[Monthly Partner Product Spotlight]
Written by: CAMWorks
You’ve just designed the perfect part, now what’s the best way to turn your CAD models into a physical part? Your basic options are to use an additive process like 3D printing, molding, or investment casting, or you can use a subtractive process like machining. More often than not, that means CNC machining.
CAM software (computer aided manufacturing) exists for the purpose of converting your CAD models into CNC programs to run your CNC machines. Every modern CAM package does two basic things:
- Create a graphical tool path (cutter location data) based on dimensionally correct CAD data
- Convert that graphical tool path into the specific language file (g-code) required to move the CNC machine
The differences lie in how different CAM programs reach that end goal. CAMWorks was introduced in 1997. Since then, the product has grown extensively. Originally introduced as a 2.5-axis milling package, (that often means setting the Z-axis and moving the X and Y-axes simultaneously, or drilling/hole work), today CAMWorks has the capability to program 2 through 5-axis simultaneous mills, multi-axis and live-tooling lathes, plus wire EDM machines.
CAMWorks sets itself apart from most other CAM packages based on the following combination of factors:
- Gold-Level SOLIDWORKS Partner
- By running inside of the SOLIDWORKS environment, CAMWorks never converts the original CAD data. It also looks at the SOLIDWORKS feature list, identifying things like cosmetic thread call-outs and then choosing the appropriate CNC threading operation to automatically machine threaded holes. New technology from CAMWorks called Tolerance-based Machining will also allow CAMWorks to see and adjust cutting parameters based on the tolerances specified in the model. Finally, by running inside of SOLIDWORKS, CAMWorks is able to easily accommodate SOLIDWORKS configurations with either multiple machining methodologies (different machines) or in programming families of parts very quickly. Tool paths are also associative with the CAD models to accommodate engineering change orders.
- Automatic Feature Recognition
- This is the ability to interrogate a solid model and automatically break it down into machinable features. While hole recognition is not uncommon, CAMWorks carries the level of automation across a much broader range of geometric shapes. In addition to its automated workflow, CAMWorks has an interactive tool-based workflow that users can choose.
- Knowledge-based Machining
- CAMWorks allows the user to capture their commonly used strategies into a database and then intelligently apply those strategies to future jobs, thereby reducing the number of redundant inputs. Together with Automatic Feature Recognition, this can reduce some jobs from multiple hours of programming into just a few minutes.
When reviewing CAM systems, there are two additional factors that are equally important to functionality…accurate post processors and technical support. A post processor is a piece of software that lives behind the scenes of the CAM software package. It’s job is to convert the graphical display on the screen into the custom code that sophisticated CNC machines demand. If the post isn’t correct, the pretty picture on the screen can quickly turn into an expensive machine crash. The need for good support really goes without saying. Your CAM system can have all the power in the world, but when you get stuck it’s good to have an expert available. With web-based tools like GoToMeeting, great support is more a question of attitude, experience, and availability than ever before.
As the CAM continues to mature, CAMWorks is increasingly recognized as a best-in-class solution.