Conical Barrel Cutter Provides Evolution in Machine Shop Capabilities

If you aren’t familiar with OPEN MIND Technologies, the first thing to understand is that the specificity and quality of its products go hand in hand. Entangled with that specificity and quality is the depth and breadth of OPEN MIND’s great engineering software products.

To get to know the company, the first thing you should be aware of is that OPEN MIND produces CAD/CAM software as well as postprocessors for the design and manufacture of complex molds and parts. The company offers 2D solutions packed with features for milling standard parts and software for five-axis simultaneous machining, among other products.



OPEN MIND has an integrated CAM solution that you may find useful for high-performance engineering as well as tool and mold manufacturing and design. The central idea behind making a product like hyperMILL for SOLIDWORKS is to empower users to transform their CAD designs into numerical control (NC) code for machining without leaving SOLIDWORKS and worrying about interoperability issues or any other hiccups a user can experience transferring design data to third-party CAM software.


Not having to leave your design environment has several advantages. As an integrated process with universal data models, the production process is more transparent and secure. The obvious general productivity benefit of using a familiar design interface is that more people want to use it. Additionally, an entirely new software doesn’t need to be learned or taught, which also can simplify operations and increase efficiency in a given production process.

OPEN MIND Technologies accomplished something pretty remarkable by creating one user interface in SOLIDWORKS with 2D, 3D, high-speed cutting (HSC) and 5-axis machining strategies, as well as a mill turn module. With these options available  in the popular CAD software from Dassault Systèmes, users have simple yet sophisticated choices to create the best machining strategy. The better the strategy is, the less users find themselves spending time on programming and machining, which increases efficiency and productivity. This counts big time for everyone concerned with keeping costs down and getting new products, parts, molds and tools to market on time or even a bit early.


Standardizing and Automating CAM Tasks

One of the goals OPEN MIND has strived to accomplish with hyperMILL is to make the programming of 5-axis tasks as easy and familiar as 3D programming. Avoidance features and collision checking help make this possible with 5-axis tasks and hyperMILL automatically calculates tool positions with one preference angle inputted by the user. Machining strategies and tools can be combined, stored and retrieved from a graphical database, which is useful when users are creating CAM programs.

Checking the programs built by users is easy with OPEN MIND Utilities, because it amplifies the ability to make changes to tool paths right up to and including the last phase.

With hyperMILL, users can:

  • perform multi-axis machining
  • machine surfaces
  • use hole feature recognition
  • machine on surfaces
  • perform milling and turning in one operation
  • program and execute 5-axis drilling and mill and turn in one integrated operation.

For manufacturing operations, this means reduced cycle times.


Tangent Plane Machining in hyperMILL with Conical Barrel Cutter

OPEN MIND hit the whiteboards pretty hard and came up with a totally new kind of milling tool geometry to machine faces with minimal curvature using a conical barrel cutter. If you aren’t familiar with barrel-shaped tools, they use a portion of their circumference to allow for a 500-mm cutting radius.

The conical barrel cutter was integrated by OPEN MIND for hyperMILL to enhance what the company calls its tangent plane machining strategy. In order to spend less time machining vertiginous and bottom surfaces, the conical barrel cutters employed in this strategy cut machining time by 90 percent during tangent plane machining.

A conical barrel cutter using hyperMILL’s tangent plane machining strategy cuts into a structural part. The 500-mm radius is much larger than that of a ball end mill. (Image courtesy of OPEN MIND Technologies.)

A conical barrel cutter using hyperMILL’s tangent plane machining strategy cuts into a structural part. The 500-mm radius is much larger than that of a ball end mill. (Image courtesy of OPEN MIND Technologies.)

Depending on what type of machining you’re doing, you may use a general barrel cutter or a tangential barrel cutter, but if you’re machining steep or flat planes in undercut situations, the conical barrel cutter will work best. hyperMILL also automatically aligns and nestles the conical barrel cutter to avoid collisions and mistakes that will cost you time and money.


Replacing the Traditional Ball Mill with the Conical Barrel Cutter

hyperMILL’s automatic alignment and nestling of barrel cutters is part of what OPEN MIND calls the “MAXX Machining” strategy. This coined term signifies the ability of users to automatically support the geometry and perform collision checking of conical barrel cutters as well as tangential barrel cutters and lens tools.

The CAM industry’s reaction to the MAXX Machining strategy has so far been cautious but optimistic. With any new change in machining strategies, the main issue is convincing cutting tool vendors to get on board and produce a tool that only displays a circle segment of the cutter. Quickgrind was one of the first to get on board. For other tool producers, a really important thing to remember for customers who want to keep their machine shop as up to date as possible is the following: Manufacturing a cutting tool with a shank diameter of only 15 mm can create a large radius of 500 mm.

The reason this is important is because it greatly increases the overall machining area, helping reduce cycle times and higher step-over rates without altering scallop heights. It not only allows users to create great surface finishes, but also diminishes tool degradation because it uses a larger surface area of the tool.

Besides increasing the machining area and reducing tool wear, the new strategy can protect users from suffering annoying deviations from spindle growth or heat warping.


Comparison of MAXX Machining with a Conical Barrel Against a Standard Ball Nose

At a recent technical seminar in the United Kingdom, a comparison demonstration took place to test the surface finish performance of the MAXX Machining strategy. The setting was the Mazak Technical Centre. The machine was the Mazak i-400 multi-tasking machine tool. The cutting tools were supplied by Quickgrind.

The contest was between a ball nose tool with a 10-mm diameter and a conical barrel tool with a radius of 500 mm on a 10-mm shank. Using a small step-over strategy of 0.2 mm, the ball nose tool compared poorly with the conical barrel tool, which had a 3-mm step over. This resulted in a tool path distance of 100 m for the ball nose tool. The barrel tool, by comparison, came in at slightly less than 7 m!

The difference in machining time was even more disparate and exaggerated: 39 minutes for the ball nose tool. It only took the barrel tool three minutes!


Conical barrel cutter in hyperMILL empowers a new wave of capabilities for machine shops. (Image courtesy of OPEN MIND Technologies.)

The ability of the MAXX Machining strategy to produce a 500-mm radius can certainly be scaled up as OPEN MIND hits the drawing board with cutting tool specialists. With MAXX Machining, the key takeaway is that a larger tool radius equals a larger step down.

Imagine what machine shops could accomplish with a 1,500-mm radius tool on a shank size from 5 to 20 mm in diameter. This allows customers and users to sync up the tool radius by matching it with the accuracy of the machine tool. Simply put, this is possible because a smaller radius amplifies the inherent precision of the machine tool by stabilizing and maintaining positional tolerance without rolling over the edge. This depends of course on the level of precision in a given machine tool.

However, it also yields a simple maxim for scalable improvement using barrel tools and hyperMILL’s MAXX Machining: the larger the radius, the greater the advantage.

About the Author


Andrew Wheeler is an optimistic skeptic whose lifelong passion for computer hardware has led him to 3D printing and his latest technological passion, Reality Computing.

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