TopSolid 7 Revealed: Setup the machine

step5-setup-the-machine TopSolid Cam 7 is founded on the principle of assembly-based machining. In this post we will show you how easy it is to bring in your custom fixtures and assemble them onto your machine of choice. In this case, we will be using full machine simulation during the programming stages. It is our goal to show you how effortlessly you can work in a digital copy of your environment.

Before we get started

One thing that I would like to mention before we get started is that I will be skipping a step or two in this post. The reason for this is that these steps would be done once at the initial configuration of your software and thus would not need to be repeated on a daily basis. So, one step that I am going to skip for sure is how to define a machine in TopSolid Cam 7. But fret not! If you want to know how to do this, just check out the tutorial that is included with TopSolid Cam 7 for defining machines.


At this point in the TopSolid 7 Revealed project we have accomplished a great deal. We have:

  • Engineered the three stock conditions
  • Downloaded and recaptured design intent on a Kurt vice
  • Designed a custom fixture plate
  • Re-used a 90 degree fixture plate using TopSolid 7’s PDM search
  • Documented all of our work with drawings
  • Created BOM’s were needed
  • Tested our fixtures to be sure they are correct
  • Added a new family-driven library
  • Defined all stock conditions for machining

If you haven’t yet seen or read any of the earlier posts on the TopSolid 7 Revealed project, you can click here to do so now.

What you need to know

In order to fully understand what I am about to show you, you must know a few basic things first.

TopSolid Cam 7 is built on TopSolid 7 which is built on TopSolid PDM. Why do you need to know this and probably why do you even care?

That’s easy. What I am about to show you is true assembly-based machining like you likely have never seen before. In order to completely understand it, you need to understand some of the foundation of TopSolid first.

  • TopSolid PDM will help manage your project from start to finish without getting in your way while you work.
  • TopSolid 7 will help you to engineer your project.
  • TopSolid Cam 7 will help you manufacture your project.

And all of this in one environment and more importantly made by one software company.

Integration like you have never seen before.

That’s all I will say about that…for now! The rest of this article will focus on TopSolid Cam 7.

A TopSolid Cam 7 document is just a standard TopSolid 7 assembly document. Only it has a slight flavor change. It uses the very same technology available in TopSolid 7 assemblies for design. It follows the same guidelines for creating assembly constraints. In fact, it is actually a TopSolid 7 assembly with Cam added to it.

Why did we do that?

First, why reinvent the wheel? Why not use the very same environment that engineering professionals are used to. Why create something unique just for cam? Instead, why not let the Cam developers do what they do best? Why not let them focus on creating better, more innovating machining technologies? Does that make sense? (We thought so too.)

So now that you understand that a TopSolid 7 Cam document is a TopSolid 7 assembly document (with machining capabilities), you should easily be able to understand and appreciate what we are going to do next!

Create a machining document

How do we get started? First, I think it is always best practice to organize your projects. Because of this, the very first thing we will do is to create a new directory in our project manager. It is quick and easy to do and here’s how.

  1. Right-click on the project name topsolid-7-revealed-create-new-folder
  2. Select Folder from the menu
  3. Name the folder Machining (just like you would in Windows Explorer)


Did you know that you can create a folder anywhere? Just right mouse button click on the folder, or project name that you want to include a new folder in and choose folder from the menu.

Great, now that we have our new folder created we can move right along and create a new machining document. Here’s how.

  1. Right-click on the Machining folder (that we just created) topsolid-7-revealed-create-new-machining-file
  2. Choose Machining from the menu
  3. Select Blank Template
  4. Select the Validation button
  5. Give it a name


Did you know that you don’t have to name any file when you create it? You can let TopSolid do it for you. Then when you are ready, you can always come back and rename the file at any time just as you would in Windows Explorer. Just use a slow double click on the file, or right-mouse click and choose rename, or select the file and tap the F2 key and rename it. When done, just hit the enter key and TopSolid 7 will do the rest. It will inform all other files that have referenced this file that the name has changed and update the links automatically!

Choose a machine definition to use

The next step is pretty simple. All you need to do is select the machine on which you want to run the job. To do this, follow these steps.

  1. Select the Equipment tab
  2. Select the Select a Machine icon (OR)
  3. Select the Machine Hyperlink in the operations manager (this is the fast way)
  4. Select the machine definition that you want to use
  5. Click on the validation icon

Your machine is now loaded.


Did you know that you could define templates with your various machining centers already loaded? This will save a step or two in day-to-day life. Remember, removing redundant steps saves time AND money!

The video below will walk you through the steps described above. It’s a short video that shows everything we talked about live!

Ready? Set? Assemble! No machine…no ASSEMBLE!

