How to create Tools and Tool Cribs for Milling in SOLIDWORKS CAM

Article by Shawn McEachern created/updated June 4, 2020

In order to create a solid program, we need an accurate representation of our tools. SOLIDWORKS CAM has many pre-built standard tools for us to customize for our machining purposes. We may also add our own custom tools and holders. Once we have our tools, they need to be organised into groups or cribs to reflect the tool stations that will be posted to code and used on the CNC. It also makes life easier to manage when using a wide range of tooling.

The Tool Crib may be accessed through the Tool Crib tab in Machine setup, RMB and select Edit Definition or by double clicking on Machine in the CAM Feature Tree. The active Tool Crib may be edited in the CAM Tools tree by RMB and selecting Edit Definition or by double clicking on the Tool Crib.

We can see that we already have a default Tool Crib selected. Let’s start with an empty Crib and add our tools. When selecting Tool Cribs or Tools always hit select to lock in the selection or it will be ignored.

Selecting an Empty Tool Crib

Selecting an Empty Tool Crib

With a blank Crib, hit Add Tool.

Add Tool

Add Tool

On the Tool selection page, under Tool type we can see the different tools we may import. For our example we will choose Flat End mill.

Flat End mill

Flat End mill

Next, we will use the Filter to limit our selection range by Diameter. Other filters, such as, Tool material, End Radius of the tool and Protrusion length may also be applied to further narrow the search. Now, we will select the humble .5” 2 FL End mill from the list and hit OK. Using CRTL and Shift will allow you to add multiple end mills at once.

Filter to limit selection range by Diameter

Filter to limit selection range by Diameter

Returning to our Tool Crib the .5” 2 FL end mill has been added. Let’s edit the tool to our specs. Select the tool and hit Edit Tool.

Edit Tool

Edit Tool

In the Tool Parameters dialog box, we may alter our tool as desired. For this example, we will extend the overall length to 4” and the flute length to 1.75”. If you are new to machining, experiment with various settings to understand how they effect the tool. Your changes will be shown in the preview window. Be sure to update your tool comment to reflect your changes. Hit OK.

Alter the tool as desired

Alter the tool as desired

On to the Holder Tab. This dialog functions the same as Edit Tool. Here we will alter the Holder to our desired spec. We may also use custom holders by changing Basic to User-defined.

Alter the Holder to our desired spec

Alter the Holder to our desired spec

In the Station tab, we can change the Station Number that will used on our CNC machine. If certain tools are always loaded in the same positions it may be set here. If the tool positions vary leave the defaults and adjust them later based on your CNC. In the rare event that you’re using Sub-Stations you can use the X and Y offsets to shift the position of the tool. Z offset is created from the holder overall length (L1) and tool protrusion (L2), these values can be changed here. Hit OK.

Change the Station Number

Change the Station Number

Back to our Tool Crib with our newly created custom tool. Wash, rinse and repeat for the other tools that will be required.

Tool Crib Steps

Tool Crib Steps

  1. Removes the selected tool from the tool Crib.
  2. Updates Tool Information if tool has been adjusted in the Tech DB.
  3. Saves the Tool Crib for future use in other projects
  4. Tool Crib priority forces the strategy to first look in the active tool crib for the tool first, before going to the database. If Use tool crib tools only is selected, operations for which there is no appropriate tool in the crib will not get created automatically and will have to be created manually.
  5. Tool library Button provide fast and direct access for adding, deleting.

Learn More about SOLIDWORKS CAM Tools

For more information learn how to add custom tools and holders

Learn more about CNC programming in our SOLIDWORKS CAM Standard and SOLIDWORKS CAM Professional courses.

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Shawn McEachern

Shawn McEachern is a SOLIDWORKS Application Expert based in our Oakville, ON., Canada Head Office