You may have read a blog post or watched a webinar about SOLIDWORKS CAM and have heard the term “Technology Database” and how we say it’s like having a machining handbook in your back pocket. You may have also thought to yourself “Well that sounds awesome but what does it do?” or “but how does it work?”. Well by the end of this blog you should have a baseline understanding of how the SOLIDWORKS CAM Technology Database works and how you can make it work for you.
Accessing the Technology Database
The SOLIDWORKS CAM Technology Database (TechDB for short) can be accessed in a number of ways. The three most common ways are as follows:
- Use the tools dropdown in SOLIDWORKS and go to SOLIDWORKS CAM. From here you should see Technology Database.
- Use the built in SOLIDWORKS Command Search to find the Technology Database.
- Once you have it open for the first time, pin it to your taskbar! This way you can easily open the Technology Database even when SOLIDWORKS is closed and is my preferred method.
Mill and Turn
The first two sections in the SOLIDWORKS CAM Technology Database are reserved for the high-level Mill and Turn settings. Both pages are relatively the same, so I’ll focus on the Mill page. In the Machines section is where you can define any specific machines you will be using with the programs you write in SOLIDWORKS CAM. In each machine, a specific post processor for creating G-Code and the specifications for the machine are defined. Setting things like the max feed rate, spindle speeds, and table travel can help ensure that the programs written don’t exceed the capacity of the machine.
Under the Strategy column is where our custom feature strategies are saved when saving them from inside of SOLIDWORKS CAM. You can also create new custom strategies or modify the existing ones to use different tools and feature depths so the next time you create a program, it can automatically size up or down the tool depending on how big the feature is! On either the Mill or the Turn tab is where we can set a lot of our defaults. Things like our default operation parameters, feature strategies, and even our standard stock sizes can be configured at this stage.
Lastly are our tool cribs. This section allows us to set up predefined tool cribs to be used when writing the CNC Programs. What’s even better is these predefined tool cribs can be assigned to a specific machine, so we don’t have to pick our tools every time!
Mill and Turn Tooling
The Mill and Turn Tooling tabs are where we can get into the details as to what tools and holders our machines will be using when we run our G Code. This helps define our toolpaths as well as any offsets needed for the code. Each section is separated based on what type of tool it is: End Mills, Taper Mills, Form Cutters, etc. This helps with finding the correct section a new tool needs to be added to or for a tool we want to modify. Creating a new tool works similarly to creating a machine. All the necessary technical information is input to ensure the programs that are written work with the tools in the tool crib. This can also help because a brand-new programmer doesn’t need to know what tools are physically in the shop because the TechDB will reflect what is available. These tool lists can be exported and shared as a CSV file and even imported in from places like Harvey Tool and Helical.
Just like the name implies, the Feed/Speed tab is where a user can modify the Feeds and Speeds for the materials in the material library. The material library will show all the materials available and allow the user to add or delete materials. For any given material, the feeds and speeds can be modified for the operation time, machine duty, and tool information giving a high level of control to any programmer. By taking the time to specify the feeds and speeds you would typically run for a given application you won’t have to worry about forgetting to slow down or speed up the next time you create a program.
The last tab is the shortest but arguably the most important in the Technology Database. This page, while basic, allows you to point to a different TechDB file. This means that the TechDB file can be stored in a central location and all the programmers can point their own Technology Database to that file to share the customizations that were made. All the programmers can share the same feeds and speeds, custom machining strategies, and tool libraries. As a company you can go from multiple disconnected machine operators with their own set of knowledge to a team of interconnected knowledge sharing team members. Not only does this increase the quality of the CNC Programs being written but makes it easier to stay on a company standard.
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