This paragraph is added on 3-26-14. Since this post is still being read fairly often I think it only fair to say that since the original post the situation has changed dramatically. The whole Tech Data Base is going to be reworked and indeed this has already begun. If it goes as I think it will the vast majority of all my complaints will be history soon and CAMWorks will take the place it should have had some time back as both powerful and readily useable. In other words for both major facilities with dedicated programmers and simple one man operations like mine. BIG things peering over the horizon for all CAMWorks users so don’t worry be happy. 🙂 Received yesterday this little notice to. The expected release date for assembly mode machining is 14th Apr. This could shift a few days but the time for this is at hand.
I want to note to readers of this post that Geometric is going to take some time this week to show me how I can work the way I want to work in CAMWorks 4SE, if indeed this is possible. I have had a couple of bad weeks with this program and I hope they can show me a better way to use CW4SE without having to fool around with this TDB.There have also been weird things that just happen that tell me there are still bugs to be worked out to. If I ever elect to use the TDB I want it to not interfere with what pays my bills on any given day and be implemented at my convenience and time of choosing to do so. Some of what I write below may change if my current opinion on things changes. Some like pricing and value will not because my idea of prices and value differs from Geometrics. In any case on to the post.
An interesting letter was received here the other day. But first the reason for the letters existence. I have had some very frustrating days with CAMWorks 4SE recently and some is due to my lack of knowledge I am sure and some is due to a rarely improved methodology for their Tech Data Base and how complex and pervasive it is to your decision as to how to use the program. In order to make automatic feature recognition work well you have to embark on a series of never-ending creations of entries of page after page after page of stuff for each type of scenario you wish in little undersized boxes that often can’t be expanded and you have to scroll back and forth in continuously. So if you cut 20 differing materials with say an irregular pocket in it you now have to figure 20 different procedures and save these and the TDB will recognize these when you bring in a part. And then add in the additional strategies of roughing and cutting and the assignment of these to the material types. Can you see the possibilities here for numerous additions that all take time and will at best merely be close in many cases? What I mean by this is that there is a limit to how many of these you will enter into the TDB and at that point in time there will still be feeds and speeds and cuts you will need to input for a particular situation.
The TDB can’t be omniscient. So just how much time does this thing ever really save me at the end of a year with all this added complexity to deal with. None as far as I see it right now and it will add complexity and require I learn things I would rather not have to. I have enough on my plate already. If Geometric wants to appeal to small and large shops they should offer two ways of CAM creation. One with and one without this TDB crammed full of useful tools like two and four flute 11/32 endmills. I don’t think I have ever even seen one of these but it’s there along with hundreds of other similar ones. And even though Volumill which recommends 3 and 5 fluters for most work is a part of the program it is not a part of the TDB or tool library because not one of these is in there. Get ready to spend some time entering in useful tools and sizes that reflect what you actually buy in real life and removing ones that do not. Theoretically you can do this by creating and using tools out of just one tool crib in CW4SE but I have not been able to figure this out. This is one of the things I hope Geometric will be able to show me how do to in a simple and quick fashion and I really hope they are right and I am wrong on this one. I have my money spent and at the end of the day I do want this to work after all.
There is another way and it is the way HSMWorks does it where you select with three easy fill in the blank and select prompts which quickly create the tools in your CAM plan and just fill in the blanks for the rest and go. This whole process takes little time and it tailors your CAM plan to your specific needs right there and then. A friend of mine has this close by and he has a pressure cooker job shop situation. I stopped by there last week to have a look and he cuts a ton of different things and the tool paths are generated quickly and easily. AND there is no reliance on some byzantine TDB set up procedure to make it all work.
So, the eye of the beholder and just what did this one see. The TDB combined with Feature Recognition is a very powerful tool and I can see serious production facilities with dedicated CAM programmers who have the time to use this and set up for it benefitting. For a shop that may not cut a part for a month because the work did not require any mill time it becomes an unneeded burden of complexity that does not save any time and complicates your life. My friend evaluated CW and HSM at the same time and HSM won. Easy to learn and implement and if you really feel you need automation of your strategies there are templates you can set up for THAT situation and not have to fool around with this TDB idea. Look, all these things that fascinate programmers with the absolute majestic beauty of this programmers wonder they have come up with, this thing they never have to learn from scratch or use in a production environment if indeed they even know what a chip looks like, are not fascinating to someone who just spent a gob of cash to buy a program they just want to work. Without needless complexity and decisions made to favor a shop with little time to learn and simplicity of implementation and add to this good tool paths. Obviously tool paths that work well are an essential ingredient and I assume you readers understand without me elaborating on this any more that this is a primary requirement that has to be in place.
