By Hunter Cordeiro
Have you ever bought something only to realize it's so poorly designed you could have made a better one yourself? That's exactly what happened to me when I paid $20 for a “custom engraved” dog ID tag from one of the pet store chains. My dog Chimera (pronounced KY-MEE-RA) only wore it for 6 months. It was so scratched, bent, and corroded I could hardly tell what it said.
I needed a dog ID tag that was sturdy enough it wouldn't get damaged in a wrestling match. It had to be easy to clean and refinish after several months of use. I also wanted something unique. Stock designs are somewhat cliche; everyone has a dog ID tag shaped like a bone, heart, or disk (I bet you do, too). So what would any like-minded engineer do? Why, enlist SolidWorks and CAMWorks, of course. Because of the tight integration between SolidWorks and CAMWorks, I was able to unleash my creativity and make the coolest dog ID tag around.
A chimera is an ominous, fire-breathing beast in Greek mythology. I came up with a design inspired by the look of an ancient Greek shield. A quick render from Photoview360 in SolidWorks Professional allowed me to get a good idea of what the shape would look like. Notice the slightly domed front face and the accent “trench” offset from the perimeter. The only thing left to do was the engraving work.
CAMWorks allows you to engrave off of a sketch rather than modelling in the engraved work. SolidWorks uses the Windows font library, so I was able to go online and download a Greek lettering font that suited my taste. I sketched out the shapes and lettering I wanted without having to worry about thicknesses, depths, and projecting onto a 3D surface. Using a sketch picture allowed to me to trace the more complex shapes from existing artwork that I found online.
Then it was time to start programming. All I had to do to start the job was turn on the CAMWorks add-in. I started the CAM-work using the exact same interface as I used to model the part - no translation or extra steps needed. When I finished programming, a toolpath simulation allowed me to verify material removal and identify a few problem areas where my sketch was too detailed and the engrave tool would wash out the details.
Thankfully, because I was programming in the same interface my part was modelled in, I was able to fix the issue by making a few quick changes. When I was done making changes, CAMWorks prompted me to rebuild and update toolpath. It literally took just one click to update the CAM data to reflect the changes I made to the model.
Before I was ready to cut the part, I had to program a soft-jaws fixture to hold the tag steady during the second setup. CAMWorks allows multiple configurations of the program. It accommodates different machines, operations, or in my case, fixturing. The flexibility of CAMWorks features allowed me to use the outer profile of the part to define a pocket that I would cut into the aluminum jaw blanks. I never had to model my fixturing or do any extra design work. Plus, the 3D CAD data, the CNC program for the part as well as the CNC program for the necessary fixturing were all contained in the same file. That makes managing data a whole lot easier and less prone to errors.
That was it for the work in software. It was time to post-process in order to get both G-Code and a setup sheet containing important information like tool numbers and origin locations, then off to the shop! In no time I went from a frustrated consumer to the owner of the best ID tag for the best dog around!
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