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MecSoft's RhinoCAM Software Review, Pt 3

By Daniel Dobrzynski, March 22, 2013

See Pt 1, Pt 2

continued from Pt 2

  1. 5-axis Indexed Machining allows machining from any orientation using machine coordinate system.

Figure 36: 5-axis indexed machining

  1. 5-axis Continuous Machining is a new set of operations in RhinoCAM 2012 that gives the programmer the complete control over machining complex parts on 5-axis machines. This is a key functionality today that was missing from previous versions of RhinoCAM, a big limitation.
  • Curve Projection Machining projects curves onto one or more surfaces.

Figure 37: 5-axis curve projection machining

  • Between Curves Machining machines surfaces or solids defined between two curves. Those who work with 5-axis machines (I include myself) know how much this is needed.

Figure 38: 5-axis between-curves machining

  • Flow Curve Machining follows a curve laying on the drive surface

Figure 39: 5-axis flow curve machining

  • Surface Normal Machining machines surfaces or solids in parallel planes using the surface normal vectors for tool orientation; very useful in geometries like blades.

Figure 40: 5-axis surface-normal machining

  • Swarf Machining machines walls using the sides of the cutter while riding one or more bottom surfaces, for geometry like that in the following image

Figure 41: 5-axis swarf machining

  • Drive Curve Machining uses curves to define the tool trajectory with different tool axis orientation methods.

Figure 42: 5-axis drive-curve machining and options

Machine Operation Options

The option group maintains the same VisualMILL structure that is similar for all these machine operation types, with a main folder (specifying the name of the operation, as defined by the user) and the following subfolders:

  • Machine Features defines the area to be machined in the operation through the regions and start points.
  • Tool defines the tool, which can be input from the predefined library. I found the generation process simple, and similar to that many popular CAM or simulators. It is possible to load and save libraries of tools.

Figure 43: Tool creation and selection

  • Feed and Speeds dialog has all the necessary parameters and options to define the spindle speed and direction; feed rates can be defined by values or else loaded from the tool or from a file.

Figure 44: Feeds and speeds dialog box

  • Clearance Geometry defines the clearance plane, which can be set easily using different references, including the automatic one. The cut transfer method can be defined by this clearance plane, and it is an interesting alternative to the skim clearance (distance from maximum part point).

Figure 45: Clearance options

  • Parameters specifies correct and optimal strategies for machining operations. These are essential, because RhinoCAM makes available a variety of parameters that control the way to cut the material, depending on the type of operation (2- or 5-axis, for example). At times, however, I got the sense that there were too many options which might confuse new users – as in VisualMILL. But then I realized that both packages generally followed the same logic, which requires you to acquire the necessary experience in any CAM product.
Machine Operations Parameters

I won’t go into the details of all the parameters for the full range of operations, but I would like to describe some of them (these are also found in VisualMILL).

There is a complete set of parameters to control the cut levels (rough or finish), and a very good entry and exit motions settings (approach and retract). I want to highlight a folder dedicated to advanced cut parameters in which users can control the cut corner rounding, arc fitting, cut smooth transitions and bridges creation.

Regarding the management of entry/exit, there is a wide range of options that cover the most common ways for tool input and output, as well as transitions and connections.

Finally, I was happy to see the gouge check options, in which I could perform gouge checks for tool geometry (holder, shaft, and tip) against checked geometry, with the ability to detect collisions, and then decide on the strategy within the predefined options.

Tool Path Simulation

As you may have noticed, I could write many pages describing the wide range of options in this software, but I would not dare abuse your patience as a reader. Thus I will stop hereto briefly describe simulation methods.

RhinoCAM has different ways to run simulations: it allows me to control its speed, interrupts, toolpath step levels, and the stock's representation/visibility with or without material removal. This is, however, a neutral program code simulation, which means what I do not see the actual Gcode the machine will receive.

Figure 46: Material removal simulation inside RhinoCAM

I found a great option in advanced modules: the machine simulation is a great help for programmers, especially in cases of position changes between different operations. It can also be used for processes with 4- and 5-axis functions. Again, the simulation is based on neutral code and not Gcode program that the real CNC machine will receive; for this reason, the simulation of the controller is not included in the virtual RhinoCAM machine.

Figure 47: Machine simulation

Figure 48: Machine simulation run on a different machine

Figure 49: Machine simulation with program lines

Knowledge Bases

When I make many similar process, it’s possible to save and load knowledge bases or K-Base. I can archive an entire sequence of operations and all associated parameters to a knowledge database. After this, the knowledge base can be loaded across other part files.

The default knowledge base allows me to set default parameters for machining operations. This allows the reuse of the parameters without having to enter the same parameters when creating new machining operations on same part or new part files. All this saves my time!

Graphical Tool Path Editor

I end my review with the graphical tool path editor, because I see it as very useful. It brings a lot of possibilities to experienced users.

Figure 50: Graphical tool path editor

We can edit tool motions, delete individual or sets of motions, move-rotate-scale-mirror tool paths, instance tool paths, fit arcs, reduce tool paths.

Figure 51: Graphical tool path editor example


RhinoCAM is a general-purpose 2- to 5-axis simultaneous CAM solution especially targeted at SMEs (small and medium size enterprises) with a desirable combination of features, affordable price, ease of learning, and ease of use.

Despite all this, I would still like to see MecSoft work on (if they aren’t already) adding modules for multitasking machines (single and multi-turret and multi-Spindle), like Mazak’s Integrex series. These complete all operations - turning, milling, boring, and drilling - in a single setup. I’d also like to see a module dedicated to CNC wire-cut EDM (electrical discharge machining) machines.

RhinoCAM 2012 provides all the benefits provided by the standalone VisualMILL 2012 software, but has the added advantage of being able to work directly and natively in the Rhino MCAD environment. The geometric interaction results in time savings, eliminates the drawback of translation formats, and reduces the learning curve.

As a fan of all areas in CAM, after trying RhinoCAM 2012, I can conclude that it gave me a very positive feeling for the extensive technical capabilities, as well as the ease of use and pleasant operation.

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About the Author

Daniel Dobrzynski is a expert in the CAD/CAM industry with over 27 years’ experience as enterprise consultant. He has worked as a designer (mainly in automotive & aerospace areas of big companies), CAM programmer, post processor generator, advance machine builder for CAM simulation, PLM administrator, methodology and procedures creator. He has more than 20 years as a CAD/CAM/CAE certified trainer. More...

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