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The right tool for the right job (part 1)

Dominic Benoit - Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Often times we are being asked: “Can Solid Edge do the programming for the machine that is going to produce the parts? ” My answer always comes to the principle that every pieces of software has its speciality. For example, when it concerns sheet metal parts, it will be cut on a continuous cutting technology (Laser, plasma, milling) or on a punching machine. As we can assume, each type of machine has in strength. Some technologies are better for thick material while others are very fast on thin parts. Some have a large size stationary table; other like the punching machines have a moving table and other can only hold one piece at a time. Here I refer to wood panel machining center with a wide array of tool type (saws, drills, mills and even label printer) and can machine on several faces of a part. This quick overview is just illustrating the range of specialisation that is involved when we think of programming a part to produce.


Solid Edge is an engineering and drawing platform. Programming software is essential in the preparation (offline) of the programs that will run on the machine. Moreover, all machines don’t “speak” the exact same language, even though the G-Code format is standard, taking into account of the level of instruction that the machine manufacturer put in the head (the controller) of the machine. So, every time that a software writes a program for a specific machine, it has to know what instructions the machine is expecting, how it’s expecting it and also, which ones don’t need to be given. This task belongs to the post-processor that goes with the programming software.


At the drawing stand point, there is no way we can specify that much information precisely for the manufacturing technique. So, outputting the outer and inner contours of the geometry that need to be cut or engraved is enough. Another article on our blog explains how to use the command that prepares the drawing for manufacturing a sheet metal part (How to save a flat pattern as a .dxf file in Solid Edge).


Programming applications all have their level of comprehensiveness of the programming needs particularly if they are developed by a machine manufacturer or by an independent software editor.


The programming software that I’m talking about in my article is act/cut, edited by a French company Alma, it is independent of any machine manufacturer. Act/cut’s strength is in its ability to be adapted to communicate with various types of machines within the same environment and in its calculation algorithms for nesting parts.


The most common exchange format for manufacturing drawing is of course .dxf. That’s why it seems logic for Solid Edge to export in this type with the command Save as flat. It’s also logical for act/cut to import this format smoothly. Act/cut can also import native CAD files from well-known software thanks to an add-on module.


When a .dxf is opened of the Drafter application of act/cut, a filter can be used either by Layer, by color or both Layer/color. This filter allows eliminating undesired elements up-front. For example, 2D drawings often have some dimensions on a specific layer, we don’t want to cut those as part of the piece, and then we remove them right away.



Fig. 1- Layers filters in act/cut.


Some parameters can be setup in act/cut’s resources to indicate in advance which layer or color must be excluded or included and what type of contour are they representing. Does it represent geometry to cut or to engrave or even is construction or cosmetic? This leads to enable batch import of files.


For its part, Solid Edge also provides parameters to control layer filtering in the Save as flat command. Once set, these parameters are stored in order to prevent from having to redefine them again each time.



Fig. 2- Layer filters in Solid Edge.


Many other aspects are to be considered in determining what role is played by which software regarding parts fabrication. I’ll cover more in an upcoming article.


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