At this point we are now ready to start including our machining fixtures. Doing this is really quite simple, but there are a few things to know about before we begin.

Earlier in this article I told you that a machining document is really an assembly document with machining tossed in. And it is. Because of this, the interface might become a bit busy…at least in lesser systems. You see, in TopSolid 7 the goal is to keep things neatly organized and as simple as possible. Because of this our developers have created a simple little switch for that will help do just this.

This switch will change the interface to show either machining-specific functions or design-specific functions. You will find this switch at the top of your screen on the left side. To toggle between cad and cam, just left-click on this icon. The images below illustrate the two different modes. If you look closely you will see that all of the icon bars change to reflect each mode. This way, you will only ever see tools that make sense for what it is you are currently working on .



Now that you know how to switch between the cad and the cam mode we can begin adding our fixtures. We will start by adding our first vice. To do this we will follow these steps.

  1. Toggle to Cad mode topsolid-7-revealed-add-vice
  2. Expand the Fixtures folder in the project tree
  3. Drag-and-drop the D688 vice into the machining document
  4. Cancel the Creation of a Machinable Part dialog

Once you have completed step four, you will be able to apply assembly constraints to your vice. Assembly constraints are used to position the vice correctly on the table.

To begin with, we will apply a constraint between the bottom face of the vice and the top face of the table. Next we will apply another constraint between the bolt slot of the vice and the clamp slot on the table. topsolid-7-revealed-vice-1-positioned And finally we will apply one last constraint between the left most face of our vice and the left most face of the table. Only here, once the constraint has been applied, we will apply an offset to the constraint so that the vice is shifted in toward the center of the table. When finished, it will look the picture shown to the left.

At this point you should also notice that part of the vice is blue while the movable jaw and adjustable stop are purple. The blue means that those parts are fully defined. The purple means that those parts are still under-defined. Next we will fully define the fixture stop by applying a constraint between the left face of the stop and the left face of the vice. This will locate the stop exactly where we want it to be. topsolid-7-revealed-constrain-stop It is very handy to have the stop free so that we can position it exactly as is required by the current part to machine. The picture to the right shows the stop after this constraint has been applied.

At this point the only part of the vice that is still free is the movable jaw. As we don’t yet have a part to hold in the vice we won’t worry about the jaw yet. We’ll do that later when we add our part to machine.

At this point we have done quite a lot. I think it is best to stop and show these steps via another video so that you can see for yourself how quick and easy it is to build a machining specific assembly. The video below will show you how to position the vice just like described thus far in this section.

Add spacer blocks with TopSolid 7’s search engine

The next item to add to our machining assembly will be the spacer blocks. Here we are going to use one of the spacer blocks that we defined as a family of parts back in the fixture design portion of the TopSolid 7 Revealed project. If you recall, we added these items into a user-defined library so that we could use them anywhere we like in the future. To access them we will use the built in TopSolid 7 search engine to quickly find them and then include them into our design.

topsolid-7-revealed-inclusion-in-last-positioning However , before we add the spacer block there is an option that we need to turn on first. It is called “Inclusion in last positioning”.

By activating this function, when we drag the spacer block into our machining assembly, it will automatically be included in the previously included part or assemblies positioning. This feature makes it very quick and easy to relate various objects to each other on the fly. In fact with this option tuned on, the spacer blocks will become part of the same positioning as the vice. And thus will update and follow the position of the vice automatically based on changes made to the vice.

Now that we have that turned on, we can include our spacer block. To do this, open the TopSolid 7 search engine and do the following:

  1. Set the filter for what you are looking for (remember to hit apply) topsolid-7-revealed-set-search-criteria
  2. Turn on thumbnail preview
  3. Type the name of the component and hit enter on your keyboard
  4. Set the family member that you want to use
  5. Drag-and-drop the part into the machining document

Once you have drag-and-dropped the spacer block into the assembly, TopSolid Cam 7 will ask you if you want topsolid-7-revealed-spacer-blocks-added to define it as a machinable part. Again, you will cancel this dialog box. But don’t worry, we will use it soon enough!

Next we will apply a few constraints to position the part on to our vice. Once we have done that, we will include another instance of the spacer block so that we can position it on the side of the movable jaw. Once finished, the assembly will look like the image to the left.

At this point I think it is time for another video. The following video will show you everything that you need to know about adding the spacer blocks to our machining assembly.

Add fixture to the machine’s kinematics

topsolid-7-revealed-entities-manager-1 The final step that we need to complete is to add the vice and the spacer blocks to the kinematics of the machine. By doing this, our fixture will follow the simulation of the machine later in the programming phase. And if it does that, we can analyze it for collisions during the simulation of the machining. And here’s the best part. It is drag-and-drop simple to accomplish. Here’s how.

