April 11, 2018

My little secret

Welcome once again to our blog

Let’s get straight to the heart of the matter:
I want to let you in on a little secret.

I am a Motorhead.

There, I’ve said it, it’s now public knowledge.

Many of the hours I’m not working with SmartCAM are spent on my classic cars or other projects.

You know, I have a hunch that many of my colleagues are also Motorheads. Just that they haven’t yet admitted as much. 

What has that to do with a blog site about SmartCAM CAM software, I hear you ask. But bear with me, we will get to that.

Sunbeam Rapier Gearbox

One of my recent projects was to strip down, check and re-assemble the gearbox of my ’62 Sunbeam Rapier. It had a really noisy ‘rattle’ in first gear.

I took some photos of my work in my dark garage. They're a little fuzzy but do the job.

The Gearbox Casing

Mainshaft, 3rd and 4th, plus selector rods
and a couple of synchro rings

For years I avoided working on gearboxes, which are full of shafts, gears, bearings, thrust washers springs and other stuff. They seemed just too complex to work on.

But this is now my second gearbox strip-down. A couple of years ago we – my son and I – stripped and repaired the gearbox of his Land Rover Series to cure an odd rumbling noise. They aren’t so complex after all.

Casting date - 3rd May 1962

Selector forks and other bits

But they can be tricky. The Rapier gearbox layshaft, for example, has to be temporarily fitted with a dummy shaft of exactly the right length, dropped into the bottom of the box before fitting the mainshaft and then the box inverted to hopefully use gravity to convince the layshaft to mesh and drop into its correct position before driving the dummy shaft out using the proper shaft.

The dummy shaft had to be turned to precisely the right length – the layshaft plus abutment ring. That little lot was an exact fit between the thrust washers greased into place on the machined bosses inside the case. It was just asking to all fall apart during assembly. Nor was there very much access or space to manoeuvre things, the gearbox casing itself is surprisingly small at around 8 inches / 200mm long.

The workshop manual says:

With the aid of thick grease position the bronze layshaft thrust washers.

See that there are twenty-seven needle rollers at each end of the layshaft cluster. Locate them with thick grease.

Fit abutment ring into the front of the cluster and lower the cluster complete with dummy shaft into the casing, and then fit the rear floating thrust washer.

< next there's a long bit about installing the mainshaft and bearings >

Invert gearbox and insert layshaft spindle through the rear of the casing, ensuring that the thrust washers at each end are correctly positioned.

It sounds fairly easy in print, and I’m sure that back in the day the people in the factory were very adept at putting these things together, but it could all have gone horribly wrong. I don’t think it did. I hope not, anyway.

That Layshaft

The thing is that I didn’t find anything wrong that could have been the cause of the rattly first gear. I’ve yet to install and run the gearbox to finally find out if it’s gone away or not, or even if that layshaft fell into place nicely and properly.

Anyway. I hope you find that interesting.

Now, what has that got to do with SmartCAM and CADCAM?

While working on the gearbox the thought occurred to me of the machining of those things back in 1962. They may or may not have been machined on NC equipment, but it is highly probable that they were.

The machines and controls were rather different to those we know today – the controls were generally large cabinets installed alongside the machine. The interface to the outside world was normally via a paper tape reader. But things were fundamentally the same as today – throw a set of the right bits and bytes at the controller in the correct order and all will be fine.

We're comparatively spoiled by the CAM system technology that we have available today.

SmartCAM Facing toolpaths

SmartCAM Holemaking Process

We take all of the SmartCAM functionality, toolpath modeling, graphics, visualisation, error checking, ease of creating quality CNC code and much more for granted, don’t we. Back in ‘62 there wasn’t a CAM system graphics monitor in sight ( somebody will correct me about that if I am wrong ).

Computer-aided programming existed, but nothing like we know it. And you can bet that there was also a whole lot of manual code writing also being done, all that math and trig calculation. For example, one of my own treasured memories ( not from the 60's, I hasten to add ) is of manually programming the facing of large circular flanges for a machine that didn't have circular interpolation. I still have my Casio FX-39 that I used at the time.

Machinery, CNC programming and software of whatever period is all very fascinating to contemplate, don’t you think?

I'm going to leave the detail of NC & CNC programming experiences over the years and decades for the content of a future blog post.

