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This or That: Pocket Vs. Circle Mill for Round Pockets

Should you use the classic Pocket toolpath or Circle Mill toolpath to make a circular pocket? Let’s discuss why one is more ideal to use over the other in this blog.

By Callie Morgan and John Stauffer
November 29th, 2021, 1:00 PM PST

Pocket is one of the oldest toolpaths in Mastercam and it has since been replaced by 2D high speed toolpaths (HST) and dynamic toolpaths. This toolpath is typically used when working with older Mastercam files and there are few situations where it can work well.

The toolpath operates by helixing or plunging straight down and roughing out a pocket. It can be used for milling multiple pockets of varying Z-depths and chaining them into a single operation.

Circle Mill is also a holemaking toolpath that will either helix down to a specified depth of cut (if the helical entry option is selected in Roughing setup) or plunge down into the material. Once it reaches desired depth, it uses circular motions to cut a pocket outwards from the center. 

Which one is better for round pockets?
At first glance, you may think when making a circular pocket to always choose the Pocket toolpath. While Pocket can cut a circular pocket, it’s not designed specifically for that. However, the Circle Mill toolpath’s cutting motion is designed specifically for cutting circular pockets.

While you have to specify an entry chain in Pocket to get a specific entry location, the Circle Mill toolpath will automatically center its roughing motion at the center of the circular feature. This makes Circle Mill easier to set up, and works very well for counterbores where the endmill can plunge down a pre-drilled hole. 

Another great benefit of using Circle Mill over Pocket is the ability to use the Hole Segments page. Because the toolpath can be tied to a specific segment of a feature that is defined as a hole, you can then import that toolpath into other parts down the line and make short work of programming future parts with the same or similar features.

Circle Mill also gives you the ability to specify an entry angle and directly override the diameter of the geometry you’re cutting. Circle Mill still has depth cut options for deep features as well, keeping your tools safe.

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