This would have gone into a general blog post- if I had permission to make a blog post here. Lacking that, this is being put up in the Solid Edge forum for people to read. The official CAMWorks forums are closed and thus not visible to potential buyers, and there are not many sources of information for this software other than the official blogs that promote it.
I've owned CAMWorks for Solid Edge since January of this year. I have been waiting for an integrated CAM package for Solid Edge for years, and myself and Dave Ault, among others, jumped into it headfirst. To give you an idea of my use of the software, I am a one-man engineering show in a job shop, and do all the CAD work, laser/mill/press brake programming, and occasionally the button-pushing at the machines themselves. The intention of this post is to share some of my experiences with the software, and perhaps give others an idea of where this package is at- since I would have appreciated that information back when I was shopping.
First, the reseller experience-
Working with my reseller has been a roller coaster. They're a Solidworks house who started carrying the Solid Edge package as well. They've been prompt to get back to me and proactively support me, but most of the answers to my technical queries have been "You're already doing this the best way." To add to that, they haven't devoted the time to train a guy on Solid Edge specifically, so every time I call, I end up giving more technical support than I receive! I'm talking basic stuff, like, "How do I include a line in an assembly?" Not only is this incredibly frustrating to hear, but the software currently has a mountain of bugs and idiosyncrasies that exist only on the Solid Edge side. If I hear "Huh, this works on the Solidworks side...." one more time on a call, I think steam might start coming out my ears.
The general software experience outside of Solid Edge-
CW4SE got off to an incredibly rocky start. The assembly environment, promised in Fall 2013, didn't appear until May of this year. I myself purchased the software with a USB dongle as the licensing option. The dongle integration was completely broken and required me to download and reinstall TWO different 'fixed' releases before the software even recognized I had a license. This was after I had to go back several times to get the right permissions to even view these downloads on their webpage! I cannot tell you the number of times I had to uninstall and reinstall the complete software package the first few weeks- probably over a dozen times in all. This required User Account Control permissions changes, patches to make the software function correctly with Microsoft Access.... not a pleasant experience, and a barrier to consider if you want to update.
Speaking of Microsoft Access, the Tech Database is an absolute nightmare. Leaving aside the fact that I have yet to successfully import everything again when doing a clean install, the sheer amount of time needed to manage this database practically demands that you only touch it if you are a full-time CNC programmer who does nothing but stare at CAMWorks dialog boxes for 8 hours a day. With my current use of the software, it would literally take years for my time investment in the Tech Database to pay off. And that's if I knew I didn't have to possibly start from square one after a reinstall! As another example of the Solid Edge side of this software struggling compared to the Solidworks side, Dave had massive problems getting his Tech Database recognized by the software, and the fix was actually to install the Solidworks one on TOP of his install to get his to function.
News about the software is incredibly sparse, and deadlines for release dates have consistently slipped by months at a time. As a Solid Edge user, I feel completely in the dark and my questions seem to fall into a black hole. My reseller apologized and extended my maintenance date after almost three months of "Assemblies will be out next week for sure...it's in final testing now." Overpromising and underdelivering destroys confidence in your company and frustrates users who have paid for your software and are depending on these updates- don't do it! We would all rather hear the truth than the overly-optimistic sugarcoated version of reality that seems to pervade current customer interactions.
Just another little thing that I find laughably ironic- During the debacle where I was trying to simply get access to the Solid Edge download area, they changed my permissions on the CAMWorks website several times, and have somehow given me admin privileges to some extent- I can see their list of resellers, see their internal reseller ratings, add or delete resellers, etc... This was 4 or so months after the official release of the software that I jumped in the boat. I just cannot understand how things were so arduous- if I didn't know anything about Geometric, I would have assumed CW4SE was just released, and this was a company that had never done this kind of software release before....except they had. For years. With Solidworks.
The Community Support-
Dave Ault and Larry King are the only guys I actually know that are also running this software. Between the three of us, we make up 75% of the active users in the closed forums on the CAMWorks website. Our accounts are also not allowed to start threads on the Solidworks side of the closed forums, which has a much greater level of activity and should be a great source of information, given the similarities of the packages. Dave has put up many, many blog posts on different aspects of this software, and has personally made himself available several times on the phone to work through areas that I could not get through on my own or with my reseller.
