There was a time when CAD (Computer-Aided Design) and CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) were two distinct operational technologies, each catering to specific industry needs. But today, thanks to the innovative excellence in the field of science, CAD and CAM have merged into one single operation.
CAD CAM software programs are being widely used across next-level designing, prototyping, and manufacturing industries, from dentistry to aerospace.
Let us dive deep into the world of CAD CAM and figure out how it works. Also, we shall discuss the 10 best free CAD/CAM software programs and their features.
What is CAD-CAM Software?
Computer-Aided Design or CAD Software helps designers or draftsmen to create computer models based on specific geometrical parameters. During the design phase, a three-dimensional model representation shows up on the monitor, which can then be customized by altering relevant parameters of any specific part of the model.
This enables the designer to view the model from multiple perspectives and test them virtually to simulate real-life situations. This indeed has transformed the way designers conduct their duties and has opened up newer avenues of innovation.
Now, computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) takes over from where CAD leaves the scene. With CAM, draftsmen can use relevant geometrical design data to take care of automated machinery.
Computer-Aided Manufacturing or CAM software is unique in its association with CNC (Computer Numerical Control) systems instead of the older Numerical Control (NC) system. This makes it easier for the designers to encode geometrical data into the system mechanically.
Benefits of Using Paid or Free CAD CAM Software?
Today, CAD and CAM, both computer-based methods, can be integrated to seamlessly streamline the design and manufacturing phases through encoded geometric data. Thanks to the linkage between CAD and CAM, the time span required between designing and manufacturing processes have been shortened to a large extent.
Additionally, the scope of automated production has been boosted, thanks to the high economic alternative that CAD CAM has introduced.
Given the integration capabilities of the two technologies, the overall expenses of an organization have been slashed significantly. Also, the user-friendliness of CAD CAM software systems makes the designing and manufacturing processes swifter.
In short, CAD/CAM software has vested more control in the hands of designers, which further simplifies the end-to-end design and manufacturing process.
Why Use CAD-CAM Software?
CAD software systems have significantly transformed the way the industrial manufacturing sector works. CAD has made designing more manageable and highly accessible, while CAM has redefined how the manufacturing industry operates.
CAM employs numerical codes to convert CAD-generated models into physical products swiftly. This reduces the traditional operational lag between the design and manufacturing processes.
Today, architects make use of CAD modeling while automotive organizations use CAM software to create physical prototypes. Not only these, but there are a lot of other uses of CAD-CAM software programs.
Here are some of the main reasons why you should adopt CAD-CAM software:
Save Time: With CAD CAM software systems, you can save hours at every stage of your designing and engineering process. This is because CAD/CAM software programs help you design and produce prototypes and finished products in a fraction of the time.
Better Control and Accuracy: CAD CAM systems enable designers and engineers to have more control in their creative and production processes. Designers can zoom in and check each part of a model to find any faults and rectify them in real-time, improving accuracy and reducing operational expenses.
Integration: CAD CAM software helps engineers and designers to integrate their operational divisions with each other. This means one can design a 3D model on their CAD software and then connect it directly with the production plant to produce a real-life prototype of the newly designed model.
Seamless and errorless design process: Before CAD/CAM software made its debut, designers had to manually draw every part of a model on paper using pencils, compasses, and other tools. This made the process difficult, hectic, time-consuming, and erroneous.
With CAD CAM software solutions, there’s no such hassle involved. You can utilize the program’s in-built tools to check flaws in the model and automate the redesign process.
Reduced wastage: Thanks to the simulation features that CAD-CAM software programs bring to the table; manufacturers can visually inspect the entire machining process before actually manufacturing a prototype.
This enables the manufacturer to figure out design flaws in an early stage, which, in turn, reduces instances of raw material wastage.
What is the Difference Between CAD and CAM?
|Full Form||It stands for Computer Aided Design||It stands for Computer Aided Manufacturing|
|Another Name||Computer Aided Drafting||Computer Aided Modeling|
|Definition||Application of computer system to help in creating, modifying, and analyzing design activities||Application of computer software for controlling machine tools (to create final products from designs) in module manufacturing|
|Use||Create 2D technical drawings and 3D models||Design machining processes via 3D models|
|Requirements||A computer system and CAD software for design development by technician||A computer system, a CAM software package, a CAM machine for manufacturing|
|User||Generally by a mechanical/ electronics engineer||Trained machinist|
|Software Examples||CATIA, AutoCAD, Solid Works, Autodesk Inventor||SolidCAM, Work NC, Power MILL, Siemens NX|
Top 10 CAD CAM Software List for Beginners
Here are some of the best free CAM software programs that you might want to check out:
Solid Edge CAM Pro
Best for: Additive Manufacturing, Turning, CNC, Nesting, Milling, NC Simulation, PMI function, and Feature-Based Machining.