Some say that business and pleasure shouldn't be mixed. Clearly I've done that here. It is as well that I enjoy my work with SmartCAM, CAM and my motorhead activities.

My next / current project: spraying up the Rapier Wheels before fitting new rubber, work on some new SmartCAM demonstration videos and starting to tackle a rather rusty Citroen GS.

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

Talk CAM with us. We're at:
+1 (541) 344-4563

January 10, 2018

Another great SmartCAM release hits the streets

Welcome back once again to the SmartCAMcnc blog J

Apologies, it’s been a while.

That’s entirely down to me,
I’ve been fully occupied with release material work.

That’s a subtle way of letting you know that a new release of our CNC programming software has recently become available, SmartCAM Version 2018.

As is our custom, an overview of the release content can be found on our website here

But here is a fast run-through of What’s New:

New: Adaptive Roughing Toolpaths

The benefits of Adaptive Rouging toolpaths are based upon impeccably robust logic:

Always-tangential toolpath and a Consistent Cut Volume mean that there are no shock loads due to corners or burying the cutter deep into stock.

User control over maximum widths of cut / the use of small widths of cut mean that small chips are produced, which are more easily and quickly removed from the cutter taking heat away with them.

Tool life is increased.

No shock loading and small widths of cut / chips mean that you can ramp up High Speed Milling speeds and feeds and can use deeper depths of cut, often using the maximum cutter flute length. Faster material removal results in reduced cycle times.

We rate our feeds

Users of SmartCAM come to know that they have the ability to model toolpath to their precise, unique requirements.

The level of control has always included the not unimportant detail of feed rate.

But feed rate control just got better.

Our website includes detail on the changes, but a summary is:

-   Additional Milling feed rate type settings

Property change the Feed Entity type of any individual toolpath element or group of toolpath elements

-    Property change Feed Override. Override the planned feed rate for any toolpath element or group of toolpath elements

These detailed changes mean that feed rate control in SmartCAM is better than ever before.


We totally re-wrote our SmartCAM Toolpath Verification system for the previous release. We’ve added even more functionality in Version 2018.

Users of SmartCAM Wire EDM and Advanced Fabrication products will be pleased to know that the new Verification has now been rolled out to those products. Verification and slug removal are greatly improved for those applications.

We also added a few more controls that benefit the everyday use of SmartCAM and SmartCAM Verification, such as an ability to pause Verification when a collision is encountered, to mention just one.

There’s more

Those three themes summarise the primary developments we offer with SmartCAM Version 2018, but ‘other highlights’ of the release are:

-         Tool preview. The display of tool graphics / custom tool graphics in the job planner and in the Knowledge Based Machining library

-         Match Element. A new ability to match existing element properties onto  elements selected in the active group.

-         C Axis Table Indexing. For those that want or need it, an ability to output CNC code that indexes C into position and applies XYZ machining at that orientation.

-         Verification Revolved Stock. When working from wireframe stock, the stock model can be created by revolving a closed or open profile around the current X-axis.

-   New List View style option. Very much a CAD- and CAM-data display mode option that clearly separates CAD geometry from Toolpath model content.

Those last few will I'm sure be most meaningful to existing users of SmartCAM.

If you don’t yet know SmartCAM then you really ought to find out more about us and about our favorite CAM solution.

That short list contains a couple of the changes we have made to this release that I personally like and rate.

Hey, that’s enough from me for the time being. I hope I have painted a picture of what is another great release of SmartCAM, even though I do say so myself.

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

Talk CAM with us. We're at:
+1 (541) 344-4563

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.

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.

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:

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.

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

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.

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:

September 3, 2015

Technical: SmartCAM Regions. Part 1

Hi, and another very warm welcome from all of us to all of you.

You’ve reached the SmartCAMcnc Blog. We created our blog to primarily inform about this-or-that aspect of our CAM software / CNC Programming software, but we also post other information that we hope you will find interesting and informative.

We intend to provide a mixture of information here on our blog that will be of interest to our valued existing customers and potential new SmartCAM users alike.

We just know that this post will be of interest to everyone who understands CAM. It has a technical bias, where I’d like to provide information to you about one of the most powerful yet possibly underused features of SmartCAM Milling applications:

SmartCAM Regions

Part 1

Rest Mill Regions
SmartCAM Region technology is applied in several use cases in SmartCAM. In this first part of our discussion about Regions we’ll focus on how they are used for Rest Milling functionality; creating regions of material left-over after roughing that can be used as inputs to a Region Roughing Process to generate rest milling toolpath using smaller diameter tooling. 

