Choosing the right CAD/CAM software for your job
The benefits to be gained from installing new CADCAM software can be considerable. An old system may be inefficient and slow and programming on the machine control may be leading to excessive non-productive time. A system which is complex to operate forces companies to rely on one person, reducing flexibility and leaving them vulnerable to any absences. The majority of parts to be manufactured are now designed in CAD, so the ability to interpret and manipulate data from numerous different sources is important, allowing companies to work with many more customers without any CAD Translation problems. Toolpath quality has a significant impact on cycle time, tool life, and the finish on the completed part. Picking a system which is efficient and reliable pays dividends.
These are just some of the drivers for investment in CAD/CAM software. Other factors to consider are the nature of the parts to be machined. Are they 2D, 3D or do they require 5-axis CNC machining? What machinery needs to be programmed? Is it high-speed, multi-axis, positioning or continuous 5-axis? What type of metals are being cut? What skills are available? Is someone already skilled in CNC programming? Is shop floor programming anticipated?
When shortlisting systems for consideration, the capabilities of the supplier play a key role. Local technical support is important, as is taking full advantage of training. Short cuts here can have a serious impact on efficiency. Problems with a CNC program directly affect production, stopping machines and causing damage. Conversely, smooth running CAD/CAM software will speed up deliveries, shorten cycle times and greatly boost productivity. Good suppliers will have the capacity to provide the necessary levels of service and will have a continuous development program geared to keeping customers at the forefront of technology.
Visiting existing customers with similar applications will help companies to form an opinion on the CAM supplier’s performance. Questions to ask include:
* How long do programs take to prepare?
* Is any G code editing required?
* What CAD files are imported?
* Have cycle times been reduced?
* Has the quality of the finished part improved?
* Is the support good?
Testing the performance of CAD/CAM software on your components is an essential part of the evaluation process. Here you can check for CAD compatibility, verifying that the design has been imported accurately into the CAM system, that it can be manipulated, and any repairs to the design carried out, ready for machining.