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  • #76
    Originally posted by J Tiers View Post
    Alibre atom only, is $200. It's a subset of Alibre, which is a really quite nice package. I have previously used ProE (now Creo) and Solidworks, and like the way Alibre works better.

    When you include the CAM, it goes up to $400 as noted above, but is still a good deal.

    The one issue I know of with the CAD/CAM package is that the output seems to be through an STL file, which is OK for inaccurate stuff like 3D printing or low end CNC wood routers. Not so wonderful for metal working. I guess that CAM package (which I know little about) cannot take a STEP ot IGES file as input.
    I just clicked on the Alibre ad a the top of the page here as the $400 price tag with CAM is appealing considering you OWN it. The example videos shown on their website for this package are all wood working. So I looked a little further.

    Their FAQ says: you'll do all the design work inside Alibre Atom3D and when you're ready to program your CAM toolpaths, you'll transfer your files into the CAM program via STL in 3D or DXF in 2D. So that confirms what you said J Tiers.

    The CAM engine is MeshCAM.

    https://www.alibre.com/workshop/

    Not to chase away an advertiser here, but this is not for metalworking unfortunately....

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    • #77
      I'm guessing the videos are in wood simply because it's easier to do and easier to get high speeds and impressive looking cuts. Alibre may also think that the majority of hobby users will be cutting wood and they may very well be right on that. However, the only real difference between wood and steel is the feeds and speeds required. A look at their offering of tool paths looks much like any other CAM system's offerings. Cutting strategies such as parallel finishing, waterline finishing, contour, and pocketing are all options you will find in any CAM system and are all strategies one would use for cutting metal. They also have a list of milling machine controllers that they have a post processor for (to convert the program to machine-specific G-code).

      I have used Alibre for design work in the past and it's pretty much like any other solid modeler. I have not used Meshcam but have heard of many people cutting metal with it. My motivation for this reply is not to simply shill for the advertiser, but I wanted to let people know that you can use the programs for metalworking.
      George
      Traverse City, MI

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      • #78
        Alibre was on my short list of contenders depending on what happens with SW. My main concern is if Alibre can do the same kind of motion simulations for things like interference between parts of an assembly, and can it do all the engineering properties (such as mass properties, thermal properties, stress/strain, etc)

        Otherwise the local SW dealer (about 25 miles away) does offer training courses, most likely using their new thing for students.
        25 miles north of Buffalo NY, USA

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        • #79
          Thank you for the reply George. I don’t have personal experience creating tool paths from a STL file. I was basing my opinion off of the fact that all geometry is represented as triangles, and in my little mind this seemed to agree with what J Tiers said about an STL not being as precise as other formats. I guess if the triangles are small enough it would be fine, but then the file size might get unruly. STL seems to be used a lot for hobby 3D printing which we know does not produce high accuracy parts. Alibre has a 15 day free trial, so that might be a good option.

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          • #80
            Can someone answer this!

            3D printer slicer programs do pretty much the same thing as CAM programs, generate tool paths. So why are most slicers given away for free while CAM programs cost so much??? They are both complex programs.
            The shortest distance between two points is a circle of infinite diameter.

            Bluewater Model Engineering Society at https://sites.google.com/site/bluewatermes/

            Southwestern Ontario. Canada

            Comment


            • #81
              I can't verify, but I have a feeling that a decent CAM package is much more complex than a slicer. It has to deal with more variables etc. more axes, more "other" (coolant on/off, etc) And then there's the new generation of complex toolpaths such as trochoidal and helical milling:
              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h05pUNNScK8
              and
              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqePrbeAQoM

              Note, I actually *have* used Mastercam for 3 axes, but it will do this stuff too.... all you need is $10k for the software.

              Originally posted by loose nut View Post
              Can someone answer this!

              3D printer slicer programs do pretty much the same thing as CAM programs, generate tool paths. So why are most slicers given away for free while CAM programs cost so much??? They are both complex programs.
              Last edited by nickel-city-fab; 10-13-2021, 10:27 AM.
              25 miles north of Buffalo NY, USA

              Comment


              • #82
                Originally posted by polaraligned View Post
                I don’t have personal experience creating tool paths from a STL file. I was basing my opinion off of the fact that all geometry is represented as triangles, and in my little mind this seemed to agree with what J Tiers said about an STL not being as precise as other formats. I guess if the triangles are small enough it would be fine, but then the file size might get unruly. STL seems to be used a lot for hobby 3D printing which we know does not produce high accuracy parts. Alibre has a 15 day free trial, so that might be a good option.
                I overlooked that point, thinking only about the videos and photos showing woodworking. Yes, you probably would loose some accuracy, depending on how accurate the STL is output. However, a DXF should retain all accuracy and probably would be what is used for most areas that need accuracy. The shapes that would be cut from a 3D file probably could stand a little degradation.

                Once upon a time, at a shop that rates as the worst I ever experienced, I worked on a CAM program called PowerMill. It's claim to fame was converting things to STL for the programming, so it can be an accurate (enough) option, as long as the file output has the resolution you need. I recall programing most things with a .0002" tolerance, but would open that up in areas with greater tolerances or simpler shapes to reduce processing time.

