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Computer-aided design and manufacture

Computer-aided design, or CAD, is the use of a computer to display designs, accept any changes to them and calculate and display the results. CAD has many different applications, which include:Designing new cars; Bridge and building design and testing; Printed circuit board (PCB) design; Designing new aircraft; Designing fitted kitchens.

Making changes to a design requires a large number of complex calculations. These need to be performed as quickly as possible so that their effect can be viewed straight away. A powerful processor is required for this. A CAD system also needs a high-resolution monitor so that clear close-up detail can be seen on the screen. Input to CAD systems is normally given using a mouse and keyboard but other input devices such as graphic tablets and scanners are also used. Output from a CAD system is produced using a high quality printer such as a laser printer or a plotter.

The advantages of CAD systems are:Changes to a design can be made quickly and their effects seen straight away; Designs can be viewed from any angle without being redrawn; Designs can be tested without the need to build expensive models or prototypes;

Drawings can be stored on disk and re-used at any time;

Designs can be instantly sent anywhere in the world using electronic communications;

Designs can be used directly in computer aided manufacturing processes.

Computer-aided manufacture, or CAM, is the use of a computer to control all or part of a manufacturing process.
Some examples of CAM include the production of printed circuit boards, car manufacture, pattern cutting for clothing manufacture and making postage stamps. Very often a CAM process follows directly on from a CAD process, in such cases the complete design and manufacture process is called CAD/CAM. The main advantage of this approach is that the CAD design can be used to generate the program which will control the manufacturing process.

The student shown in this picture has used CAD software to prepare a design which he is going to manufacture using the milling machine connected to the computer behind him.

The advantages of CAM systems are:Products can be made very accurately and consistently;

Around the clock production is much cheaper;

A product's design can be modified without the need to bring production to a complete standstill;

Waste can be kept to a minimum.

Disadvantages of CAD / CAM

Can be very expensive to set up. A single industrial robot can cost millions It can take a long time to train people to use more complex equipment. Little need for poorly qualified workers. Fewer people are needed, and this can result in higher unemployment

Computer Integrated Manufacture

CIM systems are complex pieces of equipment that combine CAD and CAM e.g. a system that will respond automatically to changes made to the design of the product


What does CAD stand for? What does CAM stand for? Where would CAD / CAM be used? What do all CAD packages have in common? Why is it an advantage to use CAM?