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Alpha00 (First Released March 2000)

October 00 Version

All modules: A new attribute - EAT(N) = Element Attribute - has been added to the API.
Mill, Router and Lathe modules: Also have TAT(N) = Tool Attribute.
Both of these attributes are used in the same way as PAT (Path Attribute).

All modules: Continuous lines in DXF input from AutoCAD 2000 were being read in as dashed lines. Now fixed.

All modules with Work Volumes: If a 3D file with Work Planes was inserted into a drawing with an active Work Plane, the file was not inserted correctly. Now, the file is correctly inserted in position and orientation with respect to the active Work Plane. The Global Origin of the inserted 3D file is positioned relative to the Local Origin of the active Work Plane. The Work Volume of the inserted file is deleted.

All modules with 3D Surfaces: Facetting has been very much improved. This has improved Quick Shading, and more importantly, 3D Surface Machining of complex 3D parts.

August 00 Version

All Modules: For some time you have been able to input DXF or DWG files with the lines and arcs retaining their 'element colour'. This can be confusing if 'geometries' are not coloured green - especially if the colour is dark blue, which AlphaCAM uses to indicate 'selected'. Now, if you use EDIT | Change and change the items to Geometry, they are taken out of their User Layer and put into the 'APS Geometry' (internal) layer, drawn in green.

Advanced Laser and Adv 5-axis Laser: A new command Pierce / Cut Holes has been added. This allows simple 'one hit' piercing or cutting around the inside of the hole, leaving a blank scrap piece, or spiralling out from the centre to remove the scrap completely. New Post variables and a new set of $numbers ($400 -) have been added to allow for canned cycles for these options.

All MILL / ROUTER modules: A new tab card marked Machining has been added to FILE | Configure | General. Here, you can enter your preferred default values for Safe Z Level, Rapid Down to etc. These values are offered as defaults when you start a job, but if you change them, operations following the change will offer the changed values as defaults.

Also, a check box has been added to MACHINE | Lead - In /Out to set whether Line-Arc combinations are to be tangential or not. If not, the line can be at any angle for Manual, but it is always at right angles to the arc for Automatic, with the line length equal to the arc radius you have set, so that the start and end points are co-incident, offset from the start of the machining cut by the arc radius.

AlphaEDIT: In FILE | Configure | Portadisk (on the tab card marked Disk) you can now set whether DOS 8.3 or Windows long (256 character) filenames are to be used.

June 00 Version

All MILL, ROUTER and LATHE modules: 3D Simulation has been improved, and Advanced 3D Simulation and 3D Surface Verification (both of which include sections) have been introduced as Extra Cost Options for new customers but are available free of charge to customers who bought their system at any time from January 1996 to March 2000 (Alpha0196 to Alpha99).

All modules with 3D Surface Machining: A new free of charge Add-In, Rhino Interface, is available. This will read and write Rhino 3D CAD files without needing an intermediate file such as IGES.

Advanced MILL, 3D 3-axis MILL and 3D 5-axis MILL: Surface machining functions have been much improved in performance and functionality. Many previous customer examples that caused problems are now correctly machined.

In Z Contour Roughing, the check box asking if ‘Complete Contours can be made on Surfaces at all Z levels’ is no longer necessary – complete Z contours will now be correctly made even if the surfaces have gaps at the sides. This option has been replaced by ‘Use Geometry Boundary Instead of Material’. This enables you to define your Material correctly (to display it with 3D Simulation, for example) but apply a boundary to contain the machining (previously, only the Material outline could be used as the boundary).

3D 3-axis and 5-axis MILL and ROUTER: Surface Machining (Finishing cuts) using Horizontal Z Contours has been improved by allowing you to select Climb or Conventional cutting. If the surfaces are ‘lumpy’, the feed direction will be changed as required to maintain the cutting method you have selected as far as possible. Also, the Cutting Order can be set to be by Zone (each area or zone is cut as much as possible before the tool moves to another zone) or by Level (as much machining as possible is done at each level across the complete part to be machined). Boundaries (more than one) can be used to contain the machining. The Ghost Tool can be set to determine whether the boundary is hard or soft, and which side the tool is to be.

You can now use more than one boundary in Along Line in X/Y and Horizontal Z Finishing, with the Ghost Tool set to make the boundaries hard or soft to keep the machining inside or outside each boundary.

Two new options have been added to the list of machining methods – Spiral and Rest Machining.

Spiral Machining allows you to set an inner radius and an outer radius for the spiral, to cut from inside to outside or vice versa, and to set the direction of feed to be Clockwise or Counter-Clockwise to produce climb or conventional cutting.

Rest Machining is used to remove material that has been left by previous cutters, usually because the radius is larger than one or more corner radii. The tool used must be smaller than previous tools used for finish machining. The options available are Along Corners, Across Corners, Automatic Along or Across (the best strategy is automatically selected) and Pencil Tracing. Pencil Tracing moves the tool along the corner or fillet with one pass only, but the other options will make as many passes as required to remove the material left by the previous tools.

New Post Processor Attributes for Cut Along Spline or Polyline, similar to those for 3D Surface Machining, which identify how the toolpath was created, eg 3-axis or 5-axis. See the AlphaEDIT Help file (Post Processor section) for details.

