There are many CAD and CAM packages out there, however there are many disadvantages of having separate software for CAD and CAM. Some CAM packages require an export from SOLIDWORKS into another format the CAM will understand. So on the more complex 3d components, surface data may suffer from translation issues between CAD and CAM packages. Also there is the small issue that you would have to learn 2 packages rather than potentially 1 if the CAM is integrated into the CAD platform.
Major benefits of having a CAM software that is integrated
into SOLIDWORKS (Solidcam) are that potentially if the model changes there is
no requirement to start the CAM work from scratch, a simple re-synchronisation
can be performed for toolpaths to associate themselves to the new model. It is
also capability of switching from design to manufacture with a click of a
button if internal CAM data was to be created.
We will start with a component that has already been
modelled which also has a further block around the component indicating what
the material is required to start the machining process.
With Solidcam being an integrated CAM package, it is simply
just another add in to SOLIDWORKS. From the tools drop down we can create a new
manufacturing process (milling, turning, mill-turn, wire EDM).
From there it is a very similar layout to how you normally
see SOLIDWORKS in the design environment, giving a new user who is familiar
with SOLIDWORKS a good start in knowing the basic functionality already.
As soon as the fundamental information is setup, SOLIDWORKS
will now be in assembly mode, this gives the added benefit that jigs or
fixtures can be added and mated to the component like any standard SOLIDWORKS
Toolpaths can now be created upon this, the power being that
they are associated to the model. In the 2 instances below the user can control
the toolpath in respect to z-limits by clicking on vertices or perpendicular
faces to the z axis. Another option on holes is the select the holes by their feature
in the SOLIDWORKS feature tree. Because it was modelled in SOLIDWORKS, it gives
the user the capability to take advantage of that.
Once adequate toolpaths are created, they are visible on the
SOLIDWORKS screen overlaying on the design model.
Toolpaths can also be potentially simulated on their machine
tool to give the programmer feedback as to if the toolpath is going to machine
safely without any collisions.
So at the beginning we talked about if the design was
changed as from time to time design changes do happen and they can happen at
any stage, if the programmer has already started programming their particular
job and spent valuable time before the change happened the last thing he wants
to hear is that there has been a design alteration.
With the benefit that was mentioned at the start we can
simply make the design change and let that flow into the CAM data, potentially save
us a lot of work re-programming from the start. The next few steps will take us
through this procedure. First the designer would potentially make his changes,
in this example we will change the following dimension from 160mm to 200mm.
The part has become visibly longer! The modified part would
then be saved and the CAM programmer can then re-open the SOLIDWORKS model. The
following message will then be displayed.
No matter how drastic the change is, it could be a subtle
change of size on a single radius to a complete design change. The following
prompt will be displayed, we will accept the following message and potentially
our changes will have been made automatically.
From here we could then g-code out to the machine and run
the created programs.