The FARCE that is Feature Based Cost Estimating

Taking a trip around the net you might find a few of the machine shop job costing and estimating software applications out there touting their application as “FEATURE BASED” estimating. My first reaction is always … REALLY ??? Does anyone really fall for that sales gobbly-gook speak ???

What else would you want to estimate … 

With further thought it becomes abundantly apparent that it simply sounds good … makes for a good sales pitch … catches the eye … but the reality is … don’t be fooled. As a professional think about it. If you have a part with a variety of “features” that need to be machined … the simple act of estimating the time to machine those features … WHICH IS REALLY ALL THE ESTIMATE IS BEING CREATED FOR … is the act of feature based estimating. THERE ISN’T ANY OTHER TYPE !!!

And What About Those Features ??

AND … if you are touting feature based estimating you better be able to handle ALL kinds of features … not only simplistic milling and turning of simplistic parts. Real world workpieces have odd shaped pockets and contours … odd shaped turned parts with various types of grooves and undercuts. Simplistic “feature based” estimating app’s simply don’t handle the “real world” well.

AND … this is not a “fluff it off” input either. Watch some web demos and you’ll see the demonstrator utter the famous words … “OK let’s say that’s 10 inches.” Great for a demo but how did you get that figure? If they don’t show you … they must be hiding something … like it’s really hard to obtain.  This input is just as much at the heart of an accurate estimate as insuring that the speeds and feeds used accurately reflect your shop floor cutting parameters … not just some “book knowledge”. Our KipwareCYC® has been tested and developed on real shop floors and we have hundreds of clients who purchased our KipwareCYC® after having compared their actual machining times against times created with KipwareCYC®. You don’t get any better than that. And the system we have created using the tool’s length of cut … is by far the most accurate way to estimate cycletime … and our Cut Length Calculator app is the easiest and most accurate way to calculate that length of cut.


Accurate speeds and feeds without accurate tool engagement time produces inaccurate estimates as well.

There is really only two ways to calculate the amount of time a tool is engaged in the cutting process … and therefore determine the cutting time for the tool. Those inputs are (1) measuring volume of material being removed and (2) tracing the tools length of cut while doing the cutting.

Using Volume of Material Removal as an input Is NOT REALISTIC !!

If the machining time estimating software is using an input related to volume of material being removed … that should be a RED FLAG. Why?

  • FIRST – Volume of material is NOT an indicator of the time a tool is engaged in the cut. And calculating the time the tool is actually engaged in the cut is the BEST way to determine cutting time. This type of input does not accurately reflect the tools time of engagement … because the tool may follow an unorthodox path while cutting … and that takes time.
  • SECOND – it already assumes that you have or are going to create a CAD drawing of the workpiece … and an accurate, to scale drawing at that. What if that’s not the case … as in about 85% of work that gets quoted in the real world. From sketches, from drawings that are not to scale, from prints … the volume input is next to impossible to obtain without an ACCURATE – TO SCALE CAD drawing … so you’ll need to create a CAD drawing.

Using Extends or Outline as an Input

The most accurate input for determining a tool’s length of time or engagement in the cut is the length of cut input. Why? Because this input actually traces the tools path while in the cut … which may not consist of “standard” type movements as reflected in the simple volume of material being removed.  This input is a little tougher to achieve … a little bit more of too much and it will be overkill … but you can get much closer to the actual time of engagement with this method. BUT … the toolpath must be accurately reflected for the calculation. Having a part that has a non-standard outline and saying that the extends are 6 x 3 is NOT accurate enough. You need to trace or follow the tool will take around the contour to insure you are as close as you can get. As mentioned above … our Cut Length Calculator app which comes standard with KipwareCYC® is by far the most accurate way to obtain a length of cut … using either a conversational, fill-in-the-blank format … or a DXF input.

Take a look at “feature based” estimating on STEROIDS in our KipwareCYC® – CUT LENGTH CALCULATOR video … the link is below :

Soooo … let’s Review

  • “Feature based estimating” is really just the act of creating a machining cycletime estimate … since you are really only creating the estimate so you can tell your customer how long it’s going to take to machine the part, and the associated costs. DON’T BE FOOLED.
  • The most accurate way to estimate cycletime for machining is yto utilize the time of engagement for the cutting tool. Volume of material being removed is a very subjective and inaccurate input and a tools length of cut is the most accurate.
  • KipwareCYC® is coupled with the Cut Length Calculator application and can provide users with a quick and accurate length of cut for traditional, standard operations for BOTH milling and turning … or utilize a DXF file so users can accurately trace the path the cutting tool will take around a non-traditional shape … giving closest length of cut calculation without the overkill.

If you agree with the points we have outlined here … we welcome your thorough review of KipwareCYC®, the companion Cut Length Calculator application and for costing … our KipwareQTE® software.

For additional information on the complete KipwareCYC® – Machining CycleTime Estimating Software application … CLICK HERE.

AND … for complete information on turning that cycletime estimate into a complete COST ESTIMATE and QUOTATION … check out KipwareQTE® … CLICK HERE.

Kenney Skonieczny – President
Kentech Inc.

