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April 5, 2023updated 20 Jan 2024 3:32am

What is CAM?

CAM is the next step on from CAD.

By Tech Monitor Staff

CAM is a complicated and elaborate technology, which carries many advantages and useful functions.

In the manufacturing field, it is vital software to cut costs and losses and ensure an efficient and precise result, even in the most complex of projects. But what does it do, exactly?

CAM Computer-aided manufacturing software system. Businessman pressing button on screen.
CAM helps designers and engineers to cut costs and time in the project-creation process / Image: Shutterstock

What does CAM stand for?

CAM stands for Computer-Aided Manufacturing, and it refers to using software to control machine tools used in manufacturing processes. The process involves designing, planning and producing parts to lessen the need for prototypes that may be harder to scale, as well as manual labour.

This manufacturing model was first adopted by the French engineer Pierre Bezier, who also worked for the car company Renault. His car body design was aided by UNISURF, a CAM system created by Bezier himself. Indeed, CAM is used mostly in engineering fields, such as the manufacturing of medical devices, machines, automobiles, aerospace and defence, even today.

This is because CAM models generate precise instructions for manufacturing equipment from Computer Numerical Control (CNC) and 3D printers. The software aids with a myriad of functions, such as prototyping and simulating the workflows and working conditions of the end-result machines, which saves not only time but also money.

What is the relationship between CAM and CAD?

Generally, CAM and Computer-Aided Design (CAD) are very closely linked, since they both contribute to manufacturing and designing machinery. The latter, in particular, is the process that precedes CAM, since it is used to design products and models, while CAM comes into play to convert these models into the physical product.

The first time CAD was introduced was in the 1960s, when computers started to be the go-to for designers and engineers to create 2D and 3D projects, however, its capabilities were very limited until a few years later, when the software became more advanced. CAM, on the other hand, was popular for numerical control machining, rather than project-making.

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Today, the two software are basically integrated. Something designed using CAD is then input into CAM software, which then controls the machine tool to the specifications of the design. This way, designers and engineers can collaborate.

What is CAM used for?

There are multiple areas of application of CAM in the engineering and design fields.

The main ones are product design and prototyping, machining and production, and quality control and inspection. When it comes to product designing and prototyping, CAM helps designers by allowing them to create virtual models of their products, and test their structural integrity, functionality, and aesthetics too. The software also offers a simulation stage, to make the identification of issues and mistakes simpler and quicker.

CAM can also be useful in machining since manufacturers can set up detailed schemes and programs to guide machine tools to work in precise environments, as well as choose the most efficient cutting tools.

It is important to establish that every part of the project is efficient and meets the required specifications, and CAM can make sure of it via quality controls and inspections. These can be visual, comparing the project to other models to identify the differences and defects. Usually, CAM does so via sensors and cameras, which also helps it resolve it in real-time.


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