New CAM toolpath cuts hoist drum production time by 83 percent

Before using Mastercam Lathe Custom Thread toolpath, producing a hoist drum—including machine set up, tooling, and machining—took at least 40 hours. With the CAM toolpath, 3D-Machine, Inc. produced the part in just seven hours.


Product Used:

Mill, Mill-Turn, Lathe, Multiaxis


Tool & Die, Job Shop, Automotive, Energy

Hoistdrum Machined


After years of working as a machinist in his home state, Ohio-native Sam Roberts decided to head south in search of manufacturing career opportunities. In 2001, he seized an opportunity to run his own machine shop in Georgia.

Armed with Mastercam Version 6 and a Haas VF-3 vertical machining center, he launched 3D-Machine, Inc., 25 miles northwest of Atlanta in Powder Springs. Twenty years after his first encounter with Mastercam, Roberts still relies on it for his shop’s design and production needs.

The full-service machine shop specializes in precision milling and turning of parts ranging from less than one ounce up to 30,000 pounds. Industries served to include hydro and nuclear power, automotive, aerospace, communications, and medical. 3D-Machine now operates using Mastercam Mill, Mastercam Lathe, and Mastercam Wire. In addition, the company is participating in the Mastercam Beta Program to provide user feedback into the product development cycle for the next release of Mastercam. Roberts appreciates the software’s capabilities and its generous selection of toolpaths.

Hoist Drum

“I recently discovered a new toolpath called Lathe Custom Thread,” he said. “It is phenomenal.”

The new toolpath supports custom thread forms and expands support for modeling chucks and chuck jaws. The CAM software supports collet chucks as individual component types, expanding the range of machines that can be directly supported. In addition, the toolpath streamlines and simplifies programming workflow.

By selecting chained geometry in Lathe Custom Thread, a programmer can choose the thread cross-section or one of the following parametric definitions: Rope, Buttress, Square, or Trapezoidal. The toolpath includes Mastercam Mill-Turn simulation enhancements, as well as support for select Swiss machining.

Recently, the folks at 3D-Machine produced a carbon steel part for a cable reel. It has a 0.9375” pitch and a 0.406” radius; a 12mm (0.4724”) button tool was used to rough and finish the part. Because 3D-Machine created the chain, the deburr occurred during the process. The part, a hoist drum, employs a wire rope or cable to lift or lower loads. Due to its size, the drum was machined on a large VTL. However, the selected toolpath is not limited to vertical machining and can just as easily be performed on a horizontal lathe.

Verify Hoist Drum

“It took us seven hours to put in this groove, which if you laid out in a straight line would measure 212 linear feet,” said Roberts. “We had to use a mill and a rotary to make, rough, then finish the part. We did the deburr on a VTL in seven hours. It’s just beautiful.”

Without use of the Lathe Custom Thread toolpath, setting up the machine, tooling, and machining would have taken at least 40 hours. With the new toolpath, 3D-Machine produced the hoist drum in just seven hours, reducing production time by 83 percent.

“It is very much like threading a part,” said Roberts. “The difference is you are roughing the thread using parameters typically found in straight grooving.”

Bryan McKinney besides Hoist drum

To ensure that the shape is exactly what they are looking for, Roberts and his team rely on Verify, a Mastercam feature that prevents tool collisions by letting programmers check for gouges, view finished part shapes, and visualize inclusion of fixtures in its simulation screen. Productivity increases and problems are addressed before parts are cut.

“Mastercam gives us an opportunity to take on work that other machine shops cannot do,” said Roberts. “We have made several parts over the years that we never could have manufactured without the CAD/CAM software.”

Customer Quote

“The improvement in programming and the new technology that the software is always evolving helps us stay ahead of the curve and meet customer demand.”

—Joseph Lysiak, Plant Manager, McAfee Tool & Die, Uniontown, Ohio
Reseller Quote

“They included translators, post processors, and support in the base cost. With some software companies, many things are extras that add to your base cost as well as the annual cost of your support contract. With the overall time and support we get from them, it means everything when you come down to it.”

—John Stiles, Senior Programmer, McAfee Tool & Die, Uniontown, Ohio


Reduce production time required to machine a 212-foot groove onto a large hoist drum.




  • Lathe Custom Thread toolpath supports custom thread forms and expands support for modeling chucks and chuck jaws.
  • The toolpath streamlines and simplifies programming workflow.
  • Mastercam Verify prevents tool collisions by letting programmers check for gouges and view part shapes and fixtures on a simulation screen.

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