June 25, 2015

Our first blog, where we talk about ourselves.

Hi, and a Very Warm Welcome to our blog
You’ve reached the SmartCAMcnc Blog. We created our blog to primarily inform about this-or-that aspect of our CAM Software / CNC Programming software, but we also post other information that we hope you will find interesting and informative.

If you were looking for a webcam then you probably needed to go here

Otherwise, and if SmartCAM is new to you we would like to let you know a little bit about our company and our products.

We thought it would be a bright idea to apply the 5 W’s of What, Why, When, Where and Who + a How to do just that:

What we do
We create software that is used to generate programs for CNC machinery, known by the manufacturing communities as Computer-Aided-Manufacturing, or CAM software.
Our brand name is SmartCAM. We produce 7 applications products that provide you with CAM tools for milling, turning, wire EDM and fabrication programming needs.

Why do we do it?
It is generally said that Numerically-Controlled – NC - machinery began its evolution in the second half of the 1940’s, with the first NC machines being developed in the early 50’s. The later addition of the C as in CNC stands for ‘Computer’.

Programs for NC / CNC machines are files comprised of combinations of letters and numbers.

For example, if we wanted to cause a machine tool to rapid move to the top-left start of the blue arc which is centred at 0,0  and to cut the arc in a clockwise direction at a rate of 20 units per minute, one form of CNC code to do that is:

G00 X2.93 Y14.042
G02 X13.81 Y3.879 I-2.93 J-14.042 F20.0

We’ve omitted tool change, spindle & coolant codes, tool & work offsets, tool compensation and cut depth from our example.

Programs containing a lot of toolpath are clearly going to be huge. Before CAM computer programs became available all of the math and trig for each move was calculated by the programmer.

Just imagine creating an NC program without the aid of any form of graphical toolpath verification! And using the calculators of the time? We take our hats off to those guys.

When computers became capable of being used to run software to help generate all of those letters and numbers, the CAM software industry began to develop.

When did SmartCAM begin life?
SmartCAM was first created around about the time that affordable desktop PCs became available, in the early 1980’s. If you’re interested to know more, you can read about our history on our website, here

 Where we do it
Our business is headquartered in a wonderful part of the world at Springfield, Oregon, up here in the American North-West.

But we sell SmartCAM to all parts of the world. 99% of our sales in the US are handled directly by our company, and we apply a reseller sales partner business model for international business.

Our international business manager was really anxious for us to let you know that there are usually opportunities to join us as an international sales partner in many parts of the world. Contact us at if you’re interested.

There, that should keep him happy.

Who we are
We are SmartCAMcnc, created by owner and founder Gregg Olson to continue SmartCAM development & sales following a, ahem, turbulent period in the history of our CAM software.

Many of our staff were part of the original SmartCAM business. We are as enthusiastic today about CAM and about our SmartCAM products as we have ever been.

We’ve found that SmartCAM kind of gets in your blood. Maybe you’ll discover that for yourself one day.

And last but not least, the H: How we do it
We reckon that the way that SmartCAM is used to create CNC programs is pretty unique. In an illuminating quote from a valued customer – thank you, Chris - The SmartCAM Difference is neatly summarized for us:

“Where SmartCAM CAM software is unparalleled is in toolpath manipulation. There is NO CAM product in existence that is as versatile at this. Because all SmartCAM toolpath (including holes) are created as a type of geometry element, every single toolpath segment can easily be edited/modified/sorted/re-ordered per your necessity or desire. In this regard, SmartCAM is the best CAM product in the world. “
Chris K., SmartCAM User

You can draw toolpath in SmartCAM. You can modify it as if it were CAD geometry. You can convert CAD geometry to toolpath and vice versa. You can easily transform / copy-transform toolpath. You can use automated processes to produce toolpath. You can work with those automated toolpaths alongside interactively-created elements. You can easily re-sequence, modify, delete toolpath, and more.

And – the thing we all too easily forget what CAM software is purchased for in the first place – to enable you to generate quality CNC code for your machines. 

Enough said, we think.

Have a great day,