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"Working Blue" with Alibre CAM 2.0

No need to keep the kids away from this month's tech tip. We're talking about machining regions in Alibre CAM ... rather than profane comedy ("working blue").

Alibre CAM 2.0 allows you to define machining regions by selecting planar faces of your 3D models. In Alibre CAM, such planar faces are referred to as "flat areas". This new feature provides a quantum leap in capability over previous versions of Alibre CAM, as well as our competitors. You're freed from creating sketches in order to assert full control over toolpath placement. This makes your work much faster, and makes working with imported models significantly easier. However, you need to be aware of the proper use of this feature, in order to avoid unexpected results.

If a machining operation (referred to as a MOp in Alibre CAM terminology) includes containment or avoidance regions defined by flat areas, then it is displayed with a blue folder in the Alibre CAM Browser (figures 1 & 2). In contrast, MOps that don't use flat areas are displayed with a yellow folder. The blue folder, along with some caution messages, are intended to keep you aware that these toolpaths do not update associatively if the model changes. Its up to you to ensure that the toolpaths remain valid when making changes to the 3D model. Note also that such "blue" machining operations will always indicate that an update is necessary, any time the 3D model changes (figures 3 & 4).

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 4

FBe aware that for 3 axis machining methods, the non-associativity of flat area regions applies only to changes affecting the model in the X and Y directions. Changes in the depths of features (that is... in the Z axis direction) will be properly accounted for once the machining operation is regenerated. In other words, changing the depth of a pocket only requires a regeneration of the toolpath, if flat areas were employed. However, if the pocket is moved, enlarged, or shrunk, then the flat areas defining it should be removed and re-selected.

You'll want to employ the following techniques in order to properly manage toolpaths that use this feature:

  • Use flat areas to define machining and avoidance regions for aspects of the 3D model that won't change.
  • Do not create machining and avoidance regions that involve a lot of flat areas. Smaller selection sets are easier to keep current with the 3D model.
  • Ensure that the toolpaths correspond to the current state of the 3D model by removing the flat area selections and then re-selecting them each time the model changes.

Advanced Play

"Master... I can engrave with 2.5 axis and 4 axis machining methods in Alibre CAM 2.0. Why can I not engrave with a 3 axis method as well?"

"You have much to learn... young ninja. 3 axis engraving, as well as de-burring, can be accomplished with the Curve Machining toolpath method. Remember to use a negative value for the 'left stock' parameter in order to machine into the surface of the part. See my simple example below."

The Gaunlet

You might recall this section from an earlier tech tip. This is for folks who like a challenge. Can you achieve the results below with Alibre Design's assembly constraints? Kudos, in advance, if you can.