CAM and lasers

Computer aided manufacture (CAM) is central to many production systems, enabling a large range of processes to be carried out using technology. computer numerical controlled (CNC) machines incorporate high-spec precision from a computer aided design (CAD) to manufacture a product. CNC can produce products by turning, milling or routing. It can also be utilised to cut, engrave, heat cut and even print in solid materials.

A close-up blurred out image of a computer numerical controlled (CNC) milling machine cutting metal.

CNC milling

Advantages of CAMDisadvantages of CAM
FastHigh initial cost
AccurateMaintenance of machines is required
Can be repeated easilyWorkers need training
Less labour intensiveLess workforce is needed
Fewer errors

Laser cutter

A laser cutter is a high-precision CAM machine that cuts a wide variety of materials using an extremely powerful laser beam directed onto the material using angled mirrors. The power setting can be varied - if the power is reduced or the speed is too high, then the laser beam will not cut completely through the material and will engrave it instead.

A close-up image of a laser cutter cutting shapes from a piece of metal.

Timber and polymers can often be cut easily using a laser cutter - it is possible to cut other materials such as glass and metal, but the power of the laser will need to be higher. The process enables rapid prototyping and reduces material wastage, therefore reducing costs. It achieves cleaner edges compared with other CNC processes, and can be repeated with very little set up cost.