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U-Axis & Collinear axis support

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  • U-Axis & Collinear axis support

    For [email protected] and other Solidcam staff involved with the product roadmap...

    If the plans shared at the end of the 2021 summit hold true, we are really excited and looking forward to provide feedback and even beta test the upcoming U-axis & collinear axis support in the next major release.

    These are the only two areas where we're temporarily experiencing a regression compared to our previous CAM system.
    Collinear axes in milling

    Collinear axes support needs to be covered in MCOs, MachSim, etc. Toolpaths need to have some sort of option to allow the programmer to set the active (plunging) axis for a given toolpath.

    For example, if you have a 30 tons part loaded in the machine table, you may want to use the spindle (Z) axis to drill, and keep the table stationary so that you don't wear-out/overload the servos & ballscrews of the table (W) axis by moving 30 tons back & forth in a peck drilling toolpath.

    Some machines like floor type HBMs have 3 collinear axis for the tool axis: Z, W, V

    How do you set the spindle (Z), the table (W), or the quill (V) as the active drilling or plunging axis (in case you are 2.5D contouring the part) in the scenario above?

    The videos below show a floor type machine where all 3 collinear axes can be seen at play:


    ​​​Or when you have deeeeeeeep holes and features and need to combine the axes so they don't overtravel: You approach with one (W) , extend another (V) and drill or plunge along the tool axis with another (Z).

    This would be worst case scenario, floor type HBM machines, whereas machines with only Z&W are quite common.

    This is also critical to achieve best possible rigidity for an operation and enable iMachining do its magic on large parts, with lots of long material removal operations. You guys could literally smoke your competitors...

    This functionality could open doors for Solidcam in markets where TopSolid and ESPRIT and other systems have penetration due to their excellent collinear axis support, or in Oil&Gas and Energy industries with large machines.

    We believe this can be done in an elegant way inside the toolpath UI.

    For example, if the VMID tells that the machine has collinear axes in the main tool axis, a combobox inside a 2.5D milling or drilling toolpath could allow the programmer to select which axis is supposed to be used to increment the toolpath depth or be the moving axis on a drilling operation.

    The result of this user selection would then output a command in the CL file to tell the PP that it needs to activate a given axis as the current active motion/tool axis - Examples:
    • Sinumerik GEOAXIS command
    • Heidenhain TOOL CALL ? command, where ? is the active axis letter

    Collinear axes in turning

    ​​​​​Finally, let's not forget that Vertical Lathes with crossrails also employ collinear axes (Z/W).

    To add even more complexity, these VTC machines often load milling spindles for polar milling as well as RAHs on the machine RAM (Z).

    VTC with Milling Spindle loaded on RAM (Z) - (Click to enlarge)


    VTC with RAH loaded on RAM (Z) - (Click to enlarge)

    U-Axis - A.K.A. ZX Systems

    Same for the U-Axis/ZX Systems. We need to get it right for simulation, but some options are needed inside the turning toolpaths and the MCOs as well. TopSolid, KrapCAM, NX, ESPRIT, all have support for U-Axis programming and simulation.

    There are fundamentally two types of U-Axis heads:

    Facing heads:


    Modular Boring Tools (MBT):


    The Oil&Gas, automotive and energy industry uses both types. We use both types on our processes on a daily basis. It's our bread and butter.

    Finally, there are two types of driving mechanisms behind U-Axis/ZX systems:
    Mechanical ZX Systems:

    Normally found in HBMs and floor type machines - These systems do not have a dedicated servomotor and are actuated by the conversion of the linear motion of the machine spindle (Z) into a radial motion that moves the slider along X through highly accurate mechanical wedges inside the tool.

    This type of system DO NOT have a real NC axis and cannot be commanded by the CNC or used for circular interpolation without some tricks.

    For this type of solution, we need to linearize circular motion so the post-processor outputs arcs as point-to-point moves. This is the only way to drive the wedges properly and in sync with Z & W while cutting circular geometries.

    It goes without saying that the linearization tolerance needs to be defined as well.

    Cutter compensation is NOT supported in this type of system and the tool nose radius needs to be compensated by the CAM system. It should be disabled for turning toolpaths using this type of solution.

    Important !!!

    Newer HBM machine tools that are prepared by the machine builder @ the factory to work with ZX-Systems can have a virtual or A.K.A. PLC axis that maps the axis of the spindle (Z) to the U register when a M code or special command is called in the program.

    The PLC makes the job to interpret the U axis registers in the program and move the physical Z axis, also dividing/multiplying the U axis value by a factor or Z/X ratio defined by the wedges mechanism inside the tool - This allows the programmer to enter U coords. in radial or diametrical values.

    These machines can also have G2/G3 and use the U axis register in the CNC program, even though the motion is still made through the mechanical wedges.

    Cutter compensation is supported and linearization is not needed, just like in a mechatronic U-Axis.

    Mechatronic U-Axis Systems:

    U-Axis systems usually are mechatronic solutions where the contouring head has a servo motor and thus a real NC axis to drive the slider.

