In the older days of industrial manufacturing, design engineers used drawing boards with pencils and paper to draft out their product designs and calculations that would then be followed by the operator of the machine to produce a product. Essentially this would look like a huge pile of blueprints that an operator would depend on for instructions. So where did the conversion from using this old manual method turn into full on using computers to complete these tasks in the world today? It starts with what we call CAM or Computer Aided Manufacturing software. With over five decades of development and history under its belt, this software has made the production and manufacturing of every product you use in your everyday life possible. There four main facts about Computer Aided Manufacturing software that are helpful and interesting to know about.
The first fact about CAM that would be wise to know about is that there are a number of software functions that CAM can refer to, and it is not the same as Computer Aided Design software. Computer Aided Manufacturing is a term used to encapsulate any software that is used in manufacturing that directly controls the operations of a given machine or that manages other manufacturing related functions that automate the manufacturing process. CAM can be referred to in combination with CAD or Computer Aided Design software, however, it does not do the same thing as CAD. While CAD is used to create and develop the initial designs in manufacturing, CAM is the software that actually applies actions to the virtual models that CAD produces. Other computer functions within a manufacturing plant that help with functions such as management, organization, storage, and transportation, can be considered to be a part of CAM.
Now that we know that Computer Aided Manufacturing can encompass a range of software used in manufacturing plants, we can move on to the basic fact of its application and versatility. There is no one size fits all approach to Computer Aided Manufacturing software because all manufacturing conditions and circumstances are different for each plant. As opposed to CAM being a useful gadget itself, it is more similar to a large kit of useful gadgets. The CAM software is utilized in order to compound computer automation to the operations of a specified manufacturing system. It works in accordance to the machine it is controlling, so it is not made to fit one specific machine. Rather it is made to be adjusted, augmented, or tweaked to be used to control an array of machines and processes.
The third basic fact that should be known about Computer Aided Manufacturing is that it is being used to essentially program and command machines to do things. An easy way to think about it is the game of Simon says; Simon is the CAM and the other people in the game are the machines that do what Simon tells them to. So in technical jargon, data sets and drawings are converted into elaborate sets of instructions that will control a given automated machine or apparatus. The produced code or language that results from the drawings and data is widely known across manufacturing as the G Code. The G Code controls several variables when communicating to the tool such as the path it is to follow, the locations where it is to move, and the speed at which to move about. At the very least a moderate amount of programming knowledge and skills are needed to make the best use of Computer Aided Manufacturing software within the plant.
Last but not least, it is wise to know all about the component of Computer Aided Manufacturing software that provides simulation functionality. In the traditional manufacturing plant there was no way to make simulations of the machining method. Without this kind of system to rely on, there was no way to foresee tool collisions and expensive tool gouges before they actually materialized physically. CAM allows to you go step by step through the process of the machines and inspect it for issues before they actually have a chance to get to the production floor. Subsequently, having the ability to simulate the machine processing prevents waste of materials due to system crashes and trial and error cycles that were used prior to CAM for fine tuning and improving toolpaths. You can think of it like making paper snowflakes from the process of folding and cutting paper; you will waste a good amount of paper and time to figure out the best places to cut into and the best shapes to cut in those places.