How CAM Software Surface Based Toolpaths Can Improve CNC Machining


Surface based Toolpaths are extremely powerful and effective solutions for many difficult 3 Axis machining jobs. Getting familiar with the intricate strategies of CAM software surface based Toolpaths can be the toughest learning curve, but becoming familiar with them allows shops to take on more complex jobs. The advantages of surface based CAD-CAM include the following:

  • Higher level of CNC machining control
  • Cycle times reduced
  • Mold & die machining made less complex
  • Advanced machining with more options
  • The ability to use T-cutter, dove, tapered & lollipop tools for undercutting

There are currently 8 surface based Toolpaths: Flowline, Parallel Cuts, Cuts Along Curve, Morph Between 2 Curves, Parallel to Multiple Curves, Project Curves, Morph Between Surfaces and Parallel to Surface. Let’s delve deeper into what they are and what they do.

Parallel to Surface CAD-CAM Toolpath

Parallel to Surface

Parallel to Surface
Parallel to Surface creates cuts on a drive surface which is parallel to a single edge surface. This toolpath is driven based on the surfaces you select versus selecting drive curves and drive surfaces. The advantages of parallel to surface is the ability to drive Toolpath parallel to a surface that many sweep up or down in Z. Advanced options for surface paths gives greater control and options to handle a wide range of machining scenarios.
Parallel Cuts
Similar to a planar or Z-level finish strategy, Parallel Cuts sets itself apart through its ability to handle gaps in the surfaces, saving time. The Parallel Cuts feature creates slices that are parallel to each other. Those slices are defined by 2 angles that include a machining angle in X/ Y and a machining angle in Z. The geometry selection only requires a drive surface(s).
Cuts Along Curve
Users can create a Toolpath that is perpendicular to a lead curve on a selected drive surface. Providing the curve is a straight line, cuts are created parallel to each other. Use a surface edge as the lead curve or a curve that’s on the surface. If the curve isn’t on the surface, then it’s projected onto the drive surface creating the Toolpath.
Morph Between 2 Curves
This feature creates a morph Toolpath between 2 leading curves. Morph in this term meaning the Toolpath gradually morphs between the 2 curves and evenly spreads along the surface. This is beneficial for creating irregular shapes with a smooth finish.
Morph Between 2 Curves CAM function
Parallel to Multiple Curves
This feature creates Toolpath segments parallel to a leading curve. Neighboring Toolpath segments will be parallel to each other. Keep in mind that cuts are not copied beside each other; every new cut is an offset of the cut before it. While using multiple drive surfaces, you can now select multiple curves to use; each curve only being used for the drive surface closest to that curve.
Project Curves
The Project Curves feature creates projected Toolpaths using either a user-defined geometry curve, offsets of that curve, radial pattern or a spiral pattern. As users select curve geometry directly from a surface, the projected Toolpath is a carbon copy of the original. When the curve geometry is above the surface, there are many possible results depending on scenario and parameter selections. Use this particular pattern for engravings, as well as spiral or radial finishing patterns for complete surfaces.
Morph Between Surfaces
This feature is similar to Morph Between 2 Curves, the difference is your input geometry being 2 surfaces versus 2 curve boundaries. The morph strategies are preferred by most because the cutting paths created follow the flow of the surfaces. Morph in this case refers to the generated Toolpath approximated between the input surfaces and evenly distributed over the drive surface.
Flowline CAM Function


Flowline is one of the more preferred surface based Toolpaths because it’s pretty simple to set up. Users just need to select their desired surface for machining and let the UV lines dictate the cutting direction of the path. Users have the choice to cut along the UV lines or perpendicular to them.

If you’re interested in trying these surface based CAD-CAM Toolpaths, download a free demo of BobCAD-CAM V30 by clicking here!

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