Kipware® Conversational vs CAD/CAM — G code “wizards” — Conversational Controls

Some of the most frequently asked questions we hear in regards to conversational CNC programming are :

  1. “Why should I consider Kipware® conversational over CAD/CAM ?”
  2. “Why should I consider Kipware® over a conversational CNC control ?”
  3. “What’s the difference between Kipware® and those G code “wizards”?

And we actually love these questions … because the answer becomes really clear with some simple explanations and some outlining of the facts. If you’re wondering the same … here’s a brief outline.

Kipware® VS. CAD/CAM

STOP the CAD/CAM Frustration !!

  • 95% of everyday CNC programming does not require a CAD/CAM system … despite what the CAD/CAM companies tell you. If you are a job shop performing every day type programming … excluding complex aircraft components like airfoils or mold machining … your CAD/CAM system is most likely overkill for 95% of your CNC programming … and is excluding good chip makers from the programming process … and that’s hurting your efficiency.
  • To create even the simplest programs … a drawing is required … and that requires you to have CAD and drawing experience … and time.
  • Kipware® has a simple, easy-to-use user interface … no complicated icon systems to remember like CAD/CAM systems … and is much less expensive … in the short term and long term. The ROI (Return On Investment) with Kipware® is faster because you will be manufacturing more parts at a faster pace because of the simple design and ease-of-use and you can get more people involved in program creation.
  • Even if you are creating programs for complex parts … Kipware® is a great compliment to a CAD/CAM system. Simpler programs can be created by anyone with Kipware® leaving the complex “stuff” for the CAD/CAM. Kipware® allows you get more out of your CAD/CAM system.

Kipware® VS. “wizards” 

STOP being an amateur !!

Stop being treated like an amateur !!
Do you want to be a “cnc’er” or a machinist ??

  • These designs include simplistic interfaces … limiting the programmers capabilities and the type of workpieces and operations that can be programmed.
  • Their cheap price may be inviting … but any MAKER will quickly grow beyond their capabilities … don’t be held back.
  • Or maybe you have seen them touting “it’s FREE while in BETA testing.” OK … so I get to make junk, get frustrated, ruin my projects, waste my time AND TEST YOUR SOFTWARE FOR YOU ?? REALLY ??
  • Most of these so-called “conversational wizards” have been create by “hobby machinists” ( one of my biggest pet peeves … see here : ) who have VERY LIMITED experience or vision of a professional machine shop or professional machining. Let’s back this up with actual facts :

The whole machining concept outlined below of cutting a part with square corners and then just coming back to machine the chamfer or radius … which is the premise behind the “wizards” individual menu for chamfer or radius … is completely foreign in itself to a professional machinist. It further illustrates the hobby design concept present throughout the “wizards”.  These would be rough cut if large enough during rough machining and finish cut during finish machining as part of the complete part machining.

Below is a sample screenshot of one of the “wizards” … to machine an OD radius. Limited to 90 degrees only … what if you have two 45 degree lines with a radius in between. Out of luck. 

 And then there is the toolpath … screenshot on the right.. Wasted motion … and who machines a radius like this ?? Certainly not a professional machinist. Further … OD chamfer “wizard” screen and toolpath. Really? Only 45 degrees … and more wasted motion

In comparison … the professional design of KipwareT® incorporates the machining of these features into the professional machining concept of roughing and finishing. The video through the link below illustrates one of our cutting edge conversational options that … well, you gotta see for yourself. You won’t be disappointed … it truly is groundbreaking.

If you have the desire or need to go the  non-standard concept of machining the chamfer or radius individually … our KipwareT® does contain these individual chamfer or radius menu options. They are primarily there as options for non-standard instances only. Below are screenshot s of the KipwareT® conversational OD radius screen … and generated toolpath. Professional … and end of story.

  • Kipware® conversational offers UNMATCHED options not even available anywhere else in the industry. Options  like conversational 3D MILLING … LIVE TOOL and Y AXIS PROGRAMMING for turning centers. Kipware® is a leader and sets the bar in conversational programming software … and has turned the conversational CNC world on it’s head more than once … while still costing less than most lesser-capable programming options.
  • Unlike simplistic “wizards” … Kipware® conversational is a complete programming system … including conversational programming, conversational CAD/CAM, DXF importing, speed and feed wizard, toolpath plotting, full G code editing, toolbox software, programming assistant, and DNC communication software.

