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One important yet commonly overlooked part of using computer-aided drafting and manufacturing involves translating a model into something that a fabrication device can work with. For instance, even if you've created a 3D DXF file that represents an object's dimensions, the router or other machinery needs specific guidance that tells it how to make that shape from a block of plastic, metal or wood. Special applications usually fulfil this role by turning completed model files into instruction files.

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For instance, with many consumer- and professional-grade 3D printers, the model takes the form of an STL file. This format specifies the geometry of a part by numerically describing the positions of the points that represent its triangular faces in three-dimensional Cartesian space. Other formats, such as AMF, also include instructions for different material colours and constellations, or object-grouping arrangements.

These files contain the actual movements that the printer will have to make to create something. For instance, instead of saying "This object includes a point at such-and-such XYZ coordinates," the G-code might say "Send the tool head to such-and-such XYZ coordinates and squeeze out some melted plastic. In the case of 3D printing , this conversion process is referred to as slicing a model , since it results in a set of instructions that tell the printer where to move for each thin layer of the print.

CAD/CAM: Creating Machines and Products with Computer-Aided Techniques

With routers and other numerically controlled devices, the files may be converted into similar command sets known as M-code files. This goes to show how easy it is to employ completely different fabrication processes with the same original model. Different kinds of fabrication demand distinct flavours of computer-aided manufacturing formats. For instance, printed circuit boards, or PCBs, are commonly arranged in layers containing traces, or the paths of copper connecting different chips and components.

Common tools like Fritzing and Eagle let you place different parts where you want them and draw the links between them or even have the program calculate optimal routes automatically. Depending on your chosen circuit board fabrication method, such as screen printing and chemical etching, you may be able to convert the result into a vector-graphics-format Gerber file and send it straight to the printer.

One of the coolest things about computer-aided manufacturing and modelling is that there are a ton of open-source programs out there. Some common options with varying capabilities include:. It's important to stress that these tools offer widely varied feature sets. For instance, one common open-source workflow bottleneck involves the fact that there aren't too many free CNC device controllers that have the full set of capabilities needed for professional work.

While options like LinuxCNC are highly popular and relatively well supported, the computer-aided manufacturing industry has historically been dominated by companies that create their own proprietary hardware and custom applications to go with it. Fortunately for companies that demand reliable processes, there's no shortage of paid programs on the market.

Many, such as Mastercam, Vectric and Autodesk , help unify workflows by making it possible to create models and control manufacturing hardware within the same application. Corporate requisitioning officers might also be interested in learning that several of these tools include free trials, so it's usually pretty easy to test them out. One of the biggest advantages of the computer-aided workflow is that it empowers companies to make better use of classic techniques.

For instance, enterprises that create parts using injection moulding and similar methods have to invest significant amounts of capital into the creation of moulds. While such expenses are by no means prohibitive, the costs start climbing rapidly with imperfect processes. For instance, imagine that your firm fails to catch a mistake made during the modelling phase before sending the plans to the production line. You might suddenly find yourself sitting on thousands of expensive, unusable parts.

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  7. Computer-aided models are also vital for creating high-quality tooling. As more advanced techniques become available, it grows increasingly necessary to implement testing and quality control processes for consistency's sake.

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    Since applications can include alerts and safety notifications, it may be a bit easier to avoid silly mistakes, such as creating a tool with an overly thin shaft or the wrong fitting for the device that uses it. Computer-aided production processes aren't anything new, but they've certainly come quite a long way from their origins. Engineering professionals have jumped at the chance to integrate computers into their workflows since their industrial introduction in the s and s.

    While those early tools weren't much more than glorified calculators by today's lofty standards, they set the tone for what was to come. As computer technology and interfaces became more advanced, it was only natural for humans to begin using these tools to reshape the world. Much of the early groundwork was decidedly theoretical. In the late s, mathematician Paul de Casteljau published an eponymous algorithm used to describe polynomial curves in a numerically consistent manner.

    Coincidentally, the proliferation of vector graphics modelling occurred at around the same time that computer technology was becoming democratised. With more people and companies able to access monitors, trackballs and other then-novel tools, businesses and academics naturally began hooking them up to production lines to see what they could create.

    Since digitised industrial systems , such as programmable logic controllers, had already been used in the automotive industry for decades by this point, it wasn't a huge leap to connect fabrication devices to computers. Many of today's manufacturing machines continue to operate on the same underlying principles that early industrial processes leveraged. As technologies like virtual- and augmented-reality interfaces become increasingly widespread, computer-aided production methods will almost certainly take on exciting new dimensions.


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