as an experienced mold engineer, I know that it is not easy to design a perfect plastic product, many aspects need to be considered, so when we select a CAD/CAM software for plastic product design and mold manufacture, we need to know which CAD/CAM software is suitable for our mold design and manufacturing. For example, shapes of plastic products, whether highly stylized for the consumer market or intricately and ergonomically shaped for the medical market and so on.
In my opinion, UGNX, CATIA, PRO/E, Autodesk Moldflow are very excellent softwares in mold design and manufacturing, they can quickly design with fully integrated, accurate manufacturing, engineers can easily handle design parts, also designers can easily create, modify many many parts and assemblies without any problem. But they are very expensive, to buy or not to buy, I think, it depends on your product or your customer’s requirement, you know, there are a lot of professional CAD/CAM softwares to choose from.
CAM software is available in three different configurations. Fully integrated CAD/CAM, CAM packages with some CAD and CAM only.
1. Fully integrated CAD/CAM packages. In this package, the CAM software is integrated within the CAD design software used by the design departments. Because it is integrated in a full design package, it often includes design functions not found in other Cam packages such as; dimensioning, plotting, bill of materials, solid modeling, surface modeling, assemblies and of course an integrated CAM solution.
2. CAM packages with some CAD capabilities are the next configuration. These are typically marketed as CAM systems but include many CAD functions necessary for manufacture. These systems may have the ability to create and edit wireframe, surface and solid models – but may not have all of the advanced design tools available in a full CAD/CAM package.
3. CAM only packages have a precision focus only on CAM. Their software only creates cutterpaths for CNC machines and has only minimalist design functions for things like creating boundaries.
Pro’s and con’s of the approaches to consider are:
Fully integrated CAD/CAM system
One single design to manufacturing workflow
Full CAD functionality for editing parts, or modeling fixtures
Often maintain associativity with the model
Assembly functions allow for easy importation of fixtures, clamps, vises and tables
Fewer interfaces and software to learn
No data translation issues or concerns.
CAM packages with CAD capabilities
May contain niche or special functionality not found in general purpose systems
CAD functions geared towards manufacturing, such as electrode creation.
Company is heavy CAM focused
CAM only packages
Singular CAM focus
Many packages are quite powerful
Can be useful when designs are always ready to be milled.
Determine the Types of Parts You Will Be Milling
Once the types of parts that are being milled are determined, this information can be used to narrow down a product range. Most CAM milling packages fall into different categories of functionality, often dictated by the type of milling being performed.
Drilling – hole boring, gun drill and coolant lines – typically uses canned cycles on your mill controller.
Two-axis milling – where the CNC mill moves simultaneously in the X and Y directions but not in Z. Simple contouring and pocketing are offered here.
Three-axis contouring – this can range from small, fairly simple pieces like a bracket for an engine mount to a very complex mold like an instrument panel dashboard of an automobile. Typically, the mill will move in X, Y and Z simultaneously. This form of milling is the most common.
Five-axis milling – where the machine has some form of rotation ability – typically A, B and/or C – on top of the regular axis movements. If the rotations happen concurrently with the axis (XYZ) movements, it is referred to as simultaneous 5-axis. If the part rotates into position, then mills in three-axis, it is referred to as positional 5-axis.
Also, one may need CAM functionality for non-milling machines such as lathes, wire EDM or laser cutters.
Different CAM products will be stronger at some types of milling than others. Consider whether you need automatic feature recognition for holes and pockets, or if you will program them separately. Perhaps your parts have no simple shapes, but are complex, free form shapes. You must determine which type of milling will be the most critical to your business, and concentrate on those CAM packages that fill those needs. Then, match up functionality in the CAM program with the type of parts you will mill.
Secondly, you also must consider future growth plans. It is not uncommon for companies to take on more complex data and milling as their skill level and experience increases. Although you may start by milling only simple prismatic 3-D parts, you may grow into milling complex 3-D data. CAM packages should provide a growth path for your milling needs.
Two common mistakes of CAM purchase decisions are buying too little software for your needs, or buying too much. If you buy too little, later you typically are forced to upgrade to a different package. If you buy too much, you may overpay and not use a majority of the features you spent money for. One common way that someone may buy too much is purchasing five-axis simultaneous software when it turns out that five-axis positional is faster, easier and less expensive and cuts the parts just as well.