Estimating Software features automatic feature recognition.

Press Release Summary:

MSE 10.0 utilizes AFR Estimating© technology to analyze parts to be cut by mills and lathes. It offers optional AutoView viewer and automatically generates machine layout and cycle-time calculation. Using AFR Estimating and solid model from CAD system, MSE 10.0 interrogates entities selected by user and interprets 2, 2 1/2, and 3 axis features. System automatically identifies processes to be used and locates proper tools.

Original Press Release:

Successful AFR Fab Estimating is Basis for Automatic Feature Recognition in Machining

NEW BERLIN, Wisconsin - AFR Estimating© technology - the evolutionary estimating technology introduced in 2001 for fabrication operations - now is available for many machining operations. AFR Estimating technology, based upon Automatic Feature Recognition (AFR), is available only in Machine Shop Estimating (MSE) from Micro Estimating Systems.

AFR Estimating for machining is capable of analyzing parts to be cut by mills and lathes, and automatically generates a machine layout and cycle-time calculation. When applied to machining operations, the technology involves an incredibly complex process. Unlike dealing with sheet metal, the part being analyzed is no longer a flat piece, with 2-dimensional lines requiring only a single cutting or punching operation. In machining, there are numerous processes and tools, and the tools follow multidimensional contours.

Micro Estimating Systems' president Chuck Beyer explained the significance of Automated Feature Recognition in Estimating: "Using AFR Estimating and a solid model from a CAD (computer aided design) system, MSE interrogates entities selected by the user and interprets all 2 and 2-1/2 axis features and many 3 axis features. The system automatically identifies the processes to be used and locates the proper tools in the library. That process and tool data is supplied to the estimating algorithms." Typically, this was manually entered into the system by the estimator and could have taken hours of process layout preparation and data input for a complex part.

"AFR Estimating for machining, according to Craig Hoffmann, Micro's vice president for product development, "is entirely different than for the sheet metal version introduced a year ago. With machining you follow multidimensional contours and have numerous processes and tools to use. For example, you might rough and finish face mill the part, end mill it, groove it, or turn it.

"Complicating AFR Estimating for machining are two major issues not involved with sheet metal AFR. First, not only does estimating for machining work in a variety of planes, it must determine which tool to use. The other issue is transferring the geometry. In the case of laser estimating, only a contour length and a given length of cut are involved. When machining an odd-shaped pocket," Hoffmann points out, "simply dealing with length of cut is inadequate, since the milling cutter changes direction frequently, and the estimate must include that idle time to be accurate."

Other MSE 10.0 features
MSE 10.0 also offers an optional AutoView viewer. With the availability of AFR Estimating©, MSE users need to view an ever-increasing variety of CAD drawings. AutoView greatly expands the available file formats over the previously included MSE viewer.

Tighter integration with shop management systems
For over a decade, Micro has worked with manufacturing software vendors to offer regarding information exchange capabilities. Over 15 other vendor's manufacturing systems feature some level of integration with MSE today.

Earlier this year Micro began a yearlong effort to make those data transfers paths "tighter," according to Hoffmann. The first of these efforts, to be introduced at IMTS 2002, involves the JobBoss shop management system. "The customer, vendor, and sales personnel files used in MSE now are found in JobBoss. Estimators can access those JobBoss databases when opening a new estimate - there's no redundant data entry."

For the past decade, the MSE estimate information was already available to JobBoss when a bid was won. JobBoss used this data for entering new orders.

"Now information flows in both directions," Hoffmann points out, "with the estimator able to get customer or stock codes and pricing from the shop management software's database. They no longer need to maintain two stock code libraries. Purchased item information is also included."

Integrated CRM and contact management
Similar to the JobBoss integration, both Act and Goldmine now are more closely linked to MSE, giving estimators the capability for using existing customer and prospect lists, instead of duplicating that information in MSE. On the MSE Customer Information screen, selecting the Library button brings up a customer library from Act, Goldmine, or JobBoss.

Redesigned direct buy library
MSE 10.0 comes with a redesigned Direct Buy Library for purchased parts, services, and raw stock, something that enhances the integration capabilities underway with other shop control software vendors. For MSE users who have not yet integrated their estimating with their shop management systems, it also simplifies their setup routines, with only one place to enter this information

Micro Estimating Systems Inc., a subsidiary of OnCourse Technologies, Inc. (OCTH), develops and markets high precision business software tools for estimating, process planning, cost analysis, and methods analysis for CNC and manual equipment.

For information: Micro Estimating Systems. 3106 South 166th Street, New Berlin, Wisconsin 53151; telephone: (262) 860-0560; FAX: (262) 860-0561; website:

AFR Estimating© is copyrighted by Micro Estimating Systems. Inc.

Underlying this technology was the cooperation between two OnCourse subsidiaries, Micro Estimating Systems and TekSoft, Inc. While AFR has been a much discussed topic in the CAD/CAM world for the past few years, as yet, few companies have successfully implemented it, and none as thoroughly as TekSoft. The MSE module for AFR includes a fully functional copy of TekSoft's ProCAD, within which feature recognition occurs.

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