Multi-Surface Features and 3 Axis Contouring with SOLIDWORKS CAM

Article by Shawn McEachern updated June 21, 2021

Article

For milling complex multi-surface features, SOLIDWORKS CAM is equipped with three tool paths to quickly and easily program most challenges. Machine time can be a different story in these cases:

  • Area Clearance: Area Clearance is the 3-axis roughing operation. This cycle removes the material between the stock or contain area and the selected feature at decreasing Z depth levels by making a series of parallel cuts across the stock, or by pocketing out toward the stock. Depths of cut can be constant or variable.
  • Z-Level: The Z-Level cycle is a finish contouring cycle that removes material by making a series of horizontal, planar cuts. The cuts follow the contour of the feature at decreasing Z levels based on the Surface Finish specified. Cutting starts from the highest location of the model and works downward.
  • Flat Area: The Flat Area cycle uses a pocket out pattern to remove material from feature faces that are flat and parallel to the XY machining plane. Toolpaths are only generated on completely flat areas. If a face/surface has even a small gradient, toolpath will not be generated. This cycle can be used for finishing where excess material has already been cleared and supports single or multiple depths of cut. Learn more about 3D contouring toolpaths available in CAMWorks.

Multi-Surface Feature Example

In this exercise, we will machine the top of the part below. We will use a profile sketch of the part for the stock as it is provided as a blank. The top centre of the stock will be our work offset.

Example Model

Example Model

New Mill Part Setup

Next, we need to create a new Mill Part Setup. In the SOLIDWORKS CAM Command Manger Tab select Set-up > Mill Set-up. Define the cutting direction for our machine. Since we are using a 3 Axis Vertical Mill the top plane is used as it is normal to our Z axis. With that selected we see cut direction shown on out part. If not correctly defined adjust accordingly for your machine.

New Mill Part Setup

New Mill Part Setup

Once complete, RMB in the Mill Part Set-up and select Multi-Surface Feature.

Multi-surface Feature

Multi-surface Feature

SOLIDWORKS CAM Area Clearance

Select Area Clearance, Z Level as the strategy. We are selecting Faces or Surfaces under Feature Type. Select All Faces under Selection Options. We may also select specific faces, and/or their adjacent faces or window select faces. We may also isolate specific faces using All Faces, STL or faces by colour or surface finish with the addition options under Feature Type.  Multi-Surface Feature can also be used as Avoid Areas.

Multi-Surface Feature

Multi-Surface Feature

Generate Option Plan

We have a Multi Surface Feature1 (Area Clearance, Z Level) under our Mill Part Set-up. RMB on Mill Part Setup1 and select Generate Option Plan. Our Area Clearance and Z Level have become separate operations populate by the TechDB. RMB on an Operation and select Edit Definition to adjust the Operation Parameters and Tools.

SOLIDWORKS CAM Flat Area

The third tool path Flat Area is not present by default, to add it to our program RMB on the Mill Part Set-up > 3 Axis Milling Operation > Flat Area.

Generate Option Plan

Generate Option Plan

Select a tool for the operation and then click on the Feature Tab.

Select a tool for the operation

Select a tool for the operation

Check the Mill Part Setup1 under Features for Flat Area. Hit the Green Check.

Check the Mill Part Setup

Check the Mill Part Setup

Operations Generated

Now we have our three operations. Generate Toolpaths and preview by clicking and hovering over the Operations.

Area Clearance Preview

Area Clearance Preview

Z-level Preview

Z-level Preview

Flat Area

Flat Area

Simulate and refine the SOLIDWORKS CAM Multi-surface Features as you desire. Right-mouse button on an Operation and select Edit Definition to adjust the Operation Parameters and Tools.

Learn more about SOLIDWORKS CAM

Learn more tips and tricks with our SOLIDWORKS CAM Standard and SOLIDWORKS CAM Professional online live training classes.

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Shawn McEachern

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