What is CAD/CAM software used for in Industrial Cutting?
And why choosing the right solution, is so important.
Choosing the right CAD/CAM software for your industrial cutting needs can result in increased profits, productivity, and material utilization. If the selected software does not meet the needs of shop owners, or their customers’ increasingly elevated expectations, this decision can also lead to negative outcomes such as losing clients or worse, permanent shop closures. CAD/CAM software has replaced manual methods of job programming for more than 50 years. Understanding the basics of CAD/CAM is therefore an essential skill for anyone working in the industry.
For the sake of simplifying a complex topic, the four main types of software used in manufacturing processes are as follows:
- Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software
- Computer-Aided Machining (CAM) software
- Control software
- Simulation software
Often the first two software types (CAD and CAM) are combined to create CAD/CAM software. Whether you currently use CAD/CAM software in your role, in your own job shop operations, or are hoping to learn more on the topic by reading this article, this technology has automated modern manufacturing processes, thus super charging countless successful shops operating today. We will explain what each of these software types do next.
Although CAD stands for Computer Aided Design, it is sometimes referred to as “Computer Aided Design and Drafting.” CAD software is used to design 2D or 3D models of physical objects. This can include things like buildings, car parts, fences, and more. Metal fabricators around the world rely on CAD software for creating, editing, and optimizing part files for the next step in the automated cutting process, referred to as “CAM” (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) software. When shopping for the best CAD software, you want to consider the operator systems the software is designed to run on, its ability to manage a wide range of file types, and ease of use.
CAM stands for Computer Aided Manufacturing. Simply put, CAM is the use of software to directly communicate with and control machine tools in the manufacturing process – including most CNC machines used in manufacturing today. CAM may also refer to the use of computers to assist in other aspects of your cutting operation, such as inventory management, quoting and part nesting.
The first CAM software was introduced in the automotive and aerospace industries in the early 1970s and is now widely used throughout industry to control a variety of machine tools including cutting, marking, punching, drilling, benching, and more. In the cutting industry, CAM software is commonly used by automated cutting machines for flat plate cutting,
In the cutting industry, manufacturers and fabricators most commonly use CAM software to power their automated cutting machines, specifically for flat plate cutting. While other applications across the manufacturing industry, such as robotics, HVAC, and tube or pipe cutting also rely on CAM software throughout their respective processes and workflows.
CAD/CAM software, combined
When used together, CAD/CAM software can result in many benefits, including improved cut quality, increased productivity, and increased profits. When choosing the right software solution for your shop or your specific role in the manufacturing process, be sure to carefully review the list of features and purchase options, as well as the availability of support, training, and technical assistance offered with purchase. At a bare minimum, this will save your future self, and perhaps your employees as well, from making unintended, very costly mistakes.
The last two types of software, control and simulation software are also important to the manufacturing process.
Control software: The computer numeric control (CNC) attached to the cutting machine has its own operating software that is used for controlling machine motion. The NC job file is loaded to the CNC and converted to a tool path that in turn creates electrical signals to control the motor drives of the machine or table designed to physically cut parts. Hypertherm’s most popular control software is called Phoenix®. It features step by step cut wizard that walks operators through the process of setting up a job. This makes the software incredibly easy to use, a benefit with today’s skilled labor shortage.
Simulation software: Reads the NC code, and visually shows how the torch would move on the machine to cut the part and predicts potential errors that may arise due to a poorly designed CAD file or inexperienced operator. This type of software is especially critical for robotic programming and is found in Hypertherm’s Robotmaster®.