Autodesk’s Integrated Manufacturing Solutions
Daniel Dobrzynski posted on February 29, 2016 |

Even when a person has had several loves in their life, a part of their heart always remains with their first one. For me, this is absolutely true. My start in this exciting CAD/CAM world, which has stayed with me all my life, was with Autodesk AutoCAD 2.17 in the mid-1980s. Part of my heart and my respect has remained with Autodesk ever since then.

For CAM solutions, however, Autodesk has had a more questionable history with some products that have not achieved their objectives. We can now say without any doubt that this has changed completely. Autodesk has successfully started a sort of revolution in this area, beginning with the acquisition of HSMWorks in 2012 and Delcam in 2014.

Autodesk integrated manufacturing solutions have been a pleasant surprise, both for their powerful functionality as well as for their variety of supported platforms for integration, including SOLIDWORKS and Autodesk Inventor, and also those without CAD systems.

The concept of "integration" has been occurring frequently of late. For the purposes of this article, let us address the term "integrated CAM."

 

What Does “Integrated CAM” Mean?

Integrated CAM refers to the integration of part fabrication with its design—all in the same environment. In other words, using unique software both for design or manufacturing purposes, and, if the design changes, the related CAM model and instructions also associatively change.

The key advantages of having CAM and CAD integration is that it gives the user full control of the whole process, from the design to the manufacturing, with the following major benefits:

Better workflow: because the user works within the same familiar interface and navigation tools that he or she uses in the design environment (CAD).

Full-model associativity: any changes in the design will be instantly reflected in the generated CAM toolpaths. This avoids duplication of work, greatly reducing the time consumed for modifications, and also reduces the possibility of error.

No data translation: there is no longer a need for import/export operations or file translation because the system works on the same CAD model. This is a very important point because any possible loss of data is avoided and, at the same time, full associativity with the model is maintained.

 

Autodesk Integrated CAM Solutions, a First Look

There are several ways to integrate the fabrication of a part with its design in the same environment. Currently, Autodesk offers three alternatives:

Autodesk Inventor HSM: for Inventor users

HSMWORKS: for SOLIDWORKS users

Autodesk Fusion 360: uses HSM technology, for users not yet committed to any CAD product

 

Inventor HSM

This is the integrated CAM for Inventor that comes in three versions:

Inventor HSM Express: In what appears to be a deal too good to be true, you can actually use a CAM application with Inventor, with very good professional features, for free. It is, however, limited to 2.5-axis milling and drilling applications.

Inventor HSM: For 3-axis milling, 3+2 positioning and turning applications. It’s a full CAD/CAM package that also includes a free license of Autodesk Inventor.

Inventor HSM Pro: For advanced 2.5-axis to 5-axis milling and turning applications. It’s a full CAD/CAM package that also includes a free license of Autodesk Inventor Professional.

 

Inventor HSM. Defining heights and offsets for Clearance, Retract, Feed, Top and Bottom operations. (All images courtesy of the author.)
Inventor HSM. Defining heights and offsets for Clearance, Retract, Feed, Top and Bottom operations. (All images courtesy of the author.)

Autodesk Inventor HSM is an integrated CAD/CAM solution that is friendly and very easy to learn. Users can quickly understand the working methodology and manage to be productive in a very short period of time.

The users (primarily CNC programmers and designers) can quickly generate NC processes starting from Inventor native CAD models or imported files from most popular CAD systems, such as NX, CATIA V4/V5, SOLIDWORKS, Pro/ENGINEER, Rhino, Autodesk Alias and others, and also neutral formats, such as STEP, Parasolid, STL, JT, DXF, SAT and SMT.

This multi-format capability is a great added value of Inventor HSM because it removes or minimizes the need to maintain multiple CAD systems for file sharing and support the customers/suppliers. This feature results in a significant reduction of costs, maintenance and time, eliminating chances of error caused by format conversions.

 

Inventor HSM toolpath strategy definition.
Inventor HSM toolpath strategy definition.

Inventor HSM does well when compared to the more powerful CAM applications on the market. It has all the common operations and standard toolpath strategies for milling and turning, and it should be emphasized again that it is very easy to use, enabling users to quickly reach a production level of proficiency.

Inventor HSM includes advanced features such as:

  • Adaptive Clearing technology, which helps optimize the cycle time, sensibly reducing the tool’s wear and consequently increasing the CNC machine’s operational life
  • Integrated 3D simulation with different modes and collision detection
  • Verification and CNC editing tools like a powerful CIMCO
  • A powerful post-processing system that includes a long list of ready-to-use and customizable postprocessors for the most popular controls and CNC machines, helping to eliminate the need to pay for dedicated postprocessors

NC editor and verification tool.
NC editor and verification tool.

G-code generated with ready-to-use postprocessor.
G-code generated with ready-to-use postprocessor.

If we work with 5-axis operations, Inventor HSM Pro offers many multi-axis milling strategies to reach high-quality finished complex parts, such as 5-axis contour, 5-axis swarf and 5-axis tilt, that also reduces the number of setups.

All versions of Inventor HSM have a complete tool library that can be edited. Another way is to import tool databases from third-party companies.

 

Tools library in Inventor HSM.
Tools library in Inventor HSM.

Report documents can be easily generated and customized, like process operations and tool lists. They can be exported into many formats such as Excel, Word, HTML and XML. Last, but not least, I would like to highlight the Inventor HSM turning features that include all the traditional turning toolpaths (drilling, roughing, facing, profiling, grooving, threading, etc.) with options to use pre-programmed machining cycles and canned cycles. Also, Inventor HSM Pro provides tools for programming complex multi-tasking mill/turn machine (2 turrets and 2 spindles) operations.

