In the 1960s and 1970s, CAM software was characterized by manual programming- oriented, APT-based systems. Although others such as Compact 2 were employed at that time, APT was the prevalent language being used. APT was typically run on IBM mainframes.
The 1980s saw the introduction of graphics-oriented software systems. Turnkey CAD/CAM systems were commonplace. In this scenario, the hardware and the software were sold as a package. Digital models were employed, and interactive programming was introduced.
The 1990s became the PC era. Wintel-based PCs became the standard platform for both CAD and CAM software. The movement from 2D to 3D accelerated during this period, and 3D became common throughout the world. The use of solids became widespread, and CAM software accepted the use of this definition. Software for tool design, in contrast to product design, was first created during the 1990s.
On the CAM side, the 1990s saw the introduction of automatic re-machining software to cut material left behind from a prior operation without re-machining of the entire part. High speed machine tools that support spindle speeds of 20,000 rpm or more and NC programming software to support them were introduced. Considerable enhancements to the CAM software, such as the use of NURBS output and rounding of tool paths, were required to effectively support these tools.
CIMdata has referred to the 2000s as the era of the digital virtual enterprise. Most manufacturers are moving to a paperless factory environment, individual and complete operations are being modeled without prototyping, and tight interaction among contributors exists up and down the supply chain. The CAM environment in the 2000s is being further characterized by:
- A process-centric orientation throughout a factory.
- Interoperability and tight coupling among software products, permitting co-existence within an integrated solution.
- The use of highly visual graphics-oriented functionality as a core capability within all software applications.
- More application-specific software products that are targeted at the needs of particular types of users.
- The use of hybrid solid and surface models to take advantage of the strengths of both formats.
- Worldwide acceptance of 3D.
- The re-emergence of five-axis positioning and simultaneous five-axis milling as a cost-effective and productive technique.
- The introduction of adaptive and rule-oriented, knowledge-based software.
- The use of knowledge-embedded functionality within all application software
- Continued evolution to full programming automation.
Although CAM software has been in productive and extensive use since the 1960s and is a relatively mature technology, its use and functionality has steadily evolved over time. This evolution will continue.