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Industry 4.0 and CAD/CAM Software: Five Questions

Ben Mund
By Ben Mund Senior Market Analyst, CNC Software Inc.

Forward-thinking CAD/CAM companies are addressing the emerging shift in manufacturing towards Industry 4.0. Where does CAD/CAM fit into this picture? Specifically, where does the software program you use fit into these goals at your company?

These are important questions to ensure that your shop or factory is robust from a data gathering and managing perspective. You’ll also want to become increasingly efficient so that the statistical markers improve over time. Here are five key areas to discuss with your CAD/CAM software provider regarding Industry 4.0.

Connectivity: How many places does the software touch to ensure that the data can be brought in, used and shared in the best way possible? Can that information be used in other areas of the shop? The CAD/CAM software directs the machine tool of course, but it’s also a platform for the shop to do a variety of things, including metrology, robotics and digital tool management. All of these pieces are necessary for the connectivity that comes with Industry 4.0.

Partnerships: How well does the CAD/CAM software play with others? Partnerships with machine manufacturers, tooling developers, and other software utilities ensure that all the pieces can connect.

Advanced Toolpaths: Does the software’s functionality improve with each release? Are the toolpaths “smart”? For example, dynamic motion toolpaths are a big step up. With dynamic motion, the angle of tool engagement constantly changes to keep a consistent, optimal chip load on the tool and more of flute length can be used. One result is reduced machine time for specific jobs. With 2D cutting and 3D roughing, for example, machine time can be cut by 75%. Also, tool life can increase due to cut consistency and the smooth motion is easier on the machine.

Another exciting advancement is a technique known as accelerated finishing, which is geared towards faster machining and better surface finish on parts with complex geometries. New classes of tools, such as advanced shaped tools, require CAD/CAM companies to work closely with tool manufacturers to develop toolpath motion that takes advantage of these shapes.

Further, with regard to toolpath development, what is the nature of the company’s beta effort? An active beta user base not only relays experiences about software, but proactive users often report what they see on the horizon from a shop floor level, generating new ideas that will need to be addressed in an upcoming release.

Testing: How does the CAD/CAM software company test its product? Having direct access to a machine shop, for example, exposes the issues that typical shops run into. With a variety of types and brands of machine tools–some new, some older–that shop can be the proving ground where great toolpaths and fresh approaches are forged.

Manufacturing Technology Education: Is the CAD/CAM software widely used in the educational market? Getting students–youth or adult–excited about manufacturing and training them are crucial to the future of Industry 4.0. People with knowledge of the software you use will get up to speed quickly after you hire them.

The future of manufacturing looks bright and exciting. There have been many technological advances in the last decade and the onset of Industry 4.0 is fascinating. It is essentially a digital thread, from start to finish, from the concept to the output. No one company or manufacturer encompasses all of what Industry 4.0 is and does. Many pieces need to be connected to each other to make Industry 4.0 effective and practical in the workplace and your CAD/CAM program is an important part of that process.

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