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Alibre CAM Tutorial

This is Alibre Design Tutorial for the Alibre CAM software design by Mecsoft Technology. This tutorial will go through the steps you would typically take in forming machining instructions for the tool path for a design to the appropriate post processor code.

We start of be having design which will need to be machined by the milling machine. We need to design the part first before we set off in creating a tool path for the machine. We will be using the following design to create the tool path need to machine this design.

Alibre CAM Part required for CAM

Now once you have completed the design or open your design that you would like to create a tool path for, go to the top of the menu where it goes Alibre CAM and select browse. You will notice that your design explorer now has an additional tab as well as a new window which is Alibre CAM. This is where you will be designing the tool path for the design that you are about to machine. So important notes to take is that your surfaces on your design are labelled under meshes as well as that you sketches are the only things which are imported from Design explorer. Also you will take note of the Stock icon is represented here as a cross. This shows that there is no stock which has been defined by the user. Stock is the raw material form in which the design is to be cut or machined from.

Alibre CAM explorer window

Firstly before we start telling the machine how to machine our design we need to tell Alibre firstly on what machine we are doing the design on. In the Alibre CAM Explorer window, on the very top, there is a set of icons like shown here:

Alibre CAM explorer stock window menu

Select the first icon which says Setup Machine, here a new dialogue will open up and give you the options of selecting the Machine type, if it is a 3,4 or 5 axis machine, defining the too change positions as well as the 4th and 5th axis rotary axis and centre. Once completed with the setup of the the machine, click okay to accept the changes and then proceed to Set post processor options. Select the folder where the post processor for your machine is located as well as tick the show selection dialog when post-processing. Here you can also select whether you would like to post process in batch mode as well as output the listing files to a text program or notepad as selected here. Once finished click okay to complete.

Alibre CAM Setup Machine menu

To create a stock or define one for Alibre CAM to work with can be selected via using create/load stock icon, this will give you a pull down menu where you can select stock from Box and cylinder stock to Pre-defined part stocks created by the user itself. The part defined stock are based on offsets prescribed by the user. Stock by selection is selecting a pre-designed stock which is used for the design by the user. For this tutorial, we will be selecting the box stock and the following window will appear.

Alibre CAM box stock menu

The stock geometry can be defined by the user via the dimensions on the bottom of the dialogue. This is where you can enter the appropriate fields from length (L),width (W) and  Height (H). Here you can also define the corner position of the stock (or the origin of the stock) can be selected on the model presented in the dialogue or via coordinates values based on the corresponding edit boxes which are available in the window here or that can be selected manually by the user by selecting the arrow point key next to the last Zc (field box), this will allow for the user to choose where to place the origin via the drawing area on the design. Once all the parameters for the stock has be set, click ok to complete.

The next step involves setting up the machine coordinate system. This process will help the machine to understand the orientation of the tool as well as the tool's zeroing position. There are number of ways in which the user can set the machine coordinate system (MCS). the first ways is by selecting a plane in the model using the pick option from the first available field. Second option is by using the set to stock box option or alternatively you can use the set part box which will allow you with various options to set the orientation of the MCS. The last option which is available is the x,y,z boxes which will allow you to select the field which in the design itself by using the pick option next to the Z field. It is best if the stock geometry is created first, locate the stock in relation to the part geometry and then by using the Set MCS function to specify where to Machine zero position is. This will process with stop having the machine start at the wrong position on the milling process. A note to remember which has been left by Alibre is that the cut material simulation of rotated toolpaths is not possible due to the lat of the advance simulation engine is not available for the Alibre Standard standard.