Solid Edge CAM Pro is one of the best CAD software for CNC and comes with crucial tools that aid perfectionism. The modular configuration of programming solutions gives access to some of the most efficient machine tools, which maximize their productivity.
This free CAD software provides a vast array of traditional and modern manufacturing techniques, like nesting, CNC machining, cutting, molding, welding, bending, assembling, etc.
Solid Edge CAM Pro Features
- Easy to use dashboard enables better accessibility
- An intuitive interface makes it easy to navigate
- Integration with third-party tools
- PMI (Product Manufacturing Information) functionality helps NC Programmers to design manufacturing plans as per the customized specifications
- Get access to the postprocessor library and streamline your production-ready design process
Solid Edge CAM Pro Price
Solid Edge CAM Pro offers a free demo. Additionally, start-ups that have been operating for less than three years are eligible for the free CAD software version of Solid Edge CAM Pro.
Fusion 360 CAM
Best for: 2.5, Four, and Five-axis milling, Mill-turning, Turning, Adaptive clearing, Simulation, Probing, and Profiling.
Often being hailed as the best CAD-CAM software for beginners and hobbyists, Fusion 360 is slowly transitioning to more advanced technologies to cater to the industrial market needs.
This free CAM software helps engineering students design and three-dimensional sketch models. Fusion 360 can handle end-to-end operations spanning design and manufacturing, which makes industrial operations a seamless experience.
Fusion 360 CAD CAM allows designers to virtually test the durability of their newly-designed creations in real-life conditions.
Fusion 360 CAM Software Features
- Real-time collaboration tools for seamless teamwork
- Availability of a wide range of parametric and surface modeling tools
- The software’s Artificial Intelligence technology allows creators to review designing outcomes
- Admins get better control over data management and user accessibility
- Enables designers to speed up their designing process
Fusion 360 CAM Price
Fusion 360 CAD software is free for non-commercial use. However, the free version has limited CAM functionalities. The Premium plan starts at Rs 22,420 per year.
Best for: Milling, Turning, 2.5- and 3-axis Milling, 4- and 5-axis Milling
Solidworks CAM is solid-modeling, parametric-feature-based software and is considered one of the best CAM software for mechanical engineers.
Its user-friendly interface and web-based platform make it the best CAM software for beginners. Solidworks 3D is a popular CAD-CAM solution that uses the NURBS system that enables designers to create minutely detailed curvatures.
Solidworks CAD CAM Software Features
- Easy-to-use software for fast and efficient designing
- Use 3D animation to add more functionality to your communication
- Speed up your product development process using the tool’s automated features
- Real-time simulations to detect how your design would react to real-life conditions
- Get access to data management tools and streamline your admin responsibilities
Solidworks CAM Price
Solidworks 3D CAD software is available for free with limited functionalities for non-commercial use. For the detailed pricing, please refer to the website.
Best for: 2D drafting, 3D parametric modeling, technically accurate symmetry.
AutoCAD is one of the oldest and best CAD CAM software for architecture. Along with 2D drafting, the tool also comes with 3D parametric modeling capabilities. The 3D models that you design on AutoCAD are easily convertible to STL files for the purpose of 3D printing.
AutoCAD CAM software brings industry-specific tools to the table and promotes improved workflows across multiple platforms, including web, desktop, and mobile. For starters, they offer a 30-day free trial.
- A simple user interface makes the tool easier to handle
- Extensive mapping tools ensure better design control
- State-of-the-art design tools for extensive details
- Leverage existing data to brainstorm and produce new designs
- Visualization tools provide a comprehensive view of the probable finish-product
AutoCAD CAM Pricing
AutoCAD offers a free trial for 30 days. You can also avail it for free educational version with limited features on the official website.
Best for: 3D Modeling, Dynamic topology, Multi-resolution sculpting, and Voxel remeshing.
ScultpGL is one of the best web-based free CAM software for 3D sculpting that helps designers to generate geometrical shapes and revise them instantly.
This particular CAD-CAM software enables you to work on painting, textures, and multi-resolution sculpting. Its five-axis milling comes with a set of multi-tactic machining that enables designers to machine a wide range of parts on the 3D model’s surface.
- The intuitive user interface makes it comfortable for beginners
- Standard 3D sculpting tools help brush up on their geometrical drawing process
- Extensive painting, brushing, and texture tools for adding an edge to your design
- Multi-dimensional sculpting tools for comprehensive design
- Fast rendering ensures fast deployment of production-ready designs
- Web-based deployment helps you store all your data on the cloud
Pricing: SculptGL is available online for free download and is compatible with Windows 7, 8 and 10.
