A CNC mill is used to create a part. It is a three-phase process. CAD or Computer-Aided Design is used to draw the part. You will then convert the drawing to G-code via the CAM or Computer-Aided Manufacturing program. The G-Code will then control the CNC mill to produce the part.
Creating a Drawing
There are lots of CAD programs that you use to create a drawing. You can find free CAD online, but others may cost you thousands of dollars. The computer-aided design is the use of computers to help in the creation, analysis, modification, or optimization of the plan. The software is used to enhance the productivity of the designer, improve communications via documentation, improve design quality, and to produce a database for manufacturing.
The CAM Process
The Computer-Aided Manufacturing or CAM software takes the drawing done in CAD and converts it into G-Code. CAM is an interactive process since you need to instruct the software what tools you will use, plus information like cutting depth, cutting speed, and spindle speed. There are lots of CAM programs that you can choose.
The CAM process will vary depending on the software you have chosen. For beginners, you can use the free software, and as you go along and master the manufacturing process, you can decide to get the paid software.
Creating the Part
The final process of the CNC machining is creating the part. You have created the drawing, converted it into g-code, now it’s time for you to create the prototype you need. The G-code is the language your CNC machine understands. If you have a commercial CNC machine like the HAAS Vertical Machining Center, the controller would be designed into the computer. You need to transfer the G-code directly into the equipment.
You might be wondering, do you need this software? The answer is no. You can get the g-code by hand. And most machine controllers are equipped with a conversational mode that can help you write the G-code for operations like cutting a slot.
The other means of doing this is by hand-coding. You can create g-code by hand, by typing the g-code commands into a text editor like Notepad. For simple projects, this could be the fastest way to make your part. For complicated projects that require accurate measurements, you need to buy a CAD/CAM software that will fit your CNC machine.