Methods capture – sounds romantic, right?. But, as I explained in earlier posts, I became aware of how much Colin Gilchrist of Gilchrist Consulting Services values TopSolid 7 when he began releasing a series of blog posts sharing the 15 reasons he loves the TopSolid platform. Colin is a highly experienced CNC programmer who consults leading manufacturers, develops CNC training ciriculum and serves as a CNC instructor.
Colin’s posts impressed me. Of course, I liked his posts because he is fond of the TopSolid solution. But, I was mostly impressed by his insightful understanding of how TopSolid 7 meets the demands of today’s ever-increasing manufacturing complexity. In the end, we decided to collaborate to create an eBook which we titled “The Confessions of a Passionate CNC Programmer: The Top 15 Reasons I Love TopSolid.”
Below, I have shared his fifth reason for loving TopSolid. I hope you find it interesting and encourage you to download the full ebook – there are even three bonus reasons in addition to the primary fifteen primary reasons.
Reason #5 – Top 15 Reasons to Love TopSolid
A method in TopSolid is a sequence of events that create machining operations. Many CAM software packages allow you to create a macro that records a series of sequential steps, or even let you use operation libraries, where you store a specific type of machining operation toolpath, with preset parameter values of your choosing.
Using operation libraries is good, but there are often steps involved that aren’t easily communicated to the programmer just by selecting the name of an operation in a list of operations. You still will most likely need to setup planes, tools, and select geometry or change chain settings for each operation you import. While the overall process of importation saves you time, the process is still manually executed, and tedious.
Missler Software addressed this lack of functionality by building a function called methods into TopSolid. A method is like a series of step-by-step instructions and actions that let you capture the overall process of the way you program your specific parts on your actual machines. Phrasing it this way is awkward to say, but it is important to understand the meaning. Many other “automation” functions in other CAD/CAM systems lack the ability to describe the entire programming process.
What do I mean by entire programming process? When you create a method, you use a dialog box with a series of actions. This includes a rich set of tools for selecting geometry, setting planes, origins, and just about any parameter you can think of. In addition to setting toolpath parameters, you can prompt the user with a question, and have their response to that question trigger some action. During selection of geometry, you can choose if the selection is automatic, or set a variable condition. This is based on using VB.NET code to grab just about any parameter you can imagine. Say you select a pocket deeper than 2.0 inches. If this occurs, you want to drop the feed rate by 20 percent because you know the aspect ratio of your tool just increased.
In addition to planning the sequence of events, pictures can be added at each step of the process to help guide the person executing the method on a new part. In this way, a method almost becomes a guided tutorial for walking a user step-by-step through the selection of geometry, and creation of new toolpath operations.
Methods can be copied, renamed, and modified. You can add new steps, modify the logic, and control just about every aspect of toolpath generation, tool selection, geometry selection, and clear instructions about what is to be machined, and how to accomplish that task. During method execution, steps can be skipped altogether, without affecting the other steps in the process.
I’ve seen some relatively simple methods reduce the average programming time for similar jobs from a day of programming, down to 5-10 minutes to execute a method. What would it mean to your company if you could reduce the programming time for the average job in your shop by a factor of 10?