Using the actual program-
Here we are several paragraphs in, and we have not yet even touched upon the actual experience of making programs to cut things! CAMWorks demos very well, and the automatic updates look incredibly slick in theory. In practice, anything that isn't a square plate with holes will have update issues to work with. The software relies heavily on laying down sketches to help control toolpath creation, but critically, it often does not automatically update these sketch elements, or it corrupts them upon update! Things like contain areas for my toolpaths are shoved inches away from my actual parts, and my toolpaths regenerate based on them and leave me with my endmill plunging through air, my vise, or the middle of my part. Double-clicking on one of these features will make CAMWorks realize "Hey, this isn't in the right place!" and then allow you to regenerate the toolpath, but the mere fact that this happens means I cannot trust the automatic update, and must go through my toolpaths ONE BY ONE after EVERY UPDATE to make sure that nothing has gone even slightly amiss! So, take every single benefit of an integrated CAM program, and toss it in the garbage can right there. Now CAMWorks must live on its other virtues, which are few and far between. Here's a list of other frustrating major bugs/issues:
-For EVERY RELEASE of the 2014 version, stock material direction was improperly flipped after minor feature changes or even closing/reopening a part without changing. This must be fixed by going to Stock Manager and toggling stock direction to reverse and back, so the software correctly recognizes where the stock is again. If this is not done, the stock is in the wrong place and the simulation cuts air, toolpaths generate incorrectly, etc. For a CAM program to screw up something as basic as which direction your stock extends is completely inexcusable!
-CAMWorks continually asks for rebuilds even when no part data has been changed, or simulation was run and then backed out of. This can be a huge issue because of the problems that crop up during rebuilds!
-Here is an example of some of the 'out of the box' speeds and feeds that CAMWorks generates for you. I wonder how much kryptonite endmills cost?
-There are some serious issues with having multiple part files open at once with Camworks programs. Say I have parts A,B,C all open in separate windows in the same instance of SE. I do a File/Close on part A. The CAMWorks warning popup appears asking if I want to save changes to part C. What the heck! So then, I go and also close B and C…no problems. Now there are NO part files open, and I close Solid Edge itself. It asks me if I want to save CAMWorks changes to part A, which hasn’t been open for a half hour! AAGH! File stability is absolutely crucial for ANY software, and the fact that this is not nailed down yet is confidence-destroying.
-Basic 2.5D toolpaths cut A LOT of air, no matter what you do with options. I can't tell you how many hours I have sunk into little programs, only to never be able to control the toolpath to my satisfaction. Dave Ault has some posts specifically devoted to this. The amount of effort required is ridiculous. When I can literally create a better toolpath, faster, in Mastercam 8.1, (Yes, you read that right...the 1999 version!) then something needs to change!
-CAMWorks does not support working with Sheet Metal files (.psm). I feel foolish for assuming that this would be the case. 95% of my milling work is adding chamfers, contours, etc...to sheet metal parts, which I now have to do by creating a part copy of the sheet metal file so I can work with it in CAMWorks. Another benefit of integrated CAM, stripped away!
-The assembly environment is still incredibly poorly implemented. When there are overlapping details under the cursor position, CAMWorks selects surfaces based on which detail was added to the assembly first! This unintelligent behavior does not correctly take into account the relative 'depth' of the elements to the view. This poor face filter behavior is prevalent in every selection function of the assembly module. Simply put, it feels like struggling with a 20 year old piece of software- incorrect face highlights, edge select colors that are the same as face highlight colors and thus do not even allow you to see what you are selecting....this is just about as rough as it gets while still being somewhat functional.
I have volumes more I can write about part update issues, the tendency multi-surface features to blow up, the struggles of fighting the toolpath generation, etc.....but I think this presents a pretty accurate picture of where the software is at, currently. My concern is that CAMWorks is falling into a Catch-22 situation here. They won't have enough current users to justify spending the money to fix the outstanding bugs, and users won't buy in until they see the bugs fixed! I live 20 minutes from the Mastercam world headquarters in Tolland, CT, and I have a buddy who started working for them last year. I had him demo Mastercam to me back when I was shopping around, and ultimately went for CAMWorks based on its integrated hook. I am feeling absolutely foolish over my purchase right now. I have my fingers crossed that increased scrutiny of these problems will, at the very least, bring the Solid Edge version of the software up to par with the Solidworks side of life. Until that time, I, like Dave, cannot recommend the package, and I'll be actively searching for another software to use in my shop.
I heartily concur with everything Dylan has said and will add to it. Here we are four months after the release of ST7 and I still do not have anything that works right with it. I pulled all CW4SE stuff off of my workstations last week in complete frustration. Access did not work and so the Tech Data Base would not work. You have no idea how much time was spent in install, uninstall and reinstall trying to figure this out. After calls and webexes with Geometric and my VAR it was finally determined that no it was not me it was the program. Last conference call I was on with Ally PLM and tech support from India was pretty aggravating when I am told that yes they knew of this problem and it had been reported in Germany. They knew this and did not tell me and let me flounder around for weeks attempting to make CW4SE work.
