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Down the road; CAD/CAM systems have become an integral part of our manufacturing culture, and like most integral components of our industry, rapid evolution has become the hallmark.

Software designers are continually creating new products and releasing upgraded iterations of existing products at a brisk pace. This ongoing, rapid product evolution, driven by customer demand and competitors' challenges is absolutely essential for software engineering companies to keep their products relevant and "stay at the dance."

We expect that coming generations of CAD/CAM software will be more highly functional, more flexible, and easier to learn and operate.

The Outlook

CAM will have an increasingly influential role in CAD component design. It will automatically incorporate methods based on in-shop experience as well as net-accessible industry standards to prevent impossible-to-machine designs caused by common occurrences like tolerance build-up, interference of mating surfaces, insufficient material in critical areas like thin webs, and the like. Time savings in part programming will be substantial because programs and the machined parts machined from them will be right the first time through the process. Program revisions and part rework will be virtually non-existent.

CAM auto optimization will select the best equipment (machine tools--based on their capabilities and accuracies), and materials (tooling, coolant, fixturing), to be used in machining a given component.

Upcoming versions of CAD/CAM will recognize geometrical shapes in downloaded customer CAD files and automatically generate CNC part programs that will include appropriate speeds, feed rates, tool and fixture selection, and process sequencing.

It will be able to automatically recognize design and process revisions and apply these changes to all applicable part programs in the shop database.

In the future, system CNC's and other in-system computer devices will be equipped with auto security functions that may include voice recognition, retinal imaging, and finger or palm prints to prevent unauthorized access.

Automatic manufacturing initialization will provide unattended, robotic control of all phases of operation, including machining, part cleaning, marking, gaging and all other essential operations right through to packaging and shipping. Sequencing of manufacturing would begin when purchased materials were received. Tooling, fixturing, gaging equipment, and supplies would be robotically selected, retrieved from inventory stores and introduced into the process at appropriate times. The progress of each ID coded part would be automatically tracked through the various manufacturing stages, allowing manufacturing and cost analysis at every stage of production.

What And When

In the fast moving world of technical products, there's a natural human tendency to wail until a product matures before buying. With this philosophy we'd all be running 286 PC's because they've "matured"--to the point of obsolescence. Don't take this approach. It's a mistake that will cost you business and limit your shop's profitability.

OEM's seeking sub-contractors will chose those that make effective use of the latest hardware and software manufacturing tools. Stay current, because it will help your shop stay in business, land contracts, and turn a profit.

As we discussed in a previous column, select potential suppliers from a list of bona fide CAD/CAM software purveyors, address your current and projected needs with them, demand upward and downward compatibility with other versions of the product you select, and don't overbuy.

The Goal

The purpose of implementing CAD/CAM in your shop is to reduce programming and production errors, provide ease of part programming, to increase machine throughput and utilization, and to integrate essential non-machining operations into your manufacturing scheme. Lights-out, unattended manufacturing may seem like a lofty goal, hut the practicality is very real, even for shops with less than 100 employees. The bottom line is the bottom line--you're in the business to make a profit. Put CAD/CAM to work for you right now.
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Title Annotation:CAD/CAM
Publication:Modern Applications News
Date:Feb 1, 2005
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