We at CIM wanted to provide more clarity so you know the differences in calculation / run times between streaming and simply saving .PRN files. This will help you make an informed decision about when to stream your files to the machine versus saving your .PRN file for upload to VPanel. This will also give you a better idea of what is occurring in the background of the CAM.

HINT: You should NOT be streaming all of your cases to the machine!

There are some times that are associated with processes that are set and will occur regardless of how many cases are loaded. For this reason, loading a single unit for timing consideration is not the best benchmark unless that is how you are actually running your production (one part at a time / job). These setup times can occupy about 20-30 seconds even after you have selected your strategy options. Knowing this, the more units you batch together in a job, the more time you will save @ calculation.

We find that the typical user nests anywhere from 5 units up to the full disc, depending on their workload and bandwidth. If you have high turnover, those facilities will typically batch out smaller runs to make the most of the machine’s time and to make sure that when the machine is done, a new job is ready to load.

In order to understand why there is a difference in time, we have to understand what’s happening.

Here is an example of how a strategy is typically laid out for a standard Crown (operation by operation):

  1. Roughing 180 External
  2. Roughing 180 Internal
  3. Roughing 0 External
  4. Finishing Prep-Line
  5. Finishing 180 External
  6. Finishing 180 Internal
  7. Finishing 0
  8. Anatomical Details
  9. Engraving
  10. Support Pin Trimming

With this in mind, we can say in this particular example there are 10 operations. When you simply save the .PRN file for usage later, MillBox utilizes the additional cores on your processor to calculate all 10 operations at the same time by splitting these up and scaling according to your hardware. All operations are calculated simultaneously in order to save time.

When you calculate a file for streaming, you’re essentially breaking up 1 .PRN file into 10 (considering our example above). As the calculation for each individual operation completes, the CAM moves on to calculate the next operation while queuing up any completed operations in VPanel - The machine simply starts milling as long as the door is closed and the VPanel in on / Ready. The MillBox installation must reside on the same PC where Vpanel is installed and running in order to facilitate streaming.

When streaming, the small operations have to be calculated one-by-one, in-sequence and cannot be computed simultaneously. Therefore MillBox will not fully utilize your computer's hardware (logical cores on CPU) and your calculation will be slower, with the trade-off of the machine starting right away. Because of this, we can start the machine very quickly (usually in 30 secs - 1 minute from the start of calculation). 

Not only does it take longer to calculate, but it generally takes slightly longer to run the finished file on the mill. This is because there are safety positions that have to occur between each .PRN file that is queued up, and this adds a few seconds between each operation. These are rules within the controller that we cannot easily get around (today).

So when do you need to use Streaming?

Only when the mill is down and you know you are going to have a hefty calculation time (Full Arch / Full Disc). If you have a bunch of singles, this means you should just load 1-3 crowns, calculate those (take the 2-3 minutes to load the machine and get it ready / clean for the day) and get it up and running then go on with production.

If you had a large case / bridge to start first thing in the morning, I would certainly recommend streaming that out to the machine so the mill can get started instead of having to wait 15-25 minutes for the computer to do it’s math. (The complexity of the part / strategy and the specs of your PC have the most impact here).

If you have singles and a large case, load the singles first and batch them out. When those are running, you basically have bought yourself about an hour to take your time getting that large case nested and processed.

Depending on your production volume and the number of mills available, you have to get creative with how you use the tools available to you to make sure your machines are up and milling more than they are down sitting idle. For this reason, the streaming feature is great – but it is not designed or purposed to be used all the time / exclusively.