CNC Software…What is it?

Posted May 14, 2013 4:37 pm   Published by    BobCAD-CAM

You may have heard someone say that they were “looking for good cnc software” or someone say they “needed to learn how to use their cnc software”. In 2013, it is something that every CNC business needs. The term “CNC” is an acronym for “Computer Numerical Control“. CNC differentiates between a machine that has a “Controller” on it from one that is manually run. The machines we are referring to in the world of metal cutting would be a Mill, Lathe, Router, Water Jet, Laser, Plasma, Wire EDM or Burning machine. Therefore, a CNC Machine is one that can read in a numeric code/language that contains data about cutting, axial coordinates, tool information and much more. CNC Machine

While CNC Machines have revolutionized the way we have been manufacturing since the 40’s, the methods that have been developed for programming these machine tools has evolved dramatically in the last 20 years. This leads us to “CNC Software” which is better known as CAD/CAM Software (Computer Aided Design & Computer Aided Manufacturing”. While this is not an article on CAD Design Technology, we will say that CNC Software refers more to the machine tool programming and automation side of the manufacturing process. Basically CAD/CAM software is for taking a drawing/part geometry (wireframe, surfaces or solid models) and turning it into a program that involves cutting or machining toolpath and then posting it in a highly organized NC machine language that the machine controller will understand and execute.
BobCAD-CAM software screenshot
While CNC machine technology was advancing throughout the 90’s many shops still had durable manual knee mill type milling machines (namely Bridgeport who has shipped out over 350,000 of them in the last 70 years) that required CNC Retrofits in order to be used with CAD/CAM software. For many years companies such as Centroid and Southwestern Industries have been providing hardware retrofit products for these machines bringing them back to life. Then there are other providers that have focused more on CNC Controller Software such as ArtSoft and their Mach 3 CNC Controller Software product. Mach 3 is also referred to as “CNC Software” as it has everything to do with “CNC” and turning a desktop computer into a fully featured 6 Axis CNC Controller. CNC Software is widely searched throughout the manufacturing communities on internet search engines as well. If you are looking for software to turn drawings into toolpath and NC programs for your CNC machine you may consider searching “CAD/CAM Software” in order to accurately locate providers that offer CAD/CAM CNC software products.
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