What is the difference between CAD and CAM in the past and the present?
Most engineers today are familiar with computer-aided design (CAD) tools for creating digital 2D and 3D designs, as well as computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software that brings these designs to the shop floor. But this is not always the case.
When the 3D CAD tools were first introduced in the 1980s, most of the designs were performed in 2D CAD tools or manually on the drawing board. 3D modeling was often limited to finite element analysis (FEA). In the manufacturing world, CAM programmers render 2D drawings from the design department in 3D to create CNC machining profiles.
By the 1990s, engineers were able to use desktop computers with enough processing power to support their creation of 3D designs using desktop 3D CAD packages. However, 2D drawings remain the primary communication tool between the design and manufacturing departments. Often, 2D drawings are still converted to 3D models by CAM programmers to machine models in 3D CAM programs.
It was not until the late 1990s that design and manufacturing engineers shared the idea of sharing 3D models, which eliminated the need to re-model CAM. This is particularly true in the mold design and manufacturing industry, where the tight integration between the designer's 3D model and the mold manufacturer's 3D mold design changes the face of the mold and greatly reduces mold delivery time.
By the 21st century, computer-aided design and manufacturing tools were increasingly integrated. Today's engineers look forward to working in 3D throughout the product lifecycle. Companies are also increasingly aware that increasing digital efficiency is at least as important as improving manufacturing efficiency. As a result, the creators of 3D design software are integrating more CAD and CAM functions into their software packages.
In the early days of CAD tools, engineers faced a steep learning curve. Most of the young engineers at the time had little experience with computer-based design, especially the experience of 3D CAD.
This part is due to the high cost of 3D CAD. Every engineer needs a separate software license and a dedicated workstation with higher processing power. The combination of the two may require up to $250,000 per seat, which does not take into account the extra time required for these resource-intensive programs and model loads or updates.
In contrast, today's young engineers are better prepared to apply 3D CAD. Today, desktop computers have the power to run modern CAD software, and most engineers know at least about common packages and technologies when they graduate.
The intuitive feel of building a manufacturing-oriented design still takes time to accumulate. However, modern software modules can highlight some potential problem areas based on a manufacturing method and some basic guidelines. These problem areas can be viewed with just a few mouse clicks, which not only educates the user, but also shortens the design cycle, as the design can be corrected without waiting for feedback from the manufacturer or senior designer.
Modern CAD software packages also include a variety of modules that allow users to estimate the cost of manufacturing a given design. For some manufacturing methods (such as sheet metal processing), engineers can even request quotations from third-party suppliers directly in the CAD tool.
Simulation and visualization
To analyze the design's response to stress or aerodynamics, engineers used to need to render their 2D designs in 3D. This data is then exported to another system that applies a finite element mesh and performs stress or fluid analysis. Each step consumes a lot of computing resources and time. Any changes to the design need to re-render the 3D model, reapply the grid and run the analysis again
On the other hand, today's CAD packages use an integrated simulation design. This allows engineers to analyze fluid flow, cooling, fatigue and stress with just a few mouse clicks. They can then try to design changes and immediately re-analyze the optimized design.
Topology optimization, also known as generative design, further advances the development of analysis. The engineer enters some basic parameters, such as the materials and manufacturing methods to be used for the part, as well as the required stress, fluid or thermal conductivity. The software then creates a series of designs that meet the specified conditions with the least amount of material.
The CAD package also incorporates design visualization. Today, software enables marketing departments to create realistic product images from CAD data to populate product data. Engineers and marketers use realistic 2D and 3D graphics, as well as animation, augmented reality and virtual reality simulation to support product design iterations and aesthetic decisions, collect customer feedback and promote products.
In the past, CAM programmers rendered 2D paper or digital designs in 3D to create CNC profiles, workflows, inspection documents, and other product data management (PDM) projects. If you change the original design, you will need to re-experience the entire process, and often cause the past work to be discarded.
Integrated software packages now allow design changes to be automatically populated into all downstream products, including PDM systems. They can also simulate manufacturing processes such as injection molding, casting and machining. New technologies such as 3D printing are gradually being fully understood through software predictions.
These packages also allow engineers to model the entire production line to identify potential efficiency gain opportunities. Engineers can simulate adding or replacing new machinery to see how new machinery fits into the workflow and adapts to existing space constraints.
Previous generations of CAD tools required the design to be checked out to ensure version control, so only one user could use the design at a time. In order to provide a design to a third-party vendor, it usually means exporting it to another file format and then transferring it over FTP or physical media, all of which can further complicate version control. Each design revision needs to be documented as a paper blueprint or taken through microfilm.
Users of today's CAD programs can collaborate across continents or across disciplines. Cloud-based CAD programs support multi-user synchronization control. Use tools such as Web PDM to more easily share design data with qualified third parties, reducing data transfer, tracking views, and providing version control. The design can be archived electronically in CAD format as well as encrypted PDF.
However, the biggest factor in collaboration is the seamless integration of user experience across design, manufacturing, simulation, visualization, marketing, and third-party computer tools. Because of the similar tools that each of these groups can use interactively, ideas can be more easily spread between different companies and different professions.
CAD and CAM programs have evolved over the past and are no longer esoteric tools limited to professional terminals and users. Today's digital design software integrates a variety of design and manufacturing activities and connects users across all disciplines. The result is a digital phase of the product lifecycle that is faster and more efficient than ever.