August 30, 2017

Could you tell me the time?

Hi! Welcome once again to our blog  J

Here’s an observation that I hope you will find interesting.

CAM Software CNC program estimated cycle times.

My use of an image of a mechanical stopwatch is no accident. Back in the day, when I started out as a CNC programmer - which is more years ago now than I care to mention and before the digital timer age - I felt really important but a little intimidated and embarrassed to go down to the machine shop with the stopwatch ( it belonged, of course, to the department ) to time the cycle on first prove-out of one of my well-crafted programs.

We had no means of accurately estimating the cycle time, and had to go and time it so that the job could be accurately booked.

I reckon that little has changed in all these years.

Throughout my CAM software support and selling career working with various CAM system products, the question of cycle time calculation accuracy has arisen regularly.

I’d bet that I’m not alone as a CAM salesperson who couldn’t comfortably look my customer in the eye and say to them that “oh, don't worry it’s spot-on, you won’t have any problem at all”. I just can’t and won't do it. If I were to do so then I’d possibly be in for a whole load of trouble down the line.

Instead, I always tell my customer how it is.

In any CAM system there are, as you might expect, many settings that can be used to influence the cycle time. In ours there is even a ‘fudge factor’ that can be automatically applied to the result, because often the estimated time will prove to consistently be ‘n%’ out.

But these things cannot really be guaranteed to be accurate. I wouldn’t bet money on it, I just know that I’d lose out. There are just too many intangibles, too many synthetics.

But ..

Here comes my mention-of-SmartCAM bit.
My boss expects it. No; he demands, it.

There is some neat stuff in SmartCAM that can be used to help deliver an accurate cycle time calculation.

It’s like most things: if that cycle time is critically important to you then it’s worth spending some time in trying to get it as accurate as is possible. If you’re not bothered about the output cycle time, then why bother wasting time on setting it up.

Anyway, let’s have a brief look at what is available in SmartCAM.

The Code Generator ( the SmartCAM community term for ‘post processor’. I’d like a $, £ or a € for every time I’ve stated that ) Machine Define tool has settings for machine tool linear and rotary rapid traverse rates, tool index times, that adjustment factor I mentioned above, and more.

These settings are used to create a cycle time when graphically verifying toolpath and also when generating code by running the post processor code generator.

Those time estimates may well be sufficient for a given need, but as I have said I’d not bet my hard-earned money on them being highly accurate. A good application-use example of them is a when experimenting with one toolpath / production method over another, the difference in the resulting cycle times can be helpful.

Cycle times can be output according to needs; as a message block in the code file or in a setup document, to mention but two examples.

SmartCAM Customizable Job report

Fine Tuning
Now, if I were tasked with creating accurate cycle time calculations from SmartCAM and the system-generated time didn’t cut it, then I could do more.

The Code Generator toolkit also uses a template ( *.cgt) file, which controls how and when addresses are output and oh so much more.

CGT files have sections; the code generator and code generator writer ‘knows’ when code for key events such as start, end, line, arc, rapid, tool change ( and other events, too many more to mention here ) is being generated.

Here’s about the most basic example, a linear move section:

// Linear feed move.

CGTs can also contain logic programming. It is very feasible and actually quite simple for a Code Generator creator to add logic to his CGT file that manages cycle time output ( and most stuff, for that matter ) to high levels of accuracy, adhering to standards that are uniquely theirs or those of the company.

The CG ( I’m now fed up with typing Code Generator every time ) has a variable for the length of the linear move ( meaning that you don’t even have to include logic to work that out using previous and next positions ), and it can get to the feedrate being used for the move. Counting the incremental time for a linear move is very simple. Something like:

// Linear feed move.
#EVAL ( #mycycletime = #mycycletime + #LNLEN / JOS( feedupm1 ) )

( we are using CG commands there, but since this isn’t a training lesson, it isn’t appropriate that I describe that stuff here. Suffice to say that the explanation is pleasingly technical, simple and logical )

And we might want to output a message block containing our cycle time at the end of the CNC code output:

< #MOV>< #DCOMP>
 ( My Estimated Cycle Time is: #mycycletime minutes )

I hope this gives just a small insight into some of the possibilities.

In addition to managing cycle time at a ‘user level’, when it comes to CNC code requirements CGT logic can be used to output all manner of different things. We never cease to be amazed and impressed by the outputs from SmartCAM that our customers achieve using their preferred CAM system functions.

