Focus on optimal data management
Right from the beginning, this goalsetting meant that the future CATIA-TMS interface had to permit optimum data exchange possibilities in both directions. “When programming the integration, we initially focused on three main use cases: data import, data export and a checkup functionality”, explains Ralph Werner, Project Manager Software Services at CENIT. During import, tool data were to be transferred from the ZOLLER TMS to CATIA and made available for programming. The output of the programming – the tooling sheet – was then to be exported to the tool management software. The third use case, the so-called checkup functionality, involved reconciling the tool data in CATIA with their counterparts in the ZOLLER TMS. Changes to the tools contained in the tool management system were to be synchronized with the data in the existing CATIA documents.
From the outset, user-friendly interface integration with CATIA was a key aspect: the user should be able to interact with ZOLLER TMS directly from CATIA, without having to switch applications. CENIT therefore implemented a new toolbar in CATIA which permits easy one-click access to the main applications “ZTI import”, “ZTI export”, “ZTI checkup”.
As the collaboration between ZOLLER and CENIT progressed, new milestones were reached in which the interface was expanded to other important functionalities. These included transfer of technology data from CATIA, e.g. cutting speeds and feed rates. During import, the user can define the current machining group – an aspect that further increases performance and ease of use.
Initially, the CENIT solution enabled exchanges of tool properties with reference to basic information like diameter and length, but decisive new functions were added during the course of the project. “Both sides quickly realized that we had to give users a way to transfer actual tooling contours from ZOLLER TMS to CATIA. CATIA does provide a parameter-based mechanism for generating simplified representations that approximate the tool to a certain degree. But these don’t fully correspond with real-world tool geometries and don’t let you image complex tools with any great accuracy. For real collision analyses and reachability checks, you need precise geometry representations. To let users work with actual CATIA 3D tool geometries, we therefore had to enable transfer of 3D content from ZOLLER TMS to CATIA. After all, it’s very important for ZOLLER’s clients to be able to see and simulate the real tool during programming,” explains Ralph Werner, CENIT.