SOLIDWORKS CAM Standard vs. CAM Professional

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The introduction of SOLIDWORKS CAM in 2018 sparked several questions from our current SOLIDWORKS users about incorporating the new CAM functionality into their workflow. The decision to invest time and resources into this new toolset can become complex depending on your workflow. To help start this discussion, lets start with the basics.

What is SOLIDWORKS CAM?

SOLIDWORKS CAM software is a Feature-Based CAM software built into the SOLIDWORKS interface. This integration means models in SOLIDWORKS CAM are fully associative. Modifications to the model are automatically updated on the CAM side, making in-process design changes easy to handle. Feature based machining allows for the use of standardized manufacturing strategies that play to the strengths of your CNC machinery with the flexibility to adjust if necessary. Having direct access to the native CAD data also means SOLIDWORKS CAM can leverage DimXpert dimensions and other PMI data from SOLIDWORKS MBD.

What is the difference between SOLIDWORKS CAM Standard Vs Professional?

At its base level, SOLIDWORKS CAM can handle any 2.5 axis part milling operation utilizing feature-based and tolerance-based machining strategies.

Stepping up to SOLIDWORKS CAM Professional allows for programming within an assembly to include work holding/fixturing, or when machining features in partially assembled parts is necessary. SOLIDWORKS CAM Professional also makes use of 4th and 5th axis positioning capability. Finally, SOLIDWORKS CAM Professional can also program 2 axis lathe operations.

SOLIDWORKS CAM Standard vs Professional Checklist

Is SOLIDWORKS CAM the right solution for my workflow?

There are two primary reasons why manufacturers invest in equipment to support their businesses: capacity/efficiency and capability.

In a manufacturing setting, if we need to cut the raw stock into smaller pieces of raw stock, a sawing operation is typically appropriate. The choice between using an industrial horizontal bandsaw equipped with an automatic material feed and a hacksaw to complete this operation comes down to the number of parts. Both pieces of equipment can complete the process, the only difference is one does it a lot more efficiently. Now let us assume we must put a hole at the end of our freshly cut raw stalk. Well, forget it, neither our bandsaw nor hacksaw can complete that second operation. We will need another tool to satisfy the customer’s requirements for a finished part.

These same concepts apply the software tools we use to support our businesses. Whether or not SOLIDWORKS CAM is the right solution for your specific workflow will come down to addressing customer needs. Also, the answer to that question is not always black or white. Depending on your workflow and the products you produce, a hybrid solution may be necessary. Returning to our raw stock analogy, a single round pocket in our raw stock can handled easily with SOLIDWORKS CAM Standard. If we have to include a second pocket on an adjoining face, we may want to look into SOLIDWORKS CAM Professional and a 4th axis positioner. This will increase efficiency and decrease cycle time by avoiding that second setup.

If instead our customer requests the pocket to include complex geometry with curvature in all three axes, neither tool will produce the desired result. At that point, it is time to look at a CAM tool with capability tailored to meet your new requirements like Mastercam. If you have future plans to incorporate more complex geometry, it may be desirable to tool up on a tool like Mastercam sooner rather than later to prepare for the transition.

Summary

Deciding on software tools to support your CNC manufacturing operations comes down to efficiency and capability. The addition of SOLIDWORKS CAM to the SOLIDWORKS solution set adds a level of flexibility to your installed SOLIDWORKS base. If you have questions about positioning your CAM solutions to best fit your needs, reach out to your local MLC CAD Systems representative and start a discussion.

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