CAD-CAM Guide for New CNC Machinists


Maybe you are transitioning from manual machining to CNC machining or maybe you are newer to machining and just want to learn more. Either way, this article has the information needed to bring you up to speed on the basic things you should know when getting started. Let’s start with some everyday terminology you can expect to see regularly. Today’s whitepaper is for new CNC machinists. We will introduce you to everyday terminologies you need to know, introduce you to the various kinds of machines that accept G or M code and the types of software that are available for those machines.

Basic Introductory CAD-CAM Terminology

cnc machines
What does CAD stand for?
Computer-Aided Design.
What is CAD used for?
​2D and 3D drawing/designing on a computer.
What does CAM stand for?
​Computer-Aided Manufacturing or Machining.
What is CAM used for? ​
To create a program to machine or manufacture.
What does 2 Dimensional mean?
​Flat, no shape X,Y.
What does 3 Dimensional mean?​
Has shape, contours X,Y,Z.
What does NC stand for?
​Numeric Control.
What does numeric mean? ​
A number or numeral.
What does CNC stand for? ​
Computer Numeric Control.
What is a post processor? ​
A translator. Post Processors are used to generate NC programs that are specific to each individual CNC machine controller. The Post Processor drives the format of the G or M-code that will be produced and ultimately instruct your machine how to create your part.
What is a Machine Wizard?
Wizards are a series of screens that guide the programmer systematically, step-by-step through a task.
cnc software machine wizard guide
What is G-Code?
​A set of instructions understood by CNC equipment. G stands for Geometric and Code has to do with the systematic collection of numbers or symbols that are put together as a language to give instruction. It’s the language produced by a CAM system that is sent to the machine to make the machine cut the part.
What is a 2D toolpath?
​X-width (horizontal) and Y-length (vertical) movement a cutter takes 24.
What is a 3D toolpath? ​
X, Y, and Z-depth movement a cutter takes.
3d part with toolpath
What is a Job Tree? ​
It’s a way to organize data on a computer that is based on one original item that branches into another item which branches into more items.
What does extrude mean? ​
To force out or to force through a die.
extrude in cnc software
What does parametric mean? ​
It means you can make something larger or different by a parameter.
What is a X-axis? ​
The width; left and right motion.
What is a Y-axis? ​
The length; front to back motion.
What is a Z-axis? ​
The depth; up and down motion.
What is an A-axis? ​
It’s used along with the X, Y, and Z axes in 4 axis machining.
What is a B-axis?
​Same as above. In 4 axis machining X rotates to A, Y rotates to B.

CNC Machines & Their Functions

Milling is the process of a machine using rotary cutters to remove material by advancing a cutter into a workpiece. This may be done varying direction on one or several axes, cutter head speed, and pressure. [1]
mill cnc machine
Mill Turn
CNC Mill Turn Machines are multi-tasking, multi-function CNC machines used for producing complex workpieces in one operation. These machines are capable of turning a workpiece and applying rotating tooling operations such as milling and cross-drilling. [2]
A lathe is a machine that rotates a workpiece on a spindle to cut away excess material, using cutting tools and drill bits with different diameters that are applied to the workpiece to produce a symmetrical object. [3]
Laser cutting works by directing the output of a high-power laser most commonly through optics. The [laser optics] and CNC (computer numerical control) are used to direct the material or the laser beam generated. [4]
Plasma cutting is a process that cuts through electrically conductive materials by means of an accelerated jet of hot plasma. Typical materials cut with a plasma torch include steel, stainless steel, aluminum, brass and copper, although other conductive metals may be cut as well. [5]
plasma cnc machine
A waterjet cutter, also known as a water jet or waterjet, is an industrial tool capable of cutting a wide variety of materials using a very high-pressure jet of water, or a mixture of water and an abrasive substance. [6]
Wire EDM
Electrical discharge machining (EDM), also known as spark machining, spark eroding, burning, die sinking, wire burning or wire erosion, is a manufacturing process whereby a desired shape is obtained by using electrical discharges (sparks). [7]
wire edm machine
A computer numerical control (CNC) router is a computer-controlled cutting machine related to the hand-held router used for cutting various hard materials, such as wood, composites, aluminum, steel, plastics, glass, and foams… They can also cut mortises and tenons. [8]

