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The Real Skills Gap – Designing for Manufacturability

In the past, the world of design was relegated to engineers sitting at drafting desks as they contemplated the calculus of parts and the physics of their components in the wild. Typically, designers would mock up their drawings and then pass the design to a machinist or toolmaker to develop parts for prototyping or production.

As the world of design engineering migrated into the digital age with CAD, not much changed. There was often a line of separation between design/engineering and production.

Read: Machinists were created because Engineers need Heroes too

CAM (computer aided manufacturing) began to bridge the gap between the realm of engineering and manufacturing – connecting two worlds that were often separated but inherently connected.

Now with the integration of programs like HSM with CAD, and even incorporating CAM into CAD packages like Fusion 360, the divide between design and production is narrowing.

But, why is this something we care about?

As the world of manufacturing continues to move faster and time-to-market calendars get shorter, the need to consider proper design for manufacturability is more apparent than ever!

Almost every machinist/operator has had the frustration of getting a design handed to them that just can’t be held down properly or has obnoxiously tight tolerances or 90° inside corners – you have a spinning tool, buddy, the inside corner will always be somewhat curved!

To that end, every design engineer has opened up that email that says something like, “we can’t machine this part, please fix.”

Incorporating CAM into CAD is closing that communication gap. Talking toolpaths within a design allows engineers and machinists to speak the same language and helps both parties understand what the other needs to make the proper parts.

Read: Breaking Down the Wall Between Design and Manufacturing

Access to CAM gives designers the ability to understand toolpaths, tooling needs, and most importantly, workholding. Now engineers understand why machinists start pulling out their hair when given a drawing for a convex, one-off part with no tabs to hold it down.

CAM is the best thing to ever happen to CAD because it closes the gap between the designer and the manufacturer… it creates an ecosystem that fosters designing for manufacturability, which helps us make better parts, faster.

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