Engineering Tools in the 21st Century Part 4: CAD to CAM
CAD is one step in the manufacturing process
Moving forward in our discussion on how the engineering disciplines have benefited due to computer software such as CAD, we look to focus on another step in the process known as Computer Aided Manufacturing or (CAM).
CAM is the numerical control programming tool used to operate machinery or robotics to complete manufacturing tasks, such as, welding, drilling, cutting, and many more. When someone such as a licensed mechanical engineer creates the CAD modeling portion of a project, they will then use Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) to verify the CAD model before inputting into CAM. The CAE phase of the project incorporates many other tools used in the disciplines such as Finite Element Analysis (FEA) for stress analysis purposes in components. They can also make use of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) for thermal and flow analysis using numerical methods and algorithms. We will further discuss FEA and other dynamics of CAE in upcoming blogs.
Licensed Mechanical Engineers make use of CAD/CAM Software
By utilizing CAD and CAE in the development and modeling stages, the need for creating multiple prototypes is reduced and thus lowering the overall development costs of a project. One of the programs is InventorCAM™, which is integrated for Autodesk Inventor™. This set of software not only allows an engineer to complete the design creation, they can also perform product simulation and design communications. This is one phase of a project where using an engineering firm that incorporates a complete engineering team, educated in all disciplines of engineering, can move a project along much more efficiently. Once the project design, simulation and analysis are completed, it can proceed to the machining and manufacturing stages.
The machinery and robotics used to create the physical components are run by software that is generally written in G-Code. The CAM program assists in creating the tool path to the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine that will be doing the work. As was stated before, there are numerous types of machines that are used in the machining and manufacturing process. These programs and machines are found in all fields of manufacturing; from the semiconductor industry to automotive. The work can be performed quicker and with more precision when utilizing these technologies.
A project will go through many phases of its conception. While in the end, it may seem as the machinery is doing all the work that used to be done by hand, the reality is there is still a lot of human input in the creation. When that input is combined with the technology available today, who knows where the boundaries of what we can accomplish will be set for the rest of the 21st century and beyond.