Powering up the speed and user experience

In this article, Clinton Perry, PowerMill product marketing manager at Autodesk discusses the latest benefits of PowerMill 2020.1 for users, engineers and potential customers.

Ever since PowerMill was first released, back in 1995, it has focused on delivering fast and reliable CAM programming tools to meet the needs of industries including aerospace, automotive, medical, mould and die, industrial machinery and more.

The latest release of PowerMill 2020 this year represented a significant shift with the bulk of the development focus being on improving the usability, reliability, and speed of PowerMill for its core userbase, who have been receiving the update in their Autodesk accounts since October this year.

Some of the most impressive highlights of PowerMill 2020.1 include: improved model filleting; new model export options; faster automatic collision avoidance; and faster corner finishing.

First introduced in PowerMill 2020.0, model filleting automatically adds fillets to the internal corners of 3D CAD models as part of the toolpath calculation. An additional manufacturing model is produced and used to help prevent the cutting tool from entering sharp internal corners, where excess stock could result in shock loading that could damage the cutting tool, workpiece, and/or machine.

The 2020.0 release of model filleting intentionally limited the command to work with a small number of 3-axis finishing toolpath types. With the release of 2020.1, this limitation has been removed, meaning all 3-axis finishing toolpath types can benefit.

More export files

To get the very best out of any CAM software tool, there’s generally a need to produce 2D and/or 3D CAD model data. This additional geometry can be used to control the extents of machining, to add fixtures and workholding, to prevent toolpaths from accessing areas where the design may be evolving, or to precisely control the motion of 5-axis CNC machine tools. This ability to transfer CAD model data into and out of a CAM system is essential.

With the release of PowerMill 2020.1, the model export options have been enhanced to provide a greater range of file types. In addition to the existing file types (.DGK, .DMT), models can now be exported using neutral files (.IGES, .STEP, .ACIIS SAT, Wavefront OBJ, and PDF) and native formats (Rhino, Additive Manufacturing, and Fusion Modeling data). This makes it easier for CAD and CAM team members to share data and collaborate on projects.

Controlling the crashes

When it comes to collision avoidance, the PowerMill development team has spent a considerable amount of time and effort improving the user experience when programming 5-axis parts. While PowerMill offers fantastic levels of control for 5-axis machining, this range of options can be a little daunting for those that are new to, or infrequent users of 5-axis programming.

It was with this in mind that PowerMill 2019 introduced the concept of automatic collision avoidance when calculating toolpaths. Regardless of the toolpath type being produced or the shape of the model being machined, the automatic tool tilting option was a safe go-to choice. If selected, any collisions or near misses involving the tool would be identified and avoided by simply tilting the tool away in a safe, controlled, and predictable fashion.

Using real customer data, the PowerMill team has continued to focus on improving the speed and reliability of the automatic collision avoidance so that more collisions are identified and removed than may have been found by previous versions. In one customer example, the time taken to calculate a safe, collision-free toolpath was reduced from nine hours 30 minutes (with PowerMill 2020.0) to two hours 36 minutes (2020.1) – a reduction of more than 73%.

Faster cornering

As well as the previously mentioned automatic collision avoidance, there have been substantial speed-ups for toolpaths including; area clearance, rest finishing, and corner finishing.

The graphic below (Fig. 1.) compares the calculation times of corner finishing toolpaths in PowerMill 2020.1 and 2019.2 – using three customer-supplied test parts. We can see that one example, test 1, shows calculation times 53% faster in 2020.1 than 2019.2. In fact, our tests suggest the biggest time savings can be had on the most challenging parts where calculation times may have been problematic in the past.

So what else does 2020.1 offer the user? The complete list of improvements is available on the PowerMill online help site. Users can choose to review the official release notes, or take an in-depth look at the list of fixed issues.

Other advances include: more robust cutter compensation; clearer NC program status icons; enhanced raster toolpaths with optimised parallel pass and many GUI improvements.

Users can also download the official flyer documents to summarise the improvements to PowerMill 2020.1 and see the major speed-ups included in PowerMill 2020.0.

So where can you get hold of PowerMill 2020.1? Eligible customers with an active subscription or maintenance agreement can download the latest release using the Autodesk Desktop App or by logging into their Autodesk Account.

If you are new to PowerMill you can learn more by visiting www.autodesk.com/powermill. Potential new users can also get a free evaluation of the software to see how it can solve their toughest CNC machining challenges by contacting the developer team at www.autodesk.com/powermill-evaluation.

PowerMill www.autodesk.co.uk/products/powermill



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