What Every Shop Should Know About Choosing a CAD/CAM System

Over the next several weeks we will discuss the different factors to take into account when choosing a CAD/CAM system. Each Section will take a deeper look, through a series of questions, and help you arrive at the perfect decision for you and your business.

Section 1 – Software Selection Guidelines

User Interface:

  • Is the screen arrangement logical and easy to read?
  • Can beginners and experts pick functions conveniently?
  • Are important of “active” menu elements highlighted?
  • Can you customize the menus and graphics display?

CAD Functionality:

  • Does the software price include file translators?
  • What entity types can it create, import, and export?
  • Are there direct “links” to popular CAD software packages?
  • Is it easy to modify geometric entities?
  • How easy is it to create a model from a print?

CAM Functionality:

  • Can the system machine simple and complex parts easily?
  • What entity types can the system use for machining?
  • Are toolpaths easy to edit?
  • Are the toolpath and geometry linked?
  • Is the system truly flexible?
  • Can the system calculate feeds and speeds?
  • Are gouge and undercut avoidance built in?
  • can you manually override defaults and protections?
  • Will the software optimize feed rates?
  • Does the software customize itself based on your machine?
  • Does the software verify your part on screen?

NC Code Output:

  • How does the system create NC output?
  • Does the software price include post processors?
  • Who will customize the NC output for your system?
  • Can you customize the post processors?
  • Is it easy to switch a program between machines?

General Software Information:

  • Are the CAD/CAM functions in the same package?
  • Is the software developer strong in both CAD/CAM?
  • Are third-party packages available to add on?
  • Is there a growth path to more powerful software?
  • What other software is available from the company?
  • Is the software network-compatible?
  • What operating system is required by the CAD/CAM software?
  • Is the software widely used?

Software Maintenance and Update Policies:

  • How frequently are software updates provided?
  • How much do software updates cost?

Software Training:

  • What kind of training is available for the software?
  • Does the software price include training?
  • How much training will you need to become productive?
  • Are advanced training courses available?

Technical Support:

  • What technical support is available?
  • How much will technical support cost?
  • Does the company publish customer newsletters?
  • Does the company Web site offer downloads?
  • Is there a user group for the software in your area?

All of these questions, as well as their answers, will help you determine which CAD/CAM system is right for you. Many times Mastercam jumps to the front of the list because of its functionality and usability across a wide spectrum of applications.

Stay tuned for the next Section in What Every Shop Should Know About Choosing a CAD/CAM System!