In modern-day technology, CAD (Computer-Aided Design) and CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) have a major impact on the innovation and development of manufacturing processes. Manufacturing needs have evolved, and so has the software.

Understanding CAD and CAM

Before we go to the history of CAD/CAM software, it is best to understand it. CAD is used in Computer Numerical Control, whereby a programmed computer software controls the movement of machinery and factory tools in manufacturing. CAD is the software used in machining, creating electronic files for print, and other manufacturing operations.

CAD development led to innovation and unique product designs, among other benefits. CNC software supports engineers and designers in various industries such as automobiles, aerospace, architecture, etc. Although the two terms stand for different things, CAM uses CAD, and they are used together as CAD/CAM.

The history of CAD/CAM

A computer-aided design was initially introduced in the 1950s. Ross, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was working on military radar technology and computer display systems and ended up pioneering the first CAD technology. The initial one was Automatically Programmed Tools (APT)

that gave birth to Automated Engineering Design (AED). Ross hosted conferences in MIT with other engineers to discuss the advancing technologies in the industry.

Patrick Hanratty deployed one of the first uses of CAD at the General Motors Research Laboratories. He created Design Automated Computer (DAC) that used interactive graphics and is thought to have been the first CAD system. It was the initial CAD/CAM system and used a numerical control programing called PRONTO that Hanratty created in 1957. Hence he is considered the founder of CAD/CAM.

Ivan Sutherland developed the first advanced CAD software called Sketchpad in the 1960s as part of his Ph.D. thesis at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was an innovative CAD software because the designer used a light pen to draw on the computer’s monitor and interact graphically.

CAM evolved in the 1950s whereby designers used computers to create G-code and then translated them into punched cards that could control machines. Punch tapes were made via computer control and could boost the instruction and manufacturing speed. The initial commercial applications of CAM were in the aerospace and automotive industries.

CAD plus CAM

CAD combined with CAM when CAM used CAD drawings to develop its instructions and control automated machine tools. Hence the CAD/CAM software could create physical designs directly from design files. Between 1966-1968, Pierre Bezier developed 3D CAD/CAM system UNISURF while working for Renault, the French car manufacturer. His invention was meant to assist the design and tooling of cars by incorporating drawing machines, interactive form curves, computer control, surface design, and 3D milling for making clay models.

In 1970, Hanratty opened his own company known as ICS that came with its CAD/CAM drafting system. He also founded manufacturing and consulting services which lead to Automated Drafting and Machinery (ADAM). Many of the modern-day draftings originated here.

As CAD evolved, many industries adopted it, from aerospace to architecture and interior design. In dentistry, CAD/CAM is used to create precise prosthetics and other medical equipment. It is used in forensics to solve crimes in injury analysis, age estimation, and postmortem analysis. With technology advancing rapidly, CAD/CAM can create more innovations.

Douglas Carl
the authorDouglas Carl