 

Toolpath simulation in Inventor HSM.
Toolpath simulation in Inventor HSM.

Turning operation and simulation in Inventor HSM.
Turning operation and simulation in Inventor HSM.

Collision detection on simulation in Inventor HSM.
Collision detection on simulation in Inventor HSM.

HSMWORKS for SOLIDWORKS

For SOLIDWORKS users, integrated CAM for SOLIDWORKS also offers three different versions:

 

HSMXpress: As I said with Inventor HSM Express, it is a nice surprise to find free products, and even more so for SOLIDWORKS, but it’s limited to 2.5-axis milling and drilling applications.

HSMWORKS: Similar to Inventor HSM, it's focused on 2.5-axis, advanced 3-axis and 3+2 milling and turning applications.

HSMWORKS Premium: For 2.5-axis to 5-axis milling and also turning applications for SOLIDWORKS.

 

All the features and key advantages we have listed for Inventor HSM can be transferred to HSMWORKS except that it works inside SOLIDWORKS, providing all manufacturing functions natively in the same friendly and logical CAD environment of SOLIDWORKS, which its users are accustomed to, and are, in many cases, fanatical about.

 

Milling tool library in HSMWORKS.
Milling tool library in HSMWORKS.

Regular users of SOLIDWORKS will be able to navigate through the functions of CAD and CAM without feeling that they are products from different companies, while being able to generate high-quality toolpaths in a very short time as it is extremely user friendly and very easy to learn.

The full associativity with the CAD model is a key point because it permits the instant update of toolpaths if the geometry is modified.

 

Toolpath generation and simulation in HSMWORKS.
Toolpath generation and simulation in HSMWORKS.

Stock simulation in HSMWORKS.
Stock simulation in HSMWORKS.
 

HSMWORKS includes also all the additional features already detailed for Inventor HSM, but adds:

  • Ready-to-use post-processors
  • CNC program editor and simulation
  • Machining simulation of toolpaths
  • Stock simulation
  • An amazing machine simulation that allows early detection of potential collisions between all machine tool components such as axis slides, rotary tables, turrets, spindles, tool changers, fixtures etc., and, of course, between the part and tool/holder.

Example of machine simulation in HSMWORKS.
Example of machine simulation in HSMWORKS.

I want to emphasize the importance of machine simulation in HSMWORKS and the ability to modify or create new machine configurations or components directly with SOLIDWORKS models.

 

Turning tool selection in HSMWORKS.
Turning tool selection in HSMWORKS.

Turning operation definition in HSMWORKS.
Turning operation definition in HSMWORKS.


Fusion 360

Autodesk says that Fusion 360 is a reinvention of 3D CAD/CAM since, for the first time, the entire product development process (design and manufacturing) takes place in a single cloud-based platform.

This is a great and totally different CAD/CAM solution that combines CNC programming and simulation with real-time collaboration and online project and data management all in one package. A key point here is that it is very easy to learn and use. Also, it offers the flexibility of being able to work with almost all of the most popular CAD formats.

Fusion 360 has the same CAM capabilities and quality toolpaths as HSMWORKS and Inventor HSM. They all share the same CAM kernel.

With Fusion 360, the cloud-based CAD/CAM application, Autodesk has taken a lead on the road to the future—a road on which other CAD/CAM vendors will have to follow.

 

What About Prices?

Autodesk makes a tremendous difference with desktop subscription programs so users don’t need to spend the full cost of the software upfront to get access to a CAM program, The subscription model also offers up-to-date software with the option to receive free post-processors for all standard machines in the industry.

The cost of an annual subscription will vary depending on the specific reseller. Pricing shown below is reflective of Autodesk's suggested retail price (SRP​) in the United States.

Inventor HSM Express: Free download

Inventor HSM: $2,470 for a single-user annual subscription, $3,705 for a multi-user annual subscription

Inventor HSM Pro: $3,700 for a single-user annual subscription, $5,550 for a multi-user annual subscription

HSMXPRESS: Free download

HSMWORKS: $2,470 for single user annual subscription, $3,705 for multi user annual subscription

HSMWORKS Premium: $3,700 for single user annual subscription, $5,550 for multi user annual subscription

Fusion 360: $40 monthly subscription, $300 annual subscription


Conclusion

Autodesk has created a technological revolution with the introduction of integrated CAM products.

I was impressed with the capabilities and quality of the products that include extra features such as process and machine simulation, ready-to-use postprocessors and NC program edition and verification.

All the CAM products are completely user friendly, take advantage of the native CAD environment and are all very easy to learn and use.

All CAM users, current and future, should take a look at these Autodesk offerings. For more information, visit the Autodesk CAM website.

 

 

Daniel Dobrzynski works as CAD/CAM/CAE/PLM manager and designer and CNC programming expert. He has more than 30 years of experience in the industry.

 

Autodesk has sponsored this post. They have no editorial input. All opinions are mine. —Daniel Dobrzynski

 

Autodesk, the Autodesk logo, Alias, AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor, Fusion 360, Inventor, and Inventor HSM are registered trademarks or trademarks of Autodesk, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and/or affiliates in the U.S. and/or other countries. SOLIDWORKS is a registered trademark of Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS Corporation. All other brand names, product names or trademarks belong to their respective holders.

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