The Great Divide — CAD and CAM
Laura Pei posted on October 09, 2015 |

In theory, CAD and CAM seem like a very natural pair. In practice however, CAM usage doesn't necessarily follow from CAD usage. A recent eBook by Business Advantage titled "Fear of the CAD/CAM Combo" explores the reasons why CAD users may feel some trepidation about employing CAM.

While CAD is widely used, CAM doesn't always make it to the shop floor. (Image courtesy of Packsize.)

While CAD is widely used, CAM doesn't always make it to the shop floor. (Image courtesy of Packsize.)

In a web-based survey, 215 people (the majority were engineers) were asked about their CAD/CAM usage. Respondents hailed from various countries and industries and worked for companies of various sizes.

The majority of participants already used some sort of CAD. In fact, only three percent reported that they weren't using any form of CAD. CAM was markedly less popular, and only about 60 percent of respondents reported any CAM usage.

Of those who were using CAM, nearly half were new users with three or fewer years of CAM experience. On the other hand, a solid 20 percent were veteran users with over 10 years of experience. In other words, it's not as though CAM is a recent discovery; it's had an industry presence for quite some time. So why the delay in putting it into action?

As it turns out, there's no irreconcilable difference in priority between CAM users and non-users. The survey reveals that the biggest barrier to implementing CAM is the fear of interrupting productivity by introducing new software. This includes concerns about training staff on a new system and compatibility with existing CAD software.

The survey also reveals that, ironically, one of the biggest benefits of CAM is the eventual increase in productivity. A hefty 57 percent of CAM users surveyed cited a rise in productivity and many others noted related benefits like reduced cycling and matching time, saving time for the staff and lowering design costs.

Making sure a new CAM system is compatible with the existing CAD system is a common pain point. Users of the most common CAD software for making mechanical parts — SOLIDWORKS, by Dassault Systèmes, shown here — have to hope its models are understood by CAM software created by other vendors. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

Making sure a new CAM system is compatible with the existing CAD system is a common pain point. Users of the most common CAD software for making mechanical parts — SOLIDWORKS, by Dassault Systèmes, shown here — have to hope its models are understood by CAM software created by other vendors. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

This isn't to say that the fears of non-users are unfounded. A sizeable 41 percent of CAM users stated that they had issues with CAD/CAM compatibility. When the survey tallied the most widely used CAD and CAM software, the two lists had little in common brand-wise.

Although nearly 30 percent of CAD users used Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS, the most popular CAM software applications were Siemens NX CAM and CNC Software's Mastercam.

Read the eBook report for yourself and comment below if you know of other reasons why CAM use is not as widespread as it should be.

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