Optimum tool path strategies reduce production times

THERE are many components to an effective CNC machining process for fabrication shops. While a high-quality CNC machine is an important factor for the efficient machining of quality products, a good automatic tool pathing software package is equally as important and sets you apart from the competition by improving your product quality and value. No matter how sophisticated a CNC machine is, it can’t do anything without a tool and a tool path.

One Brisbane-based manufacturer of CNC routers and plasma cutters, Advanced Robotic Technology (ART), believes that sometimes full productivity gains have not been made by the latest CNC machine technology because of the inherent shortcomings in the off-line generation of tool paths.

“The tool path has always been the weak link in the chain. A high-quality cutting tool, driven by innovative tool path programs can increase productivity by as much as three times,” says an ART representative.

ART works with different software companies to match the correct tool path software to the production needs of each manufacturing customer. Among these is the in-house developed multi-purpose ART ToolShop software, CAMduct/PM2000 for plasma cutters and large format routers in aluminium (including automatic patterns for ducting applications as an option), as well as ProNest for plasma cutters and EnRoute for advanced 2D and 3D CNC routing applications. 

EnRoute is able to take most CAD files and rapidly process them into NC files suitable for use on ART CNC machines. Specialised modules are available for 3D modelling, cabinetmaking, engraving, advanced nesting and most types of machining processes.

“Generating an optimum tool path, optimum speed and feeds ensure a customer a heightened return on investment. With the use of EnRoute Software for router applications, we discovered that it not only streamlines the CAD/CAM production cycle, it also takes on a whole new aspect of affordability, accuracy and uncompromising technical support allowing for maximum productivity,” said the ART spokesperson.

By utilising EnRoute Smart Tool Path technology, users can create a toolpath strategy that best fits their needs. This refers to the different types of toolpath creation methods. Users can set parameters for routing offset, hatch fill, island fill, drills, slots, pyramid and engraving. Powerful tool path techniques can be applied to any text or vector art. Text can have a bevelled ‘pyramid’ effect that also includes a rough pass option to clear out extra material and an offset pass to cut out letters when completed. 

EnRoute software is designed to save time and make production processes more efficient. Automatic tool pathing (ATP) brings together many of the disciplines required into a fully-automated environment. The software package is able to make many decisions on behalf of the operator by following predefined strategies – which means operators spend less time preparing design files for output to the CNC machines.

EnRoute’s ATP engine connects with any CAD software to process layered DXF files and batched files into nested sheets, complete with drill holes, dados and layers ready for output to the machine.

How parts are positioned on the material plate is another important factor for increased efficiency in CNC machining. Parts positioning impacts both the amount of material that the job will consume and the machining time required to cut the parts. A shop’s profit margin is directly connected to part nesting: that’s why it is important for CAD/CAM software to have a complete set of nesting algorithms that can find the optimum geometrical arrangement to simultaneously minimise material waste and maximise cutting times. 

Behind EnRoute’s interface is a CAD tool with a nesting suite that automatically finds the optimum geometry that is designed to minimise material waste and maximise machine efficiency. EnRoute will nest parts efficiently even on non-rectangular workspaces and automatically compensate for tooling fixtures or material flaws. With EnRoute, users can prioritise parts before nesting for a more efficient workflow.

David White is the director of ART.