Manufacturing Intelligence: Hexagon’s CEO is the New King of CAM
Verdi Ogewell posted on February 19, 2019 |

He is building a “manufacturing intelligence empire”. The goal is to cover major aspects of the smart factory and manufacturing concepts. In fact, Ola Rollén, chief executive officer of Hexagon, owner of CAE player MSC, could be considered the new global king of CAM.

With the purchase of the CAM developer Vero Software in 2014, Rollén laid the foundation for an expansion. Previously focused on Hexagon's particular field, hardware and software for industrial metrology, the company began to create an entire system for broad manufacturing capabilities overall.

“The short story is that Hexagon’s manufacturing intelligence is about creating ecosystems for manufacturing processes that are autonomous, self-learning and with zero errors,” the Swedish manufacturing leader said to engineering.com. Hexagon Group’s 2017 revenues were around $4.0 billion.

Step by step Rollén scanned the relevant parts of the product lifecycle management (PLM) business and invested heavily outside of Hexagon’s traditional areas. The result is that the group now owns several PLM- and production-related businesses.

Many within PLM primarily associate Hexagon with the purchase of MSC, acquired in 2017, and American CAD and GIS software developer Intergraph, bought in 2010. There’s a lot more to Hexagon, however, and the CAM and NC code generation side of the business demonstrates this fact most distinctively.

Today, Hexagon is one of the world-leading players for non-bundled (“non-PLM packaged”) CAM and NC solutions. Bundled, PLM-packaged applications refer to platforms such as Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE or Siemens’s Digital Innovation Platform. Hexagon’s brands in the CAD/CAM area include AlphaCAM, Cabinet Vison, Edgecam, Machining Strategist, PEPS, Radan, Smirt, SURFCAM, VISI and WORKNC, together with the ERP and MRP systems JAVELIN and WORKPLAN.

Related to this collection of software, Rollén recently announced the integration of Vero Software, FASys and SPRING Technologies into Hexagon, which means that they are now part of the firm’s rapidly growing Manufacturing Intelligence division.

A little in the dark, Hexagon’s CEO, Ola Rollén, could be said to have reached the position of global
A little in the dark, Hexagon’s CEO, Ola Rollén, could be said to have reached the position of global "King of CAM". Starting with the purchase of Vero in 2014, Hexagon has moved up to earn the position as a world-leading player in the CAM area for non-bundled CAM and NC solutions, such as Edgecam, VISI, RADAN, SurfCAM, e t c.(Image courtesy of DI.se.)

Overall the extensive number of CAM/NC tools combined with ERP and MRP solutions gives Hexagon one of the leading roles on the non-bundled CAM market. MasterCAM is still the individual brand leader with approximately 250,000 seats trailed by Hexagon’s Edgecam with around 75,000 seats, but the rest of the brands in Hexagon’s portfolio—such as RADAN, with plus 50,000 seats and VISI with just under 50,000—brings the company’s total market impact up considerably.

A Brief CAM Market Review

Generally, the CAM market segment has had its share of mergers and acquisitions, with many of the leaders “swallowed” or merged with, as in the case of Vero. Other examples are Delcam (now part of Autodesk), Cimatron (now part of 3D Systems), and NTT Data Engineering Systems (NDES).

The market growth has been in the 5-7 percent range and in 2017, according to CIMdata, (non-bundled) CAM market growth represented a revenue total of $1.368 billion and 3.1 percent share of the PLM investments. If you add the “PLM bundled” CAM software and services (based on the estimated end-user payment), the market grew from $1.94 billion in 2016 to nearly $2.1 billion in 2017. On the PLM-packaged side, Siemens´s NX CAM is the market leader with around 125,000 installed seats.

According to CIMdata Vice President Stan Przybylinski, “The CAM results were very strong in 2017, above the top end of its historical range of 5 to 7 percent growth. There has been stronger growth in machine tools in the last 12 to 18 months which could be helping to drive investments in new CAM software.”

Furthermore, CIMdata projects that, in 2018, growth will have continued and end-user payments for CAM software will increase by 8.1 percent to $2.26 billion.

This makes CAM and NC toolpath generation solutions a promising market for growth and, with a broad portfolio like Hegagon’s, the company has moved into a good strategic position related to subtractive technologies. The challenge is to expand the 3D printing side of the business, to create sharp and robust bridges between additive and subtractive technologies, and develop easy to use hybrid solutions. This product development process has already started with the hybrid capability introduced in the recent 2019 R1 version of Edgecam.

