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Technologies Of The Year -- A Toolpath Revolution

Nov. 11, 2005
Surfware's new toolpath technology redefines milling.

A quantum leap in CAM software." That's how production manager Bruce Thomas of RPM-PSI Inc. describes his beta testing of Surfware's TrueMill toolpath technology.

Thomas is specifically referring to the productivity increase enabled by the TrueMill technology in Surfware's latest SURFCAM Velocity CAD/CAM software.

Thomas says the company programmed a component that is part of an unmanned aerial vehicle data link system. The result: a reduction in machine cycle time from 44 minutes, 43 seconds (with a conventional toolpaths) to 27 minutes, 55 seconds. That's a 38% reduction. "On a standard production run of 75 pieces, we would save 21 hours," adds Northridge, Calif.-based Thomas.

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View The 2005 Winners That capability is the result of a fundamental rethinking of toolpath strategies in CAM software, says Glenn Coleman, vice president of product design at Surfware Inc., Westlake Village, Calif. "TrueMill provides a completely new tool path strategy that generates smooth, fluid tool paths, which leverage the superior motion-control capability of CNC tools. Material removal is not only much faster, but also more efficient, with less stress on the cutting tool and the machine."

He says the toolpaths produced by TrueMill (patent pending) are completely free from spikes or sudden changes in tool loads. Thus machining parameters such as spindle speed, feed rates, depth-of-cut and stepover can be used in combinations that would result in material damage or tool breakage if used with existing tool path generators.

The performance secret of TrueMill technology lies in the CAM software algorithm's ability to generate a toolpath that controls tool engagement during the milling process. The fundamental problem with milling has always been the inability to control the tool's engagement with the material, he adds.

Coleman says one of the most important aspects of TrueMill is the technology's complete independence from the machining hardware, including the milling cutters, tool holder, the controller and the machine tool. "All things being equal, TrueMill tool paths can be driven faster and deeper than traditional tool paths, resulting in dramatically reduced cycle times, while extending cutting tool life."

TrueMill toolpath technology increases productivity and lowers equipment stress.TrueMill's impact is destined to go beyond increasing a user's competitiveness, Coleman says. He sees the tool path technology encouraging innovation in both machine tools and cutting tools. "Virtually all past advances in those two areas have been as a result of trying to counter tool path limitations."

With the TrueMill solution overcoming the tool path challenge, research can focus on new possibilities. He says at least one maker of cutting tools has expressed a desire to design a new set of tools to leverage TrueMill's capabilities.

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