Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) employs computer systems to plan, manage, and control manufacturing plant operations via a direct or indirect computer interface. In layman’s terms, it means using computers to perform various manufacturing-related tasks.
Computers can be used to plan product manufacturing, carry out actual product manufacturing by connecting computers to machines, programming computers, etc.
Computer Aided Design (CAD) and CAM are combined in many cases. This means that the product is designed on a computer and then manufactured using computer systems. The functions performed by computer systems in CAM applications are classified into two broad categories:
- Computer Monitoring and Control: In these applications, the computer is directly connected to the manufacturing process for monitoring or controlling it. The computer is fed with the program that directs the operation of the machine, which is connected to it. In most cases, no operator is required to operate the machines; instead, they must merely supervise them. A single operator can handle and manage multiple machines at the same time. These are also known as Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) machines. CNC machines are increasingly being used these days. They can produce high-quality goods rapidly, allowing businesses to remain competitive.
- Manufacturing Support Applications: In these applications, computer systems assist in various production-related activities such as production planning, scheduling, forecasting, providing manufacturing instructions, and other relevant information to help the company’s manufacturing resources be managed more effectively. This case doesn’t have a direct interface between the computers and the manufacturing process.
Differences between CAD and CAM
Computer-aided design (CAD) is defined as using computers to convert an abstract idea for a product into a detailed engineering design. The evolution process includes creating geometric models for a product, which can then be manipulated, analyzed, and refined. Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), on the other hand, entails using computers to assist managers, manufacturing engineers, and production workers by automating production tasks, as well as controlling machines and systems.
CAD processes include defining the geometric model and translating the definition, drafting, detailing, documentation, interface, design, and analysis algorithms. CAM is all part of the CAM by using geometric modeling, numerical control programs, interface algorithms, inspection, process planning, assembly, and packaging.
The CAM system requires control and coordination of the physical process, equipment, materials, and labor, whereas the CAD system requires product design conceptualization and analysis.
There are numerous CAD software, such as AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor, CATIA, etcetera. In contrast, Siemens NX, Power MILL, WorkNC, and Solid CAM are some examples of CAM software.
Advantages of CAM
- Manufacturing requires little supervision and can be completed during off-hours.
- Manufacturing is less labor-intensive and saves money on labor.
- Machines are precise, and large batches of manufacturing can be repeated repeatedly.
- Error occurrence is low, and machines can run indefinitely.
- Prototype models can be quickly created for detailed inspection before finalizing designs for manufacture.
- On the screen, virtual machining can evaluate machining routines and outcomes.
Disadvantages of CAM
- It necessitates a significant initial investment and start-up cost.
- Machine maintenance is also expensive.
- A workforce with high-level manual skills may be lost.
- To ensure proper tooling and setup procedures, highly trained operatives and technicians are required.