With so Many Advantages to Using CAM Software, Why do Some Still Program CNC by Hand?
The typical response when we ask that question is “That’s just how we’ve always done it.” I fail to understand why companies are still programming by hand due to the limitations and problems associated with it. We will be discussing where manual CNC programming falls short of CAM software.
For example, our customer had a complex part they were machining that took them roughly two weeks to program. They came to us knowing there must be a better option than doing it by hand. This part had features that required 5 axis machining, so I went to work. Within a couple of hours, I had the program to a point where I would be happy running it on the machine. I had verified using the program simulation that there would be no crashes, gouging, or excess material. Two hours vs two weeks, that is some easy ROI to justify. Our customer proceeded to purchase our CAM solution due to this.
The 6 Biggest Reasons CAM Software Outperforms Manual Input Every Time
Writing out G code line by line is so tedious and simply put, takes forever on a part with any complexity. The speed at which G code can be written by a CAM software compared to doing it manually is mind-blowing. The time savings by transitioning to a CAM package allows your programmers to program more parts which usually leads to more jobs.
2. Revision Change
After spending all that time writing G code and then the customer issues a revision, how demoralizing is that? You just hope that most of the program is salvageable. Being able to change the program quickly is just not something that happens often with a new revision. CAM software can update the toolpaths with any changed features and make you focus on anything that may be new. This allows for the revision change to be a speed bump and not a roadblock.
3. Multi-Axis Machining
Whenever I meet someone who is programming 4 & 5 axis parts by hand I am completely amazed. The complexity of programming this by hand certainly takes much longer, and also requires calculations and verification. CAM software makes this much easier and doesn’t require as much machining knowledge or skill. It also reduces the error involved with programming which brings me into my next point.
4. Human Error
The more human input into anything the more potential for error. When it comes to writing the G code line by line the amount of potential mistakes is very high. Just fat fingering a single number could ruin the entire part. There is no way to verify the code before running it on the machine. CAM packages do not have the fat finger issues and also include functionality like toolpath simulation which will verify that the toolpath is correct.
Toolpath simulation in certain CAM packages allows you to verify that there will be no gouging of the part as well as make sure you are not leaving any excess material. It also checks for crashes that you might have and even if the shoulder of a tool will contact the stock. These are all things that can verified before breaking any equipment. This saves from having to scrap parts or spend additional time testing a program when we already know it’s going to work.
Experienced programmers are like finding a needle in a haystack. Those companies that have them do not let them go. This is a serious problem if you are programming by hand or your worker approaches retirement age. Utilizing CAM software allows less experienced workers to program G code. Obviously, some knowledge about machining is required but not at the level of which you would program manually.
If you would like to know more about our SOLIDWORKS integrated CAM package check out the link or video below.