Computer-aided design and manufacturing

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Computer-aided design and manufacturing

The application of digital computers in engineering design and production. Computer-aided design (CAD) refers to the use of computers in converting the initial idea for a product into a detailed engineering design. The evolution of a design typically involves the creation of geometric models of the product, which can be manipulated, analyzed, and refined. In CAD, computer graphics replace the sketches and engineering drawings traditionally used to visualize products and communicate design information. See Computer graphics

Engineers also use computer programs to estimate the performance and cost of design prototypes and to calculate the optimal values for design parameters. These programs supplement and extend traditional hand calculations and physical tests. When combined with CAD, these automated analysis and optimization capabilities are called computer-aided engineering (CAE). See Computer-aided engineering, Optimization

Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) refers to the use of computers in converting engineering designs into finished products. Production requires the creation of process plans and production schedules, which explain how the product will be made, what resources will be required, and when and where these resources will be deployed. Production also requires the control and coordination of the necessary physical processes, equipment, materials, and labor. In CAM, computers assist managers, manufacturing engineers, and production workers by automating many production tasks. Computers help to develop process plans, order and track materials, and monitor production schedules. They also help to control the machines, industrial robots, test equipment, and systems which move and store materials in the factory.

CAD/CAM can improve productivity, product quality, and profitability. Computers can eliminate redundant design and production tasks, improve the efficiency of workers, increase the utilization of equipment, reduce inventories, waste, and scrap, decrease the time required to design and make a product, and improve the ability of the factory to produce different products. Today most manufacturers employ CAD/CAM to varying degrees. See Productivity

The fact that CAD, CAE, and CAM work best together has led to the breakdown of many of the traditional barriers between functional and manufacturing units. The goal of computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) is a database, created and maintained on a factory-wide computer network, that will be used for design, analysis, optimization, process planning, production scheduling, robot programming, materials handling, inventory control, maintenance, and marketing. Although many technical and managerial obstacles must be overcome, computer-integrated manufacturing appears to be the future of CAD/CAM. See Computer-integrated manufacturing, Database management system, Flexible manufacturing system, Materials handling, Robotics

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