Kipware® VS. conversational CNC controls

  • Two words … OVERLY SIMPLISTIC. Everyday programming is NOT Rocket Science … BUT it’s NOT Kindergarten either.
  • All the so called “hobby” conversational CNC controls give the user only simplistic menus that do not have any real power. Case in point … some screenshots below :
These types of on-the-machine programming system are just too OVERLY SIMPLISTIC …and do not give the user room to grow into more complex programming when required.
  • These designs include simplistic interfaces … limiting the programmers capabilities and the type of workpieces and operations that can be programmed.
  • Not EVERY job in the shop is quick and easy and these overly simplistic “conversational controls” do not have the ability to handle more complex machining when required … or how about drawing or DXF import capabilities?
  • Unlike simplistic controls … Kipware® conversational is a complete programming system … including conversational programming, conversational CAD/CAM, DXF importing, speed and feed wizard, toolpath plotting, full G code editing, toolbox software, programming assistant, and DNC communication software.
  • Kipware® conversational was designed from the production shop floor up … by professional machinists … and includes powerful, real world shop programming features like cutter compensation … rotation … DXF importation capabilities … canned cycles … and more.
  • If you are looking for a conversational CNC … the better option is a Surface tablet or laptop loaded with Kipware® conversational. This allows for programming multiple CNC machines with a single device and single interface. Just pick it up and move it around easily which allows for programming on the shop floor or in the office or even at home … by multiple individuals. Now your conversational CNC includes powerful options and features including DXF import … and the cost is less than $1200 (US).

If you or your shop are exploring conversational CNC programming systems and software … we would love for an opportunity to show you the major differences between the proven-in-the-trenches Kipware® software and complex and expensive CAD/CAM … limited and under-developed G code “wizards” … and limiting, simplistic conversational CNC controls.

Please visit our website :

And arrange for a live, online demonstration of ANY Kipware® title :

Kenney Skonieczny – President

Kentech Inc.

Dump the "wizards" and GO PRO with Kipware>

CNC and Machine Control Compatibility with Kipware® Conversational

Almost everyone who takes an interest in our Kipware® Conversational CNC Programming software inevitably has the same question … “Will it work with my CNC machine and control?” So we thought best to take a blog post and spread some of the good news !!

1st … Kipware® Conversational is different than CAD/CAM

In addition to not having to create a drawing to create a G code machining program like CAD/CAM … Kipware® conversational also makes creating G code output for a variety of CNC machines and controls REALLY EASY. We designed Kipware® conversational’s G code output to be “fanuc compatible” out of the box. That means you don’t need any post processors like CAD/CAM … because isn’t that just a way for them to get their hands in your wallet anyway ??. ”

Almost every CNC control maker out there tries to make their G code compatible with Fanuc controls. The reason … Fanuc is the most popular maker of CNC controls in the world … having their CNC control on about 95% of the machine tools on the market. So if you want people to buy your machine and control … gotta give them something they are used to … something they probably are familiar with … gotta make your control “fanuc compatible”.

Fanuc compatible G code is the same G code that is used in :

      • ALL Fanuc model controls … ANY machine tool builder
      • Centroid
      • Daewoo
      • DMG / Mori Seiki
      • EMC2
      • Fadal
      • Fagor
      • Haas
      • Hurco
      • Hyundai
      • Leadwell
      • Mach3 / Mach4   ( KipwareXC® option required for KipwareT® (turning) )
      • Makino
      • MAZAK ( Matrix and Smart )
      • Milltronics
      • Mitsubishi
      • Okuma
      • Siemens
      • Tormach ( Mach3 and PathPilot )
      • Toyoda
      • Yasnac
      • actually many more … too numerous to mention

When we designed Kipware® conversational … milling or turning … we made the output “fanuc compatible” out of the box. No mess … no fuss … no post processors required.

Now of course there are some minor differences when it comes to machine tool builders and their machines … so we took that bit of code out of the auto-creation and gave the user the ability to customize that code output using a simple text editor … and the user can create an unlimited number of these custom files for as many different machine tool builder as required. Block of code like … start of the program … start of the tool … end of the tool … end of the program … can all be created using a the simple Kipware® conversational POST editor … and these blocks of code will be auto-inserted into the G code output when the program gets created.

So in essence … it’s the best of both worlds. Auto-output for the G code side … customized output for the non-standard side.


2nd … KipwareXC® is there if you need it.

As you can see from the above … we’ve got most of the CNC controls and machine already covered out-of-the-box. But there still will be clients who have a “non fanuc compatible” machine / control. We got that covered too … with the KipwareXC® option.

Since 1986 … Kentech Inc. has been a leader and pioneer in the world of G Code Conversion. The art of taking a G code program formatted for one machine and control and auto-converting into a format compatible for another machine and control. Our KipwareXC® G code conversion software makes a perfect tool and solution for those non-fanuc compatible scenarios.

KipwareXC® allows users to continue to program … regardless of the machine or control … every scenario in the familiar Kipware® conversational interface. When the G code program is completed … simply run that G code through KipwareXC® and it will be auto-converted for whatever machine and control you require. KipwareXC® allows the user to define the what-to-convert-into-what for an unlimited number of machines and controls … meaning you can run your standard Kipware® conversational G code program through KipwareXC® and have it auto-converted into the format your machine / control requires.

And the best part … KipwareXC® will work on any G code program … whether created in Kipware® conversational or not. Think of the possibilities for your shop floor !!

So … if you’ve gotten to the point where you’re considering Kipware® conversational for your programming … you can rest assured that the output will be compatible with your equipment … either out-of-the-box or by employing the powerful KipwareXC® option.

If you have any additional questions or concerns about Kipware® conversational … please contact us at any of the options below.

Kenney Skonieczny – President
Kentech Inc.