Custom Post Processors Deliver a Competitive Edge

The post-processor rarely receives much glory, yet without it, computer-aided manufacturing would effectively grind to a halt.

“Without a post, Mastercam’s output is trapped on the computer,” explained Dave Thomson, founder of Postability in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. “The post processor translates information from Mastercam and generates the codes that drive the actual machine tool.

“We often remark that one way to tell the difference between a novice and a seasoned NC programmer is in the attitude toward the post processor. A novice programmer will assume that all posts are equal, and the seasoned programmer will have their proven posts backed up on a thumb drive and locked away in a safe.”

Thomson, with more than 22 years of advanced Mastercam post-processing experience, knows this better than most. His company, Postability, focuses on the development of quality, custom NC post processors and services exclusively for Mastercam CAD/CAM systems. It was the first company outside of the Mastercam Reseller channel to do so.

This unique position, operating outside of the Mastercam Reseller channel, presented some challenges when Thomson first formed Postability in 2008. Initially, he worked alone, establishing a foothold in the market and eventually earning the trust and respect of the channel. The company began to build out its staff in 2015 and today features a talented team of 11 people, comprised of mechanical and mechatronics engineering graduates with 70+ years combined Mastercam post processing experience.

In 2014, with plans to substantially grow the business, Thomson applied to become a Mastercam partner. Aware of his successful track record working with Mastercam Resellers, Postability was added to the roster of Mastercam partners. As a CAM program support partner, Postability works through the global Mastercam Reseller channel to support clients in all precision manufacturing industries including automotive, aerospace, consumer products, defense, heavy equipment, medical, and power generation.

Thomson believes that high customization translates into higher customer satisfaction, and these services are included with his company’s product. He suggests that customization helps to eliminate manual code editing so that no time is spent in this area. Postability can further tailor output to optimize cycle time on a machine—for instance, minimizing home position retracts in a program to reduce the time spent on unnecessary moves.

“We won’t stop supporting our customers until they have achieved edit-free G-code,” said Thomson.

Postability actively keeps pace with updates to Mastercam so that new features of the CAD/CAM software are fully supported by its post processors. Recent Mastercam enhancements, such as improvements to the Safety Zone feature and Multiaxis Linking, for example, may require the right post processor to support the proper motion on the machine tool, explained Thomson.

“While post-processing typically performs outside the spotlight, Postability posts are behind much of the complex multiaxis machining done in the U.S.,” said Thomson. Postability partnered with application engineers from Sandvik Coromant to supply al the post processing needs for Mastercam customer Aerojet Rocketdyne in Sacramento, California, which included support for right angled heads and other code customization for special requirements on the job.

This includes work on the Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engine main combustion chamber, a critical spacecraft component for NASA’s next deep-space exploration rocket, the Space Launch System, which is tasked with taking humans back to the Moon and ultimately to Mars. The RS-25 liquid fuel engine was also notably the workhorse of NASA’s space shuttle program.

Contemplating new product development, Thomson noted that Postability is making great strides with an enhanced version of Machine Simulation within the Mastercam environment driven directly by his company’s post processors, which sharpens the simulation to the posted code.

“The fidelity of the simulation to the movement on the machine tool is very high at this time, making it an excellent choice for Mastercam users who rely on Machine Simulation but are looking to see tighter correlation between the simulation and actual machine motion,” said Thomson.

Thomson noted that despite the relative low profile of post processing in the machining process, the company’s visibility as a trusted Mastercam partner likely inspires confidence in customers. The relationship also opens opportunities for additional collaboration with Mastercam such as work on post processors for Swiss-style machining, and with the company’s other business partners.

Recently, Postability renovated a beautiful coach house from the 1850s. Looking ahead, Thomson shared, “It’s a new office for us where we will start to write our next chapter.

“Mastercam is the most widely used CAD/CAM system on the planet. Postability’s vision is to be the most trusted and respected post processing firm in the world,” said Thomson. “We are certainly well on our way, and the combination of Mastercam with a Postability post processor is a competitive advantage for manufacturers.”