Sharpcam Solves Programming Issues

Sharpcam has supplied low-cost CAM software to Kingston-based subcontractor Tromec, giving the company the functionality it required without the expense of a high-end system. The software can quickly program complicated 2.5D components and its ease of use meant that a new operator with no previous CAM experience was producing his own programs within a day. Tromec is a subcontract CNC machine shop covering a wide range of customers - from the Ministry of Defence and aerospace to the local car mechanic that needs a cylinder head skimming.

The company operates three CNC machining centres - a Matchmaker 820 with fourth axis, an XYZ 560 Mini Mill and a Fadal VMC 15 - that produce parts ranging from complex helicopter components to relatively simple jobs requiring a fast turnaround. When an experienced programmer and operator left the company, managing directors Chris Walker and Paul Cheshire faced a dilemma. They needed to program 2.5D parts that could be quite complicated, but felt they didn't need all the advanced features of a high-end CAM system - and didn't want to pay the price that they estimated would be involved.

Neither did they want to devote their own time to programming, or spend time learning how to do it. Chris Walker said: 'The guy who was leaving used his own CAM software and we were finding it very difficult to find a like-for-like replacement. 'Someone recommended a skilled setter/operator who was looking for a job, but he had no programming experience. 'So what I needed was a simple, easy-to-use CAM system where you aren't immediately outfaced when you turn it on by all the things you could do - but have no idea how to do. 'Sharpcam is easy to get to grips with and when the new operator started, I showed him how it worked and within a day he was programming - and has been ever since,' he added.

'It was very easy to learn and use; there is a computer on the shopfloor that I use to create the programs and I then send them straight to the machine that is going to produce the part,' said operator Andy Elson. With Sharpcam, users can quickly learn to draw or import parts, define tool paths and generate CNC code in a straightforward step-by-step process. CNC code is written as you go, fully post processed and ready to use. The software is fully associative, so every action you take automatically and immediately creates the new tool path, or updates the existing one - with the NC code always in view.

Tromec typically does one-off and small batch work, with 500 off being a big run, so programming time is a significant part of the cost of a job. Sharpcam is claimed to generate code very quickly and offers short tool paths for fast pocketing. Sharpcam works out the tool paths a different way from other systems so that the cutter stays in the pocket rather than constantly lifting out, moving to another part of the pocket and feeding in again. It provides a library of post processors for different controls that can be configured for a specific machine using a simple dialogue system - with no need to understand or edit post processors. 'You can create the drawing and tool paths and then put it on whichever machine you want - and you can import files too,' said Walker.


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