What is CAD/CAM and Why is it a Benefit?
One of the biggest developments in precision engineering in Dorset and around the UK has been the development of CAD/CAM software. Following decades of research by people from diverse fields, this has now become the industry standard for design and manufacturing. But how does it work and why is it a benefit when you work with a precision engineering company?
What is CAD/CAM?
CAD/CAM is a combination of two types of software that are often used alongside a CNC machine. CAD stands for computer aided design while CAM stands for computer aided manufacturing.
The first part of the software is used to create concept designs and to make a prototype with the use of geometric shapes to create a model. It makes use of things such as wireframe geometry with points, lines and circles to create a 2D component. It can also work on surfaces, creating 3D contours that can then be used with the CAM and machining process.
Once the design is created, it moves to the CAM side of things. CAM is needed to process the designs created in CAD by transforming them into a machine language that a mill turn lathe or various milling machines can use. This is often known as a G-Code. CAM software will work with Simultaneous 3 Axis or 4 Axis milling equipment as well as solid modelling machinery. By creating the component with CAM, you can then get proof of concept and make sure it is ready for small scale production.
CAD/CAM or 3D printing?
One of the common questions around the use of CAD/CAM is how it compares to 3D printing. But the reality is that the two are quite different and are used for different purposes. CAD/CAM is used to create the prototype and to check that the component is ready for manufacturing. It involves moving the design from the CAD software to the CAM software. The CNC machining then takes a component and removes unnecessary material with 3D milling, grinding or honing. It might use centreless grinding, centred grinding or horizontal grinding alongside up to 4 axis milling.
With 3D printing, the model is created by adding up material to make the prototype. It can pair with 3D scanning to model an existing component to the finest detail and then use the 3D printer to create another version of it. 3D printing layers up the material one tiny layer at a time with highly accurate detail to create a prototype in a different way.
Finding the right process
When you are considering working with a precision engineering company, you don’t need to know the details of which system you use. All you need is the design or concept that you want to create and then the engineers will be able to select the right process to create the concept design and move to production.
But it can help to find a company like Loadpoint Precision Engineering who offer both CAD/CAM and 3D printing, so you can get the benefits of both systems in a single workshop.