CAD.CAM (computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing) is a general term for a variety of technologies, including computer numerical control, rapid prototyping, component modeling and design software. CAD.CAM technologies were developed during the 1980s and are now widespread in industry and academia. CAD.CAM refers to the use of computers and computer-controlled manufacturing in the design of products.
Advantage: Software Flexibility
Using CAD software enables design changes to be made rapidly. Before CAD, a particular design change would have required a draftsperson to completely redraw the design to the new specification. CAD software allows designers to tinker with designs and make small changes on the fly. It can also be used to simulate the behavior of the design in software. For example, CAD software can be used to simulate the airflow around an engine. This allows for greater flexibility in the software design process.
Advantage: Design Flexibility
Another term for CAM is rapid prototyping. Rapid prototyping allows designers to construct physical prototypes during the design process. These physical prototypes can be used to test various aspects of the design. For example, if the goal is to design a steel object, then a prototype can be made out of transparent acrylic. The transparency of the acrylic prototype allows designers to view the pattern of stresses and strains within the object. This allows for greater flexibility in the physical design and prototyping process.
Advantage: Automatic Specification Checking
Using CAD software enables the designer to automatically check if the design is within specification. CAD software also enables clients to view designs at an earlier stage in the design process than is usually the case. CAM also enables clients to check the progress of functional and semi-functional prototypes at a much earlier stage than is possible in the traditional design process.
Disadvantage: Processing Power Limitations and Cost
CAD software often consumes large amounts of computer processing power. This requires high-quality computer hardware that can be costly. CAM requires advanced manufacturing devices that are also very expensive. The cost of hardware is a significant disadvantage of CAD.CAM and a major barrier to the wider uptake of CAD.CAM technologies.
Disadvantage: Software Complexity
As CAD software advances, it becomes more flexible and adaptable. However, this comes at the cost of making the software more complex. This complexity makes it more difficult for first-time users to learn the software. Combined with the cost of training personnel in CAD.CAM technologies, this complexity represents another disadvantage of CAD.CAM.