Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) is the use of software and computer-controlled machinery to automate a manufacturing process.
Based on that definition, you need three components for a CAM system to function:
- Software that tells a machine how to make a product by generating toolpaths.
- Machinery that can turn raw material into a finished product.
- Post processing that converts toolpaths into a language machines can understand.
Advanced collision detection mitigates this risk as well as improves part machining thanks to the simulation. This is especially beneficial as multi-axis machining becomes more common
Tribal knowledge can be built into the CAM software, so years of experience is shared and used.
Machinists can access instructions that incorporate a CNC machine’s platform, tool specifications, and best pathing, leading to less downtime and increased production.
Increase in Multi-Axis and Multi-Function CNC Machining Centers
- 5-axis and multi-function CNC machining centers add simultaneous control of a workpiece’s A-axis rotation in addition to and its XYZ motion and B rotation. Multi-function machines integrate functions like turning and milling.
- Combining operations is one benefit of more axes and multi-function machines, which means the labor cost per part is decreased. The number of operation steps (with potential for operator error) is reduced as is scrap. Eliminating re-fixturing improves accuracy.
- Machines can be upgraded with interchangeable rotary tables. A 3-axis machining center converts to a 3+2-axis machine by adding tilt and rotation of the workpiece. Or a machine can have dedicated, pre-installed rotary axes.
- Robots work alongside humans (not “instead” of them), and improve operator productivity by taking on repetitive work like loading and unloading.
- Reducing human error, which also improves daily production output, complements the improvements in tooling options and fixturing also realized with robots.
- Programming robots is straightforward, meaning they’re “taught” motions and behavior as a sequence of points and functions. For instance, an operator jogs a robot’s arm throughout an operation, teaching the points, and then the robot repeats it over and over. Operations can update robots to adjust to changes and issues without relying on engineering.
- Collaborative robots, or cobots, are new technology that work alongside operations and can assist in a simple task as well as a multi-functional manufacturing environment.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT)
- A software dashboard gathers and reports on incoming data from any number of operations within the industrial internet of things, or IIOT. Machines output data, which is used for monitoring/scheduling work and other software-augmented suggestions. One tool is CNC machine integration with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software.
- Trends can be identified to help apply resources effectively to improve operations. Also, any action taken can be measured and improved upon.
- Preventative maintenance improves with IIOC input, too, as predictive models plan for scheduled downtime.