Best for: 3D sculpting, Painting, Mesh shading
K-3D is considered to be one of the most flexible free CAD software for architecture. With this tool, you can scale up your 3D modeling endeavors and deploy several animation features to add an edge to your design process.
K-3D software is perfect for beginners. In case of mistakes, you can utilize the application’s advanced undo/redo system that enables you to revise your designs.
K-3D’s parametric workflow is user-friendly and comes with amazing visualization features, which ensures total control of your design process.
K-3D Software Features
- A responsive sculpting interface makes the process user-friendly
- Automated symmetry tools ensure your design is never asymmetrical
- Supports importing and exporting of 3D files in various formats
- You can add multiple vertices to manipulate your painting and give it a visual edge
K-3D Software Pricing
K-3D is a free, open-source CAD CAM software that follows the free as in freedom model. K-3D users get the freedom to copy, change, run and improve the source code.
Best for: Build models using nodes, solid modeling, 2D and 3D modeling, modeling with Boolean operations.
Antimony is one of the best free CAD software, best known for its 3D parametric features. The tool’s intuitive workflow makes it perfect for beginners.
When it comes to executing 3D modeling projects, this CAD solution offers extensive accessibility and superior navigation that enables new users to understand the program’s functionality without any difficulties.
Antimony CAD CAM Software Features
- Geometry engine perfect for those who want to do CSG
- Library of standard shapes
- Functional representations suitable for solid modeling
- Best-suited for Boolean operations
- Low entry-bar
- Create complex 3D models for free
- Framework for information flow tracking
Antimony is a free, open-source 3D CAD software.
Best for: 3d modeling, Photo-to-3D modeling, 3D printing, Augmented Reality modeling.
Smoothie 3D is yet another best free CAM software program that enables users to create 3D models efficiently. You can use primitive shapes to generate complex 3D designs.
One of the main features of this application is that you can use 2D images to generate 3D models and then print your design in 3D to bring it to life.
Smoothie 3D Software Features
- Supports Apple pencil, which ensures an efficient drawing process
- Can generate Augmented Reality models
- Smart texture mapping for more control
- Stokes to draw smooth shapes
- Scaling of shapes made easier
Smoothie 3D is completely free CAD software that involves no additional cost.
Best for: Automatic formatting, Comparison preview, creating 2D sketches, create and revise 2D and 3D files.
DraftSight is a free CAD software best-suited for 2D drawings and CAD applications. This particular CAD tool is perfect for beginners, given its intuitive user interface.
Its comprehensive documentation and webinars help new users gain the appropriate skills require to operate this software. The barrier of entry is very low as far as the tool’s usability is concerned. This free CAM tool is available for both Windows and Mac operating systems.
DraftSight Software Features
- The customizable and user-friendly interface makes things easier for beginners
- Easy transition from other CAD applications in terms of familiarity
- Ample choice of licensing; perfect for beginners
- Ready to use legacy data and drawings
- Effortless transition from 2D drafting to 3D modeling and vice versa
- Multiple design templates enable you to design as per you preference
DraftSight CAD Software Pricing
DraftSight offers a free trial for 30 days, after which you would be charged Rs. 41,182 per year.
Best for: Create parts from scratch, CNC Programming
MasterCAM is a popular Windows-based CAM solution that enables users to streamline production process and generate parts with better accuracy and quality.
With integrated CAD, you can read CAD files from Rhino 3DM, Inventor, SolidWorks, Parasolids, and many others.
- Direct modelling for experimenting with different designs
- Can import geometry from any digital source for programming
- Surface modelling to create complex organic shapes
- Multiaxis cutting to remove excess material
- Integration with third-party solutions like APlus, Excellerant, RobotMaster, and more
Mastercam Demo/Home Learning Edition is available for free for up to 1 year. For the industrial version, you can purchase a perpetual or subscription license. You can contact the vendor for more details.
- What is the best CNC CAM software?
Mastercam is a great choice for CNC CAM software. It is available for free for a period of 1 year. The edition for educational purposes is also cost effective. Solid Edge is another great CNC CAM software.
- Which is best software for CAD CAM?
K-3D and Antimony are some of the best software options for CAD CAM. Both are free and open source.
- Where is CAM software used?
The purpose of CAM software is to create G-code (detailed instructions) through numerical control to control CNC machines such as routers, lathes, mills, and so on. It automates repetitive tasks like cutting and drilling for manufacturing.
- How much does CAM software cost?
The cost of CAM software varies depending on your country and requirements. On average, the cost of a solution ranges from INR 3,77,180 to 15,08,750.