Is Automation for CNC Programming Really Possible?

Is Automation for CNC Programming Really Possible?
Posted in: Manufacturing

It seems that with everything these days, it’s all about speed and automation. You can browse the internet for a product that interests you and with only a few mouse clicks, have it delivered to your doorstep the next day. Credit card numbers can be saved, shipping preferences recalled, and recently used addresses can autofill the delivery address on an order for you.

Automation for CNC Programming

When it comes to CNC programming, what is a realistic expectation for automation? Over the years, the answer to this question has evolved as fast as CAM software can be updated and enhanced. In my experience, the honest answer I give when asked this question is “it all depends…”

There are a few factors that will really determine the amount of automation you can expect when it comes to programming:

  • How complex is the part geometry?
  • Are all the machinable features prismatic or are there multi-axis features?
  • Are there asymmetric tolerances you need to account for?
  • How many set ups are required to finish the part complete?

Automation with CAM Software

CAM automation can run the gamut of being able to automate everything on certain parts, all the way to perhaps little to no automation on a more complex part. As a former programmer myself, even if my parts cannot be fully automated, I see any programming time reduction as a benefit.

For example, things as simple as tapped holes where I may have to define geometry and multiple operations for a program can be a source of huge time savings if my CAM system can do this automatically for me. Or if my part has many different directions of machining, I can exponentially reduce the programming time with software that can create multiple set up directions automatically and prepare my program for either unique machine set ups or optimized indexes depending on equipment available.

Automation can also include updating CAM data due to geometry changes. Do I need to delete operations and toolpaths and recreate them for updated geometry, or can I apply CAD changes to a part or assembly and let my toolpath automatically regenerate to the new geometry or tolerance change?

While accounting for programming variables such as fixturing that may be available or tool length extension requirements that may still require user intervention, there are plenty of building blocks we can use to get us ever closer to the goal of automation when it comes to creating CNC programs.

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Automation in CNC machining means time savings, repeatability, and the best use of captured company best practices for creating programs. If you have any questions about manufacturing tools like CAMWorks, the Hawk Ridge Systems team of CAM experts can show you how much automation is possible for the parts you manufacture. Contact us to learn more! 

May 5, 2022
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