I like to say that the possibilities are only really ‘limited by the imagination’. But that’s just me being smart.

Good Timing
Whoa! Look at the time. I’ve talked at you about cycle time and our Code Generators for a little longer than I had intended to. But hey, I hope you found my observations of interest, and I hope also that my manager will be pleased.

Take care.
Have a great day / evening / weekend.

We're at:
+1 (541) 344-4563

June 2, 2017

RIP, Lars Selen

It's with heavy hearts that we at SmartCAMcnc share the news that Lars Anton Selen passed away May 18, 2017, at age 82.

See the announcement here:

When we endeavored to bring SmartCAM back from "mothballing", Lars was our biggest supporter. For 12½ years, Malibi Southwest was the only Authorized SmartCAM Training Center, headed by its one employee: Lars. We are very thankful for his dedication to serving the SmartCAM user-base, but even more for his dear friendship to us. 

To say "he will be missed" would be a gross understatement. He was a great man, father and spouse, truly one of a kind, and we will never forget him. 

Tailwinds, my friend.

Hugh Caldwell, VP Sales & Marketing

From Brad Hoitt, SmartCAM account manager, and friend of Lars: 

My Buddy Lars

Within a week of working at SmartCAMcnc I had a reason to call Lars, and immediately considered him my friend, and we quickly became very close friends, the kind with whom I could share some of my deepest secrets. 

From the beginning I strongly identified with Lars’ sense of humor. He allowed me to do impersonations of his Swedish accent that made him laugh (a little). While doing an impersonation of him on one occasion he stopped me and said: “Brad, let me stop you. To understand why I talk this way, you must first realize that I was born in Chicago, raised in Sweden, re-introduced to English in Ireland, lived in Canada for too long, introduced to English in Scotland, before moving to the States for good.” Perfect.

Lars didn’t just have answer for everything, he usually had a quotable answer. I’d like nothing more than to share his quotes with you (I wrote most of them down), but most are a little too colorful for this venue. Here is one I like: "You can always spot the Canadian: he's the one that says 'Thank You!' to the ATM."

A few other interesting things about my buddy Lars:
  • Lars had all the time and respect in the world for people he felt were grateful
  • Lars had zero patience for folks that were ungrateful
  • Lars might have been the only US Citizen from Sweden that was a card carrying member of the NRA…that never owned a gun.
  • Did I mention he had a saying for everything?

A quick story about Lars that makes me smile every time I think about it.

Years ago a woman named Sally called me. She managed a small stamping outfit in Portland; she couldn’t get her communication set up. Her company had an old version of SmartCAM (without a maintenance agreement). Eventually I admitted that I was no good at that sort of thing and hinted that I was more helpful to people that are doing business with us. Almost as an afterthought, I gave her Lars’ phone number, said goodbye and hung up. 

Sally called Lars and they had a brief conversation. The next morning UPS dropped a box off on Sally’s desk. Inside there was a funky handmade cable with hand written instructions. 

Sally plugged in that cable, followed the directions and the communication was up and running. Lars had made the cable himself, mailed it to her and charged her nothing. That morning, Sally called to thank me, even though I really hadn’t done anything. 

I called Lars and like a master to his pupil he explained “Sally is one in a million. She cares about her community, she’s active in the PTA for her kid, and she helps a lot of other kids, too. We must take good care of people like Sally.”

Lars showed me how to pay attention to the people like Sally. Lars made me a better man. 

I miss my buddy Lars. 

Brad Hoitt

May 11, 2017

New Release: SmartCAM Version 2017

Welcome back to the SmartCAMcnc blog J

An especially warm welcome to our many highly-valued SmartCAM customers.

We are particularly pleased with ourselves today.
SmartCAM Version 2017 has hit the streets.

A brief overview of the release content can be found on our website,
starting here

That stuff was put together by our marketing types. But actually they’re OK, we’ll forgive them for being what they are; like all of us here at SmartCAMcnc, they have a sound knowledge of SmartCAM and of matters CAM & CNC.

We’d also like to present to you here a condensed summary of What’s New:

i) Verification gets cranked up by a few notches

Actually, we’ve completely replaced the previous toolpath simulation with a new Verification system. We’re pleased to have partnered with ModuleWorks GmbH for this project, using their proven and reputable technology in our solutions. The new SmartCAM Verification is the first deliverable product to benefit from the relationship between our two organizations.

So, what’s new about Verification?