Software For Your CNC Machine

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, Waterjet, 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 Milling Software
Milling software delivers the functionality you need to program everything from simple engraving, profile, pocket and hole cycles, to complex simultaneous 4 & 5 axis milling routines. It incorporates a full range of sophisticated, efficient and modern machining strategies through a simple wizard-driven interface that makes programming quicker & easier, even for new and occasional users. Dynamic Machining Strategies™ minimize your programming while advanced solid simulation lets you test and confirm your work, giving you confidence in your part programming.
CNC Mill Turn Software
Spend more time running parts and less time programming with Mill Turn CNC software for Live Tooling lathes that use C-axis. Use your main or sub spindle, upper or lower turret, part catcher, tails stock, Y-axis and more with our standard Mill Turn package. A simple wizard-driven interface makes programming quicker and easier. 5-axis turning centers that use a B-axis (Milling head) are fully supported, allowing for complex multi-tasking machines with up to 10 turrets and 10 spindles. Easily program intricate features and compound angles found on parts for medical, aerospace, oil & gas, automotive, consumer products and many more.
mill turn cnc software
CNC Lathe Software
CAD-CAM for CNC Lathe allows you to design or import part geometry which you’ll assign toolpath strategies to use an intuitive, wizard guiding interface. Feature-type programming makes it easy to control the direction of the cut and where on the part the toolpath is created. Lathe CAD-CAM makes it easy and fast to set up 2-Axis toolpaths for OD and ID roughing, finishing, threading, grooving, boring, drilling, cut-offs and more.
CNC Laser, Plasma & Waterjet Software
CAD-CAM software for CNC laser, plasma, and waterjet machines delivers the power you need to machine everything from simple 2 axis to complex multiaxis part cutting. It incorporates a full range of sophisticated and fully associative machining strategies through a simple wizard-driven interface to make programming quicker and easier, even for new and occasional users. Dynamic Machining Strategies™ offers a reduction in programming time by allowing you to assign multiple machining strategies to a single feature while advanced simulation functionality lets you test and confirm your work to give you the peace of mind in your CNC programming.
CNC Wire EDM Software
Quickly and easily program your intricate part shapes with constant tapers, variable tapers, lands areas, sharp or radius corners using 2 and 4 axis toolpath. Use of open, closed, inside or outside cutting features defined by its wizard-driven CAM technology. This powerful software allows users to customize skim passes, independent lead-ins & lead-outs, glue stops, cutting conditions and 4 axis synchronization. A complete wire EDM programming solution that works with Mitsubishi, Japax, Brother, Fanuc, Sodick and other CNC Wire EDM machines.
CNC Router Software
Use CAD-CAM for CNC router software to seamlessly transition from designing your 2D and 3D models to assigning advanced high-speed toolpath strategies in the fully integrated and associative CAM software. A wizard guiding interface for CNC router operations takes the guesswork out of CNC programming while Dynamic Machining Strategies™ reduces programming time by allowing you to assign multiple cutting strategies to a single feature. Advanced simulation features allow you to visually inspect and confirm your work to give you the peace of mind in your CNC programming.
Nesting Software
Looking to optimize your materials to parts being cut? Modern CAM wizards to make it easy to jump in and start nesting. Simply upload a part or a batch of parts, set your parameters in the nesting wizards, and let the software do the rest. It works seamlessly within CNC programming software so you can quickly transition from nesting your job to generating NC code for your CNC mill, router, laser, plasma, and waterjet machines and start cutting.
nesting cnc software
Artistic CNC Software
Artistic CNC software allows you to apply creative artwork to CNC manufactured parts. Features include the ability to wrap models, emboss models from imported STL file components, save components or the entire project as an STL, access up to 64 different vectorization color levels, use custom cross sections to have more control over creating your embossed models and much more. From basic 2 through 3 axis machining, the integrated and fully associative CAM software provides the means of creating some of the most intricate and amazing artistic results seen today.
NOTE: All of the software information in this article is available as functionality in BobCAD-CAM.
There you have it; that concludes our introduction to the world of CNC. Keep in mind that this is just a brief overview of what to expect, there is much more to learn. If you want to practice CNC programming with a sample part file, click here!

Pick your machine and try industry-leading CNC software today!

[1]Wikipedia. Milling, 12 June 2019, Resource 1
[2]AbsoluteMachine. Mill Turn, 12 June 2019, Resource 2
[3]MMI-Direct. Lathe, 12 June 2019, Resource 3
[4]Wikipedia. Laser, 12 June 2019, Resource 4
[5]Wikipedia. Plasma, 12 June 2019, Resource 5
[6]Wikipedia. Waterjet, 12 June 2019, Resource 6
[7]Wikipedia. EDM, 12 June 2019, Resource 7
[8]Wikipedia. Router, 12 June 2019, Resource 8

Social tagging: > > > >

Leave a Reply