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Mastercam Blog


Mastercam News, Tech Tips, Articles and More.

Are you using Mastercam's Dynamic Motion technology?

How many times have you seen the Dynamic Motion logo in the Mastercam toolpath menus? Have you taken the time to try them yet? If not, you should see one of our customers (Accede Mold) tell the story about their first experience using these tool paths. It's worth a watch.


For more information on Mastercam's Dynamic Motion technology please visit

Mastercam X9 Preview 1 – Design and Model Prep

Thursday we announced the launch of the Mastercam X9 Public Beta. For those of you who haven’t taken X9 for a test drive (and you should!) we’ll be using the next several weeks to spotlight some of the things you’ll see in this latest release.

We’re starting off where a lot of shops begin: CAD designs. Below are just a few of the improvements you’ll see in Mastercam X9. Some are subtle, but all are useful. 

Solid Disassembly - Now Mastercam can reorient and lay out all the bodies in an assembly on a single plane, ready for you to choose which you want to program. It works on models with and without history, imported from other systems, or created from within Mastercam. 

Solid Position – Pick a face of a solid body and mate it to a face of another solid body with a click. The function allows you to redefine the base position of the body being moved, then also redefine the final position on the body it is moved to. You can move or copy your solid while positioning.

Model Prep Toolpath Associativity – Solids / toolpaths associativity fills a popular request -  now when bodies are edited, only the toolpaths directly affected by the change in the solid body are marked dirty.

Bounding Box (Push/Pull Technology) – The newest interaction of the bounding box function in X9 takes advantage of our push/pull technology. This gives users hands-on access to adjust the size of the bounding box by pushing and pulling on one face at a time, which creates new named planes with options for origin location. You can also make incremental changes to the box or to control the actual overall size depending on their need at the time.

Dynamic Xform – Now you can switch between gnomon manipulation and geometry manipulation mode at any time. Being able to use your original geometry selection to switch back and forth speeds up your Xform workflow.

Temporary Midpoints –Mastercam can now draw temporary points at AutoCursor positions to define a vector and the midpoint of that vector. These temporary positions remain as long as the same function is active until it is used or replaced by other positions.

Preview for Xform Solids – When Xforming solids, you’ll now see the outlined edges of the entire solid rather than simply the bounding box. This method is more efficient, faster, and supports all entity types, including polygon meshes.

That’s just a quick look at a few of the CAD enhancements in X9. To experience the full suite for yourself, join in our Public Beta


Mastercam Public Beta is Open!

Mastercam and Mastercam For SolidWorks Public Beta Release

We want your feedback! The Mastercam X9 Public Beta release is open to all current customers who are on Maintenance. The Beta release can be downloaded here and will be supported through the Mastercam Industrial Forum, which is staffed with CNC applications engineers, posts writers, technical support, software developers, and QC engineers. As we collect feedback and make changes, we'll make further updates available via the forum.

Here are just a few of the things you'll see in the Mastercam X9 Beta:

  • Expanded Dynamic Motion toolpaths bring new options to our groundbreaking technology. And our broad-based radial chip thinning calculator lets you apply chip thinning parameters to any appropriate tool, bringing greater cutting efficiency to your toolpaths.
  • Solid Modeling Improvements including Solid Disassembly for exploding and laying out a solids assembly, Solid Positioning for easy snap-positioning of items such as fixture components, and more.
  • Powerful Multiaxis enhancements including Multiaxis Link, which delivers a new way of combining a safety zone with multiple operations to ensure repositioning between any 2- to 5-axis milling operations is as safe as possible.
  • Even broader tool support and improved workflow for importing,  designing, and editing tools and holders.
  • Mastercam Simulator fixture support makes it easy to define, display and collision check fixturing while simulating your job.
  • Overall streamlined workflow with improved plane management, level and geometry control, viewsheets, chaining and more. The new
  • Analyze Toolpath feature provides improved feedback and verification by displaying relevant toolpath information simply by hovering over a toolpath section.
  • ...and many other productivity improvements across the entire product.

Beta Updates and Known Issues

We are looking to release a new public beta approximately once a month. Known issues, updated bug fixes, and other details will be delivered when you install the current Mastercam X9 Beta and through the Mastercam forum. 

System Requirements

Mastercam X9 requires a 64-bit versions of Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1. To see a full list of system requirements, please visit our requirements page. Mastercam for SOLIDWORKS also requires SOLIDWORKS 2013 or later (not included in the download).  A valid license of SOLIDWORKS is available through authorized SOLIDWORKS resellers.

General disclaimer

Mastercam X9 Public Beta provided as a part of an early access program. Although it has been extensively tested, it is not yet released and we cannot guarantee it for use in a production environment. Please use at your own risk. 

What Machine Simulation Can Do For You - Conclusion

Improve part quality

Simultaneous 5-axis motion allows you to reach areas that would be either impossible or very inefficient to reach with traditional methods. The drawback is that when you move the machine in the continuous 5-axis mode, the rotary brakes must be off. The machine is running in the “loose” mode. To minimize the error unavoidably generated in this mode of operation, it is essential to position the workpiece in the machine’s sweet spot.

