What is Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) and how does it boost productivity?


Automation is inextricably tied to productivity in the manufacturing industry. Among the most impactful automation technologies, Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) holds an important place.

CAM radically reduced the effort involved in one of today's staple manufacturing methods – computer numerical control (CNC). This versatile computerized manufacturing process is used in a variety of operations – from simple drilling and milling to 3D printing and laser cutting – and in many industries, including automotive, aerospace, and electronics.

But if you want to use a CNC machine, you'll need a user that can program software and code control the movements of production equipment. Without CAM, this can be a tedious and time-consuming process.

What is CAM?

Essential to modern manufacturing, CAM software allows users to automate machining from the comfort of their desks. It generates a file with information about motions, and the G (machine movements) and M (miscellaneous functions) codes for the CNC machine.

While CAM is not the only way to program a CNC machine, it certainly offers many advantages. It makes programming much faster because of the software's automation capabilities. It allows users to simulate processes with digital twins to avoid critical issues such as crashes.

CAM software comes under different names depending on its use. In additive manufacturing, it is referred to as a slicer, which is software that determines the path the 3D printer follows to make a part. In robotic welding, it's more commonly called offline programming software and it determines the movements of the robots.

All of them share one thing – and that’s generating an executable program for machines.

In conversations about CAM, you will usually hear about Computer Aided Design (CAD) too. That’s because the two go hand-in-hand.

The drawings necessary for CAM process are often prepared in CAD software. Designers and engineers use CAD to create 2D or 3D models that are imported into CAM software and used to generate a tool path for a CNC machine.

How is Oqton’s CAM module different?

For its many advantages, traditional CAM software still requires manual input and skilled users. But the CAM module in Oqton’s Manufacturing OS removes these barriers with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and better information sharing.

Many of the repetitive manual tasks that would normally require a technician are automated in the Manufacturing OS with advanced AI techniques.

Additionally, the Manufacturing OS connects CAM to MES and IOT in a single platform so that information from various systems communicates with each other.

This results in a CAM solution that can adapt more easily and produces higher-quality toolpaths.

Weld Line ExtractionFully automated weld line extraction in Oqton’s Manufacturing OS

Automating CAM with the Manufacturing OS

Automation in the Manufacturing OS starts when the user uploads a part’s design as a CAD file and links it to the digital twin of the production cell.

What follows is a set of automated steps. The specific action varies from welding to 3D printing to milling, but what’s important is that with the Manufacturing OS the action run completely autonomously. For example, the Manufacturing OS automatically recognizes the shape of the part and orients it correctly. It scans the surface angle and creates support structures if they’re needed. It detects weld lines and creates the toolpath for CNC machines. What exactly gets done is based on the application you use CAM for.

The Manufacturing OS will even convert the generic machine motions to the nc-code needed for a specific machine. This conversion is an onerous job that can amount to over 100,000 lines of code that look something like this:

1. G00 X10.0 Y10.0 Z5.0
2. G01 X20.0 Y20.0 Z10.0 F100
3. G02 X30.0 Y20.0 I5.0 J0.0

Imagine how much time is saved when software creates that code for you.

In addition to automation capabilities, the Manufacturing OS also adapts to you and your preferred way of working. Each organization has its own guidelines, workflows and best practices. The AI can capture expert knowledge and individual preferences of each organization. The more a user interacts with the software, the better it becomes at adapting to their needs.

Learn more

Now that you have a better understanding of CAM, learn more about how we can help you weld faster with automated robot programming software.