CAD/CAM companies and developers JUST DON’T GET IT !!
If you are a machinist and / or job shop CNC programmer … this article is for YOU !!
Let’s start at the beginning …
CAD/CAM was originally designed “back in the day” for the design and manufacture of COMPLEX aircraft components. And for that complex programming … yes it is indispensable. But once all those aircraft manufacturers had their CAD/CAM … the market started drying up and the CAD/CAM companies looked to diversify … to look to push their products into other areas … like everyday manufacturing. Gotta keep developing markets to keep those BIG profits coming in.
BUT the reality is …
CAD/CAM was never designed to be a PRIMARY G code generating tool … it’s a design tool first and foremost … thus the need for a drawing to program even the simplest part. This fact can lead to a number of job shop / everyday manufacturing / G code generating issues … such as :
Removing good chipmakers from the manufacturing process. If you can’t draw … you can’t program.
Slowing down the programming process … have to always create a drawing first.
Adds unnecessary complexity to the programming process … CAD/CAM packages are so complicated with cryptic icon driven menu systems making it necessary to weed through tons of unnecessary menus to accomplish even the simplest tasks.
The alternative ????
Shop Floor Programming … plain and simple.
Shop Floor Programming pretty much describes the programming that is done on 95% of job shops around the world every day. Simpler … everyday parts. A shaft with 3 diameters … a groove … and a thread. A round milled pocket with a bolt circle at the bottom. A simple 2D contour for a metal bracket. You get the picture … you know the workpieces I speak of.
For the above … why on earth would I need to waste my time to create a drawing to create some G code ???
Shop floor programming is the answer. A simple tool that was designed specifically for G code generation … not design primarily … G code generating primarily.
Some machine tool builders will tell you that their cryptic, archaic “conversational” control is “shop floor programming”. But the fact is that their CNC control is NOT a PC … and doesn’t have a PC’s capabilities or user-friendly-ness. AND … it’s specific for their machine … and is locked to the machine. You gotta program in the shop … at the machine … and what about all your other machines?? There’s a BETTER alternative …
Load Kipware® conversational CNC programming software on a laptop … BOOM … conversational, fill-in-the-blank programming for EVERY machine in your shop. Program at the machine … in the office … at home on the couch with a beer … wherever !!
We get asked a LOT about the differences between CAD/CAM systems … such as Fusion360, Bobcad, Mastercam etc. … and Kipware® conversational software and our approach to “shop floor CNC programming”. We always love to take the opportunity to offer the explanation about our design and concept that differentiates Kipware® from CAD/CAM programming. We feel it is a major difference … and one that when understood can bring increased efficiency and flow to any shop floor from the production shop to even a home shop.
Let’s first start by stating that when we refer to “shop floor programming” we are not only talking about creating G code programs at the machine … on the shop floor … but are talking more about creating G code programs outside the realm of a “programmer” inside a “programming department”. Having qualified chipmakers have access to a tool to assist them in creating G code programs that do not require the training and knowledge required to create CAD drawings or function inside a complex CAD/CAM environment. Basically … G code creation for the masses !! This type of G code creation can include not only production type machine shops but prototype shops as well as even home shops … anywhere you feel the phrase “this job DOES NOT require a CAD/CAM system” rings true.
The ORIGINS of CAD/CAM
It is essential in ANY discussion about CAD/CAM to fully understand the history of where it came from. Way back around the late 50’s or so … the first CAD system was created and served as mere replacements for drawing boards. It is definitely an undisputed fact that the origins of CAD/ CAM lie in it’s drawing and design features. From these simple origins of computer aided drafting to the modern 3D engineering, simulation and inter-connectivity features … CAD is probably one of the most important tools in the areas of design and engineering. This is where it was born and is still where it’s main features lie. Look at any of the major CAD/CAM websites and you’ll see it’s all about design and the design features.
The CAM part of it came along later tagging on the design apron strings as a follow-up to CAD … but has always been an after-feature … never the main player. The simple fact that you CANNOT create any cutting toolpaths in ANY CAD/CAM application …. even to simply drill a hole … without a CAD model illustrates this fully. No Drawing … No Toolpath … PERIOD.
CAD and CAD/CAM were primarily developed as design tools … use as a CNC programming tool has always been secondary. If you look deep at an application like Fusion360 … it is primarily about design and collaboration regarding design work … which is great for someone designing and building a product. For shop floors and job shops that have the task of delivering machined components … it really makes less sense.
