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High Speed Machining Competition

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006 at 4:38 pm Written by:

Martin just got an email back from Austria, a year after he sent them an inquiry about it. Click on http://www.high-speed-machining.at/award/award.html to check out the competition.

If, like me, you don’t know German, babelfish still works well (paste in the URL and select [German -> english], and surf by proxy).

This easy-to-enter competition (if you have access to a machine tool) will send you a simple part of a chocolate rabbit mold, and you have to send them videos and a tape file of your work by September it seems. They specify the metal type, and there is a reward for innovation, not just for brute speed. Any company who enters the competition and loses will say the results are completely unimportant. If they win, it will be all over their website. Often awards go to bigger companies because it makes much better publicity.

I’ve often said we need a Which? guide to CAM software in Europe, and that the EU could make a greater contribution to the manufacturing base by funding a single workshop whose full-time job it was to cut parts using different CAM systems, and post up honest reports about them on the web, than by paying for dodgy engineering startups no longer in existence.

Clearly this would not be in the interests of large CAM software vendors, particularly those who want to make as much money as possible with whatever software they happen to own, but it would make a world of difference for customers and developers who form the basis of the economy to know what’s good, what’s not, and what is it they should be doing. Unfortunately, since “business leaders”, such as CAM software sellers, are more able to get the ear of government ministers than people representing the interests of the users, things get tilted unfairly in their direction.

So we’re on our own, as we are with the great software patent battle. I wish it was not too much to ask for that the software users could somehow get together and raise a subscription of 100 dollars a year to a fund that pays for this service in the form of one guy with a machine tool working full time on their behalf to become an expert of all CAM systems out there, and be able to answer questions about them. Unfortunately, everyone is competing against everyone else, and if you find a CAM system that works better than your neighbour’s, you don’t want to advertise the fact because it may be giving you the edge in winning contracts against him. And so this propensity gets used against you, while the CAM sellers understand their common interests of locking users up into whatever system they have signed up to, and of faking quality.

A trivial start would be for users to ask their software suppliers to enter this competition, and to tell any approaching salesmen that they are only intersted if their name is on the list of entrants. Winning is not so important as participation, although the fixation on “being the best” according to some narrowly chosen and often irrelevant measure it a major problem. What matters is “being good enough” (such as, within 10% of the best) and of demonstrating the willingness to benchmark how things are, and make sustained measurable improvements all the time.

Mmm. Wobbly pencil milling paths to fix now.

5 Comments

  • 1. Neel replies at 24th May 2006, 7:47 am :

    There are independent organizations which evaluate all CAM softwares and create an annual report which can be bought by any individual or organization who wants an independent review of CAM pacakges.

    French technical centre CETIM evaluates a number of CAM suppliers , the toolpaths submitted by the companies are all run on CETIM’s machine tool using the programmer’s selection from the same set of cutting tools.

    CIMdata annually ranks CAM software vendors by a variety of criteria. Depending on the criterium, the leading vendors are often substantially different. Estimated worldwide rankings for a given year are developed and presented for measurements . (CIMdata NC Software and Services Market Assessment Report)

  • 2. Julian replies at 24th May 2006, 10:19 am :

    Thanks for this info. I had no idea about these, which means it isn’t filtering through to the people who ought to know. You’d think that the company who came up top of a list would be advertising the fact on their stands at the trade shows, and that the programmers working for companies lower down the scale would get beaten about the head by their managers with the 500 page report.

    The CIMdata assessment report is: http://www.cimdata.com/subscription/nc.html for 3000 dollars. Corks! If I bought it and saw nothing but reports on market share, and who’s using what, and other important sales intelligence information, I would be very unimpressed.

    I can’t find any CNC related projects on the CETIM website: http://portal.cetim.org/p_1_projects.php

  • 3. Neel replies at 24th May 2006, 1:14 pm :

    >>You’d think that the company who came up top of a list would be advertising the fact on their stands

    http://programmingplus.com/Roi_Web/Demos/Delcam_web/info/articles/CAM_benchmark.htm

    http://www.manufacturingtalk.com/news/dea/dea131.html

  • 4. Julian replies at 24th May 2006, 3:44 pm :

    There are conclusions, but not results. The material should serve two purposes: (a) to advise what users should buy, and (b) to advise developers what to work on.

  • 5. Neel replies at 29th June 2006, 10:08 am :

    NC Software and Related Services Market Assessment
    Prepared By CIMdata, Inc.

    http://www.ugs.com/products/nx/docs/wp_nc_mkt_rpt.pdf

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