One of my favorite things about SOLIDWORKS is being able to take a design from my head to a 3D Model and then from the 3D model into G-Code that can drive a CNC machine. Almost everyone knows that creating 3D models is a core SOLIDWORKS function, but what about programming for a CNC machine?
Since 2018, SOLIDWORKS CAM and CAMWorks have been an integral part of the SOLIDWORKS design ecosystem, allowing us to use our 3D models to create parts on a CNC machine. Like many products within SOLIDWORKS, there are different packages to fit your needs, whether you're milling, turning or doing advanced machining operations. Keep reading to learn more about our CAM offerings, as well as which package might suit you best.
What is CAMWorks?
In my opinion, CAMWorks is the one of the most powerful CAM programming tools out there while also being one of the easiest to use. The software encompasses incredible, top-tier tools that allow the user to create accurate, highly efficient toolpaths for their CNC machines. What's even better is that it can integrate directly into the SOLIDWORKS environment we all know and love. What's even better than that is SOLIDWORKS CAM has CAMWorks at its core, so no matter which package you use, you can be sure you’re using cutting edge technology with top-of-the-line tools.
SOLIDWORKS Model SOLIDWORKS CAM Tool Path/Cutting Operations
How Does it Work?
SOLIDWORKS CAM and CAMWorks work directly with your SOLIDWORKS Parts and Assemblies. Since the CAM Data is stored with the model, any changes that you make to the part or assembly will automatically make changes to the CAM toolpaths. This means you will not have to make edits to the model and then repeat that work for the toolpaths.
It does not matter if you haven’t had any formal machining training. Any machine or tool you would use to machine the part are all stored in the Technology Database. The Technology Database also stores any strategies you might use to machine out certain parts to control feeds, speeds and toolpaths. You can rest assured these programs will follow best practices. It's like always having a machinist handbook in your back pocket!
Cutting Operation CAM Including the Machine Tooling
Additionally, you can combine the Technology Database with CAMWorks' Automatic Feature Recognition. This command automatically extracts over 20 different types of machinable features from your models which can automatically generate operation plans and toolpaths using the rules set up in the Technology Database. This really speeds up the process from going from 3D Model to physical part.
We are not locked in to just using native SOLIDWORKS files either. The CAM tools with SOLIDWORKS reads the geometry in the model rather than the feature tree. This means that we can create CAM Programs for SOLIDWORKS files as well as imported geometry.
What Do I Need?
With all the features in SOLIDWORKS CAM and CAMWorks, it may be tough to tell which package is perfect for you. Read on below to find some common reasons for moving from one package to another. SOLIDWORKS CAM Standard and Professional should have enough feature coverage to get you started with the CAM tools, but you may need to move to a more specialized CAM package with CAMWORKS.
- SOLIDWORKS CAM Standard covers your standard Milling operations on Part files. This includes 2.5 Axis operations with some basic operations for 3-Axis.
- SOLIDWORKS CAM Professional allows for the same 2.5 and 3 Axis operations but also includes 4th and 5th axis position so your machine can index along those extra axes. With CAM Professional, you gain access to assembly machining as well as programming for turning machines.
- CAMWorks Standard includes everything SOLIDWORKS CAM Standard and Professional include but adds Sub Spindle and Two Turret support for your lathing operations. Additionally, this includes Rotary Milling functionality.
- CAMWorks Milling Professional allows for more advanced 3 Axis operations for roughing and finishing that you couldn’t achieve with SOLIDWORKS CAM.
- CAMWorks Turning Professional gets you access to Mil-Turn operations as well as the CAMWorks Sync manager to synchronize machining operations.
- CAMWorks Premium includes everything listed above but also includes simultaneous machining operations for the 4th and 5th axis.
What if we Don't Have SOLIDWORKS?
All the packages listed above work with and operate inside of SOLIDWORKS to add another tab to the Command Manager with all of the tools for CAM. What happens if our machinists don’t have access to a seat of SOLIDWORKS? Fortunately, there are some stand-alone packages for SOLIDWORKS CAM to fit your need.
- SOLIDWORKS Machinist Standard has all of the features included with SOLIDWORKS CAM Standard but acts as a stand-alone program. It includes the part import features of CAM Standard but does not need a seat of SOLIDWORKS to run.
- SOLIDWORKS Machinist Professional acts just like SOLIDWORKS CAM Professional and has all the same features and functions but is its own stand-alone program.
All these different options help to make sure you are only paying for the functionality you need, but it can be hard to know which package best meets your requirements. That’s why we created a CAM product matrix for easy comparison.