5 Ways You Didn’t Know CAM Was Being Used

Photo Heartwood Carving

Recently, I spent some free time discovering a new (for me, at least) world. I’m referring to CAM (Computer Aided manufacturing) and some of the fascinating ways that this technology is being used today.

What surprised me most was the extent to which CAM is now utilized by those whose work involves personal craftsmanship and/or creativity. Here are just a few examples:

Dentistry CAM is not only making it easier for us to maintain our smiles, it’s reducing the number of times we need to visit our dentist in the first place. As Monica Schnitger relates in her recent post, “My Dentist Does CAD/CAM,” her dentist used a hand-held scanner, CAD/CAM software and a relatively small, bench-top milling machine to make a dental onlay to replace her cracked filling. He did it in a single visit, right there in his office, while she waited. Previously, producing the onlay would have required at least two visits to the dentist and an outside dental contractor (to make the onlay).

Architecture When you view cabinetry accents, murals, and other detailed wood creations, chances are you think of an artisan meticulously hand-carving every groove and swirl. I certainly did, and was surprised to discover that CAM technology is regularly used by an ever-growing number of artists and woodworkers. Joe Valasek of Heartwood Carving, who formerly used only hand tools, is one of those who has permanently added CAM technology to his tool chest.

The artist and sculptor embraced CAM after seeing firsthand the finely detailed work that today’s computer-controlled CNC machines are capable of. As Valasek observes, “Every classical artist has always used the full range of tools available to them. If Michelangelo were alive today, there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t be using the most advanced tools in existence.” Today that means CAM.

Culinary Arts I never would have associated cooking with CAM, but even pastry chefs are using it now. Caitie Pedersen, who is in Colfax High School’s vocational program, is using CAM tools to engineer, create, and test molds for her own chocolate desserts. As reported in the Colfax Record, the CAM tools she uses in her vocational class are helping “to bring Pedersen closer to her dream of opening her own pastry business.”

And did you know that Domino’s Pizza uses CAM to make its dough balls?

Fashion Even fashion designers are getting in on the act, using CAM to produce their designs almost as soon as they are conceived. In “CAD/CAM for Fashion and Clothing Designing,” I learned that, after using CAD to design their creations, designers then interface their computers with machines that cut, sew, grade and mark fabrics. The time taken to finish each of these tasks is greatly reduced and far less labor is required because a single person can handle these machines.

Hollywood Finally, it wasn’t all computer-generated dinosaurs chomping on hapless tourists in the Jurassic Park movies. CAM played an essential role in the creation of the animatronic dinos also used in the films. After an initial sculpture of the dino (say, the Spinosaurus in Jurassic Park III) was laser scanned, data from the scan was sent to a foam-sculpting machine, which used the computer model to mill a life-size Spinosaurus from polyurethane foam. There were some additional steps of course, but CAM was integral in bringing these prehistoric creatures to life on screen.

All of which makes me wonder: in what surprising way will CAM be used next? The possibilities seem endless.

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