Words don't easily describe what is after all a highly graphical product. Below is a link to a video on our YouTube channel which will give you an overview of SmartCAM Toolpath Verification.

Apologies, but it is rather long at a little over 6 and a half minutes:

Note that we have intentionally chosen to
omit audio commentary from this video.

ii) Next up in the release summary:
improved multi-axis indexing support

We've implemented the first phase of a new rotary axis engine in SmartCAM, and have improved control of things like axis travel. Here's another video from our YouTube channel:

Note that we have intentionally chosen to
omit audio commentary from this video.

The new setup has been enabled with Euler angle output for those that require it.

The detail is highly technical stuff using terminology that is really only meaningful once you have begun to use our CAM system. 

I don't intend to even attempt to explain it here.

iii) I think we'll talk about Code Generators next

For those that don't already know it, Code Generators is the term used within the SmartCAM community for what are known as Post Processors in other CAM systems.

And guess what: detail about Code Generator is of most interest to existing users of SmartCAM. A summary of the neat changes we have made to the Code Generator toolkit in SmartCAM Version 2017 will be pretty meaningless to anybody who doesn't understand how we do all that good stuff.

We do it rather well, by the way, even though I say so myself.

So, I'm simply going to point you to the appropriate pages of our release information, here and leave you to it.

But if you do need to know more about SmartCAM and our unique Code Generator setup - our tools are probably the most open and configurable in the CAM world - then just contact us. We don't bite and we certainly won't try to give you the hard sell.

iv) Now here's a subject that will be of
interest to all CAM Engineers

Toolpath Generation in SmartCAM is achieved by using a set of Toolpath Processes, each containing appropriate options parameters that are used to generate the required style of toolpath.

Actually, that paragraph will get me into a lot of trouble with my colleagues. I ought to say that Processes are just one means of creating toolpath using SmartCAM.

You are able to draw, manipulate and modify toolpath just as if it were CAD geometry in SmartCAM, to an extent that you cannot do in any other system. 

If you need to understand more, those marketing people have created a video our YouTube channel  that provides you with a little bit more information about
The SmartCAM Difference:

This time we have included audio commentary

But discussion about the whole scope of SmartCAM is for another time, here I'm focusing on that new release.

Back to it, then. SmartCAM Version 2017 includes a totally re-written Open Profile Roughing Process.

It was pretty good before, but we have revisited the design specification for it and have removed some of the limitations that were in place before now.

Our product manager has a timeless quote:

“There are an infinite number of geometric cases,
an infinite number of machining preferences,
and an infinite number of user preferences.”

I use his quote so that I can make the point that the updated Open Profile Process handles more geometry cases than it did previously.

The Process has also been enabled with options to add lead in / lead out and CRC code application, making it suitable to a broader range of roughing, semi-finishing and finishing toolpath requirements.

v) Last but not Least:
User Interface and Miscellaneous

SmartCAM Version 2017 also contains a number of user interface and functionality changes all of which help to make SmartCAM just that little bit more productive and easier to use. We try hard to incorporate such enhancements in every release.

A small selection from this time around, we have: 

- Drag-and-Drop in List View. 
That's another enhancement that won't mean much to you if you aren't yet a SmartCAM user, but we have the feeling that our customers are going to rejoice at having this small but extremely useful enhancement available. 

- Improved Merging of Process Models
There is increased Tool- and Process-Step associativity when merging the contents of one process model file into another. We admit that that was a little tricky up until now.

- Detail changes to the Visual Customization Tookit
OK, so this is very small detail, but I have sneaked it in so that it gives me the opportunity to tell anybody who does not yet know our SmartCAM system that we firmly believe that we provide just about the most open, flexible and powerful CAM software customization tools on the planet. They are enabled with every SmartCAM licence we supply, and not a priced, add-on option.

Those tools can be used to automate and simplify anything from small, repetitive tasks that are perhaps unique to your CAM programming practises through to large-scale automation such as the parametric creation of families of part geometry and toolpaths. 

And much more. I can personally be quoted that "the capabilities are only really limited by the imagination".

Finally in this section, the set of CAD file import options have been updated.

And so there you have it. Now I really must get back to my proper job. I hope you have found my short item about SmartCAM Version 2017 to be helpful and interesting.

I hope you have Really Great Days,

August 16, 2016

Old SmartCAM Versions

Hi Again from All here at SmartCAMcnc 


This post is based upon observations from our daily experience:
not a day goes by without our being contacted by a customer who is running an old ( sometimes ancient ) version of SmartCAM CAM Software.