Alibre CAM Set MSC menu

The next icon in the toolbar that is available here on the setup tab is the options or preference icon. This will allow to configure the preference in colour the machining as well as the simulation processes. The colour preference is straight forward. The machine preferences is handy for those who have post processors which are limited. The arc output options is an example where considering the machine preferences is useful. The arc outputs of some machines dun provide arc, spiral and helical output. by selecting this options the arcs which are made in Alibre CAM toolpaths is outputted to linear segments instead. The tool program points can be outputted to show the tool tip as it cuts the stock or alternatively the tool centre. The part sampling resolution is used to help control the resolution or the quality of the image as the simulated model is running. Now by increasing the accuracy, will affect the generation time of the simulated model as it is being displayed to the user, making it slower.

Alibre CAM set Machining preferences menu

Now after all the setup is completed, we will need to choose the correct tool tip or end bit to use for the machining. Now depending on the version of Alibre CAM will determine the amount of available tool tips or end bit you have available. By selecting the appropriate tool tip, the options in editing the tool bits will vary from one to another. But the options on the far right will remind universal through out the tool choices. The options of the material of the tool bit from HSS ( high strength steel) and Carbide, the amount of flutes ( the number of tool bit lengths), tool number, offsets and type of coolant used can all be edited in these fields. Once the fields are filled in appropriately, click ok to accept the changes and you will notice that the tool will move into the Alibre CAM explorer window showing that it is available to be used.

Alibre CAM create/Select tool menu

Moving to the next tab of machine Operation, you will notice that there is a new toolbar which has different icons as well as two tick boxes which are already ticked with showing the path and stock respectively, and a S, play, pause and stop button. There is also a slider button as well can be viewed. The sliding button will allow for the speed on the simulation to run, the pause, stop and play button also are controls available for the user as the animation of the machine can be viewed on the main drawing area.

Clearance can be set manually by the user via the clearance icon in the machine operation toolbar where 3 and 4th axis clearance planes can be specified to prevent the end bit from cutting too much from the initial pass through the machining process. This will allow additional headroom for the polishing process as the design is finished off. But first the machine operations must be set before any of the simulations can occur.

This is selected by clicking on the milling method icon as shown here:

Alibre CAM Milling options menu

Now there are various milling options which are available here. Form Horizontal Roughing and Finishing, parallel and Plateau machining radial spiral, curve and also valley machining as well, these are just some of the options which are available for the 3 axis machining. There is still also hole making as well as 2 1/2 and 4th axis machining as well. for this example here we will be using horizontal as well as parallel finishing here. Normally, the design should be going through the rough machining first to remove as much of the stock as necessary before refining the design with finer end bits. By selecting parallel finishing first, we get an additional dialogue which helps us global parameter. This determines how far end bit is allowed to go to the stock. This is a secondary Clearance control. Cut directions can also be determined by the users as well as the start position of the tool bit. The step over control can be fine tuned here to give a cleaner end product however the smaller the percentage of the tool diameter it is allow to overlap the more time this will take for the part to be completed. The Z containment is your tertiary clearance control in which you can define how far the end bit must stop after it has completed the milling to that depth. Once completed the necessary fields, Click okay and a tool path should be visible over the design. To see the tool path in action, click on the S to open up the simulation window or press the play icon to see the simulation of the tool path in the drawing area.

Alibre Design Parallet finish dialogue

There is additional options that you edit before you proceed to the post processing. Once of these options is the setting of the feeds and speeds of the End bits. This is access through the machine operation toolbar. majority of these figures have been preset by Alibre from the tables specs of the tool bits. Editing of the these opinions are straightforward by editing the appropriate fields for the specifications of the tool bits of your milling machine as shown in the following figure.

Post processing in Alibre CAM is done after completing the tool path as well setting up all the necessary parameters for the design. By choosing the Post process icon, you will get a dialogue box which will allow you to select from a list of post processor brands which will translate the tool path to the necessary G code for the milling machine you have. Alibre CAM post processor menu

 The output field will be edited by the user to save the instructions to a text file.

Alibre CAM Post processor code

Congratulations! You have completed the first attempt at creating G code for design in Alibre CAM. By looking and editing options such as Feed/Speed settings, Clearance Control, Z-Containment, and Approach and Engage values, you can fine tune your setup further.

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