How to Expand Your Job-Shop With CAD + CAM Software

Marti Deans March 19, 2021 5 min read

In this article, we identify the key daily challenges machine shops face and how integrated CAD + CAM software like Autodesk Fusion 360 can solve them.

CAD+CAM-machining-Fusion 360
Working in the CNC Machine Shop at the Autodesk San Francisco Technology Center.

The global marketplace for job-shops is rapidly changing, with competition coming from all directions and margins shrinking as everyone tightens their machining operations. Let’s address some of the forces driving these changes in the job-shop market:

Daily Challenges for Job-Shops

Job shops face many challenges when it comes to the forces driving change. Some of these challenges include:

Keeping updated with new technologies.

This can mean utilizing the latest tool geometries, the latest software algorithms, the latest work holding, etc.

Achieving and maintaining a productivity advantage.

Finding a process or method that provides a clear competitive advantage. More importantly, continually searching for newer and better processes to prevent falling behind in the future.

Finding or training a skilled work staff

Some job shops recruit from within, and some hire from outside. No matter what training is an important step towards building a productive shop and creating a sense of success.

Maximizing machine utilization

There is a saying, “if the spindle isn’t turning, you aren’t earning.” Creating processes and investing in tools to keep the machines running, even after hours if possible.

Maximizing machine capabilities

Getting the most out of your machine can include using the horsepower and torque available to their fullest capability, using the full work envelope, and taking advantage of any included features like turning, probing or additional axes.


Disadvantages of Manual Programming

There are many arguments for and against manual CNC programming, either conversationally on the controller or creating code by hand. Below is a list of the common disadvantages of manual programming addressed by CAD + CAM programming.

Time spent programming.

Typically, the machine is not producing parts while a programmer creates a program or executes the required dry runs to verify said program. With CAD + CAM software like Autodesk Fusion 360, the entire part can be programmed on the computer while the mill runs a different job. Also, you can simulate the program to show exactly how it will run on the mill, reducing costly errors at the machine and saving the time necessary for dry runs and manual adjustments.

Human error.

Manual programming, especially where trigonometric functions are necessary, is prone to human and rounding errors. Finding these errors can take a long time. However, with Autodesk Fusion 360 what you see on the screen is what you get when you run the machine.

Visualizing tooling and workholding.

When programming by hand, you may have to consider the location of fixtures and clamps to avoid collisions, which can be difficult and require many slow dry runs to get right. Fusion 360 integrates CAD and CAM, so workholding can be easily imported and taken into account while programming.

Fast part changes.

Whenever a part changes, one must either sort through the code to make changes or start over. Fusion 360 maintains associativity between the part and the CAM operations, so if there is an update to the part, the cutter paths can be regenerated to update them.

Quality of program, maximizing output.

Fusion 360 can create cutter paths where the chip removal rate is constant at all times. We call this strategy Adaptive Clearing, and it allows you to run at a maximum feed for the chip at all times. This is virtually impossible to calculate manually, and as a result, machine operators often run at reduced speeds most of the time.


If you program manually, you have to learn to program on every different controller within the shop, which requires additional time or additional employees. Autodesk Fusion 360 can create programs for every machine using the same programming interface. On top of that, Fusion 360 has a modern, easy-to-use interface and helpful tool-tips to get new programmers up and running quickly.

Data management.

Data archival and retrieval done manually are prone to errors and time-consuming when finding the correct part from the past. Fusion 360 has built-in version control for simplified data management. You can even access files from anywhere, thanks to its cloud collaboration and cloud storage tools.

machinist-using-cad-cam-software-version control

Advantages of Automatic CAD/CAM Software

Besides overcoming many of the disadvantages of manual programming, there are several other advantages to automatic programming with CAD + CAM software like Autodesk Fusion 360.

Stop recreating parts.

If you are manually programming to a drawing, odds are someone already created a 3D model of the part. Don’t waste time recreating what’s already been designed. Work on the original 3D CAD file from the start.

Take on more difficult work.

Expand your job capacity by taking on work that would be unrealistic to program manually. Not only do many of these more difficult parts pay better, but you now have a larger pool of potential work to draw from.

Quote more accurately and quickly.

Leverage Fusion 360 tools like Toolpath Templates, the Xometry app, and machining time estimates during the quoting process to ensure your run times are as accurate as possible. This allows you to quote parts more accurately and more regularly have the correct profit built-in.

Nichinan Group is a design and manufacturing company based in Kanagawa prefecture, Japan. This team is controlling the milling machines.

Work offline.

Design and program parts while the machine is running another job. Take your work on the road and make updates and changes anytime, anywhere, thanks to the cloud.

Collaborate better.

Have a question on a part, and need a quick answer? Collaboration tools allow you to share your question directly on the model using markup tools to get immediate feedback.

Maximize machine utilization.

In addition to keeping the machines running while you program on a computer, digital stock simulation can provide the confidence needed to run unattended or overnight. This can greatly improve machine utilization and increase profits while simultaneously reducing downtime.

Earn more high-value business.

Switching from manual CNC programming to CAD + CAM software like Autodesk Fusion 360 can help you earn more high-value business and get the most out of your machines. Work directly on customer data or CAD data, and keep the spindle turning more often.

Learn more about how to increase business with Fusion 360.

Tags and Categories

CAM CNC manufacturing Machining

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