Computer aided manufacturing or CAM for short is a huge area in terms of manufacturing these days. We see computer aided manufacturing across many different industries. From your every day coffee mug to something much more sophisticated like the motherboard of a computer.
Below is my guide on everything to do with computer aided machining and how it relates to computer aided design (cad) and computer numerically controlled (cnc) machines.
First up, what is Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM)? Define Computer Aided Manufacturing
CAM is short for Computer Aided Manufacturing. What that means is that a machine is run with a computer and specialized software. The software will take a cad file and change it into a format or ‘language’ that the computer will be able to understand. So the process normally goes something like this:
1. CAD program to create file
2. CAM program to change file to applicable code, such as G-Code. CAM software can include G Code software too.
3. You may need CNC Controller software. This takes the G code or the Computer Aided Manufacturing software code and makes all the different parts, such as servos move.
Computer Aided Manufacturing Examples
There are tons of different examples out there. Here are some good examples within industries:
1. Electronics Industry – Motherboards in Computers, Computer Screens, USB drives are all computer aided manufacturing products that have come from the process. All that stuff is manufactured using computer help.
2. Auto Industry – Cars are designed using CAD programs and then use CAM software to use the machines that manufacture the final product. Some car factories use a very large scale computer aided manufacturing system to get the job done.
3. Building Industry – The building industry uses a lot of cnc to cut important materials and materials that need to be cut or etched precisely. There are many examples, such as laser cutting glass to water jet cutting aluminum plates. Computer technology is used to create quality and accurate cuts. Nesting technology can also be used to help reduce material use as well.
NOTE: Anything that is mass produced tends to be manufactured with the help of a computer. This is to ensure that everything comes out exactly the same and to avoid defects.
Taking a Computer aided manufacturing course
There are tons of different courses out there that will teach you a lot about manufacturing. I recommend looking at a design or engineering course. These courses normally include having to learn programs in the CAD/CAM specific category. These programs may include SolidWorks, Pro Engineer etc.
Advantages of computer aided manufacturing
There are a ton of advantages, I will discuss some below that I feel really make sit worth it:
1. Accuracy – You can make the same thing over and over and always have the same end result. This is really hard to achieve by hand. You can even make products that are a lot more sophisticated and smaller than what you could achieve if you made it by hand, such as cpu’s for computers.
2. Save Time – You will save time. Getting something made with a cnc machine has huge benefits and one of the biggest ones would be time. Hand finishing a part, especially if it something hard like metal, is gonig to take too long. A machine will cut and finish the work a lot faster.
3. Somethings just can’t be done by hand – Take cutting reinforced glass. If you attempt this by hand, then you will probably shatter the glass and you will not get an accurate cut. The best way to do this is with a laser cutting machine.
4. You can preview first – With the development of 3d cad programs and graphics cards, you can now affordably get a rendering first of the job, before it gets made. This can also be used to predict cost and time for manufacture accurately.
5. Wireless feedback – With apps such as AutoCAD’s new app, you can have design drawings quickly be reviewed by someone on the other side of the world and then you can quickly manufacture it. This saves a ton of back and forth.
6. It is becoming a lot cheaper – Computers, netbooks, tablets, smart phone – all that jazz is just getting more and more powerful and a lot cheaper. It no longer is too expensive to buy a computer and retrofit a mill or lathe. The tech is getting a lot cheaper, and with freeware as well as open source software, the reach has gotten a lot broader for many different manufacturers as well as diy manufacturers.
Computer aided design and manufacturing has boomed over the last 20 years or so. I love the process myself and would encourage anyone to explore the possibilities. You can outsource the work to someone locally or overseas too.