Now about this letter I received. I was chided a bit for not appreciating the value of what was in CW4SE. The guy who works for Geometric felt they were offering good value and my reply was he was not a buyer and hardly had an unbiased opinion. That true value is in the eye of the beholder and the amount of cash they are willing to spend to express interest in something. One of the things I have striven to do is to remember that I am just another user. I look for advice on programs as best as I can and try to determine the truth behind what I read and see in person. I am an unabashed fan of Solid Edge. I think it is the flat-out best out there for mid range MCAD and so it is not hard to talk about it in glowing terms and feel that even though I may gush a bit at times it is all still honest and it is what I bought with my money and use with satisfaction. Then there are things like CW4SE where after some time I have big warning flags raised and questions as to exactly what type of shop should be buying into it. It is a lot of money and right at 18% yearly cost of purchase fees to stay current and complex to implement the way they have designed the program to be used. Plus they have been charging full ticket to customers even though this unfinished program still can’t import and use assemblies. This has impacted my work negatively and even though I have paid for it I still don’t have it. I have a set of extrusion dies that I would like to cut as assemblies and I can’t so instead I have to redo the whole thing into a separately created part whose volume and exterior shape mimics the assembly and this is a waste of my time.
What creates value anyway? For my shop it is not five axis or four axis. At least not yet anyway. It is not full-blown G Code machine verification. It is not metallic looking surfaces on verification. It is not a tech data base that is complicated to set up. It is quick and easy to create cam plans with great tool paths for up to three axis parts and two axis lathe. I don’t know what percentage of the market for CAM programs falls into this category but I suspect it to be the vast majority. I don’t have the time or desire to introduce unneeded complication into my days. I also don’t have the desire to pay extra for all these things I do not use or want to use. Make no mistake when you buy the three axis program or the two axis program you are supporting lots of things you did not want and will probably never want. This is true today for almost all software and Microsoft Office comes to mind. We all have it but only use parts of it but at least the price tag is reasonable. So how to choose? What is value? What represents value to YOU.
I am looking at HSMWorks and CAMWorks right now with this thought in mind. One is complex and about twice as expensive to buy initially. And one is one-third the cost annually from then on. One is attached to the CAD program I love and one is attached to that wreck called Inventor or SW which is another place I do not want to be in. One is quick to learn and implement and the other is not. At this point in time I advise CAM buyers that they should be very careful and meticulous in their evaluations of CW4SE. As a matter of fact I consider the idea of a 45 day full trial for CW4SE with tech support made available to you the only condition allowable for you to make an informed decision. If you can’t get this then caveat emptor. And they need to complete the product and make sure the bugs are out of it. I also think they should update the ease of implementing this TDB strategy and the programmer never cut a chip in his life tool database and be aware that few tools you will use are in there. Be fully aware of just what exactly this TDB will mean in time to execute correctly to make it work. As compared to out of the box functionality quick and easy to learn. There are solid reasons for choosing one over the other depending on the size of your operation and the degree of automation you may be able to achieve under certain circumstances and I chose these words deliberately. As far as I can tell the time to use fill in the blanks HSM is not much more time-consuming than a filled in after great time and effort TDB would be. Now some guys at Geometric aware of my frustrations and complaints are going to take the time to educate me as to how to work the way I want to work in CW4SE. My metric for comparison will be how long it takes to do the same things in HSM based on same parts and watching how my friend does it with these. Time will be time and complexity will be complexity. But right off the bat CW4SE is twice as expensive and even more so for ever after.
Value IS in the eyes of the beholders and if you Geometric guys think you are worth twice the price for what you deliver the proof will be in sales volume. Value is not what you wave a magic wand over and then declare it to be. It is what educated buyers or slick salesmen who can sell anything to anyone make it to be. I would rather depend upon honest value myself and at this time my advice to anyone who wishes to buy CAMWorks is to evaluate carefully what you need and what you wish to spend today and forever more. Integration is a great thing to have but it is not an end all be all unless all parts are right for each other and the intended market.