Computer aided manufacturing software, often shortened to CAM, is the use of computer-controlled machinery and related tools to facilitate and automate various manufacturing processes. CAM is also known as computer aided modeling or computer aided machining. With CAM, a computer is used to assist in all the operations of a manufacturing plant, including planning, management, transportation, and storage.
CAM is the successor of Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) and is often jointly used with Computer Aided Design (CAD) or product life cycle management software. CAM can also be integrated with other software in the manufacturing process, such as ERP systems or manufacturing execution systems.
CAM leverages computer applications to define a manufacturing plan for tooling design, computer-aided design (CAD) model preparation, NC programming, coordinate measuring machine (CMM) inspection programming, machine tool simulation, or post-processing. The plan is executed in a production environment with direct numerical control (DNC), tool management, CNC machining, or CMM execution.
CAM makes use of numerical control (NC) software applications to boost the speed of a production process, enable more precise dimensions, and increase material consistency. NC programming tools create detailed instructions (G-code) to drive computer numerical control (CNC) machine tools for manufacturing parts.
CAM software converts CAD models into instructions on how different types of equipment should perform production operations—such as cutting, milling, and roughing. This process helps manufacturing companies to transform raw materials and components into finished products. CAM enables production managers to prepare and plan production operations and helps train shop floor employees to use the equipment efficiently and safely.
CAM solutions help design products and program manufacturing processes. CAM uses CAD models and assemblies to produce tool paths that allow machine tools to turn designs into physical parts. CAM software helps design and build prototypes, production runs, and finished parts.
CAM enables skilled manufacturing professionals such as manufacturing engineers, NC programmers, or machinists to leverage advanced productivity tools. Simultaneously, it enhances the skills of new professionals through visualization, simulation, and optimization tools.
CAM provides several improvements to the manufacturing process, including improved machine capabilities to deliver higher-quality parts, increased machine efficiency through high-speed machine toolpaths, and improved material usage that enable the creation of complex geometries with minimal waste. CAM is helpful for making the most of raw materials. It is especially helpful in designing and producing molds for plastic parts—once the mold is designed, the plastic parts can be machined efficiently with CAM software for absolute precision.
Modern CAM systems feature real-time controls and robotics. CAM helps to minimize waste and energy usage to ensure enhanced manufacturing and production processes through faster manufacturing speeds, raw material consistency, and precise tooling accuracy. Computer-driven manufacturing processes enable additional automation of operations such as material tracking, planning, and transportation. CAM provides advanced productivity tools to augment professional skills.