Search for a good CAD/CAM
About three years ago I got involved in medical device prototyping. After wasting quite a bit of money on a well known low end CAD/CAM system I began looking seriously at an investment into a "real" piece of CAD/CAM software, OneCNC was on that list. I had personal demos of Camworks, Solidcam, Edgecam, OneCNC, and had the demo disk from Solidcam. I also have Gibbs SFP on my Fadal mill. After comparing features and ease of use I went with OneCNC pro. To be honest after being burned by the other software vendor I was a little hesitant to spring for the whole version right off the bat. This is the God's honest truth. I was walking out to my CNC mill with code for a part I had tried to make for the prior 6 months which I made in about 30 min after loading OneCNC's software. I was also very impressed with the support system provided to users. There are no fees for support, it is always there, online or by phone it does not get any better. I have literally posted a question on the OneCNC forum at 11pm on a Tuesday night and had an answer in under an hour. I upgraded to mill expert a few weeks after my initial purchase.
A year or so went by and I had a need for 4 axis software, I began looking at other CAM software to fill this need as OneCNC did not at the time have this multi axis feature. I settled on Mastercam, first 9.1 and recently "X". After several weeks of trying to configure the post, and output good 4 axis code I finally gave up and bought about $300 worth of video instruction. Thankfully this was pretty well put together but I was astounded at the complexity of doing something as simple as indexing a rotary table. It literally took months until I felt comfortable running code through my machine. "X" has been no better.
This class of software in my opinion really requires the time and monetary investment in a training class to use with any confidence, and even then the time investment to do even simple tasks is simply not reasonable given the state of manufacturing today. I have even gone back and looked at other software again but the more I look the more I see the same thing over and over. Tool pathing made much more complex than it needs to be, verification that does not truly represent the code that will be output, and interfaces that look they were designed to confuse rather than guide a user from one objective to the next.
It needs to be said that like a lot of shop owners I neither have the time nor inclination to sit at a computer all day or night trying and fighting to get done what SHOULD take less than an hour.
Recently OneCNC released a later version which solved the problems I had with the other software. I sat at my computer with OneCNC, and without even looking at a help file, or getting any guidance at all, I run full 4 axis and indexing part from raw solid model through tool path verification and out to the machine with success. This only took about an hour first try with OneCNC. I don't use a 5 axis machine yet but the 5 axis tool paths are run the same as the 4th. The interface is designed to be obvious to anyone that has any exposure to CAD/CAM. If you want to machine a certain face, that face or a plane is picked and then whatever appropriate tool path is applied, full 3 axis, contour, drill pocket etc. To rotate the part another face or plane is picked and the process repeated as needed. There are no issues with the x axis not pointing the right way, no post issues that take weeks to resolve, and no week long classes and inch think manuals to digest.
When shopping for CAM software one must ask the question "what is the goal?" If the answer is "cut good parts" then OneCNC is the clear choice. If the answer is "take weeks long training classes and buy instructional books and video and pray I can learn all of these little nuances so I don't scrap the first ten parts" then maybe "X" or one of it's rivals is your cup of tea.
The icing on the cake is the price of OneCNC.
Verification is an essential part of any CAD/CAM system and with my "other" CAM software I was forced to buy a third party verification module because I kept getting gouges that would not show up in the stock verification, NCI files are used by most other CAD/CAM systems so what you see is not always what you get. With OneCNC what you see in verify is what your part will look like, in more than two years of using it I have never seen something on my part that did not show in verify.
It only takes the scrapping of one part that has four operations on it to realize the value of a good verify module. The best part is that it comes as part of the OneCNC software package, no third party costs or add-ons for what should be there in the first place.
Scottsdale AZ USA