This complete roadblock led me in desperation to try loading the SW version and lo and behold now tthe TDB works if I use the TDB in the SW side of things. I reported this to Geometric and this is what led to the referenced conference call. You think about how much I went through to stumble onto that solution and think about times you have had problems and you can begin to realize what a huge time waster and source of anger this has been. What follows is a part of a letter to my VAR. By the way here is another aspect of this whole problem. The CAM support guy at my VAR did not have ST7 loaded yet and had not looked at CW4SE 2015 beta yet so he had no idea how to answer my questions. I guess the answer here is to wait for a half year after the release for the VAR to get up to speed.
"Hi ——–, Here is a pretty graphic example of what I was talking about yesterday. This is a real time and real speeds proofed on my mill example. Best I could do with anything I could come up with for CW4SE was 4.66 minutes and it took 527 inches of travel to do so. There is no breakdown so I have no idea if this is total length of travel or just actual cutting time and then + travel. I would have shown CW4SE’s job sheet except of course I can’t because the program is broken. See the warning. Now look at HSM’s job sheet with the same step over and useable feeds. I have not had time to really fiddle with this so I have no idea what the top side potential is. 393 inches of total travel and 2.58 minutes of cut time right now and maybe could be better yet. Once I figured this out to my satisfaction time to generate a cam plan is less than fifteen minutes beginning to end. Net savings to me on cam plan time is easily way over an hour after struggling with CW4SE for considerable time to figure out what the heck to do to begin with and you see the difference on machine time and wear. I will also say this. The way the cut paths generate I have burrs to clean up from CW and virtually nothing to clean up from HSM with the same end mill and parts run back to back for comparison on the same part and jig. "
Now the whole Tech Data base looked so good but after working with this mess I find that it will take by all estimates from those who have had the courage to do so a whole month of time to do. Quite often migrating from one verion to the next destroys you TDB and you have to start over or hope you had saved a copy somewhere first so you can try again. Geometric has known about this for years but since they have gotten away with it they have pretty much ignored how clunky this thing is. It is tied to every aspect of the program and will be a constant source of irritation. Best case scenario is their idea of 80/20 where you can make it work perhaps 80% of the time.
My answer has been to download a trial of Inventor HSM. You see the results above and it takes no time at all to figure out and no time at all to write tool paths which at this time by actual parts cutting in back to back comparisons are beating both Geometrics Adaptive and Volumills tool paths for time and efficiency. My final answer has been to decide to buy the HSM Inventor package which combined is not much more than SE Classic alone. Don't get me wrong here I am not leaving SE. I love SE and intend to use it for the rest of my working career. CW4SE however has been a huge time waster and source of tremendous disappointment and also sadly now money down the toilet. But to get the good CAM program I have to get Inventor. Here is another thing you guys at Geometric and Siemens might consider. Retail on the level of SE and CW4SE I have would be over $20,000.00 and over $4,000.00 per year for staying current. In the case of CW4SE this means paying to be abused and wasting time in the shop . The whole shooting match with stinky Inventor and wonderfull HSM is like $7,500.00 and $1,250.00 per year.
I would not recommend CW4SE at this time to anyone unless he was a competitor I wanted to harm. I am terribly disappointed with this whole situation. Yes I know this is a Siemens and not a CW4SE forum but just where are we supposed to go with this? It is as a Siemens customer that I got involved with CW4SE and I think they bear some responsibility for Geometric's failure to produce what they promised. You guys need to police your partners and make them adhere to some sort of standard of quality.
Absolutely infuriating to reread some of that stuff...which I had to search through to try and solve some of the problems I was having getting the program installed!
I sent a problem file to my reseller Friday. I was told they couldn't open it, and could I please resend as a .sldprt? Well, no, because I own Solid EDGE. Well, they don't have ST7 installed on a single machine, their ST6 license expired, they have to request another one..........
The sinking feeling that this software gives me is only growing....
This is almost comical. Check out the Beta page of the website, which has now been wiped of content and replaced by typical website placeholder paragraphs:
Here I am hoping for a screwup by a web manager, and NOT the impeding release of the software- which would just be proof of the "Just kick it out the door and we'll fix it next year." mentality that I desperately hope does not exist.
It appears that kick it out the door is traditional behavior. They have been told for years of problems never solved and do not care. I base this on their actions speak louder than their words.
Looking into comments about posts over the last ten years with PROCAM and then CAMWorks what you mention has gone on for a long time. Sadly still going on.
I have been after a rating system for the 3rd party apps that work with Solid Edge for quite a while. We need one that rates both quality as well as function integration level. It is disappointing that CAMworks does not meet the same high quality standards as does Solid Edge, and there are many other software "Partners" that do not as well.
I agree whole heartedly. It would make sense that if Siemens SE wanted to create a community of aps that work with SE they would also want to make sure they actually work as promised. Doesn't SE have some sort of rating system like SW does with "Gold Partner" status where certain performance metrics have to be met?
They had something years ago I believe but it is no more. We need it back and I'm sure it would require some significant testing and management to be worthwhile, but the advantage to us customers would be even more significant.