Made some time to work with CW4SE 2015 SP1 this weekend and other than some inherent inefficiencies with work flow it went without problems. If you are a current CW4SE user you really need to get this one. I went through a couple of parts and the post today will cover this and do some comparisons with Inventor HSM. The guys at Geometric did some pretty worthwhile work this time and hopefully they will treat the product like this in the future.
Two typical parts were used for this post and as of today no assemblies have been tried. One is 3D and the other is 2D.
The libraries and the Access driven TDB worked without problems. I did not try to edit anything in the included libraries nor add anything to them. This has been troublesome in the past. In any case there still are no 3 or 5 flute endmills in there and all drills are still 118 degree. For example there are 685 Bull nose mill entries and not one for 3 and 5 fluters. For me this would mean starting from scratch for bull nose mills since about all I use now are 3 and 5 flutes except for ball mills. But the links all worked problem free.
There are still no posts out of the box. The short list has big admonitions against use of the few there. If you are looking at CW4SE get commitments in writing regarding any needed posts before you buy and make working to YOUR satisfaction posts part of the deal.
There is still no post output editor unless you want to spend extra cash to get one. I believe Predator Editor is in there but it is more $$ so consider this when negotiating to. This is the basic output screen.
In comparison Inventor HSM (I-HSM) and HSMWorks have included an editor with every version along with gobs of posts for free. Here is some output code and note also the inclusion of tools used right at the start. A quick glance at the tool list and the tool carousel can save real grief and the real editor is quite useful.
CAM products represent two basic classes of thought here where automation or feature recognition are concerned. CW4SE uses feature recognition and automatic feature recognition. My default method of using CW4SE however is to pick all surfaces as the feature and then input tool paths one by one on it and use contains or avoids from there for specific features. I have never and will never take the huge amount of time required to set up the TDB so AFR in CW4SE will work according to the 80/20 rule Geometric espouses as ideal. This rule means basically that you have taken the time to set up all this to such a degree that CW4SE will automagically work roughly 80% of the time. When the demo jock from CW4SE or CAMWorks for SW comes to your door though make sure he shows you step by step a complete part set up on your part including generating the TDB entries and strategies relevant to making something “automatic”. It demos well but real life is far more complicated. I find the vast majority of CAM users do not want to have to do this.
The other paradigm is to use Templates as programs like ZW3D and HSM do. I have just started using templates with HSM and since the “hole wizard” is not complete yet my understanding is that templates will work well with only 3D shapes right now. The part I did this morning was the above one and taking a similar part with five oval holes instead of eight round ones worked by merely using the template and regenerating the tool path. I did not have to pick anything or any feature to create a complete adaptive tool path for the top side. Still a lot of work to do here though to be able to save a template for a complete part. With the wide variance of parts I cut the speed of initial tool path generation is the biggest deal for me and while AFR and templates are interesting I still prefer to just knock the tool path out quick and be done.
I used Volumill for this part CAM plan and this is an interesting comparison. CW4SE and Volumill worked fine on this part and I have no complaints about this understanding of course the extra time it takes to generate tool paths in CW4SE over I-HSM. One thing CW4SE does have that HSM does not is their true Constant Step-over tool path. This is the single best finishing tool path I have ever used for complex 3D cavities on food extrusion dies yielding a true constant X and Y step-over irregardless of angle or slope. This is the only thing I will be using CW4SE for in the future by the way. It is that good. In many cases HSM Adaptive or Volumill with small enough intermediary passes will give you a useable finished surface for most parts. On straight side walls you might need a finish pass and the same is true for flat surfaces but for 3D work on most parts intermediary passes will finish up fine.
Time is a consideration though and here it gets interesting. This part was as close time wise all things being equal between Volumill and HSM Adaptive as any I have seen yet. Still though HSM Adaptive cut roughly 20% quicker.
and HSM Adaptive
Both use the same end mill and a .01 step up intermediary pass and .112 step-over but yet HSM Adaptive cuts faster. In the past half-year I have yet to find a single part where Volumill time wise does a better job. Getting into true end mill life and true cubic inch material removal over the expected life of the cutter between these two is something I can’t give concise data on. But I can say that I do know the cost of my end mills and the reduction in time to cut and make an accurate judgement on benefits to me. The end mills seem to last about the same number of pieces where I have cut exact parts to compare by and HSM does so quicker so guess who wins in my shop.
The second part was a basic 2D part.
It is a mystery to me why 2D can be so tough compared to 3D. I spent little time on the above 3D part but trying to get this “simple” part right in CW4SE was problematical. I spent about a half an hour trying to find the magic combination to get two sides only to cut in corner round. I never did find the actual command for this but there was mention of corner round in one of the feature picking prompts. But then you got all four and not the two ones required. Where is the corner round or chamfer in the strategies?
Good question and I never did find it. There is probably a simple answer here but this is my point. Stuff is hidden and finding them is time-consuming and not straight forward. Dirt simple in HSM and since I knew I was not going to cut this kind of path in CW4SE I just quit looking. You go look and have fun without me. Tell me what you found and I will add it here.
Geometric has done a lot of work with this release and if they were to continue to do this where usability is concerned they could be a market beater some day. It would require them two have two basic programs though in order to cater to most shops I know. One could be the existing complex and hard to use/set up TDB AFR way. The other could be a simple easy to use without the AFR TDB baggage way like HSM does and this would be where most of the seats would be sold. I have discussed this with them in the past and HSM is a topic of discussion for them. So far however they are adamant about the AFR TDB way and kind of stuck in it since this is their principle differentiator from other CAM programs. It would require years of serious effort and a complete rethinking of who they want to target for two ways to evolve. As it stands right now they have to be somewhat deceptive with prospective clients and get them in there with cool demos and not real life efficiencies. I do not see this philosophy change happening quite frankly until their backs are really against the wall. By that time of course people like HSM are marching on with improvements so it gets harder and harder to play catch up.
The integration with SE is the single biggest thing Geometric has going for it with this SE user. Second for me is the Constant Stepover tool path. But I find myself using HSM with imported parts because I just like simple that works predictably, quickly and reliably and with good tool paths. Geometric is on the right path and really fixed a lot of things this time. Problem is that there are just so many more to go for CW4SE to operate like I want my CAM program to be that I doubt it will ever happen. Plus it is far more expensive to buy and hugely more expensive each year after and I refuse to spend more money hoping they make something I will really like some day. If you are already there with CW4SE though and intend to stay this latest update will put a smile on your face. The best by far of any version I have yet used on some parts typical to this shop.