines, surfaces, STLs, and 2D/3D/5-axis tool paths, around any 2D geometry.
New Geometry Editing Tools
New Fabricate editing tools, such as Cut, Crop, Subtract, etc., provide advanced manipulation of 2D geometry.
Solid Support for Cut Spline/Polyline
4/5-axis tool angle can now be controlled by Solid Faces or Solid Bodies, in addition to Surfaces. This provides a much more reliable and cleaner result when compared to Surfaces and eliminates the need to create Surfaces from Solid Faces. Solids are also now supported within the Edit Tool Angle command within the Ultimate modules.
Solid Support for 3D Project and Wrap
Geometries and/or toolpaths can now be projected to or wrapped onto Solid Bodies.
Enhanced Tool Side and Automatic Start Point Options
New options to automatically set tool side and start point for closed geometries.
Enhancements to Standard Level of Mill, Router, Stone
- STL support, including STL Utilities
- 3D Solid Machining for STL parts
- Machining Configuration support for tool/part movement and rotation
- AutoCAD 2010 file support
- Additional improvements to Z Contour Roughing
- Extend 3D Polyline to Solids
- Animation during viewpoint changes and zooming commands
- Lead-In/Out line support for centerline tool paths
- CAD to CAM enhancements
Updated User Interface
A variety of interface enhancements provide a more modern and familiar look and feel and more control over the working environment including; all new professionally developed small and large size button icons, selectable color themes, enhanced toolbar customization and user-definable hotkeys.
Improved 3D Z Contour Roughing
Integration of Planit 3D Machining Engine. Many new and enhanced machining techniques and parameters including:
New Spiral machining method, New option to automatically close open pockets for Contour pocketing method, New options to specify Climb or Conventional cutting method, much improved tool path link methods, new option to avoid rollover on the edges of open pockets, New high speed cornering option and new trochoidal option for full-width moves.
Simple 2½D Exact Engraving
True “ramping” of internal corners with Taper tools. Ideal for art type work as well as simulated raized panel doors.
Enhancements to Essential
Machining Styles functionality has been added to all Essential modules. A Machining Style is a set of operations that have been stored for later reuse. Utilizing Machining Styles greatly increases productivity by decreasing the time to generate tool paths.
3D Mouse Support
ALPHACAM 2010 R1 now supports 3Dconnexion’s 3D mice. These devices give the user increased control and intuitive navigation when working in a 3D environment. For more information on these devices, please visit www.3dconnexion.com.
CAD to CAM 2.0 Add-In
The CAD to CAM 2.0 add-in provides new functionality which allows the user to define User Layer ↔ Machining Style mapping schemes for batch processing (machining and nesting) of layered DXF files or ALPHACAM drawings. Now included with all Mill, Router, Stone product levels at no additional cost!
Raster to Vector Add-In
Improved Raster to Vector add-in incorporates a new engine, providing much better results. Now included with all product levels at no additional cost!
ALPHACAM 2010 R1 has been tested for compatibility with Windows 7, the next generation of the Windows operating system
- Stone module now contains Peck Drilling functionality
- Profiled Side Machining functionality is now available in the Standard level modules
- Apply Compensation on Rapid Approach/Retract option now available with the Machine Holes command (Advanced level +)
- Added support for importing binary DXF files
- Much improved hole and contour feature extraction