Machines and Tools - Furniture - Wood processing techniques - Furniture Production Machinery

Complex software for intelligent CNC export

Although the woodworking sector seems less touched by the industrial revolution 4.0, design software and CNC machines are already a normal presence in large, medium and small factories. Furniture and products made of wood or derived panels are designed with the help of automatic machines with direct export to CNC, making everything much simpler and more accurate. On the other hand, machining is done with high-performance CNCs that deliver quality and performance in less time. For designs made with classic design software (without CAM properties) to come to life, a program is needed to translate the drawings for CNC, regardless of the program used. That's what Hexagon's Alphacam does - it intelligently exports the design to CNC.

software alpfacam nika machines

Alphacam, distributed in Romania by Nika Machineryis a complete CAD/CAM solution that is easy to use for woodworking manufacturers. It can also be used for metal or stone processing. It translates and optimises various designs into code for CNC routers. The program has been around for over 20 years and is the most widely used version for transfer to CNC. It is in continuous development with basic or advanced modules for CNCs with 3, 4 or 5 axes or types of machining (milling, drilling, nesting, turning, wire-cutting, etc).

With Alphacam you reduce programming time and avoid errors and double work

Using Alphacam the programming time is greatly reduced. There is no longer a need for a dedicated person to translate the drawing made by the design department into the CNC interface, thus avoiding double work (redesigning in router language). Alphacam does this translation from the design program, turning the drawing into CNC codes.

Transformation is done in 4 steps:

  • Step 1 - import 2D (for example, a signature or logo) or 3D (a piece of furniture or a complex piece) design. Alphacam reads the model and automatically generates the necessary geometries.
  • Step 2 - Alphacam automation determines and applies the necessary machining to the part. The CNC operator no longer has to set the necessary tools and their paths, but this is done automatically by the software according to the settings made.
  • Step 3 - the program will automatically make optimizations for Nesting, generate lists, reports and labels for each piece.
  • Step 4 - generating CNC codes for obtaining parts. The programs are ready to run on the CNC and need no further intervention.

The practices from which models can be imported into Alphacam are many and varied. To give you an idea, here are some of them: ACIS, AlphaArt, CADL, DWG, DXF, IGES, Illustrator, Inventor, PDF, ParaSolid, SketchUp, Solid Edge, SOLIDWORKS, STEP, VISI and many others.

software alphacam hika machines

Translation of 2D and 3D drawings

In order for the CNC to convert the drawing into the desired part, it must receive information on the tool used, its path and the operation it has to perform (e.g. vertical milling to a depth of 10 cm). This is exactly what Alphacam does. By importing the drawing from the design program (step 1), it recognises the geometry by understanding, for example, that a circle means a hole and a line, a channel. Then, in the automation step (step 2), it passes the information to the CNC, telling it what to do to get the hole or channel.

That is, if it sees a cylinder with a diameter of 5 mm, it will send the CNC the codes necessary for it to drill a hole with a 5 mm bore. And if it identifies 2 parallel lines, it will understand that it is a nut groove and will send the codes to the CNC so that it can choose the right tool and act so that, at the end, the nut groove appears on the part.

software alphacam nika machines

software alphacam nika machines

These are the simplest examples, in this case converting the drawing into machining on the plate with a 3-axis CNC. But Alphacam can do much more complicated transformations. It recognises 3D drawings, breaks them down into surfaces and transmits the codes to 5-axis CNCs to do the most complex machining. This can produce complicated spheres, sculptures or models by simply importing the drawing into the design department and translating it with Alphacam. In this case, the program also creates a strategy so that the machining is done with as little movement as possible and minimal loss of material.

To get an idea of the complexity of the 3D models that can be imported with Alphacam, watch the demonstration below. It's about a complicated drawing made in Illustrator, a classic visual design and editing program by Maria Guseth, a renowned art director with a passion for calligraphy and graphic design. The drawing was processed by Alphacam which automatically generated the CNC code, ready to be transferred to the plate by milling.

Alphacam - a complex and very attractive programme

The program is very complex and can make your work easier and simpler in many ways. Over time it has been continually refined and modules have been developed for specific areas or processing modes.

For example, if you are a door manufacturer, Alphacam will streamline your production by eliminating the downtime required to switch from one door size to another or even from one model to another. If the original door size changes, Alphacam will make the changeover using a parametric model, adapting the hinge, latch and deadbolt machining to the new size. It can also be programmed to check from time to time if new patterns have been added to a particular folder so that it automatically switches from door pattern 1 to pattern 2 by simply adding the latter to that folder.

With Alphacam you can have all kinds of production reports: material consumption, machining required for a particular model, number of parts for that model, etc. It can also generate labels for each part machined. It is simple and easy to use and can program any type of CNC.

No matter how complete this presentation is, a demonstration of how Alphacam works by a specialist will be much more interesting. That's why I invite you to watch the presentation below by Nika representatives. If you have any questions or concerns, you can leave them in the space below or on Nika Utilaje contact page or you can ask here Alphacam demo version. Moreover, by the end of April 2020,
Nika offers a special discount on Alphacam and Cabinet Vision programmes, both developed by Hexagon.


About the author

Mihaela Radu

Mihaela Radu is a chemical engineer but has a great passion for wood. She has been working in the field for more than 20 years, wood finishing being what defined her during this period. She gained experience working in a research institute, in her own company, as well as in a multinational. She wants to continuously share her experience with those who have the same passion - and more.

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