Can Scan2CAD be used for CAM applications?

Updated Apr 14, 2017
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If you’re here reading this blog, chances are you already know a thing or two about Scan2CAD. You probably already know that Scan2CAD is a market-leading application for conversion into DXF or DWG. You might also know that it comes equipped with a full-featured image editing suite. But did you know that Scan2CAD can also be used for CAM applications? Read on to find out more about CAM, and how Scan2CAD can be used to turn vector drawings into real-life objects.

What is CAM?

Computer-aided manufacturing, or CAM, refers to the use of software to control machine tools used in the manufacturing of workpieces and prototypes. CAM applications use the vector images created in CAD software as a starting point, before generating tool paths based on these vectors. These tool paths are then used for CNC machining processes, such as laser cutting/etching, water jet cutting, high-precision milling, printed circuit board manufacturing. These machines are controlled by software, using mathematical X-Y-Z coordinates.

CAD Drawing File

Here’s a simple CAD drawing file that we’ll use for CAM…

CAM in a CNC machine

… and here’s that drawing converted into CNC machine instructions using CAM software!

How does CAM work?

While CAD software is used to create theoretical, virtual versions of an object, CAM software can take CAD output – design and specifications for the manufactured piece – and convert it directly into G-code. This is because CNC tools are programmed using the G programming language or G-code. These codes tell the machine how to move; for example, G01 tells the machine to move the cutting tool in a line at a specific feed rate or distance. This is then followed by codes indicating the axis of motion and increment. There are other codes which control machine operations such as motor on/off, coolant on/off, etc. All of this information is automatically created by the software, but some programmers even manually write out the G-code code as shown in the below image.

G-code sample

An example of a CNC Editor, used by CAM programmers to edit G-code before manufacturing

How can Scan2CAD be used for CAM?

Scan2CAD plays a vital role in the journey from initial sketch to finished end product. One of the new features in Scan2CAD’s latest release is the ability to directly export vector images to a G-code compatible format. This is achieved by exporting the drawing file to a recognized CNC file type. The CNC Export dialog in Scan2CAD provides a range of options that can be used when exporting an image to a G-code compatible format, including:

  • G-code Bezier options – cubic splines (G-code G05), arcs (G-code G02/G03) or polylines (G-code G01)
  • Arc and circle rotation – clockwise or anti-clockwise
  • Z-settings – various parameters relating to the cutting of the exported vectors
  • Scale settings – the relation between vector points and a distance in real-life – e.g. two points on a vector image could represent an inch

An example of Scan2CAD being used in the industry: a microchip manufacturer had a large number of poor quality and “dirty” images, which they needed to edit in their CAD application. They turned to Scan2CAD to recover the images and convert the images to vector, which is then saved in G-code format (CNC). The files are then be transferred to the industry-specific CAM application and edited for production!

Do you use Scan2CAD for CAM? Let us know!

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