And herein lies the main difference between CAD/CAM and the Kipware® “shop floor programming” system.
Kipware® Shop Floor Programming VS.
The truth of the matter is … despite what CAD/CAM companies might have you believe … is that turning the above “pretty picture” 3D model … which CAD is essential in developing … into actual physical components is not as simple as clicking the mouse and watching the parts roll out of your CNC machine. It comes down to the more intense basics of fixturing and workholding, cutting tools, toolpath / G code generation, and actual CNC machining … for EACH of the components that comprise the model. There is no CAD/CAM MAGIC involved … it’s simple down and dirty, programming, chipmaking and machining. The picture may look fabulous … but making the actual physical components still requires a skilled CNC programmer / machinist.
AND this is the essence of why what we refer to as “shop floor programming” makes soooo much sense.
Let’s face the facts that not every skilled machinist is a skilled draftsman or CAD operator … but are still one of the most valuable assets on the shop floor. Should their lack of drafting or CAD skills eliminate them from the CNC programming process? Should their lack of drafting or CAD skills eliminate them from applying their skills to program / G code generation. We think that following that path is leading your shop floor down the road of extreme inefficiency.
Kipware® conversational allows skilled chipmakers but unskilled CNC programmers or CAD/CAM personnel to get involved in the programming process. Bringing additional layers of options and efficiency to the shop floor. Kipware® conversational gives them a simple tool to assist them in creating G code programs for the day-to-day type workpieces … leaving the more complex “stuff” to the “CAD/CAM guy”. Have a quick peek at our animated video below that illustrates a scenario we see time and again on shop floors around the world.
Chipmakers better understand the shop floor, their machine and fixturing and tooling. It is natural progression to allow them to process the part based on fixture / tooling availability as well as fixturing / tooling understanding. They know how to hold the part … the tools to use to cut metal … and so who better to create the toolpaths? Kipware® allows for employing multiple chipmakers to creating multiple programs … financially because a purchase includes (2) full seats out of the gate … but also because learning the software is quick and easy due to it’s intuitive design … unlike the complexity entailed with a CAD/CAM system. Any good chipmaker already has the basis for a good CNC programmer. While anyone can be taught to make the tool move around on a CNC machine … chipmakers and machinists understand the most important facets of actual metal removal. It’s not the other way around … someone with no chipmaking experience usually makes a lousy CNC programmer.
The REALITY of Part Programming
Taking a deeper look at the “pretty picture” from our 3D model reveals that it contains a ton of the simpler, every-day type workpieces that can easily be programmed with Kipware®conversational by tons of good chipmakers currently not involved in the programming process because of their “CAD/CAM ignorance” … usually their inability to create a drawing.
The reality of shop programming is that for 95% to 98% of workpieces produced every day in shops around the world … CAD/CAM is overkill … removes good chipmakers from the programming process … and can actually slow down production and contribute to inefficiency. True efficiency on virtually every shop floor dictates that NOT EVERY JOB should be put through the CAD/CAM system … through the “CAD/CAM guy” … nor requires a drawing to create G code.Efficient programming requires that you have an arsenal of tools available so that your CNC programming is not akin to forcing square pegs into round holes. CAD/CAM is one bullet … Kipware® conversational should be another.
The REVOLUTION is ON !!
If the points we have outlined here make sense to you … why not join the revolution? … the Kipware® conversational CNC shop floor programming revolution.Give us a call today or click HERE and arrange for a live, online demonstration of Kipware® conversational. Let us show you Kipware® in action and show you how shop floor programming can FREE you from the CAD/CAM shackles and bring new, improved productivity to your shop for the New Year !! JOIN THE REVOLUTION … say NO to CAD/CAM OVERKILL !!
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We have written a few posts now ranting about how true artisans are being replaced by Artificial Intelligence and how manufacturing may have summoned the demons by over-utilizing complex and “intelligent” software to completely replace the “human factor” ( you can read a post HERE ). That thought was even the subject of an article in the Wall Street Journal … of course much more eloquently.
This post is dedicated to some of the ideas and messages highlighted by that article … intermingled with reasons why we feel our Kipware® software is such a great option to combat the “dumbing down” of America.
Have you “drank the CAD/CAM kool aid”? … or in this case embalming fluid?
