Reading a reply on the SE BBS today and the topic was spindle selection for mills. One of the replies had this link. http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2006/04/05/an-automatic-machine-tool/
It boggles my mind when I think of just how quickly we are advancing in technology. My Dad used to be plant manager for a Huck Fasteners plant in Carson CA. He would tell me stories of the state of technology then and I would think of today.
I will be ordering a Haas VF4 this week and I look at this mill and contrast it to the old state of the art “cnc” Cincinnati mill shown in the above article. The vendor ads for 1950′s state of the art controls and how crude it all looks. I remember reading of the computer, such as it was in the Apollo Missions and how today’s CELL PHONES for crying out loud have far more power than they did.
It brings me towards thinking of software naturally and where it was and now is. Mid 80′s and you can’t do a whole lot and your software came with a specialty built workstation and could easily cost $150,000.00 for the privilege of doing what it allowed.
I never owned a PC until 2000. At that time I was happy as a fabricator offering services primarily to food service. But I was missing too much work because a lot of it required machining. So I decided to get a kneemill and a lathe. Well one thing leads to another and I quickly realized there was no substitute for cnc and I still was missing out on way to much work. So in 2002 I get my used Haas VF3 and go to work. I quickly run up on another problem though and that is how do I feed my mill? Surfcam was my machining software at the time because in 2002.5 they were offering a free two axis milling program and it was a good way to get started. I subsequently got their 2.5 axis software and became a customer.
But the biggest headache still existed and that was finding out as a small job shop I had to also be able to create geometry. In some ways I am lucky I came to the game this late as it was clear to me that between 2D and 3D geometry creation 3D was the way to go. I completely dodged the 2D mindset and software and have only used 2D for shop drawings. VX CADCAM (now ZW3D) was bought in 2003 and became my principle CAD program until I bought SE just before the release of ST1. I still use the CAM side today although this will not last through this year for reasons most of my readers are aware of.
Have you ever noticed how once you start down this path one thing leads to another and it never seems to have an end?
So now we have covered this circuitous path to get to my main thought today. I see Direct Editing and principally Synchronous Technology as more than an incremental step up. I find myself taking my parts to be edited for CAM back out of ZW3d and doing the edits in SE and bringing the part back in to ZW. I just look at how cumbersome the way I used to have to work was and I am amazed. It has gotten so bad that sometimes I have to sit there and try to remember how I used to work in a straight history based program. I invariably quickly realize the folly of doing this and take the part back to SE. Now I know ZW3D claims to have direct editing but it is so useless that I consider ZW3D to be a straight history based modeler. ST has been for this shop a paradigm changer not quite as big as going from a knee mill to a cnc VMC but certainly the second largest impactor technology has brought to me.
My second largest subset of part files come from Solid Works. Now ZW3D is like all history based modelers such as SW and a pain in the rear to import parts from or into without something like direct editing to work on them with. I tell my Solid Works using buddies I can work on their files faster than they can. Seeing is believing and you can always see the wheels spinning when you show them what they are missing
As an aside here. I have to laugh at myself sometimes. The tendency I have to be involved in the problems of the day tend to be reflected in the blog post of the day if I write one. So I am working on getting everything inline for the new mill and my problem of the day becomes the post of the day. Obviously integrated CADCAM has been a topic lately. It bears some clarification here and I want no doubt in anyones mind that I believe in SE. I am a huge fan of SE and see the validity of my CAD choice here every day I use it. I however have an immediate need for CAM that can’t wait much longer and so some of my posts reflect my frustration about this problem. I know within a year there will be a good CAM solution for SE and the legacy that SE has to fix will be and is being fixed. However I just get really impatient over the pace big companies seem to work at so bear with me here.
Siemens is not the only one for sure and I think of one of my biggest customers. These rush design gotta have it yesterday projects with them sometimes result in work right away. Other times it just means that we now have four more face to face meetings with revisions each time and then they are going to talk it to death each month in planning meetings in between and beyond the four face to face meetings. I have stuff that drags on for a year and a half sometimes and still does not get awarded to me. Big companies just operate in mysterious ways to me and it is invariably frustrating to me to have to deal with this.
Whats even worse is now that I think about it I first expressed serious interest in a Haas mill to the sales rep a year ago. Wonder how impatient he has become?