What is CAD/CAM?
CAD or Computer-Aided Drawing is the backbone of the manufacturing industry and is the first step that is carried out when an idea comes to mind. It is used to create a design of an idea and the fundamental step to bring an idea to life. It is a drawing in which you represent geometric parameters and the final result appears as a 3D model on your screen. This 3D model is an exact or scaled representation of how your final product will look. It is an engineer’s best friend, and the first step when one wants to present an idea for consideration. CAD is also used by architects to present plans, and ideas before anything is done. You can read more about CAD and its importance here.
CAM or Computer-Aided Manufacturing on the other hand is the step after a CAD drawing is approved and the product is ready to go for mass manufacturing. When you need something made, not just designed, CAM is your answer!
On the basis of its definition, for a CAM System to function, you need three key things –
- Software that tells a machine how to make a product by generating toolpaths.
- Machinery that can turn raw material into a finished product.
- Post Processing converts toolpaths into a language machines can understand.
So say you have an idea, and you design it in CAD, there are two steps ahead – either you can import the CAD design to a CAM Software and begin mass production, or use a 3D printer and create a live prototype of the product before manufacturing it.
CAD is useless without CAM. For the actual object to be manufactured, it has to be imported to CAM. So what does CAM do, that’s different than CAD? Well, CAM manages all the machine-related aspects essential for the product to be successfully made. CAM systems are associated with CNC – Computer Numeric Control Systems and DNC – Direct Numeric Control Systems.
CNC is a method of automation of tools, control by a dedicated microprocessor or computer, to execute already programmed controls. DNC denotes the networking of CNC machines and these systems use a large mainframe computer to control multiple NC machines. A CNC system has a controller and is operated using G – Code. A CNC Code is fed directly into the machine, while in a DNC system, the code is fed in the machine through the main computer.
Back to CAM, CAM basically converts the CAD design in a way the machine can manufacture it. It checks if the drawn design is geometrically fit for production, and makes sure that the design doesn’t have any errors that affect the manufacturing process. It also sets coordinates and machine parameters like cutting speed, piercing height, etc to instruct the machine on exactly how it shall go about the process, step by step. It also assures maximum efficiency and minimizes parameters like time taken.
Once this is ready, we need to transfer this information from our CAM Model to our machine. To do this, we need to use CNC Programming, better known as G – Code. G – Code is a set of instructions given to the machine to control parameters such as feed rate, cutter speed, coolant, etc. Learning G Code is easy, and you can learn it too! Check out our CNC Programming Course, and enroll in it now! Once the machine is programmed, it’s just sitting and watching as the machine automatically manufacturers your desired item!
The other route after designing can be 3D Printing or additive manufacturing. 3D Printing is the process of manufacturing a design, layer by layer by adding material to it, from scratch. All of this done directly from a digital model. It is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing, where the material is removed to make the final product, like in Milling. 3D Printing enables you to produce complex shapes using less material than traditional methods. It is used for the manufacture of a cluster of things, from many different industries. Some of them include the manufacture of airplane parts, eco-friendly buildings, internal human organs, etc.
In our process, 3D printing is mainly used to create a prototype of the final product before it can be mass-manufactured. Some manufacturers don’t prefer creating prototypes using 3D printing as they require the material of the prototype to match that of the final job. In that case, we directly import the CAD design to CAM, and then a prototype is manufactured in a small workshop. If approved, the job is then transferred to a larger workshop where mass production is feasible and the job is carried forward.
Some widely used software for CAD are – AutoCAD, Solidworks, Rhinoceros 3D, CATIA, TinkerCAD, FreeCAD, BlocksCAD, Creo, Fusion 360, OpenSCAD, etc
Some widely used software for CAM are Fusion 360, Solid Edge, Solidworks CAM, HSM, CAMWorks, NX CAM, GibbsCAM, MasterCAM, PowerMill, FeatureCAM, Cimatron, etc
Some industries where CAD/CAM software is used are – aerospace, dentistry, automobile, fashion design, and forensics.You can too give your ideas a platform, using CAD, and create live models using CNC Programming! Check out our course on AutoCAD 2D and 3D, suitable for mechanical engineering, civil engineering, and architecture students. Check out our course on CNC Programming, best suited for mechanical engineering students, but open to anyone who has passed grade 12!
Still at student, Arya is going to studying Mechanical Engineering at The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. He aspires to be an entrepreneur in the future, and is an intern right now at Text and Clicks. He is very enthusiastic and hard working, and loves adventure.