I have been a CAM geek for most of my life. You can imagine my excitement when SOLIDWORKS announced SOLIDWORKS CAM with the 2018 release. At the same time TriMech became an official CAMWorks reseller so that in addition to the SOLIDWORKS CAM products, we could offer all the additional tool options by the same company that powers SOLIDWORKS CAM suite. As a result, TriMech has a solution for almost any CAM need, but being spoiled with so many choices can make it hard to know where to start. That’s what we’re going to touch on here.
What is CAMWorks?
CAMWorks is arguably the most advanced CAM programming software currently available. It offers a next-generation, best-in-class computer numerical control (CNC) programming interface that enables users to program smarter and machine faster. You can use the program on a stand-alone platform, but for our purposes, it fully integrates with SOLIDWORKS. In fact, it is CAMWorks technology that powers SOLIDWORKS CAM.
CAMWorks software can be broken up into a series of feature or tool plugins that can be added on to your current software suite to give you the exact solution you need. In the case of SOLIDWORKS CAM, you take that core group of CAMWorks tools and add it onto your current version of SOLIDWORKS CAD which lets you prepare your designs for manufacturability all within the same software environment.
How do SOLIDWORKS and CAMWorks Work Together?
Back when the 2018 release came out, I dove right in and started finding out as much as I could. The first thing that stood out to me was the integration inside SOLIDWORKS. Anytime I change my part or assembly, the tool paths automatically updated. This was a major improvement over re-importing my updated model, then re-programming in separate software.
Another thing that I really enjoyed was the feature-based programming concept. Gone are the days when I would have to pick an operation, then a tool, then my depth and speeds. I can now simply identify a feature and the operations and tool paths are automatically generated.
There is also an automatic feature recognition option to have over 23 different feature types automatically created and programmed. This is a huge time saving over operational based programming. Once I have all my tool paths created, I can combine, sort and reorder by tool or operation type. This made it very easy to create efficient tool paths and cut down on tool changes.
The backbone of SOLIDWORKS CAM and CAMWorks is the Knowledgebase. This stores all your machine information, tooling and strategies. You can add, modify and reuse any of this to make your programming quick and easy. For example, if you want to machine pockets a certain way, you can modify the default pocket strategy inside of the SOLIDWORKS interface, then save it back out as a new pocket strategy. Next time you create a pocket feature, you can re-use this strategy to automatically create the operations and tool paths.
When to Use CAMWorks vs. SOLIDWORKS CAM
There are many other features available, depending on the CAM package solution you need. Between SOLIDWORKS CAM Standard and CAM Professional, you will find yourself pretty well covered for core features and functionality. When you get into some of the more specialized CAM needs is when you will start wanting to explore additional CAMWorks packages to add on.
- Rotary milling is an additional feature in CAMWorks Standard, which also includes all the features of SOLIDWORKS CAM Professional.
- Simultaneous 3-axis is available in our CAMWorks Milling Standard. 3-axis undercutting with standard and custom tools is available in our CAMWorks Milling Professional.
- Do you have a mill/turn machine with Live Tooling and dual spindles? Want to synchronize those spindles? CAMWorks Turning Standard will do that for 2 and 4-axis milling. CAMWorks Turning Professional will do that for up to 11-axis mill-turn CNC machines.
- For your full simultaneous 4th and 5th Axis needs, we have CAMWorks Premium which also includes everything else in the packages above.
- If you need to optimize your sheet metal and flat stock designs within the SOLIDWORKS environment, NESTINGWorks can do that for you.
- To improve communication between your designers and your shop floor, use CAMWorks ShopFloor. Created to improve quality and increase productivity.
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.