Q&A with Mark Summers

CNC Software's president discusses the reasons for Mastercam's leadingposition in the development of high-speed and multi-task CNC software.

CNC Software's president discusses the reasons for Mastercam's leadingposition in the development of high-speed and multi-task CNC software.

By Ann Mazakas

This is the seventh in a series of interviews with leaders in the CAM industry.—DE

When he founded CNC Software, Inc. in 1983, Mark Summers brought a lot of practical experience and machining expertise to the brand-new arena of PC-based NC programming. He gained seven years of machining expertise at several different job shops in New England before going to work for a machine tool reseller as an application engineer. A few years later,  driven by the needs he encountered as an applications engineer working for another machine tool company, he teamed up with his brother, a recent MIT graduate, to develop one of the earliest CAD/CAM packages for general shop use.


Mark Summers, CNC Software, Inc.

Does CNC Software work directly with any machine tool manufacturers to assist with developing code for multiaxis machining?

Summers: Yes, we have been working directly with many machine tool builders over the last 20 years. We welcome any machine tool manufacturer that would like to establish a relationship with us since they are typically beneficial to both parties and eventually to the customers as well. A direct dialog with machine tool builders can reduce the amount of time it takes to understand the details and nuances of a specific machine. The eventual benefit is that the machine tool builder ends up being confident in the postprocessors that we or one of our resellers has created—since a clean match between Mastercam and the machine tool is very important.

Do you work with other types of vendors such as cutting tools or data management suppliers?

Summers: Yes, DuraMill and Sandvik are two of the companies that have provided us with cutting tool libraries with factory-recommended feeds, speeds, and cut depths and widths for their tools. Cutting tool manufacturers, in turn, are able to use our software to demonstrate their product capabilities and show how their tools are integrated with Mastercam. We are hopeful many more tooling providers will join with us to assist customers in this way.

What are some recommendations you can give for machining on a multitask machine?

Summers: Get to know and understand the machine tool capabilities. It’s helpful to know how a particular machine wants to be programmed because it will make offline programming with Mastercam more efficient.




Smooth motion is vital to any high-speed tool motion. Any sharp, angular moves tend to be amplified in the high-speed environment, and can cause damage to parts, tools and machines. In this example, we can see that even motion that doesn’t touch the part is critical. Here, the tool ramps up and off the part,  transitions to the next cut on a smooth arc, and ramps back down onto the part. Image courtesy CNC Software, Inc.



How have the high-speed machining capabilities in Mastercam helped your customers?

Summers: In general they experience more “in the cut” time, less hand polishing, because the machined finishes are better, less tool breakage because cuts are shallower; less machine tool wear because there are fewer sharp angular moves.

The ultimate result is that any method which allows you to do something faster without forsaking quality in manufacturing makes a business more competitive.

What are your recommendations for high-speed machining, particularly when it comes to surface finish and tolerances?

Summers: Understand the software tools that you have at your disposal and how to best use them in combination with each other. The specific shape of a part in most or all cases will dictate what type of toolpath to use for the best efficiency. Research and understand the tooling that is available today for high-speed machining. Many of these tools can be very expensive, so it’s important to think through each toolpath to make sure you’re not overloading the tool and shortening the life of it while sacrificing your surface finish at the same time.

Surface finishes and tolerances for the most part will be dictated by the tolerance set in the toolpath settings and the stepover that is set. Again, using the best software toolpath for the job will also be a factor in surface finishes.

What new technology we can expect to see in the next release of Mastercam?

Summers: The following improvements will be available in the next six to twelve months: We are going to have an increase in the number of high-speed offerings in the way of toolpaths, machining options, more control over transitions between cuts, smooth arcing moves, and so on. In other words, many more high-speed tools will be added to what we currently offer.

We’ll also have better support, including a synchronization utility for complex multitasking machines in which more than one tool is cutting simultaneously. These machines have multiprogram streams and Mastercam will easily manage these for safe and efficient operation.




Surface machining techniques that produce high-quality finishes in 3-axis machining are just as powerful when applied to full 5-axis machining. Above is a multisurface flowline toolpath, where the tool uses the natural surface curves to determine machine motion while adding the axis control to ensure the tool can reach all undercut areas with no collisions. Image courtesy CNC Software, Inc.



Where does Mastercam fit into the marketplace?

Summers: Mastercam is the most widely used CAM software in the world according to CIMdata’s  latest research. We provide programming tools for most every type of machining—2D, 3D, high speed, mill, multiaxis, lathe, router, and wire EDM. We are broad-based in terms of capabilities and customers. Our software is used in one-person shops to Fortune 500 companies.

Beyond technology, how else does Mastercam support its customers?

Summers: That’s an easy one. We are very fortunate to be associated with a very knowledgeable and loyal reseller network worldwide. This is important to our customers because they are working with a support channel that is in it for life and can answer the tough questions in most cases. Many of our customers cite how integral the reseller is in successfully incorporating Mastercam in their operations.

Here at headquarters we also have a fully staffed technical support department ready to assist customers when the reseller is overloaded. Specific support techniques use old-fashioned devices like the telephone and fax —and of course documentation, help files, videos, user forums, and training courses all help customers get productive with new Mastercam versions as quickly as possible.

Ann Mazakas is the owner and president of Intelligent Creations LLC, a provider of services to the manufacturing industry. Contact here through e-mail by clicking here.





Company Highlights

Company:    CNC Software, Inc.
Headquarters:    Tolland, CT
Founded:    1983
Product:    Mastercam

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