An interesting phenomenon in recent times is that hybrid solutions have begun to take shape, bringing combinations of subtractive and additive techniques to the market. Hexagon’s Edgecam entered this “arena” with its recent 2019 R1 version. With the support of the

An interesting phenomenon in recent times is that hybrid solutions have begun to take shape, bringing combinations of subtractive and additive techniques to the market. Hexagon’s Edgecam entered this “arena” with its recent 2019 R1 version. With the support of the "Direct Energy Deposit Method", Edgecam now offers a manufacturing cycle that controls a laser to apply new material to build a shape. Then the mold is machined with Edgecam milling cycles to create the final component. (Image courtesy of Hexagon.)

No Stronger Than the Weakest Link

Despite its portfolio diversity, Hexagon’s software have one thing in common, Ola Rollén said: “They handle all of the challenges associated with manufacturing efficiency, especially when it comes to processing subtractive techniques.”

What role does Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence play in this? “It is the umbrella under which most things are placed that relate to smart manufacturing and intelligent factory layouts,” asserted the Hexagon CEO.

Here's how the industry “ideology” thought chain looks:

Manufacturing is the step in the production process during which assemblies and products are realized. Whether production involves machining, molds and dies, casting, sculpting, joining, 3D printing, or a combination of several processes, it is on the shop floor that products take shape.

During this process, productivity is of prime importance. In fact, efficiency and production rates are fundamental factors for a company to either become or remain competitive. Costs must be checked, speed is essential, and downtime must be avoided. It is in production where product quality–no matter what material you use–and the quest to make an item correctly from the start have the highest priority.

All of this in turn requires well-designed software adapted to the specific tasks that a product requires. But not just as individually well-designed units; rather, it is true that real efficiency is determined by the variety of software’s capabilities to connect to one another–"talk to each other.” In short, a chain in the manufacturing process is no stronger than its weakest link.

Example of an interface (Edgecam Workflow) from the well-known and often-used CAM software Edgecam, one of the brands under Hexagon's Manufacturing Intelligence umbrella.(Image courtesy of Hexagon.)
Example of an interface (Edgecam Workflow) from the well-known and often-used CAM software Edgecam, one of the brands under Hexagon's Manufacturing Intelligence umbrella.(Image courtesy of Hexagon.)

Enabling Layouts for Smart Factories

Powering smart factories is something that Ola Rollén and his coworkers have aimed at. And anyone who views the portfolio under the Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence umbrella is likely to agree. The various brands and applications include specialized packages for generating, managing and optimizing tool paths in a number of different industrial and material applications.

“The formation of the production software business complements our operations in design, construction and measurement technology, which makes it possible for us to build unique solutions for our customers in the manufacturing industry. As we develop this strategy further, we will be able to use our experience of utilizing data from all phases of the manufacturing process to create the autonomous, connected ecosystems (ACE), which will enable smart factories,” said Norbert Hanke, who is heading Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division.

It's not hard to see his point. The company's software solutions meet most of the requirements that apply in industries such as tool manufacturing, production technology, sheet metal processing, metal production, and, yes, even the stone masonry and wood industries. Despite the large variation in the range of applications, the company's software solutions have a common focus on driving manufacturing efficiency and adding related value to the business.

Hexagon's VISI is
Hexagon's VISI is "recognized as the world's leading, fully integrated design and manufacturing solution for the Mold & Die industry, offering applications for 3D tool design, plastic flow analysis, and comprehensive multi-axis milling strategies."(Image courtesy of Hexagon.)

Hexagon's CAM and NC arsenal

So, what does the Hexagon CAD-CAM software arsenal look lie? As mentioned, we’re talking about a variety of solutions, specializing in a number of niche sectors.

Edgecam

In the production processing market, Edgecam's solutions combine powerful and sophisticated features to generate tool paths, with seamless CAD integration. It is one of the biggest non-bundled solutions on the market in terms of user size, trailing the leading player, MasterCAM.

The software uses the latest cutting technologies and machine cycles, offering 4/5-axis simultaneous milling options. For many industries, this is becoming a “must-have” option on a mill-turn machine tool. The CAM system is capable of programming milling, turning and mill-turn machines. It combines ease-of-use and sophisticated toolpath generation, providing an extensive range of two to five-axis milling, turning and mill-turn strategies—and as mentioned above—seamless CAD integration and automation tools.

