Like many jobs out there, CAM programming is all about time. We are always trying to reduce the time it takes to produce the parts on the machine. Quicker cycle times means more parts produced per hour. The same is true for programming time; if we could reduce the time it takes to program the part, we could program more parts per hour. Not only does the shop benefit from increased production, but we can get out of the office and home to our families sooner. It’s time to work smarter, not harder.
Articles by Mark Pimentel
The CAM learning journey for most of us in the manufacturing sector typically follows a similar path. You may start to learn about CAM in school, using the software that is best suited for the curriculum. Later, when you join the workforce, you will have to learn whichever CAM software is used by the employer. This can often feel like being dropped into the deep end of the pool – but you make it through because you have the basic tools to understand the new software given your experience with a previous tool. The lucky few of us have mentors to show us the tips and tricks to get the software to do exactly what we need.
It’s common that CAM programmers will find themselves at a new shop, or in a new situation, needing to learn yet another new CAM system quickly. While I am not working at a job shop, I had a similar experience when I came to Hawk Ridge Systems. My previous experience was not with CAMWorks, but I had to come up to speed quite quickly.
In industries that use CNC machining, there can be many team members that contribute to the production of the final product. The process starts with the designer creating the CAD model that is then sent to the programmer for CAM programming. Once the program is complete, the code is sent to the operator to set up and run the CNC machine.
Efficient communication is key to optimal production. If the machine is not producing parts, it is still considered downtime, even during the period when the programmer and operator are tying up the machine with a test of the code. With the levels of communication between all the parties involved, there are many opportunities for information to be lost or misinterpreted.
The old adage is “time is money.” Nowhere is that truer than in production based on CNC machining. The time it takes to produce a part (or many parts) is greatly improved using advanced CAM software such as CAMWorks. Both stages in the production process can be affected by delays, which can increase the most crucial periods of time in CNC: the programming time and the machine’s cycle time.
The programming time is increased if the programmer must review not only the printed hardcopy of the drawing for tolerances but also confirm that the 3D model matches. The machining time could suffer from extraneous moves if the tooling used is not robust enough. In the end, no amount of programming skill or efficient tooling can save the production time if an unforeseen collision causes the machine to go down to await repair.