The sweet spot is a location near the center of the machining envelope where the shortest possible tool can be employed to reach all of the areas that require machining with axis movements that are as close as possible to the center of their range of travel. You accomplish this by creating the toolpaths and then simulating them at various locations until you arrive at the “happy place” where tool movements are tightly choreographed (minimal air cutting), well-supported, and all potential interferences have been detected and avoided.

When simulating 5-axis toolpaths, here are the rules of thumb that allow you to quickly achieve the most important quality and safety improvements:

  • Minimize and control all motion.
  • Consider every element of the cutting process.
  • Keep the tool as short as possible.
  • Design fixtures that allow minimum distance between the workpiece and the machine’s rotary center point.
  • Eliminate air cutting. (Special tools are available within the simulation software to facilitate this.)
  • Avoid collisions at any cost.

Provide faster turns on short run and prototype parts

Companies that program and prove their multiaxis equipment are at a double disadvantage because they have tied up otherwise productive equipment and programmer talent to create viable programs. Therefore, they cannot compete effectively for short run or prototyping assignments. 

This may not be a huge concern for shops that are doing only production work, unless, of course, they rely on prototyping assignments to transition into new production work. Then it is a huge concern. Machine simulation opens the door for profitable short run projects by reducing the programming and proving time so that parts can be manufactured efficiently regardless of the quantities needed.

Mastering Printing at Corona High

Eric Lee has been infusing creativity into practicality in his Design Manufacturing Technology program at Corona High School in Corona, CA, for more than twenty years.  When he began teaching at the school, one CNC mill and one CNC lathe were about the extent of high tech in manufacturing in the classroom shop.  Today, his students turn out beautiful work on CNC equipment that includes two lathes, two mills, a router, a laser engraver and a state-of-the-art 3D printer to demonstrate additive manufacturing.  Thirty-seven seats of Mastercam® are kept busy creating programs for the machines. 

After learning the basics in manual woodworking, students begin their CAD/CAM lessons with pen sets, desk organizers and wall clocks and then move into metalworking, designing and manufacturing items that appeal to their lets-make-it-fun creative instincts for things such as gearshift knobs, racing pedals and skateboards.  One of Mr. Lee’s students, Paul Araujo, even won Mastercam’s 2012-2013 Wildest Parts Competition, using Mastercam for lathe work to design and fabricate a unique fish-skeleton skateboard combining 2D and 3D operations. Mastercam’s 3D projection machining created a consistent, smooth finish while following the natural curves of multiple surfaces.

Looking to the future of additive manufacturing, Mr. Lee has a Dimension® 3D printer in his classroom’s shop and the students have used it to produce projects ranging from a model steam engine to a model airplane motor.  He teaches 3D modeling for the printer in Mastercam and saves the file as an STL file.  Software for the printer creates the sliced programming language for each part.  “Since additive manufacturing is the developing trend in industry,” says Mr. Lee, “our students are learning the basics of what they’ll need to know in the real world.” 

What Machine Simulation Can Do For You - Part 5

Develop a sequential strategy for growing multiaxis machine capabilities

When newcomers think about multiaxis machining, their minds often jump to the manufacturing of complex geometries like blisks and impellers. These are, in fact, very complex examples of 5-axis work and only a small percentage of 5-axis users actually make parts like these. There is actually a long list of multiaxis CNC capabilities ranging from simple 4-axis contouring to continuous 5-axis machining of complex geometries.
Whenever possible, gain experience on the simpler multiaxis machining strategies, using machine simulation as a learning and training tool. Once you become proficient in a relatively straightforward multiaxis machining application, move on to something more difficult. 

If you are proficient in 3-axis programming, it is fairly simple to move into a single setup 3 + 2 program using the multiaxis system to index the part to the correct coordinates for the next machine operation. Indexing the part on a multiaxis machine (with the confidence that clearances have been checked via machine simulation) is vastly more productive than changing setups for multiple operations on a 3-axis machine.

With this sequential approach to growing your 5-axis expertise, your equipment will be paying for itself in very short order.

Try out the same job on multiple machines
Every CNC machine has different strengths and weaknesses, and if you use several different multiaxis machines, it is often difficult to predict which one will be best for a particular job. You really have to run the part to find out, and this could waste a great deal of time and material if you make the wrong choice. With machine simulation, you can avoid this conundrum by simulating the manufacturing process for the same part on several machines. Usually the machine that is best for the job at hand will become obvious.

See the next post in this series for more game-changing machine simulation applications.

What Machine Simulation Can Do For You - Part 4

Eliminate Costly Programming and Proofing at the Machine

There are still many 5-axis CNC users who program parts at the machine and then single-step through the program to make the first piece or cut a test part using a foam workpiece. Another old school trick is to replace the cutting tool with a pipe cleaner and run the program on a finished part. Then an experienced programmer will spend hours, even days, watching close calls with the pipe cleaner and altering the program to avoid them. This is a tremendous waste of spindle time and programming time.