                George
                Traverse City, MI

                Comment


                • #83
                  Originally posted by loose nut View Post
                  Can someone answer this!

                  3D printer slicer programs do pretty much the same thing as CAM programs, generate tool paths. So why are most slicers given away for free while CAM programs cost so much??? They are both complex programs.
                  A lot of it may simply be because they can charge more, of course. CAM programs for cutting metal do have far more variables and far more complexity, however. For a printer you can pretty much plug it in, load a file, and print. That doesn't happen with CAM. I worked for a company in Rochester, NY that was a dealer for MasterCam. We had guys that would go to the customer's shop for 3-4 days for training after the sale. These instructors also went to classes every time the software was updated, so there is far more overhead going on with CAM than with a printer program that is downloaded from a Chinese server.
                  George
                  Traverse City, MI

                  Comment


                  • #84
                    Most of them do not come from China.

                    Many printer sellers re-brand a free slicer so it looks like it was custom made for the printer but in reality they are usually the Cura slicer. There are many variables that have to be set in a slicer to get it to work properly, more like witchcraft then science but not unlike a CAM program, the Cura slicer has been getting very good with printer profiles as of late. I imagine that the core programs are not as different as some think but that is not born out by dissecting them to see the code.

                    Any volunteers?

                    As far as being able to charge more is probably closer to the truth. CNC user companies have to buy a CAM program regardless of cost, like it or not but I doubt many hobbyists are buying Mastercam. Hobby printer users get slicers for free because printer sellers know they won't sell any machines on the hobby market if the buyers don't get one. It seems CNC machine sellers even the hobby models do not do this but may give away trial version or sometimes less capable than capable CAM programs with the machine. Even CNC control programs like Mach 3 have limitations unless you buy an upgrade. Maybe the machine sellers think buyers must have deep pockets if they can buy a CNC machine, even a small hobby machine, so shelling out more for a CAM program must be OK.
                    Last edited by loose nut; 10-13-2021, 07:17 PM.
                    The shortest distance between two points is a circle of infinite diameter.

                    Bluewater Model Engineering Society at https://sites.google.com/site/bluewatermes/

                    Southwestern Ontario. Canada

                    Comment


                    • #85
                      Originally posted by George Bulliss View Post

                      A lot of it may simply be because they can charge more, of course. CAM programs for cutting metal do have far more variables and far more complexity, however. For a printer you can pretty much plug it in, load a file, and print. That doesn't happen with CAM. I worked for a company in Rochester, NY that was a dealer for MasterCam. We had guys that would go to the customer's shop for 3-4 days for training after the sale. These instructors also went to classes every time the software was updated, so there is far more overhead going on with CAM than with a printer program that is downloaded from a Chinese server.
                      Agreed, I have a couple subs to Featurecam and fusion360, I also use cura for our 3d printer. Cura isnt even close in capabilities, picking the correct settings is another story, but nothing like programming for a cnc mill, about the only similarity is they all produce g-code.

                      Comment


                      • #86
                        Having worked through the Haas training workbooks by hand, I'm going to say that there is a LOT more going on in a CAM program than there is in a slicer. And that is definitely part of the cost. And yes, the thinking is that if you can afford the payments on a 5-axis machine, then the software is trivial.
                        25 miles north of Buffalo NY, USA

                        Comment


                        • #87
                          Originally posted by mochinist View Post
                          about the only similarity is they all produce g-code.
                          Isn't that kind of the main function of them.
                          The shortest distance between two points is a circle of infinite diameter.

                          Bluewater Model Engineering Society at https://sites.google.com/site/bluewatermes/

                          Southwestern Ontario. Canada

                          Comment


                          • #88
                            Originally posted by loose nut View Post

                            Isn't that kind of the main function of them.
                            sure, whats your point?

                            Comment


                            • #89
                              That they aren't that much different. I would speculate that slicers evolved out of CAM software. They would have diverged a lot after that. but the core is basically the same.
                              The shortest distance between two points is a circle of infinite diameter.

                              Bluewater Model Engineering Society at https://sites.google.com/site/bluewatermes/

                              Southwestern Ontario. Canada

                              Comment


                              • #90
                                Originally posted by loose nut View Post
                                Isn't that kind of the main function of them?...

                                ...That they aren't that much different.
                                A fifth grader's report on what he did last summer and "War and Peace" by Tolstoy both output words, but you have to admit there is a bit of a difference. Even though a slicer and a high end CAM system both output G-code. it does not make them equal.

                                I've seen CAM from the late 70s in use and even though comparing it to today's CAM is like comparing a Model T to a new Corvette, it's still far more powerful and complex than what a slicer does. All a slicer does (along with a few simple machine commands) is slice the geometry, creating what are called waterline toolpaths. The old CAM I saw could do waterline cutting, pocket cutting, contour cutting, and 3D lace cutting. Today's CAM has far, far more cutting strategies and far more automation. The math and resulting code to pull this all together is orders of magnitude greater than what a slicer needs.

                                Yes, a slicer and CAM use CAD-created geometry to control machine movement, but the products are vastly different, both at the user interface and under the hood.
                                George
                                Traverse City, MI

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