In the 1950s, before the CNC (computer numerical control) was introduced by John T. Parsons, a lot of machinists underwent a lot of training and practice in ways of learning new skills to operate the machines. Being a machinist back then was a big job, as any person on their own had tasks dealing with building parts manually, interpretation of blueprints, the defining of speed, and tool identifying. There have been many changes since CAM software and CNC machines were introduced. In a world full of physical stuff, whether that is places, products, or parts, CAM makes it all possible. CAM is what gives the horsepower to a car and the power of flight to airplanes.
What is CAM Software?
CAM stands for “Computer Aided Manufacturing”. CAM is a program/tool that uses controls numerically to create instructions that are detailed and that drive CNC machines. Essentially, CAM takes information from a CAD (computer generated design) or CAD drawing to create instructions that control the movements of an automated tool. These automatic tools include anything from mills to water jets and plasma cutters. The software automates actions like cutting and drilling and it streamlines the machining process which makes it the ideal software for high-quality manufacturing. For a cam system to function you need 3 components:
- A machine that can make a finished product from a raw material
- Software that will tell a machine how to make a product by generating toolpaths
- Post processing that converts a toolpath into a language for machines to understand
Throughout the industry, for many years we have spent refining and building the best machinery for manufacturing to date. Today, with the right software there is no design too difficult for any machinist with the right software.
This software is also known as a computer which can assist a manufacturing plant in all operations including storage, planning, transportation, and management. Its main purpose is in the creation of a faster processes of production and tooling and components with more precise material consistency and dimensions. The software is also now used for lower educational purposes and schools. It is often used alongside CAD in schools for the creation of objects.
CAM software history
The earliest use of CAM software was in large companies such as automotive and aerospace industries. CAM has a very long history which dates back to the 1940s. In the early 1950s, CAM technology lie in NC machines which were used many years ago. Compared to the machines that used now, the machines that were used back in those years are nowhere near as intuitive or advanced as now. To control simple manufacturing instructions, these machines used instructions that were coded on punched paper.
John T Parsons takes a lot of credit for the NC machine. He worked for his father’s company as a machinist, and John began researching for ways to build helicopter rotors. In order to speed up the production process and to generate engineering calculations he looked for ideas using a punched card machine. These cards didn’t gain much traction, so in 1949 the US Air Force made an arrangement for funding in order for Parsons to build his own machine that would surpass the performance of the current NC machines.
In order to develop the machine, Parsons went to MIT in 1949. With their help, the first MC prototype was developed. In the late 1950s with the 1st universal programming language had been developed; MIT made the way for a large-scale adoption of CAM. This language—became the G-code that we are familiar with nowadays, the code was then used to generate coordinates for machined parts automatically.
In the 1960s, a turning point for CAM was the move from UNIX to PC. The software became accessible to millions of general consumers and engineers who may not have been able to afford the software. In the 1960s, Pierre Beziers developed the CAM application UNISURF for car design and body tooling at Renault.
What does CAM Software do?
CAM software prepares a drawing for production, which is considered the last step in the design process. The software translates data and drawings into detailed instructions to drive an automated tool. Behind the scenes, CAM software does many things these include:
During the manufacturing process, CAM will check if the model has any geometric errors.
During the machining process, the toolpath is a set of given coordinates that the machine is required to follow.
Configuration of the device
Before beginning any operation, machine parameters like cutting speed, pierce height, and voltage must be adjusted. Different programs can set different parameters, but once these parameters are defined automatically, the machine operator’s job will be simplified.
Considering all of these details, CAM software will attempt to identify the best orientation to maximise efficiency.
When the designer is satisfied with the design, CAM will send all of the above information to the CNC machine to physically produce the part. CNC machines are able to understand and read the numerical code, which is converted normally to electrical signals.
There are many benefits to CAM software when creating components and especially when compared to manual operation of the machines:
Multiple lines of the same complex component will be made in exactly the same way, making sure that they are identical.
Once a design is prepared for automated production, this will mean there will be no breaks between manoeuvres.
Once designs are prepared with CAM, circuit board parts can be made.
Parts can be produced a lot faster as CAM will allow for high speed machine tool paths.
Optimisation and automation algorithms allow operators to know exactly how much material is necessary.