Autodesk CAM 360 – A World’s First

Autodesk CAM 360 is a world's first cloud-based CAM package.  With extremely fast toolpath generation, CAM 360 is poised to change the CAM industry.

I am truly amazed at the speed in which Autodesk is developing its products.  How long did it take after the Algor acquisition for Autodesk to implement a simulation tool within their products?  Seriously, I don’t know.  Maybe one of my industry analyst friends can answer that, but to me it felt like a really long time.  And it’s not just software companies that take a long time to integrate new acquisitions into the existing structure.  Look at the US Airways and American airlines merger.  They are hinting at over two years before customers will notice any difference in their travel.  For two years, this one airline will continue to operate – on the surface anyway – as two distinct airlines.

But when Autodesk acquired HSMWorks, it took less than a year to to incorporate that technology into a product, Inventor HSM.  Less than another year later, Autodesk builds CAM 360 – another product based on the HSMWorks technology.

A Common Core

One of the key attributes to the quick development time is that all three Autodesk CAM packages: HSMWorks for Solidworks, Inventor HSM, and CAM 360; share the same technology.  About 95% is kernel level development.  When one package gets an upgrade, that same technology is available in the other two.  Only about 5% of development is unique to each package in the form of user interface and integration.

Can CAM Get Any Faster?

HSMWorks was originally developed to utilize multi-core, 64-bit processors.  This built-in ability makes it incredibly fast at defining toolpaths.  It also makes it readily available to take advantage of the infinite compute capability of the cloud or to utilize spare clock cycles in networked workstations.  (Distributed computing has been around for a while, but I can’t help  include the buzzwords “carpet cloud” or “local cloud.”)  But, does CAM really need faster toolpaths?  Is that the only metric to determine faster, more productive CAM?

Design for Manufacturability

I would think most CAM operators realize that visualizing a toolpath is great and faster toolpaths do save time, but the real time savings is in the form of cutting chips and preventing crashes.  In other words, DFM.

Recognizing that Design for Manufacturing is a big problem, Autodesk is taking small bites at a time, starting with knowledge base capture.  CAM operators will be able to store their expertise within the software.  As an example, certain features will automatically get certain tools and feeds & speeds as defined by the user.  Eventually, more check tools will be included into CAM like enhancing the ability to visualize the G-code after post processing.

Post Processor Library

Of course, no tool path or CAM file is worth anything if the proper g-code can’t be posted.  Autodesk already has an extensive post processor library and plans on expanding it.  Many posts are shared via the user community forums.  In the future, there may even be an “iTunes” like post processor marketplace where all the posts are free, but more easily searchable and retrievable by other Autodesk customers.  Autodesk may create or update posts, but most of the files will be maintained by users.  I liken it to a modding community of gamers.  There is something to be learned from the gamification of CAM.

CAM 360

Autodesk CAM 360 begins beta on December 16, 2013 with rumor that it will be free during the beta period.

After the beta period, CAM 360 will offer a free 2.5-axis module.  Additional functionality will be priced accordingly and will include 3-axis and 5-axis (3+2 axis).

No word yet on when full 5-axis or mill-turn will be available.

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