April 00 Version

AlphaVIEW Is a new free stand-alone viewer that does not need a software protection key ('dongle'). It is similar to the command FILE | Preview Drawing Files in AlphaEDIT, and enables you to look at drawing files created by any module from AlphaCAM 2000 or later. To use AlphaVIEW, you do not need to have AlphaCAM on your computer - just copy the files in the AlphaVIEW folder on the CD to an AlphaVIEW folder on your hard disk. Make a shortcut to \ AlphaVIEW\ AlphaVIEW.exe or double click on AlphaVIEW.exe in Windows Explorer. AlphaVIEW.doc in the AlphaVIEW folder has more information.

MILL and ROUTER (all levels): When you define a tool you can now set the Offset Number. If you leave the entry as 0 the tool number (TN) will be used as before for Post variable OFS (eg Tool 30 will have OFS = TN = 30) and this will be shown in the Feeds and Speeds dialog box when you use the tool. You can change this if you wish. The Offset Number is shown next to the Tool Number column in the list of tools when you select a tool. Also, if you specify Fixed Speed and Feed for the tool, the values you enter are shown in two new columns at the right of the columns when you are shown the list of tools.

Also, machining time calculations have been much improved. Modifications introduced during development in the past 2 years had caused errors in timing in some circumstances.

Advanced MILL: Now includes 3D Surface Machining with Z Contour Roughing and Finish Machining Along XY Line as the only options. This is intended for use by customers that occasionally have to machine surfaces on relatively simple parts.

All modules with Input DWG can now read AutoCAD 2000 drawing files.

March 00 Version

ALL SYSTEMS: When you select FILE | Open and highlight a file name, you are immediately shown a preview of the drawing. The preview is what was displayed on screen when the file was last saved. The preview is in EMF format, at the start of the drawing file in such a way that it is easy to extract by third party software. If you are updating your system and you want to add the preview to your old files, in FILE | Configure | General | Settings you will find a button marked Add Preview. Click on this to convert all the files in folders (and sub-folders) that you select.

Adding the EMF code for the preview makes the file significantly bigger, especially if the drawing has 3D surfaces, and you may not want this. You can disable the preview feature by un-checking Save and Show Previews of Drawing Files in FILE | Configure | General | Settings. The button Remove Preview will do as the words say to reduce the size of big files that you have previously saved. If you change your mind later you can re-check the Save and Show Previews…. option and use Add Preview to update your files.

Each AlphaCAM module will add / remove preview code only to / from files appropriate to that module.

AlphaEDIT does not show previews by default – it has a new command FILE | Preview Drawing Files. Select this to preview drawing files before opening the corresponding NC programs. AlphaEDIT will preview files from ALL AlphaCAM modules (Mill, Lathe, Wire etc) but there are no options to add or remove previews, since these can only be done in AlphaCAM.

MILL, ROUTER and LATHE (all levels): 3D Solid Simulation is now called 3D Simulation. It uses code 100% written in-house, instead of bought-in routines from LightWork Design. The smoothness of the final display is not quite as good as the LightWork based version, but there are several things that you now can do that you could not do before - you have control over the speed of the simulation, you can pause and re-start the simulation, and you can set the colours used for the display to suit yourself.

Sometimes the simulation runs very slowly, or stops running at all, or even crashes the system. If you have problems of this type, it is probably because your graphics card does not have the most up-to-date display driver. You should download the latest driver from the Web Site of the manufacturer of your graphics card. To find out the make of your graphics card, go to Control Panel, select the Display option and click the "Display Type" button on the Settings page.

LATHE: An extended tool library is now on the CD. If your system is new (or you are re-installing onto a computer that does not have AlphaCAM) the new tools will be installed in LICOMDAT \ Ttools.alp. In LICOMDIR \ Ttools there is a PDF file called Turning Tool Library.pdf which has drawings of all the tools in the library and explains the meanings of the letters used to identify the tool. The first four letters and the letter pairs used to identify the angles have been chosen by Licom, but the insert shapes use ISO standard letter identifiers. To read and print Turning Tool Library.pdf you need to have Acrobat Reader installed, and you will find a free of charge copy of this on your CD.

LASER and 3D 5-axis MILL: A new module - Advanced 5-axis Laser – has been introduced. A new command Cut Between Contours is very powerful. The beam (or tool) orientation is set by two contours in different Work Planes.

3D 5-axis MILL and ROUTER: A new command Make Local Axis Horizontal has been added to the 3D MENU. This is for cases where you have created Work Planes (or have imported an IGES file) with Work Planes at angles which have the X or Y axis not horizontal, while your machine requires one of them to be horizontal. Use it to convert the orientation of the appropriate axis and any Toolpaths in the Work Plane. A new Post $number - $584 - sets which axis must be horizontal for your machine if this is required. You will be warned if you have not converted any incorrect Work Planes.

Two new Post Processor variables allow you to simplify and speed up calculations involving TAX, TAY and TAZ in 5-axis Posts, and eliminate the need to test for division by zero. The variables are -

TWA = Tool Twist Angle = Atan2(TAY,TAX) and

TIA = Tool Tilt Angle = Atan2((SQR(TAX**2+TAY**2),TAZ).

The Licom Web Site now has User Forums. Click on the Technical Support button in the main Home Page – you will find several interesting sites.

Click here to see History for Alpha99 or here to return to the History Contents Page.