At this point you should still be in Cad mode. If you are not, please hit the toggle icon to switch back to Cad mode.

From here you will need to have access to your Entities Manager. It should look like the image to the left. If you don’t see your entities manager, you can turn it on by following these steps. topsolid-7-revealed-show-entities-manager

  1. Click on the TopSolid 7 icon located at the top left of your screen
  2. Choose View
  3. Select Entities

Once you have turned it on, you will see all of the objects that currently exist in this document. The really cool part is that this organizational structure has been created and managed automatically by TopSolid 7 for you.

topsolid-7-revealed-group-9-highlighted Now that you have your entities manager, find and expand the Mechanism folder. Then find and expand the Groups sub-folder. Inside the Groups folder, you will see a list of groups. If you select a specific group, like Group 9 for example, it will highlight the objects on the screen that belong to that specific group. In the image to the right, you see that the table is currently being highlighted.

In this next step we want to move all of our fixture items into Group 9. By doing this it will mean that our fixtures topsolid-7-revealed-drag-n-drop-group-14-to-group-9 will follow the motion of Group 9 during simulations . It also means that when we go into Verify our fixtures will now be shown as well.

To move an item from one group to another, just expand the group, grab the item and drag-and-drop it on to the group where you want the item to be. The image to the left shows doing just that.

To complete this, we need to move the contents of Groups 15 and 16 to be part of Group 9. Then we need to move the spacer blocks from the Ground Group to Group 9 as well. Once we have done this, our fixture is ready to be used within the machining environment of TopSolid Cam 7.

At this point you can check to be sure that what you did works correctly. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Switch back to Cam mode topsolid-7-revealed-test-machine-kinematics
  2. Select the Equipment tab
  3. Select the Test Machine Axis icon
  4. Select the X axis from the list
  5. Drag the scroll bar to test the axis

Once you have selected the X axis from the list, you will notice that all of the items that need to follow the kinematics or motion of the X axis are highlighted in green. If you did everything correctly here, your fixture should also be shown in green. It should also move back and forth along the X axis as you move the scroll bar when testing the axis.

At this point it is time to see these steps in action. The next video will show you click-by-click what it takes to assign your fixture to the correct machine definition item and also how to test it when you’re done.

Add the rest of the fixtures

You now know how to add a fixture to your machining assembly. We have two more fixtures to add. We want to add another vice for setup two. And then we want to add our right angle fixture for setup three. topsolid-7-revealed-all-3-fixtures-added Because these steps are the same as what we have already reviewed in this post, I will skip writing about them, and just go straight to the video. The following video will show:

  • Adding the second vice
  • Adding the right angle fixture
  • Adding both to the machine kinematics

Add parts to machine to the assembly

At this point we are now done adding our fixtures to our machine definition. The last step here will be to add our parts to machine with their stock models. Once we have done this, we are ready to begin machining. But alas…that’s an entirely different post. To add the parts to machine, we will follow these steps: topsolid-7-revealed-add-stock-prep-op1

  1. Expand the Stock Prep folder in our Project Manager
  2. Drag-and-drop Stock prep – op1 onto our machining file
  3. Validate the Creation of Machinable Part dialog box

Once validated, all you need to do is constrain the part and stock model onto the proper fixture. In this case we will be putting op 1 on the first vice on the left side of the table. To position this operation we will apply the following constraints: topsolid-7-revealed-constrain-stock-prep-op1

  1. Bottom face of the stock to the top face of the Spacer Block
  2. Back face of the stock to the clamping face of the fixed jaw
  3. Left face of the stock to the right face of the fixture stop
  4. Front face of the stock to the movable vice jaw

topsolid-7-revealed-stock-prep-op1-fully-defined Once finished, our part to machine, its stock condition, and our first fixture should all be fully constrained. Again, you will know you are fully constrained because everything will be blue. The image to the left shows what this will look like.

At this point if we were to exit out of positioning mode, by hitting the Positioning tab at the top center of the design space, then we could start machining. But we have two more ops to add. For that we will go to the next video. In this last video of this segment of the TopSolid 7 Revealed project, I will show you how to add the first part to machine as well as the other two operations.


The goal of the TopSolid 7 Revealed project is to do just that…reveal TopSolid 7. We hope that at this point in the project that you are not only enjoying learning about TopSolid 7 and what it has to offer, but we also hope that you are starting to think about ways that TopSolid 7 can help make your manufacturing process smoother. After all, only with TopSolid 7 can you Master your manufacturing process.

Oh and don’t forget, if you haven’t downloaded the trial version do it today! Or if you have downloaded the trial version and have been finding yourself having entirely too much fun only to have the trial expire…maybe it’s time to contact us about making the last cad/cam purchase of your career!


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    1. Bill Genc says:

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