The solution also offers a full kinematic simulation package where all the cycles and movements are supported along with the full graphics of the machine, tails stocks and steadies meaning peace of mind as the part is fully tested before reaching the actual machine tool.

VISI and WORKNC

The product groups VISI and WORKNC contain process capabilities that enable designers or machine operators to handle complex and precise components considerably faster than more generic CAD-CAM systems.

VISI is, Hexagon claims, "recognized as the world's leading, fully integrated design and manufacturing solution for the mold &die industry.” It offers a combination of applications, fully-integrated wireframe, surface and solid modelling, comprehensive 2D3D and five-axis machining strategies with dedicated high speed routines. There are applications for 3D tool design, plastic flow analysis, and comprehensive multi-axis milling strategies.

WORKNC is a 2D to five-axis CAM solution processing tool for demanding industries such as automotive, aerospace, casting and mold manufacturing. It is a solution for surface or solid models in the mold, die and tooling industries. The software generates automated toolpaths that, according to Hexagon, “provide shorter machining times, longer tool life, improved surface finish and accuracy, better machine utilization, and fast and easy CNC programming.”

Other Software

RADAN is an all-encompassing CAD/CAM solution for the sheet metal industry. RADAN’s strength is providing innovative solutions essential to 2D & 3D design, part nesting, punching, profiling, bending, production control and cost estimation of sheet metal components in a single environment.

SURFCAM is a good entry-levelCAM platform. It is a CAD/CAM system capable of creating 2D through to five-axis milling toolpaths. SURFCAM’s power is extended by the use of an innovative roughing algorithm.

AlphaCAM is intended for CAM work within wood, metal, stone and composite components, with everything from two- to five-axis programming.

SMIRT is a viewing, CAM and die planning software solution designed explicitly for the die build stamping industry.

PEPS is a suite of specialist CAM technologies for wire EDM, multi-axis laser trimming and rotary axis tube cutting. Its machining techniques enable the user to “minimize programming time and streamline production.” The PEPS system takes a central part in fully-integrated CAM installations.

MACHINING STRATEGIST is a powerful 3D CAM product that generates optimum CNC toolpaths from models generated by all major 3D CAD systems.

Cabinet Vision is a solution for woodworking such items as furniture or kitchen cabinet, with layouts to fully automate and integrate the design for rapid flow through the manufacturing processes.

An Important Step on the Road to CAM Leadership

Since the purchase of Vero, Hexagon has continued to expand and diversify its range. 

“Vero represents a unique suite of manufacturing software solutions. The company has the expertise, knowledge and resources to deliver even higher levels of productivity to our customers,” commented Ola Rollén. He added, “The acquisition strengthened Hexagon’s offerings, and provided us with the means to close the gap on making quality data fully actionable by extending the reach of the newly developed MMS (metrology planning software) to include CAM. The synergies from what we had in our portfolio has leveraged our global footprint, and advanced our strategy, supporting the growing need to integrate all data and processes across the manufacturing lifecycle.”

Norbert Hanke, head of Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division, said, “As we develop our strategy further, we will be able to use our experience of utilizing data from all phases of the manufacturing process to create the autonomous connected ecosystems (ACE), which will enable smart factories.”

“Working Together in the Same Unit is a Natural Step.”

In 2017, FASys was acquired, adding software for tool and resource management, as well as expertise in automation and integration on the workshop floor, to Hexagon’s portfolio. 

SPRING Technologies, purchased in 2018, contributed CNC simulation technology for G-code verification and workflow optimization. Hexagon has already used the expertise in this broad technology portfolio by combining different components to develop solutions in reverse construction and on-machine measurement.

“Over the past five years, our available technology and solutions have developed considerably based on Vero's legacy within CAD/CAM,” said Steve Sivitter, chief executive officer of Hexagon’s production software business. “We are increasingly focused on developing product synergies that will help customers improve both quality and productivity. Our technical experts from Vero, FASys and SPRING have worked very closely together for a long time, so working together as a unit is a natural step for us. We are all expectant of what is now possible when it comes to the creation of innovative manufacturing solutions in the area of ​​production software.”

It's not an easy job to move manufacturing technologies like CAM, NC programming and additive manufacturing into an Industry 4.0 world. It’s as tough for large OEMs and an even bigger challenge to provide capable and affordable manufacturing intelligence solutions for smaller companies. But Hexagon has maneuvered itself into a good position to handle the job. They have the financial muscles, the intellectual resources, and the necessary trade experience. And they have Ola Rollén.


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