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. But what do the CAMWorks options in SOLIDWORKS CAM actually do?
What is CAMWorks?
It 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 the technology in this software that powers SOLIDWORKS CAM.
The 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 They 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.