Mastering CAM Integration for SOLIDWORKS – It’s About Time

Ceramic Tooling Is Revolutionizing Machining
September 8, 2022

What is Fully Integrated CAM and Why Does it Matter?

Every successful manufacturing company understands the importance of finding ways to be more productive.  Most often this comes down to discovering methods to accomplish the same tasks in less time while maintaining or improving quality.  A growing number of successful manufacturing companies are implementing integrated CAM software, rather than standalone CAM systems, to save time and become more efficient.

Standalone CAM systems operate separately from CAD systems. When a part is designed in the CAD system, the CAD model must be read into or imported into a standalone CAM system.  There can often be translation issues and some of the part data can be lost or distorted.  The CNC programmer must take the time to fix or re-create the part model in the CAM system so that it matches the 2D drawing or the original model that was created in the CAD system.  If any design changes are made, the process must be repeated, and additional time taken to make sure the part information in the CAM system matches the drawing or model in the CAD system.

With fully integrated CAM, the CAD and CAM systems become one-in-the-same.  For example, when using SOLIDWORKS CAM and CAMWorks, the design data and the manufacturing data are saved together in the SOLIDWORKS part file or assembly file.  This integration maintains the digital thread and ensures that no part data is lost between design and manufacturing.  When design changes are made, the CAM data is automatically updated.  There is no need to spend time going back and forth between the CAD system and the standalone CAM system because the need to constantly maintain two disparate CAD and CAM files is eliminated.

Feature-Based Programming vs Operations-Based Programming

Another aspect to consider is that most standalone CAM systems are operations-based.  Part programs are created by selecting a tool and then creating a process or operation using the selected tool.  When creating an operation, a profile or chain is selected as the geometry to be machined.  This process is repeated for each machining detail of a part.  In addition, the parameters for machining must be manually input.  Programmers must calculate the parameters themselves or use trial and error to reach the desired result.

Technologies in modern CAM systems, such as feature-based programming and knowledge-based machining, make applying toolpaths and generating G-code a much faster process.  Instead of manually selecting and chaining geometry, automatic feature recognition (AFR) automatically recognizes the machinable features on a part model.  Using knowledge-based machining, the necessary roughing and finishing operations for each feature are generated without the need to manually create each one.  Tools, feed and speed rates, and other parameters are automatically calculated based on the machine, cutting tools, and stock or material.

The ability to edit any of the settings is available so that programmers can adjust as needed, and once edited, these settings can be saved back to the knowledge base and are automatically reused.  This process allows users to store their best practices, and as more programs are written, the system increases in expertise and quality is improved.  This automation provided by feature-based programming and knowledge-based machining dramatically speeds up the entire programming process.

Options for Easy CAM Transitioning

After years of programming in a traditional, operations-based CAM system, it can be challenging to transition to using feature-based and knowledge-based technologies in CAM programming.  New workflows can be difficult to adapt because the processes are unfamiliar, and it may take time for programmers to trust the automation.

SOLIDWORKS CAM and CAMWorks provide flexibility to make this transition easier.  Programmers have the option to create parts using steps that are similar to the traditional, operations-based CAM.  They can enter the parameters for each step in a workflow that they are familiar with and then gradually incorporate steps to automate the process and speed up the programming even more.

Implementing a fully integrated CAM system with automation technologies will increase productivity, and whether you adopt CAM automation technologies immediately or gradually, the bottom line is – with fully integrated CAM, you will save time!

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