That’s great:
We’re impressed, every time.

It’s always a pleasure to be in touch with users of old versions of our software. We are simply amazed that our customer continues to use such an aged piece of software on what is often similarly-aged PC equipment.

We’re usually contacted because of failure of the old PC or the replacement of it. Those old versions simply weren’t intended to be run on later operating systems.

The prize for continuing to use the oldest version in my own experience - I work in International business – has been a SmartCAM Version 9 user. Version 9 was last supplied in late 1996!

But I bet that within the SmartCAM community there is an example of an even older system that was - still is - in daily use.

We hear from more users of Version 11 than any other. Version 11 was released in mid-1997.

Museum piece: SmartCAM Version 11

June 14, 2016

SmartCAM, Training and Me by Mr. Casey Baker.

A Warm Welcome back J

We have something a little different for you in this post; an autobiography by the latest hire at SmartCAMcnc, our trainer for our SmartCAM CAM Software, Mr. Casey Baker.

Casey has written up for you a short recollection of his career with SmartCAM

It began before it all started, if you see what we mean
I have been around SmartCAM since before the beginning.  Jerry Blakely taught me G & M code while we worked together at Rear’s Manufacturing in Eugene.  Jerry wanted me to take over the programming from him, because he wanted to focus on a new PC-based computer-aided manufacturing software company, which he co-founded with  Bruce  Winegarden as Point Control Company in 1984.

Jerry Blakely in happy retirement in 2010

Alpha-Testing tester to welcome aboard…
Jerry sent me the latest software they were developing to try out, and report back. It was exciting to be in on the ground floor of this exciting new CNC technology! In 1987, Jerry hired me for SmartCAM technical support.  In addition to phone support, I did trade show demos, and delivered training both in our Oregon office and at customer sites. 

I liked training SmartCAM right from the beginning
I completely enjoyed being a trainer because it allowed me to learn and to continue learning the new capabilities in the product, while also helping to advance the knowledge and productivity of the trainee. 

One time I was training SmartCAM to a group of programmers, and a person asked me how long it took me to learn SmartCAM, I told him I had not yet learned it all. That was 20 years ago, and it still holds true today.

In my philosophy of training, I expose new students to a wide frame of reference guided by the questions they ask, and capabilities they wish to learn. Different people respond in a wide variety of ways to the challenge of learning a complex software product, and I always look forward to the questions. 

Here is just one example of a question I was asked that helped further my knowledge of SmartCAM.  I was training a group in SmartCAM Production Milling. On the "Split" panel there is a field labeled "Gap", and was developed for the fabrication industry to add shaker tabs to a sheet of parts, but ….

When we think of a gap, the number is always positive, right? A gap is the distance from one edge of the gap to the other. A trainee asked what would happen if we put a negative number in that field. Hmmm. I had never thought of that, and it was a very good question. So, we tried a negative number in the field... hit go... and wow! It gave us an overlap!

When machining a pocket, if the cut starts and ends at the same exact point, you get a little mark, but if you make an overlap, you get a much cleaner finish cut through the start point. This was VERY HELPFUL! We had just found a new capability for the SmartCAM milling products! 

While some trainers might have thought "That is a dumb question, as a positive distance is required for that field".  But as they all say, there are no dumb questions, and as a result we learned something new and very useful. That is one of my favorite aspects of training: learning new capabilities and techniques!

Interested and excited by the applications
Over the years, I have seen a wide variety of industries and in an even wider range of big and small companies, all making different products! It's always fun to see the countless ways SmartCAM is being used to make their companies more productive and successful.

Casey Baker, SmartCAM Trainer

I may get to meet and train you before long
I can’t teach people everything there is to know about SmartCAM, but I can help them build a foundation of SmartCAM knowledge that allow them to continue to learn and grow with it. That is also why I love my job training people to use SmartCAM!

Casey Baker
Applications Engineer / Software Trainer

Thanks for that, Casey. We’ve learned some stuff that we didn’t know before; about you, about SmartCAM CAM Software and about the history of the product of which we are all so proud. We just love having your infectious enthusiasm around the place!

Do you know Casey?
Why not drop us an email using the link below and say hello.

Have a really great day,

April 13, 2016

Your new SmartCAM Training Center

Hey! - Welcome back to our blog site J

You’ve come to the right place to learn about CNC programming with SmartCAM.

And so have our customers: we have opened an all-new training center within our Springfield HQ.