One user we know of spent an average of ten hours creating programs at the machine and many more single-stepping through the first piece. Today, he uses Mastercam with 5-axis machine simulation. He can create programs and simulate comparable first piece programs in an hour. This gives him nine additional hours for programming, frees up the machine for ten additional hours of machining time, and allows a qualified operator to set up and attend more than one machine on the shop floor.

Grow Unattended Machining Capabilities

As you become more proficient with your machine simulation capabilities, you will automatically develop higher levels of confidence in the toolpaths you create for multiaxis work. Because you will no longer need to “babysit” most of your CNC programs, machinists will be able to spend more time staging work for operations on more than one machine, allowing the work to be performed largely unattended. From there, the next logical step is to go home on nights and weekends while the machines continue to cut parts. Doubling the spindle hours on an existing machine doubles productivity without the capital equipment costs of adding an additional machine.
See the next post in this series for more game-changing machine simulation applications.

What Machine Simulation Can Do For You - Part 3

Build your virtual machine carefully
If you are going to use CAM-simulation, then you will need to create a model of your machines within the CAM software. Although this may sound like a daunting prospect, creating the machine model is usually quite straightforward. Mastercam makes it easier by providing an extensive library of generic multiaxis CNC machines, which can be used as a template for developing the model from your specific machine. Modeling involves inputting specific dimensions taken directly from the machine or from the OEM’s literature.

G-code simulation involves a much more extensive modeling process, which is typically done by the software provider.

Resolve post processor issues
The post processor is intermediate software that translates code generated by the CAM software into G and M code that is understood by a specific CNC machine. CAM software is shipped with generic post processors that must be tweaked to satisfy a myriad of machine specific options. The user can optimize his post processor so that his machine will behave as desired (and provide accurate simulations) by working through documentation provided by the post processor vendor and activating or deactivating various “switches” in the post. Or it may be faster and more satisfying in the long run to hire an expert to install and clean up the posts.

In either case, machine simulation will only provide good results if you have a clean post.

What Machine Simulation Can Do For You - Part 2

First Things First
Choosing the most appropriate simulator for your requirements

Before a shop can enjoy the many benefits of machine simulation and advanced CAM software for multiaxis machining, a number of steps must be taken to ensure that the types of simulation chosen are most appropriate  and that the results generated via the simulation process will be accurate and trustworthy. We’ll take a look at the pros and cons of the two types of simulation first.

Choosing between CAM (intermediate code) and G-code simulation

There are two types of machine simulation:

  • CAM simulation (such as Mastercam’s Machine Simulation) examines the intermediate code generated by the CAM software in combination with a CAD model of the machine and associated tooling to generate the various components of the machine motion. 
  • G-code Simulation (e.g. Vericut from CGTech) uses the actual G-code generated by the postprocessor and detailed machine models, including kinematics, to generate an ultra-high resolution simulation of the manufacturing process.

CAM-based machine simulation doesn’t cost a lot and it is easy to implement and use. It can be very effective most of the time. However, since it does not work from the G-code (which is the form of instructions the machine actually operates from) and does not incorporate machine kinematics, CAM simulation is not as accurate or as reliable as G-code simulation. G-code simulation can be quite expensive to implement. However, that cost can be quickly recovered if the simulation discovers program flaws that could break tools, interrupt lights out machining, or create gouges that result in scrapping expensive parts.

Machine simulation benefits discussed in this white paper show examples depicting Mastercam’s CAM-simulation module. These same benefits can also be obtained using Vericut, which can be accessed from within Mastercam  and used simultaneously while the user continues to work on other Mastercam programs.

Do you have a game changing machine simulation application?
Let us know and we will write about it in this blog. Email

What Machine Simulation Can Do For You - Part 1

Shops that install multiaxis CNC equipment are immediately faced with a paradox: The multiaxis CNC was acquired because it has the potential to dramatically improve accuracy and machine cycles while improving overall machining capabilities. However, to achieve all this, you have to put your investment at risk by allowing the equipment to operate swiftly in many, often simultaneous, dimensions and this increases the potential for catastrophic collisions exponentially.

What often happens, particularly for first time users, is that the shop “babysits” the machine, programming it to run conservatively and requires someone to watch over it to ensure it stays out of trouble. For the sake of safety, the shop sacrifices all the benefits of efficiency and creativity that the multiaxis CNC system can provide. This approach is, of course, a tremendous waste of both manpower and machining capacity.

Multiaxis users need to get past this stage as quickly as possible. They can accomplish this by becoming proficient in machine simulation.
Machine simulation provides you with additional layers of visualization, so that you can zoom in and zoom out at will, to observe everything that will happen during your machining process. You can move the simulation along very quickly in program segments where you are certain that the part, tool, holder fixtures, and peripheral devices (e.g. robots) are in no danger of colliding. When everything is happening in a confined space, you can slow the simulation down to observe these interrelated movements in slow motion or step through them in block fashion.

Do you have a game changing machine simulation application?
Let us know and we will write about it in this blog. Email