One of the manufacturing engineer’s most important tasks is selecting the tools — the various cutters — that will help bring a product designer’s vision into the tangible world of steel and aluminum. Machine tools are more sophisticated than ever, and the manufacturing engineer’s job of selecting the tools, and designing their tool paths, has grown more complex.
The new Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 3.0 tool manager has a modern graphical user interface, along with a number of functions that will reduce keystrokes and the frustrations that can come with tool definition, the first step in designing the tool path.
Clearer and to the point. Now with Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 3.0 tool manager you can define not just the cutting length of each tool, but the shank and holder as well, so it’s easier for you to visualize. The new tool manager also uses a graphic display to show exactly which parameters to define after selecting a basic tool shape so you no longer have to define the tool’s shape by selecting the right combination of parameters from a general list.
“Before, the tool-definition interface was fairly generic, so you had to know which parameters to select or modify,” says Francois Lamy, product management director at PTC. “Now the tool shape shows up on the screen, with an input field for four to eight specific parameters, based on the specific tool shape.”
Customizing the layout, adding custom sorts. Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 3.0 lets you customize the layout of the tool manager interface, and adds a sorting capability to make it easier to find the right tool for the job from among the many that are typically available in the machine shop. You can customize the interface by defining which columns should be displayed, then sort your tool using any of these columns by clicking on the header.
“Typically you will sort by tool diameter,” says Lamy. “It’s a natural way to interact with the GUI, just as if you were turning to someone and saying ‘I need a two millimeter ball-end mill.’”
CL commands and cutting conditions. Another part of tool definition involves adding CL commands so a particular tool can be issued automatically at tool change. A good example is a call for a sub-program for tool life or tool load monitoring.
Cutting conditions, which include everything from rotating feed and speed to the paths NC parameter themselves, are different for steel and aluminum. In the previous tool manager, you had to save a new file for each material. This created file-management complexity and added to the potential for confusion as files were checked in and out of the data management database.
The new version has done away with the flat ASCII file format that was used to store tools and replaced it with an XML text format. Because of XML’s greater capacity to organize information, all parameters, including the various cutting conditions, can reside in a single file for a specific tool. As a result, what used to be multiple files now become a single file.
“An added benefit of the XML format is that it simplifies the interface with any proprietary tool management systems that the manufacturer might be using, or that might come with the tools themselves,” says Lamy. “This improves your productivity because it means the parameters will carry from the proprietary system to the tool manager, so you won’t have to re-enter them.”
Adding settings, creating defaults. As a final step in defining the tool, the manufacturing engineer can now append certain additional settings, such as the type of coolant to be used and the tool’s preferred spindle direction. This serves as added insurance that the tool will be used correctly in a particular manufacturing process, and that future users will have detailed instructions on the tool’s correct setup.
Moreover, the engineer can make any — or any combination — of the NC sequence parameters, CL Commands or settings into the tool’s standard default configuration. This benefits the manufacturing engineer and their company by facilitating the tool’s use in future manufacturing operations as these settings can be populated automatically to the NC sequence definition.
Capturing knowledge. “Some customers want a redesigned GUI and others want time-saving features, such as streamlining the NC parameters function,” says Lamy. “With Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 3.0, we had a good opportunity to do both, to upgrade the interface, and to find other ways to improve the user experience.”
We made it easier input knowledge into the software, and then for the software to hold onto it,” Lamy says. “So now you don’t have to do the same job more than once, because the software’s as smart as it is good looking.”
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