You’re maybe thinking: And what’s the big deal in that?
Those of you who don't already know us will need to read a little about the history of our business and our SmartCAM products in order to understand why we’re excited about our new training center.

Our marketing types have written a short summary for our website, SmartCAM Training

We’re a company of CAM professionals whose careers have largely been based around SmartCAM. Some of us have been involved with it since it first appeared on the market way back in the 1980s. We’re all 100% committed to our unique CAM solutions.

SmartCAM goes
Not everybody always felt that way. At one point, one of the previous owners of SmartCAM closed it down: development stopped and sales certainly did, too.

SmartCAM returns
Led by Gregg Olson, SmartCAM development was resumed and the products brought back to the CAM software market, with a new release shipped in 2004.

We were busy recovering lost ground, have significantly further developed SmartCAM since and continue to do so every hour of every day. Up until now our training has been largely web-based, using a series of rather good tutorials created by our applications engineering team.

Our Training Center
We are very excited to have now established the training facility. We have opened its doors to provide direct, face-to-face customer training for the first time in many years.

Our Trainer
Mr. Casey Baker, a long-time SmartCAM man and professional trainer, has joined us to run the show. SmartCAM customers coming to Springfield benefit from the very highest standard of professional training with Casey, who brings more than 28 years of SmartCAM training experience with him. Plus, he really loves doing it, which is really great. In his own words:

"I've always enjoyed teaching SmartCAM users of every level, beginner to advanced. The key for the trainee is SmartCAM's unique Toolpath Modeling, which treats each toolpath element as geometry, just like you would with your CAD data. Once that concept is understood, users quickly grasp the power that SmartCAM offers. It's gratifying to watch when that "light bulb" comes on and the user gets excited to see how SmartCAM will benefit their work."

Naturally, we want you to get SmartCAM and to get trained. Contact us for a chat if we can help with anything related to CAM software.

Have a really great day,

January 18, 2016

SmartCAM Version 2016 is now shipping

A Warm Welcome back to our blog site J

If you are into CNC and CAM Programming then you have found the right place.

Our latest news: we just wanted to let you know that we have begun shipping the latest release of our SmartCAM CAM system, Version 2016.

You can read about SmartCAM Version 2016 on our website …
We have created a summary of the significant additions and changes to this release on our website. Please do take a moment to read our material here

… But here is a condensed summary of What’s New:

Knowledge is Power
We’ve extended the scope of the SmartCAM Knowledge based Machining library. KBM functionality first began life in the previous release, enabling SmartCAM programmers to store and retrieve Toolpath Process parameters and so help provide consistent and preferred settings.

We’ve added a great deal in this latest release.

Tools, Steps  - a step in the SmartCAM Process Plan - and Groups of Tools & Groups of Steps can now all be stored and retrieved in the KBM Library.

 Steps for a family of parts or for a specific feature can be configured in the KBM Library by the database administrator at the SmartCAM user site.

What does the new KBM functionality mean to you? It means that SmartCAM programmers can benefit from preferred and standard data in a way that was simply not possible in previous releases.

The User Interface
We’ve made some changes to a key component of the UI: our List View previously displayed a long list of the CAD and CAM elements that comprised the toolpath model.

We’ve changed that so that SmartCAM users can now display model data using one of four predefined ‘flavors’ appropriate to the task in hand.

The display of data can now also be compacted if required - entities such as layers, steps, profiles, sequences of holes and solid model bodies can be expanded or collapsed in the List View.

What does that mean to me? The new List View options enable far superior and much simpler navigation of the Process Model than ever before.

Base Roughing is Basic no more
We’ve included some milling technology changes for Version 2016. The Wireframe Group Pocket Toolpath Process has long been considered a ‘base level’ function, generating roughing toolpaths for groups of pocket boundaries-only.

We’ve changed all that.

We’ve added some great toolpath smoothing options for HSM applications; we’ve enabled toolpath creation for islands and ‘nested pockets and islands’, and we’ve thought about what our customers want to do when pocket regions include ‘shelves’; island tops that abut outer pocket boundaries.

Check it out on our web page. We think you’ll rate all of the changes to our Wireframe Group Pocket Roughing.

Come and visit us at for more information about our SmartCAM CAM systems. Talk to us about your CAM needs; we don’t bite and you’ll discover that we don’t do hard sell. Naturally we want you to invest in SmartCAM CAM software, but we like to work with you toward your solution in a consultative manner.

Have a great day,