Yes Tom they are out there:
A Full APT 3D 5 axis programming system. Reasonably priced too.
I am designing and trying to decide if I should build a 5-axis mill. I have in mind the parts I want build and they require smooth milling on both sides of a curved surface and surface orthogonal drilled holes. Iím struggling with two aspects of the design, the rotary drive joints which I described in another thread and how the SW would generate the control code. (Many decades ago I wrote CNC code generators professionally so at one point I knew the g-code stuff and could probably remember it if I refreshed.)
Iím somewhat surprised that there is not commercially available and cost effective 5-axis CAM SW or that there is not some thread discussing it. (I will not be surprised if someone says just go to xxx, as I not sure I have explored all the branches of this giant forum tree.)
To me it seems like it would not be particularly difficult to generate a set of elevation data as a function of x/y location and then estimate local slope from adjacent locations. For some cuts, the elevation and slope (actually directional gradient) would be all that is needed to generate commands to move the x/y/z and tilt the part in two rotations. (It takes a bit of arithmetic but itís repetitious so a good subroutine should encapsulate it well and I think I could write that.) But defining some cuts, for example the bottom insider corner on a rimmed oval soup bowel, seem to require human imagination or really good AI. Iím not so certain how to address that. (To cut the soup bowel requires running a bull nose mill along the corner twice so that it is tangent to one surface on each pass. The SW that could automatically develop that solution would be interesting.)
But that seems like the sort of problem that computer scientist machinists would be deeply into. Are they out there?
I went out to the web page and looked at it and all the connected pages. There was not much information but there was a contact link. I used it and by return mail have received a 6 page pdf file. There is a lot more information in the e-mail than on the web pages. I may be reading it incorrectly but to me it says the base product is $5000 and the post processor needed to make it work is an additional $5000.
I've bought $5000 SW packages but they are very complete. Matlab with a couple of specialty packages costs $5000 but it does a lot of general work. When I was looking at Matlab there were thick user manuals to be reviewed, trail subscriptions and even college courses and seminars to help me decide I wanted to spend that much money. Maybe if I read the 6 pages more carefully I will be convinced that this is how I want to spend my money, but I expect I would try to write mine own code just to see how hard the task is, before I write a $10K check.
One of the subtitles that I picked up in my quick review is that the package includes a CAD package that is a required processing setup. I actually have used 3D CAD for a number of years and am familiar with the CETIA packages the current MEs use at work. Either of these systems has a steep learning curve and the idea of having to learn a third CAD package is not enticing.
$10,000? wow, you better give them a call. Seems way too pricey. You might want to google the APT CNC programming system so you can get an idea what it's all about. It's been years since I knew the price for PC-APT. I think it was about $3,000 several years ago.