Went to see Surfcam V6 at the Barber Sports Museum yesterday. For those of you interested it should be available to subscribers as a download this Friday.
As an aside here it was amusing to talk to Karsten Newbury at SEU12 about CAM programs. They were a bit shocked at how many are out there when they started seriously looking for an integration partner and how they are all different. I knew exactly what he meant and this is why it is taking me so long to pick a CAM program. I only want to do this one more time for my main CAM program and I am in no hurry to make a choice I will regret. The CAM market appears to be in a state of flux right now just as CAD is with the Kings getting ready to be knocked off because they have forgotten the idea that the customer comes first. Meaning of course Mastercam and SolidWorks who are going to find out that you can’t take customers for granted.
I do have some negative things to say about Surfcam but on the whole I was genuinely favorably impressed with the program and the new life being breathed into this recently nearly stagnant company and I thought you should read this before going on. Now on to what I saw and my impressions in this short hands off exposure to V6.
Yes undo is still not there and when I asked about it I got a sad answer, as the guy who is telling me this has his eyes rolling back in his head. The excuse proffered is there are to many legacy problems to solve to do this. Yes it appears all the actual users and support people hate this but—no change. Yes he admitted every one else does this but Surfcam. Now he did say that they have some kind of formula for determining what gets fixed and it is based upon the number of complaints. Perhaps it is time to flood them with complaints on this both in Public and in private direct with the company. I am looking at probably renewing my old seat here and no undo is a big problem for me.
So I am telling Surfcam publically that this is a big deal for this user and not smart business to say no change is coming here because we don’t feel like dealing with our legacy stuff. Maybe your customers don’t complain about this anymore because they have given up hope and this is not a good place for you as a company to be. This undo lack has been true for at least the last ten years that I know of.
There will be no feature recognition so you will still have to pick and sort hole sizes by look for size and how this will work for tapped, and not tapped and holes with treatments I don’t know. Surface selection is nothing even close to the beauty of FR I see elsewhere. Certainly it is bad when compared with Camworks and Featurecam and HSMWorks which are three others I have looked at recently. What is automated in other programs you will have to do yourself here but the flip side is I think perhaps better strategy for fine tuning a particular cut path if you are into serious production runs or a really large complex mold. On the whole though I prefer to have the Feature Recognition capabilities I have seen in other programs which would represent a genuine time saving and efficiency in my shop for the parts I do.
They did not talk about Lathe at all and no one asked either. I assume this means that Surfcam continues perhaps ten years or so of basically nothing new for lathe users. As of yet I have not had a cnc lathe so this is what I have been told by others who are familliar with this part of the program. I am also assuming that users have given up on this as with 50+ people there you know darned well some lathes are in use but no one asked anything about lathe.
I like the tool paths and I have always felt that the tool library and prompts for tool path strategies were the best I had ever used. This stays pretty much the same and that is good. There are some nice looking toolpaths in there although some like the new 3-axis radial I can’t see much use for. 4 and 5 axis has always been a strength in Surfcam I have been told by others. I have not used these but what I saw in the demo appeared to back these claims up. Posts with Surfcam have been bullet proof in my experience and still look to be so.
Verify looked pretty good but what really looked good was the amount of time it took to regen tool paths on some fairly complex parts. The Surfcam I remember took forever to do this sometimes and watching the demo guy confidently redo tool paths with full confidence he could do this in a limited time frame was nice to see. 64 bit which is new to Surfcam in this version has made a difference.
One of the strange things there was when users were asked about Truemill and how many were using it. Very few hands went up and I don’t get this. SpaceClaim was also there and they showed a few very basic direct edits and I am listening to some of these guys ooh and ahh over this and wondering what rock they live under to A, have Truemill and not be interested enough to try it and B, what world are they living in that they have never seen a direct edit move done before. Kind of weird.
The broken link for Faroarms is fixed finally but will only work for USB style arms. I had kept my old seat of Surfcam just for the Faro interface and was not aware that this had been screwed up through V4 and V5. There is a serial port to usb port converter out there you can plug into though so I think this is not a problem if you own a Gold Faroarm like I do for instance. I watched the Faroarm guy collect points and make surfaces with the piss poor cad inside of Surfcam so even though cad is terrible ( Doing this with collected points on a grid and each point had to be dealt with one by one. You can however work with a surprisingly large variety of parts this way) you can do very good things with a Faroarm and it beats the heck out of spending the $10,000.00 plus for Faro’s outrageously priced software. I will most likely be renewing my old seat of 2.5 axis solely for this if nothing else.
What may be more important is just like SolidEdge has done in the past few years with a change in management philosophy Surfcam too may now have a couple of individuals outside the Deihl family who are wholeheartedly committed to making the right changes and are working on doing so. They are hiring more developers and intend to work on stuff. Which stuff was not defined to me however.
Basically I left feeling that for the first time in years Surfcam was becoming worthy of another evaluation. I don’t like some of the lacks mentioned above but they have gotten my attention.
I’ll give Surfware big props for actually buying CNC machine tools to test their product on.
The fact that only a handful of CAM companies bother to put in this kind of effort speaks volumes about the industry as a whole.
Lately, I’ve been forced to deal with CAM companies and VARs who have people who have never actually run a CNC Machine Tool developing post-processors.
Surfware’s TrueMill has been the only really impressive development in CAM in recent memory.
I really respect the manufacturing background that the Diehl family brings to the table.
At the end of the day it’s all about quality toolpaths.
Yes that has been one of the good things for sure. Surfcams problems from what I have been told after the early 2000’s when they could go up against anyone were primarily from leadership issues (second generation family) which led to stagnation. The manufacturing backround was there for sure. Had they kept current with the advances others were producing they would be a tough challenge right now. I think in a few short years they will be again if the renaissance continues. They had their post processor guy there (yes that is his job) and it was my impression he knew what he was doing.
Truemill has always interested me and I am going to try this out and just see if it is as good as the film clips I see about it represent it to be. The very few who were using it bragged on it and I had to wonder about the rest who had the program but had not tried it. It was I think the first one out of the gate with this kind of power and I don’t know how it stacks up against others versions of this. Do you have any input here on this? Hey, I finally have a mill that can utilise this kind of tool path so why not at least try it eh?
Didn’t Surcam dump their CAD package for SolidWorks? The last version I used 6 years ago had a version of Solidworks without assemblies that came with it.
Did they sick with directX or go back to OpenGL?
I don’t know what runs the bit of pretty rudimentary geometry creation they do have and did not think to ask while there. They did say it was integrated with SW but to what degree I don’t know and really did not care as SW is irrelevant to me.I am certain though that SW is not the actual geometry creator residing inside Surfcam as geometry creation looks like it always has to me. When they started integration with SW I can’t answer either. Back in 2002.5 they did have ACIS in their program but it was dropped shortly after that and never replaced with much that I could see. Or at least if they were still using ACIS it was not being touted as a cad addon anymore. Direct X or OpenGL? I have no idea as they were pushing it to get as far as they did timewise and a whole bunc h of territory was not covered. Perhaps the folks at CamCad Technologies (camcadtech.com) would answer some of these for you. They were co-sponsors of this event and seemed like qualified people in all areas.