Why You should be Implementing SOLIDWORKS MBD into your Mastercam Processes

I can only think of two reasons not to be implementing SOLIDWORKS MBD importing MBD data into your Mastercam files. The first would be that you have a room full of drafting boards and hold significant stock in a pencil manufacturer. The other would be that your machine shop runs off a line drive shaft with power provided by a water wheel.

As extreme as that sounds when I first entered the manufacturing world in the mid-1990s it was not uncommon for a successful manufacturer to have very limited CNC capabilities, and no CAD or CAM. Things have changed quite a bit since then and manufacturing has moved into being one of the most high-tech industries.

Mastercam Model

Mastercam Model

Today though, most of us have moved into solid modeling and creating toolpaths from solid models, yet many of us continue to keep a very traditional part of our workflow. That is the paper drawing, that is provided to our manufacturing team with the solid model. This creates a whole list of problems.

It is not uncommon for a customer to require you to work directly off a solid model. Often times they have no prints to give you and your engineering team needs to take the time to create, check, and revise a set of drawings, taking special care to not miss any key details that the customer doesn’t want missed.

Revision Control

Revision control is much easier when using electronic documents. For one thing you’re not storing, cataloging, and archiving all sorts of paper drawings. I am sure many of us have been in a situation where you need the drawing for Part # XYZ and you just can’t find whatever happened to it in that room full of filing cabinets. Or I have personally been in a situation where I was given the prints for the wrong revision of a model. Rev three was in the engineering office but rev two was handed over to me to base my machining strategies on. Unfortunately, the revision I was given had tolerances too tight for what needed to be made and it caused a slowdown in manufacturing, a costly mistake. If it had been the other way around it would have been even more costly in loss of materials and time to remanufacture the part.

Paper drawings can also be hard to read and easily damaged. Printer problems such as being low on toner, or having a plotter broken can make prints unreadable. Ever just not have the correct size paper? I recently had what was supposed to be an E sized print reduced to a C size print and spent considerable time with a magnifying glass trying to read the numbers, all the while hoping that was an “8” and not a “9.” Ever have someone spill their coffee on a paper print? Bottle of Tap Magic leak all over a print? Now you’re spending time trying to either get a replacement printed or trying to read smudged ink.

Data Exchange with Mastercam

Luckily, SOLIDWORKS can export it’s MBD Data embedded inside the STEP 242 File Format. Mastercam in turn can read that data with the MBD intact, even without SOLIDWORKS on the same system. In SOLIDWORKS it’s a matter of exporting a STEP 242 file from the 3D Views tab. In Mastercam it’s as simple as using the File-Open command. Implementing SOLIDWORKS MBD will allow Mastercam to read the MBD Data and create the text and import the 3D Views into Mastercam.

Let’s use this in a real-world example. Because the MBD Data is right in front of me I can devise my machining strategies without referencing a paper drawing. This makes it much harder to miss some important details. For example, the 1” Diameter bored holes have a tolerance of +0.0002 -0.0000, as well as a very critical spacing of 1.4844 +- 0.0002. That may require an operation that I can’t hold in my CNC Milling machine, and I may elect to have those holes cut with a Wire EDM or Jig Bore. I’ll drill them with 0.015 stock to leave to allow for those operations.

GD&T Annotations

GD&T Annotations

By contrast the overall height of the part is +- 0.001, a tolerance I can easily hold in a CNC Milling machine. Also, the height tolerance of the step is +-0.005 so I know I have some tolerances to play with while machining that step.

Part height

Part height

With all that in mind I was able to very quickly create a machining strategy for that part without being worried about being given the wrong drawings, keeping my morning coffee from spilling all over it, and straining my eyes because it was the wrong paper size. If a new revision is made to this part I simply need to reimport that model and apply whatever changes to my machining strategies it warrants.

Data Accessibility

If the part needs to be remanufactured, say a decade from now, I don’t need to go hunting through the dusty back room of file cabinets to find the set of drawings that go with it. Importing your MBD Data into your Mastercam Workflow should be one of those no brainers of modern manufacturing. It’s as simple as file open, and implementing SOLIDWORKS MBD will make your workflow so much simpler.

Dave Matuszek

Dave Matuszek has 25+ years of experience in Manufacturing and has been a Mastercam user since 1995 and a SOLIDWORKS user since 2006. David is a CSWP and has worked in aerospace, tool and die making, and general production work. Prior to becoming part of the TriMech family he was the Senior Mastercam Applications Engineer at MACDAC Engineering. In his spare time he enjoys woodworking, amateur radio, working around his small farm, and volunteering with local organizations such as being a member of the Shriners.
Related Service
Authorized Mastercam Reseller for:
  • Mastercam Software
  • Mastercam Training
  • Mastercam Maintenance