Whilst there are some types of sheet metal machinery that require a heap of manual work to operate – there are some machines that require a lot less but can do a lot more. CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) is fundamental to the future of the sheet metal fabrication industry. CAM is a system that allows you to accurately input the relevant specifications and parameters when performing a job – whether it’s with a turret punchplasma cutter or any other machine. 

CAM is able to be used with various types of software that you can use with all types of sheet metal machinery. A CNC (computer numerical control) machine is the type of machine that uses CAM. The first CNC machine was created in 1949 by John T. Parsons for the US Air Force. As the name suggests, CAM is any type of manufacturing process that uses software to drive sheet metal machinery. This includes facilitating, assisting and automating the machinery. Let’s dive into the basics of CAM.

How does it work?

CAM translates the data and instructions that have been inputted into the software so that the machine or tool you’re using can perform the required job. The G Code is the type of code that exists within a CNC machine. It is this code that is responsible for talking to the motors and gears within the machinery – telling it exactly how to operate and where to go to complete its job.

You’ll need three fundamental components for a CAM system to work: machinery, software and post-processing. In addition to these components: human labour, experience and skill are also essential to operate a CAM system. At the end of the day, you still need a human to input the data and designs – as well as know the ins and outs of the software and hardware to ensure everything runs as it should.

What is CAD and what’s its relation to CAM?

CAD (computer-aided design) is the first step on your way to CAM. It is a program that allows you to design both 2D and 3D shapes for manufacturing purposes. With CAD, you can design the aesthetic of the product as well as how it functions. The genius thing about CAD is that it documents the process and steps required to reach the finished product. Once completed, the CAD model is then imported – generally as a .CAD file – into a CAM system. 

The software will now begin preparing the model for machining by analysing the design and data to ensure that everything is quantifiable – this includes:

  • Checking for geometric errors that may hinder the manufacturing process;
  • Charting a toolpath for the machine to follow in order to accurately manufacture the design;
  • Preparing any parameters such as voltage and cutting speed; and
  • Configuring where the part/product shall be nested in order to maximise the efficiency of the machining process.

What’s the difference between CAD and BIM?

Whilst CAD is great for individual parts and products, BIM (building information modelling) works best for large-scale projects and team collaboration. BIM actually utilises the same fundamental principles as CAD but allows collaboration between architects, engineers and other design and construction members who need to work on the same project. 

This means that different members of the design or construction team can access each other’s models and integrate them with their own. The information is imported the same way as with a CAD design – as they’re essentially the same – and then the process we explained above is undergone to ensure that everything is able to be done. 

What are the benefits of CAM?

CAM holds some great economical and practical benefits, such as:

  • Greater production speeds;
  • Significant consistency and accuracy between identical products;
  • Improved efficiency as it is a machine performing the job – meaning no fatigue or breaks required; and
  • More sophisticated as complex patterns can be manufactured with ease.

Are you in need of CNC sheet metal machinery?

If you’re looking at doing some CAM, then look no further than ACRA Machinery. We sell a large variety of both new and used sheet metal machinery – including CNC machines. Our experienced and knowledgeable staff will be able to assist you with any questions you may have regarding our products. We also offer sheet metal machinery repair and maintenance services.

So, if you’re looking for some CNC sheet metal machinery, then please give us a call on 03 9794 6675. Alternatively, you can fill out the enquiry form on our website.