“Dazzled by our new machines … we’ve been rushing to hand them all sorts of sophisticated jobs that we used to do ourselves. But our growing reliance on computer automation may be exacting a high price. Worrisome evidence suggest that our own intelligence is withering as we become more and more dependent on the artificial variety. Rather than lifting us up, smart software seems to be dumbing us down.”
Let’s take a look at this point referencing manufacturing. It seems that software developers are really keen on making their software more and more complex … and more and more capable of removing the human interaction … after all, that’s what brings in the big bucks. Instead of simply helping the artisan (machinist) step away from the drab and cumbersome tasks … CAD/CAM has striven to take ALL the thought and “human factor” out of the part programming and manufacturing process. The goal of modern software developers is to grow the automation more and more … but these often result in a “lazy and uneventful design that are void of intellect, imagination and emotion” says architecture professor Jacob Brillhart.
When CNC machinery first came along, it was celebrated for it’s ability to make the machining of complex shapes … take an arc for instance … possible. Creating the G code to machine that arc was still in the hands of the artisan. By keeping it in the hands of the artisan, it lent itself to the human interaction … which more often lent itself to new and innovative shapes … more things could be done with that arc. As CAD/CAM has striven to replace ALL human interaction … it has also removed more and more of that “human factor”. More and more, these new and more powerful software are leaving users only with the drab, mindless, less demanding tasks … and the human innovation and human creativity has been removed with the “skill” being built into the computer.
“Yesterdays machine operators are today’s computer operators.”
As the WSJ articulates … take for instance the modern pilot who actually may be losing his edge thanks to the cockpit computer. We have taken so many tasks away from the pilot and shifted it to the “autopilot” … we have started a “skills fade”. In 2007, British aviation researcher Matthew Ebbatson conducted an experiment with a group of airline pilots. He had them perform a difficult maneuver in a flight simulator … bringing a Boeing jet with a crippled engine in for a landing in rough weather. When he compared the simulator readings with the actual aviators flight records … he found a close connection between a pilot’s adroitness at the controls and the amount of time the pilot had recently spent flying planes manually. In other words … when we are forced to perform tasks manually we are more likely to sharpen our skills and our know-how. When software takes over … manual skills wane.
Why is Kipware® Different ?
My belief … in manufacturing … complex software that performs ALL the tasks automatically are to blame for today’s “dumber” shops … and possibly the skills drain that shops are experiencing. Human-focused software … like Kipware® … engages the operator with lots of prompts and pushes people harder to think, act and learn. Our skills develop and get sharper only through practice when we use them regularly. In our recent article I made the point that … programming a rectangular pocket or the roughing of a multi-step shaft is not rocket science … but it is tedious. Kipware® can assist by creating this simpler G code quickly and easily … but it’s imperative that the user have the ability to create that G code manually if he had to. The message … ” I could do it if I had to but it’s faster and more efficient this way.” … must be valid. If the user can’t do it … and is relying on the computer to perform a task he is incapable of … that’s a problem. The pilot having the ability to land the plane if he had to … is a lot different than him relying exclusively on the auto-pilot because he doesn’t know how to land the plane.
Our software design philosophy and our Kipware® titles reflect a certain feature … that software plays an essential role but is actually secondary to the human operator. It takes over routine functions that a human operator has already mastered. Kipware® becomes the users partner … not the users replacement.Kipware® often relies on the users strengths and interaction … allowing them to bring their ideas and experience to the process … and allows them to enhance the results with the use of the skills and experience.The simple act of knowing how to save a file on the computer … for example … can oftentimes be a stepping stone to bigger and better things. I often hear the question … when I save a file where does it go? With Kipware® … it goes where you tell it to go … not where the software decides it should go with automation that keeps you out of the process. You have to think … act … understand … process. All our Kipware® titles are guides … sure they can automate tedious tasks … but they can also be expanded by the human operator and can take them both to places they could only go with an interactive partnership.
Everyone in manufacturing is in awe at the power and scope of the computer software available that will do the various manufacturing tasks … and we should be. And there certainly is a place for the complex CAD/CAM applications in the manufacturing environment. But our marketing slogan … “Not every job requires CAD/CAM.” … rings true here. We believe that putting every job … even the simplest … through a CAD/CAM system … as outlined here … is making your shop dumber.We should not … and must not … underestimate the value of our own talents when partnered together with technology. Even the smartest software lacks the ability to replicate the human insight gained through years of real world experience and hard work. “If we let our own skills fade by relying on automation, we are going to render ourselves less capable, less resilient and more subservient to our machines.”
Kenney Skonieczny – President
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