CAD/CAM cutting software

There are generally four different types of plasma cutting software.

  1. CAD or computer aided design software is used to design and edit parts.
  2. CAM or computer aided manufacturing software converts the information found in your CAD file to a numeric code, called G-code, understood by the CNC.
  3. Nesting software takes all of the different parts you want to cut and arranges—or nests—them on your plate in the most efficient way possible.
  4. CNC software takes your G-code and translates it into language your cutting table and torch can understand.

While it is possible to buy each type of software separately, today most software providers combine the first three types of software—CAD, CAM, and Nesting—into one package. CNC software is normally not included in this package because it is more dependent on the cutting machine or CNC that is being used.

CAM software helps drive the manufacturing process. While there are many different types of CAM software used in industry today, CAD/CAM nesting software is typically used for programming mechanized flat plate cutting, offering fabricators and manufacturers a single software solution for all of their profile cutting needs – including plasma, laser, waterjet, and oxyfuel. This combination solution provides all of the necessary functionality to complete the job, from CAD concept, to part preparation, to nesting, to numeric code output.

How CAD/CAM works

CAD, short for “computer aided design,” uses computer programs to draw the exact part or object that is needed. This results in a detailed 2D or 3D model.

The CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) part of the software then takes over to directly communicate with and control the machine tools used in the manufacturing process.” It includes most CNC machines used in manufacturing today.

CAM plasma cutting software prepares the CAD file for cutting and machining. For example, it may check the geometry for errors, apply kerf compensation, set the cut sequence, add leads, and apply other advanced cutting parameters.

Some types of CAM software can control and automatically set virtually every aspect of the cutting operation. If this is your plasma cutting software, this includes parameters such as arc current, voltage, gas preflow, cut flow settings, cut speeds, cut heights, pierce heights, and more. Plasma cutting software is intended to simplify the machine operator’s job and increase productivity.

In plate cutting operations, CAM software performs another critical function known as “nesting.” Nesting is defined as the efficient placement of multiple part geometries onto a given surface area. With automatic nesting, the software uses advanced algorithms to quickly rotate and position the parts in a way that maximizes plate utilization and minimizes scrap.

Finally, CAM software outputs NC (numerical control) code that can be read and understood by the CNC control, where it is converted into electrical signals that control the entire cutting process.

CAD/CAM software as part of the automated cutting process

CAD, CAM, nesting, and NC code are just the beginning of the automated cutting process. From there, the NC file must be processed by the CNC, and instructions given to the cutting system and each of the various machine components before parts can be cut.

From CAD to cut

CAM software as part of the automated cutting process

There are many considerations when choosing a CAD/CAM nesting software. Click here for more information.

Want to learn more about CAD/CAM

Take our free "Introduction to CAD/CAM" eLearning course on the Hypertherm Cutting Institute

Read more

Want to learn more about automated cutting?

Take our free "Automated Cutting Process" eLearning course on the Hypertherm Cutting Institute

Read more