Today more and more industries are turning to CNC and automated systems for all their cutting operations and all automated processes are driven by CAD/CAM software. There are many CAD/CAM software options available in the market today. Automated cutting applications such as flat plate cutting make use of the CAD/CAM nesting software. This gives the manufacturers and fabricators one software solution that meets all their cutting requirements — laser, plasma, waterjet or oxyfuel cutting. This single solution helps to complete all jobs from the CAD concept to the preparation of the part, to the nesting process and finally the output of the numeric code.
CAD or Computer Aided Design makes a drawing of the part or the object required by using computer programs, the output of which is a 2-D or a 3-D model. The output is usually in the form of a CAD file which is then imported into the CAM software.
Computer software can communicate directly with the control machine tools that are used in the manufacturing process. This software is known as the CAM or Computer Aided Manufacturing software. Most CNC machines use CAD/CAM software’s for the manufacturing process.
The CAD file is prepared for the cutting and machining process by the CAM software. For example, the software checks for any errors in the geometry, sets the sequence of the cut, applies kerf compensation, applies other cutting parameters, etc.
There are a variety of CAM software’s available that can automatically set all the parameters required for cutting such as gas flow, arc current, cutting speeds, voltage, cut and pierce height adjustments, etc., and control the entire process automatically. This helps to simplify the job of the machine operator and also aids in increasing efficiency of operations, as well as, productivity.
In the case of plate cutting, the CAM software executes another vital function called “nesting.” The efficient and precise placement of many part geometries on a specific surface area is known as nesting. In the case of automatic nesting, advanced algorithms are used by the software to position the parts in a way that the plate utilisation is maximised and the scrap produced is minimised.
In the final step, the CAM software produces the NC or the numerical code as the output that the CNC control reads and understands. It is then converted to electrical signals by the CNC and this controls the complete cutting process.
Role of CAD/CAM Software in the Automated Cutting Process
The starting point of the automated cutting process is the CAD software, CAM software, nesting and the NC code file. The CNC then processes the NC code, gives the necessary instructions to the cutting system and the various machine components, and the cutting process begins.
Thus, we can see that CAD/CAM plays a very important role in any automated cutting process. An advanced CAD/CAM system can make all the difference in the cutting process and can help in increasing productivity and efficiency of the operations and hence cost savings.