Fully Integrated CADCAM

How many more steps would your CAD and CAM system require to do this?

How many more steps would it take CAM running inside of SolidWorks or Autodesk Inventor require to do this?

Don't forget that this is a imported dumb solid which has no history.


Update 4-28-2012:

Even long time stand-alone Mastercam users are beginning to get a clue about the huge benefits of using powerful CAD with their CAM. Compared to the garbage CAD that stand-alone Mastercam contains this is a huge relief! While it's not true, fully integrated CADCAM, Mastercam For SolidWorks is a hell of a lot better than using stand-alone Mastercam when it comes to:

Geometry Selection Tools:

How is it acceptable in stand-alone Mastercam that you have to tell Mastercam when you want to pick a solid, a solid face, etc. This is not an issue in Mastercam For SolidWorks.


Solid Chaining is a freaking nightmare in stand-alone Mastercam. Most experienced users won't touch it will a ten foot pole and instead rely on wire frame / curves chaining. Not an issue in Mastercam For SolidWorks. You can actually see the chains in Mastercam For SolidWorks and the gnomen is shaded and easy to see. When you rotate your model the direction arrows don't disappear... image that!

As posted today to eMastercam:

"I use MCfSW (Mastercam For SolidWorks) for projects where associativity to the model will be useful, such as fixture/tooling design and manufacturing. I also use it for stock prep operations. Associativity is a huge time saver for work like this as it is inevitable that something will need changing as your project progresses. There is nothing I hate more than importing a SolidWorks designed brick into Mastercam, then discovering a required change and reimporting the modified model again and again and again."

Update 3-13-2012:

For the first time I finally see a few CAM users waking up to the fact that CAM inside of SolidWorks or Autdesk Inventor isn't as fully integrated as is constantly claimed. All I can say is that it's about time:

CAM not as integrated as claimed.

"Although I found out it's not as automatic and intergraded as they say it is."

Most people still don't understand the need for fully integrated CADCAM and come up with all sorts of excuses why it's not necessary or not the way to go. Often lame excuses are given for not purchasing fully integrated CADCAM such as it ties up a seat of expensive CAD software. This kind of lame excuse is made by people who haven't taken the time to do any research because SolidWorks can be purchased from an integrated CAM vendor in a stripped down version. The stripped down version of SolidWorks has the full part and full assembly modeling of the expensive version and can be had for approximately $1,500. 

Here are the reasons why fully integrated CADCAM is a must and the only thing you should be considering:

You can't produce CAM programs quick enough if the CAD part of your CAM system is always limiting you.

Most legacy CAM programs started with wireframe geometry and many years later they added the Parasolid kernel for solids. In legacy CAM programs like this you constantly have to tell the system what you want to pick before you pick it and you have to waste massive amounts of time extracting wireframe geometry from the solid.

When you combine powerful solid modeling with continuous stock management and use an underlying logic you have the ability to remove the need for chaining in most situations. This can be seen in Missler TopSolid where you rarely have to chain anything and instead just pick a face.

Powerful CAD solid modeling gives you an assembly mode. Assembly mode is a much easier and smarter way to create and manage CAM programs than copying and pasting between Layers (also called Workgroups and Levels)

Mating is a very powerful and useful tool.

If the CAM integration is done right you end up with the look and feel of just one application rather than having two distinct and separate applications both with entirely different looks and feels.

No wasting time going back and forth constantly from CAM to CAD.

No file translation problems!

If you are working with a naive CAD file when a customer makes changes to the CAD file it's quicker and easier to make the needed CAM changes when you are using fully integrated CADCAM.

Using PDM in a fully integrated CADCAM package makes it much easier to manage your files. TopSolid CADCAM 7 takes this one step further because not only is the CAD and CAM from one vendor and fully  integrated but they have built in PDM that's transparent rather than PDM as a separate application.

The Problem With CAM That Runs Inside Of SolidWorks: 

The Lie: 

CAM that runs inside of SolidWorks is fully integrated and just like you're using SolidWorks.

The Truth: 

CAM that runs inside of SolidWorks has many parts that aren't like using SolidWorks at all and are unique to each CAM system that runs inside of SolidWorks. How you set up work coordinate systems, how you copy and paste machining operations, how you define and manage stock, etc. The sad FACT is that every CAM system that runs inside of SolidWorks has created their own unique (and often bizarre) ways to manage these tasks. Most CAM vendors who run  inside of SolidWorks do their level best to hide the exact details of how these parts of their CAM program work because it contradicts their claim that running their CAM inside of SolidWorks is just like the SolidWorks experience. This is especially true when you are dealing with an Assembly approaches to machining  multiple different parts

The only true fully integrated CADCAM that I've ever seen is when one vendor creates both the CAD and the CAM programs. This makes a huge difference because then the CADCAM vendor can create unique Assembly type files for CAM and for Stock that act just like their regular Assembly files. No CAM program I've even seen that runs inside SolidWorks creates its own unique Assembly type files for CAM and for Stock and instead what they appear to do is run on top of the SolidWorks Assembly file. When this happens the CAD and CAM integration is severely disrupted!

Creating CAM programs for multiple different parts really taxes the capabilities of a CAM system running inside of SolidWorks and nowhere is this more evident than when you are trying to do serious production machining on tombstones or where you wish to program multiple setups for multiple different parts and machine them all at once. While the tools you get with a CAM system that runs inside of SolidWorks are much better than legacy code CAM systems like Mastercam, Surfcam, FeatureCAM, Gibbscam, etc. they still aren't anywhere near ideal or good enough compared to what I've seen in CADCAM systems where one vendor is creating both the CAD and the CAM parts of the program.

To get an idea of what I'm talking about I suggest you follow the links to the videos below. I hope that one day this works a hell of a lot better than what you see in the videos.

Delcam calls their video multiple-part fixture machining. This is not a very well done video and they don't even show the fixtures! I also suspect that you can't actually edit your toolpaths from this unique Assembly type of file and that you have to go back to the individual part files to edit your toolpaths.

Link To A Video That Shows Multiple Fixture Programming In Delcam For SolidWorks

Here is what it's like in CAMWorks. You won't find this on You Tube or on the CAMWorks website because CAMWorks doesn't what to show you how lousy their integration with SolidWorks really is in this area. While the video is old sadly this is still the same process in CAMWorks 2012:

Download Link For A Video That Shows How CAMWorks Assembly Machining Works.

In the next few weeks I hope to have video examples of how CADCAM integration really should be done and how much better the integration is when one vendor provides both the CAD and the CAM parts of the program. Also, managing all these different files with PDM is a must if you want to keep your sanity. If you're trying to manage this without PDM it's very easy to make mistakes.

Update 2-21-2012:

Here is a video that shows how CADCAM integration should be done and the radical difference it makes when one vendor creates both the CAD and the CAM:


  1. I look foward to your development of this topic.
    I have concerns also about a CAM products integration in Solidworks.
    For a small modest shop like my own, paying subscription for both Solidworks and another for CAM could be economically exasterbating in the years to come.

  2. Ever used NX CAM? Probably the best cam software on the market but very expensive and integrate extremely well with NX and solidedge.

  3. I heard about a new comer called NCSIMUL CAM....no more post-pro, simulation is integrated, native G-code programming...no need to pay for a post-processor, a verification software and a CAM system and all the surrounding interfaces.