    These systems are fully commanded by the CNC and can interpolate circular motion. As a result, the CNC program in this type of solution contains full G2/G3 statements using the U axis register. This is NOT true for mechanical ZX systems which require point-to-point to interpolate properly.

    Cutter compensation is usually supported in this type of system and handled by the CNC just like a regular turning operation.

    We're at your disposal to share examples, show how it works using VERICUT, etc.

    Just let us know if you need a customer to help with real cases, sample code and real machines to test it.

    Thanks also to KenMerritt for gathering and organizing all this information during our 2019/2020 pilot...

    Attached Files
    Last edited by MillTurnBr; 06-09-2021, 08:28 PM.

  • #2
    More on this here - This is new in ESPRIT 2020 (TNG)

    Last edited by MillTurnBr; 05-17-2021, 09:25 AM.


    • #3
      Hello Daniel,

      Many thanks for your detailed specs for this important functionality.

      Michael and our R&D team will study it in-depth, and be in touch with you, as needed.

      Best Regards,
      Emil Somekh


      • #4
        Hi Daniel,

        Like Emil said… Thanks for the details…

        Regarding the drilling with co-linear axes… This might be something to put into the Multi-Depth Drilling dialog, similar to the independent Pecks/Retracts…
        Some limited form of this would need to be included in the standard dialog as well (Single usage only)

        In the Multi-Depth…
        Let the user use a drop-down, like Daniel says, to choose to move the Quill at the beginning of a deep hole and then at a particular depth transition to the Spindle, doing the peck/retract.

        Options needed in Drop Down would depend on VMID but… Table / Quill / Spindle - If Simultaneous Supported then Combos, for each possibility Table_Quill / Table_Spindle / Quill_Spindle.

        This means that the retracts need to be managed as well.

        Chip Break retracts could be done with the Quill or Spindle for the areas where they are doing the peck, but full retract for chip clearance and removal would be allowed to use both, either simultaneous (If Machine permits) or incremental on each, with Sync return, if Simultaneous is not supported.


        At Your Service,

        Ken Merritt
        SolidCAM Inc


        • #5
          Chip Break retracts could be done with the Quill or Spindle for the areas where they are doing the peck, but full retract for chip clearance and removal would be allowed to use both, either simultaneous (If Machine permits) or incremental on each, with Sync return, if Simultaneous is not supported.

          Good idea KenMerritt ! Thanks for the feedback emilsomekh !

          You guys can definitely blow some minds in Oil&Gas, mold industry and energy if you support this kind of thing in deep drilling @[email protected] (Simultaneous / Synched could be safely handled as long hand code).

          I little bit of more perspective here... I gave it a few thoughts and it could be promising!

          Keep in mind this is not only important for drilling, in fact all milling operations but simultaneous 4/5 axis. Everything from 2.5D to 3+2 would require this since in all these toolpaths, you have a plunge axis (Depth axis). We need it badly for milling in 2.5D!

          Biggest concern I have is proper support using MCOs, since you need to use them to make approaches and retractions outside the scope expected from a toolpath... Also, sometimes you have your tool deep down there, and then you have to move to a certain depth and then move another axis so you can have more rigidity or travel to continue the cut... in this case you don't want the tool to retract to the top of the part... you keep it there, move another axis with a MCO, and then continue...





          Last edited by MillTurnBr; 05-24-2021, 11:26 AM.


          • #6
            [email protected]

            I suppose that in a part like the one below, patterning these toolpaths featuring collinear axes could add some complexity to your job?

            That's how it would be used in real life...



            • #7
              [email protected]
              and KenMerritt
              Some thoughts on MCOs and collinear axes:
              1. We need them to approach the part in XYZUVW before we call a toolpath. Coolant and spindle controls are probably part of it.
              2. Once the tool is deep down in a drilling or milling operation, one may need MCOs to extend or shorten one or two of the axes so that we can continue the cut with a full toolpath. (Rigidity)
              3. MCOs may be needed to in order to change the active tool axis between toolpaths. (Manual or point to point toolpaths)
              4. Toolpaths may need to have an option to DO NOT return to the clearance plane and stay in the last Z so an MCO can be applied for an axis extension/shortening before we call the next toolpath.
              5. The next toolpath may need to have an option to NOT start at the clearance plane, start instead where the tool was left by the previous toolpath or MCO. This is because some tools use guided bushings to perform deep cuts. Retracting to clearance inadvertently could destroy the tool and the part.
              6. On the other hand, one may need MCOs to retract the tool to a safe plane and then move to somewhere in XYZUVW coordinates to allow the operator to check the insert integrity before he continues to cut.
              7. If one does so, one needs to reposition the tool back inside the hole or where it was, and call the next toolpath to continue the cut.
              So that's why I say that MCOs will play a big role in supporting collinear axes operations, because no one expects that the toolpaths should handle every possible situation for all customers.
              The programmer needs flexibility to build the motions and complement the toolpath's job.

              ​​​ ​​​​​
              Last edited by MillTurnBr; 05-31-2021, 12:33 PM.