When Siemens PLM Software released the latest version of NX TM software (NX 9), it didn’t just modernize the user interface, introduce a deluge of new productivity enhancements and increase the version number.
Now and then: above: Running a machine tool simulation in NX CAM 9. Below: The part generation sequence using Uni-graphics (circa 1973). (Explore The Unigraphics Virtual Museum - PLM World to discover more "artifacts".)
No, it released much more than that: an industrial-strength computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software built upon 50 years of working to maximize part manufacturing efficiency with the world’s leading manufacturers in nearly every industry.
The origins of the CAM capabilities in NX date back to 1963 when John Wright founded United Computing Corporation. Back then, United’s CAM product, UNIAPT, was used by aerospace companies to compute and post process tool paths that were punched onto a paper tape to program numerical control (NC) machines for cutting parts. UNIAPT was a minicomputer-based version of the Automatic Programmed Tool (APT). It was unique because it offered a lower cost alternative to the standard mainframe time-sharing services. Companies that used it were able to save on the costs of NC programming, debugging and program editing.
Ten years later, United purchased the ADAM software and UNIAPT received a graphical frontend that provided basic 2D modeling and drafting and became one of the first computer-aided design (CAD)/CAM products, called UNI-GRAPHICS.
Fast-forward a half-century, obsolete some of the hardware, invest countless man-years in development, obtain numerous patents and the result is a rich CAM legacy that amalgamates into NX 9.
Developing NX 9: industrial-strength CAM software
For manufacturers, NX 9 offers enhancements and upgrades aimed squarely at producing higher quality parts faster and delivering jobs more cost effectively. Customers in the automotive, machinery, aerospace, high tech electronics and general machining industries have all contributed to the development and testing of NX 9. As a result, beyond the general value that NX offers, the new CAM and coordinate measuring machine (CMM) capabilities provide additional benefits.
“NX 9 provides manufacturers with the necessary capabilities and the precise control needed to achieve their goals,” states Zvi Feuer, senior vice president of manufacturing engineering software at Siemens PLM Software. “NX 9 is more than a new version of software, it is a hallmark of our fifty years in the CAM business. It represents our longstanding dedication and commitment to work with our customers, large and small, and in all industries, to help transform their manufacturing operations into engines for profitable business growth.”
Lexmark’s prototype shop in Richmond, Kentucky uses NX CAM to manufacture prototypes for validating new printer designs.
“Part of our success depends on how quickly we’re able to turn-around new design concepts,” explains Ron Shrout, who is the prototype shop team leader at Lexmark and is an NX CAM 9 beta test participant. “The new cut region management capability will dramatically improve our CNC programming productivity and part quality. With NX CAM 9, we’ll be able to complete programs faster, and easily control cut patterns to achieve the surface finish that we need.”
Lexmark also depends on 5-axis machining to reduce setups and to machine hard-to-reach areas.
“The new tilt tool axis capability will save a lot of programming time and effort,” says Shrout. “We’ll be able to program a 3-axis cut, and have NX CAM 9 automatically transform it to 5-axis. Our programming input will be simplified.”
Providing more efficient die/mold manufacturing
In die/mold machining, huge productivity benefits can result from producing a high-quality surface finish right on the machine. With NX CAM 9, programmers can take precise control over machining strategies for a superior surface finish and faster finishing.
Whenever possible, it’s best to machine with the shortest tool. Longer tools bend more easily, resulting in chatter and vibration. Machining efficiency suffers when feed rates are reduced, and poor surface quality results from the vibration. The upgraded divide tool path function enables you to discover where longer tools are needed and automatically splits the tool path, helping you save longer tools for the deep reaches.
More than just an optimized material removal rate is needed to get the most from high-speed machining. NX CAM 9 provides smooth optimized traverses, stepovers and region connections that minimize machine stress and maximize the ability of the controller to drive it at its highest feed rates. NX CAM 9 includes additional new capabilities and enhancements for die-mold machining. Read more about what’s new for die-mold machining.
Deliver production machining jobs faster
Significant productivity benefits can result from re-using programming work, especially for setups with multiple identical or similar parts. With NX CAM 9, jobs of this type can be programmed in almost the same time it takes to program a single part.
To help save time and avoid mistakes, like accidentally missing a hole, NX CAM 9 provides a new level of programming automation for holes based on feature recognition. The complete process for finding holes is automated. Simply select a group of holes and drill. Learn more about what’s new for prismatic parts machining.
Make the transition to 5-axis machining
Five axis machining offers the benefits of reduced setup and machining time, and reduced hand-polishing. But 5-axis machines are typically more challenging and time-consuming to program. The enhanced tilt tool axis function in NX CAM 9 enables programmers to take advantage of 5-axis machining efficiencies without the challenges of traditional 5-axis programming.
You can create a 3-axis tool path and then use the tilt tool axis capability to look ahead for potential collisions and automatically avoid them by tilting the tool.
Complex turbines, impellers, and blisks can be challenging to program. NX CAM provides special turbomachinery milling operations that machine these components accurately and safely, with a minimum amount of programming input. In NX CAM 9, the turbomachinery milling operations are enhanced to provide more process options, such as the ability to swarf cut some blade surfaces, and support for flat and bull-nosed tools for roughing, resulting in more efficient machining and a better surface finish. Read more about what’s new for complex parts machining.
Automating CMM inspection programming for more types of parts
Inspect a wider range of part types, including sheet metal components, with the new CMM inspection programming capabilities in NX 9. Reduce inspection programming time by automating the creation of CMM programs and analyzing inspection results directly on the 3D solid mold inside NX. Learn more about what’s new for inspection programming.
In addition to 3D solid models, you can automate the programming of sheet metal parts in NX CMM 9. After the part is inspected, the CMM results can be read back into NX and graphically displayed in the context of the part model.
Back to home position
So what was achieved over the past 50 years? Quite a lot, as it turns out. The power, breadth of capabilities (beyond just what's new) and value customers ultimately gain from NX 9 are proof of the technological progress. But I’m not going to plunge into all of this in this blog post. In upcoming blogs, I’ll explore what NX 9 and complementary products, such as Shop Floor Connect for Teamcenter software, can offer part manufacturers in their respective industries.
For more information about the capabilities in NX 9 for manufacturing, including blog posts, instructional videos, hands-on demos, online community discussion and more, visit the NX Manufacturing Forum.
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