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What is Computer-Aided Machining (CAM)?

There are a number of industries and marketplaces that may be classed as high-growth during the digital age, with computer-aided machining and manufacturing offering a relevant case in point.

More specifically, this marketplace is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.4% over the course of the next seven years, achieving a cumulative value of $5.47 billion by 2028.

But what is computer-aided machining (CAM), and what are the advantages of using these across various design and manufacturing applications?

So, What is Computer-Aided Machining?

In simple terms, CAM is a type of manufacturing method that utilises computer software and automatable machinery to create corporeal products.

This method is renowned for creating high degrees of accuracy and precision while working, with contemporary machines and software technologies having enabled us to create superior components and achieve far greater control over entire production processes.

A CAM tool uses a basic product model that’s created within computer-aided design (CAD) software packages, with the former converting computer models into a viable language that’s understood by machining tools and subsequently executes the production process.

The process of CAM and its associated technologies can also aid manufacturers with product planning, development management, storage and logistics, improving every stage of the production process from initial design to execution.

Ultimately, the primary objective of CAM is to create new, or enhance existing, manufacturing procedures, with a view to improve efficiency and reduce wastage. It achieves this largely by expediting various manufacturing and production processes (and tooling), while also focusing on reducing energy consumption and the associated operational costs.

What are the Advantages of Using CAM Packages?

Now that you understand the concept of CAM and the reasons why it’s so popular in the digital age, the question that remains is what are the primary advantages of utilising such a manufacturing method? Here are some of the main benefits to keep in mind:

#1. The Reduction of Waste Products

We’ve already touched on how CAM is widely used as a way of reducing operational costs and wastage, with these key to most manufacturing strategies in 2021.

But why is CAM so adept at minimising waste? In simple terms, this tech-led approach is extremely detail-oriented, while its innate ability to minimise human error naturally improves efficiency and simultaneously reduces the amount of waste produced.

By reducing the amount of waste produced over an extended period of time, you can also ensure that a higher number of products are made from the same amount of raw material.

As a result, your cash and material savings can accumulate significantly over time, with this translating into increased productivity and even enhanced profit margins for businesses that fully utilise CAM to their advantage.

Another key benefit of reduced waste is that manufacturers can set genuinely competitive prices, without having to compromise too heavily on their margins or sacrifice profit for increased sales volumes.

#2. Minimising Associated Labour Costs

On a similar note, CAM procedures and software can also drive significant labour savings, largely by automating much of the core manufacturing process.

This means that businesses can reduce the size of their permanent workforce, without compromising on either productivity or efficiency. By operating at an optimal staffing level, manufacturers can make the most of their salary spend and ensure that they utilise their budget as effectively as possible over time.

There’s also an argument that automation enables businesses to make the absolute most of their skilled labour, by enabling them to undertake more skilled and strategic tasks that add value to a company’s bottom line.

Some of these labour resources will also be deployed to operate, maintain and repair advanced CAM machines, but this only represents a small percentage of the total workforce.

Another reason for reduced labour costs is the innate versatility of CAM machines, which are compatible with a diverse range of manufacturing processes that can minimise the need for specialised labour when transitioning between different applications.

#3. Increased Control Over Manufacturing

When CAM is leveraged within a machine shop or factory, it improves the amount of control that a manufacturer has over entire processes.

Through a feature referred to colloquially as the ‘CAM tree’, a manufacturing process can be tracked from beginning to end, affording companies optimal control and enabling them to identify potential pitfalls and bottlenecks.

Such systems also enable manufacturers to control processes at a granular level, including different elements such as stock levels, tooling, materials, procurement and even post-processing procedures.

Interestingly, CAM can also be used to save machining templates for future use, allowing improved efficiencies to be captured and repeated during recurring processes. Even slight modifications can be accounted for easily without the need to reprogram the machinery in question, with the associated ‘toolpaths’ updated automatically when certain changes are made.

These small but incremental elements of control can translate into further cost and efficiency savings over time, with this crucial for manufacturers that are focused on volume and carry out large numbers of projects on a recurring basis.

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