Just before the holidays, Eric (our CAM Support Specialist) visited SprutCAM** for some advanced SprutCAM training from the Sprut software engineers. As Milling Around readers probably know, SprutCAM is made by a russian company, Sprut Technologies, and is widely used in Russia and much of industrialized Europe. The main Sprut office is in Naberezhnye Chelny. Its a small city of 500,000 people (which still makes it more than 50x larger than Tormach’s hometown, Waunakee, WI). Obviously, its a long way from Wisconsin – 4 flights and about 15 hours in the air. That’s one way.
[**For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, SprutCAM is a powerful and affordable CAM system for programming CNC machines. Learn more about SprutCAM, and download a free trial version here]
Why go to Russia in the middle of December? Even in the age of facebook, skype, and twitter, face-to-face meetings are still important. The opportunity to get in front of a group of programmers is invaluable – sometimes things are just unable to be communicated clearly over the phone or by email, but a face-to-face conversation coaxes out the Eureka! moment that might not otherwise happen.
I don’t think this is an issue of things being lost in translation or something otherwise unique to SprutCAM. Prior to my days at Tormach, I worked for an engineering software development firm and my experience was the same – some murky problems would just persist until a power user would drop into the office for a visit and get some face time with the people actually writing the code. The user would demonstrate the issue and say, “Why can’t you fix this?”; to which the programmer replies, “Of course we can fix this – but why didn’t you tell us before!”.
For example, some advanced users may have noticed that SprutCAM feelsmore stable in metric mode. While its hard to qualify that statement, it turns out that the vast majority of QA testing for each nightly software build is done primarily with metric inputs. This is something that we didn’t know, and the programming team didn’t recognize as a problem. One major accomplishment from this trip is that Sprut is now adding a significant number of imperial cases to the QA testing. Other positive outcomes include improvements in usability, including some which we will be able to do here such as improved modeling and simulation of the machines and fixtures and enhanced postprocessor support – we’ll get more into this in later posts. We’re really happy about how the trip went, and its going to yield a lot of benefits for the rapidly growing SprutCAM community in the USA and elsewhere.
On the lighter side. Here are a few fun pictures from Eric’s trip. Click each photo for captions.
By the way, one of the largest users of SprutCAM is Kamaz. They make these big boy trucks in one of the largest auto plants in the world (also in Naberezhnye Chelny). I read somewhere that they make 260 trucks per day! You may be familiar with the Kamaz Race team, which has won 9 out of the last 10 Paris-Dakar rally truck titles.
Check out more here about the Kamaz Racing – one version of the truck is 1050 HP!
This video is just awesome.