AI-Powered CAM Assist Revolutionizes CNC Programming

One widely recognized benefit of robotic machine tending is its ability to automate repetitive, low-interest tasks on the shop floor, freeing up staff members to tackle more challenging and stimulating work. CAM Assist, an AI-driven program from CloudNC, aims to bring this same benefit to CNC programming.

Streamlining CNC Programming with AI

CAM Assist is the result of nine years of dedicated work by CloudNC CEO and Co-Founder Theo Saville and his team. Saville explains that he was accustomed to inputting parameters and generating a working program at the press of a button during his time in additive manufacturing. CAM Assist brings this capability to subtractive machining.

Unlike many AI programs, CAM Assist doesn’t rely on language learning models. Instead, it leverages CloudNC’s own data and optimization efforts. “You can’t build technology like this unless you know how to make parts,” Saville states. The data set CAM Assist uses includes thousands of parts CloudNC has processed in its manufacturing facility, with tens of thousands of simulations to refine the software.

Further optimization of CAM Assist will also depend on CloudNC’s internal efforts. The company does not train its software on customer inputs to protect privacy and ensure that the generated tool paths are optimized based on CloudNC’s expertise. The software currently produces programs about 80% complete for most applications, leaving final adjustments to the users.

Improving Efficiency and Upskilling Employees

For the right parts, CAM Assist can generate an almost-complete program at the press of a button. For more complex parts, the software may only cover up to 30% of the program. However, for most supported parts, Saville estimates that CAM Assist can cover approximately 80% of the programming work, allowing users to focus on more engaging tasks like optimizing fixtures and tooling. This significantly reduces programming time, enabling experienced programmers to handle more complex tasks and helping to upskill newer employees.

Expanding Capabilities

CAM Assist is not yet compatible with every type of milling or part, but it continues to evolve. The beta test phase included support for three-axis roughing, finishing, holemaking, and deburring, saving users an average of 68 minutes per part. Recent updates have expanded support to 3+2-axis machining and introduced a feature for generating cutting parameter recommendations.

Supporting 3+2-axis machining was a significant challenge, as it required optimizing the solver to handle the added complexity of altering approach directions. The results are similar to three-axis machining, but with added time savings due to the ability to program multiple surfaces simultaneously.

CloudNC has also launched a physics-based cutting parameters module to generate cutting speeds and feeds for aluminum, steels, and stainless steels, with plans to support more niche materials in the future. This feature combines machine learning with a complex mathematical model of the cutting process, boosting users’ productivity by at least 20%.

Early Success and Future Plans

Since its official launch in late 2023, CAM Assist has received high praise from early adopters like Total Manufacturing Solutions, a job shop in Ocala, Florida. The software has significantly streamlined their programming process, reducing the time required to create tool paths and helping less experienced programmers generate their own programs quickly.

Looking ahead, CloudNC plans to introduce new features and expand CAM Assist’s capabilities. Upcoming updates in 2024 will include inspection and verification tool paths, as well as a feature to assist with estimation. The team also plans to expand the software’s availability beyond its current Autodesk Fusion plugin, with support for Mastercam and Siemens NX expected by mid-2024.

Beyond 2024, CloudNC aims to further optimize roughing and fixture assistance, and eventually expand CAM Assist’s applicability to CMM work, turning, and turn-mills. However, milling remains the top priority for the team.

Original source MMS

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