The manufacturing and fabrication process is driven to a very large extent by the CAD/CAM software. There are several kinds of CAD/CAM software that are used in the industry; however, for computer controlled flat plate cutting, fabricators mainly make use of the CAD/CAM nesting software for all their laser, plasma, waterjet and oxyfuel cutting requirements. CAD/CAM provides the entire gamut of operations – from the concept, preparation of the part, nesting to the numeric output.
How CAD/CAM Works
CAD or computer-aided design makes use of a computer program to draw the part required, which is produced in the form of a 2D or a 3D model. The file that is produced is then imported into the CAM or computer-aided manufacturing software. CAM, essentially, is a computer software that allows you to communicate with the machine tools directly and control them as part of the manufacturing process. Today, most of the CNC (computer numerically controlled) machines make use of CAD/CAM software for their manufacturing processes.
The CAM software makes the CAD file ready so that the cutting and machining process can begin. For instance, the CAD software checks for any errors, sets the cutting sequence, applies the kerf compensation, adds leads, etc. Some CAM software has the capability of controlling and setting all the parameters of the plasma cutting operation, including settings of the cut flow, cutting and piercing heights, cutting speed, current and voltage setting, gas flow, etc. This helps to simplify the operator’s work and also helps to increase productivity.
When it comes to plate cutting, the CAM helps in a very important function called nesting, which is essentially the proper placement of the various parts in a specific area. The automatic nesting software makes use of advanced algorithms in order to rotate and place the parts in such a way that the plate utilisation is maximised and the scrap produced is minimised. The CAM software produces a numerical control code that the CNC control understands and the code is then changed into electrical signals which control the cutting process.
The CAD/CAM software, nesting software and the numerical code are all the start points of the cutting process. From this point on, the numeric code is processed by the CNC of the plasma cutting system and the instructions are given to the various components of the plasma cutting system before the entire cutting process begins. This makes CAD/CAM a very important component of any kind of automated CNC cutting.