Autodesk to show new PowerMill CAM software at Advanced Manufacturing

Autodesk will demonstrate the 2018 release of its PowerMill CAM software for high-speed and 5-axis machining for the first time on stand C59 at the Advanced Manufacturing Show to be held at the NEC, Birmingham, from 6-8 June.

The 2018 version includes a new ribbon-style interface, further development of the turning capabilities introduced in PowerMill 2017, and improvements to 2-, 3- and 5-axis milling.

A free trial version of PowerMill 2018 can be downloaded from the website at The download provides 30 days of unlimited use of PowerMill Ultimate, allowing potential users to experiment with all the strategies that the software has to offer. The only limitation is in post-processing – the trial version includes a number of generic 3-axis post-processor files from the comprehensive range available with PowerMill but does not allow 5-axis post-processing.

The most obvious change in PowerMill 2018 is the introduction of a modern, ribbon-style interface, making the software more compatible with other Autodesk programs whilst offering benefits to both new and experienced users.

To speed up and simplify programming, commonly-used commands are grouped together, with both icon and text descriptions to help users to navigate the functions quickly. Pop-up tips also help understanding of purpose of the buttons. Drop-down menus are used to access detailed functionality, so allowing a limited initial presentation of buttons and maximising the screen usage.

For experienced users, the familiar working zones remain, such as the Explorer window and user menus, so that established programming practices can be maintained. Both the ribbon and the quick-access toolbar can be customised with the ability to add buttons and tabs, and then saved as custom configurations for use on other installations.

A new background area has been introduced for various file management tasks, from opening and saving projects to accessing the various PowerMill options.

Turning functionality

PowerMill 2018 sees the introduction of similar editing tools for turning as the software offers for milling. These tools provide additional control over the development of programs for optimum efficiency. The ability now exists to edit leads, links, and start- and end-points for turning toolpaths, giving full control over the approach, engagement and departure from the material. These options allow a better surface finish to be produced, in particular through minimising witness marks.

Toolpath segments can also be edited, with full control over the order of the segments and the direction in which they are machined. All the edits can be achieved without full recalculation of the toolpaths, so reducing overall programming times.

Other options previously available in milling that can now also be used for turning include collision checking for toolholders and the ability to create stock models after each operation. The stock models can be used to minimise air cutting and to reduce the possibility of un-machined stock being left on the part.

Improvements and enhancements

PowerMill 2018 also includes a number of improvements for companies using 5-axis machines. Using the optimum tool axis in 5-axis machining helps to avoid collisions and allows the use of shorter cutting tools that can produce a better surface finish. The dynamic machine control option within PowerMill 2018 has been improved to give the user greater control over 5-axis motion.

Rather than working on an entire toolpath, tool-axis edits can now be made in different regions of the area being machined. This can be done for a single region or for multiple regions, with the option to interpolate between the different axes as the toolpath progresses. The resulting toolpath will only change in the areas that need to be edited so less time is needed to experiment with different tool-axis settings.

The main enhancement for 3D finishing in PowerMill 2018 is the addition of a centre-line option for 3D Offset Finishing. This option, which can be used in Optimised Constant-Z and Steep-and-Shallow Finishing, removes the cusps of material that can be left at the centre of the offset. This additional cut removes material that could produce problems in subsequent machining operations or that could need to be smoothed out by hand polishing.

Improvements have also been made for 2D machining. During the calculation of 2D roughing toolpaths, the stock is now updated dynamically, trimming the toolpath segments slice by slice to avoid possible collisions with the model and the remaining stock.

A dedicated finishing strategy for 2D walls and floors has been added, allowing the finish machining of these features to be completed in single or multiple passes, with full control over the ordering of the toolpaths. Also new for 2D finishing is a strategy for rounding that uses routing tools to produce convex fillets. This replicates the workflow used for chamfer machining to produce toolpaths to create these features.

Point of view

Finally, a number of improvements have been made to the ViewMill simulation module. The results from ViewMill can now be panned, zoomed and rotated in the various shading modes, allowing quick manipulation of the model and so helping to minimise the possibility of un-machined material being left on the part when producing large and complex parts.

During simulations, the tool and toolholder are now dynamically checked against the ViewMill stock so that potential problems can be identified and resolved more quickly. The final simulation image has also seen an improvement in quality, increasing the confidence that all the required material will be removed and that the surface finish will be acceptable.





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