Getting from Idea to Part: CAD – CAM – Cutting


Getting from a conceptual idea to a realized part is an important process to understand, whether you’re a maker looking to invent something for the world or a design engineer looking to get a new project off the ground.

Once an idea is developed, the process turns to CAD (computer aided design). Using programs like Fusion 360, OnShape, or Solidworks, 3D models are created to provide a virtual version of your idea.


With a finished CAD model, we turn to CAM (computer aided manufacturing), which is a type of software that helps to determine tools, tool paths, and the proper manufacturing process for your model. Are you looking to create a bunch of parts really fast? Or, are you concerned about the quality of the final finish? These are elements that get taken into consideration when developing a CAM program.

Once the CAM program is complete, post-processing occurs, which correlates your CAM program to a specific machine. This creates the programming language that is understood by the machine tool controller (PathPilot), also known as G-code.

During this process, the proper workholding must also be determined. Workholding is a vital, and often understated part of the product development process. Holding a part safely and efficiently can make an impacting difference in the end result.

CAM has an intimidating appearance, but with the help of blogs like SprutCAM America, it’s a breeze for even novice users.

Making Chips

Arguably, this is everybody’s favorite part of the process – clamping a stock piece of material onto the machine tool and pulling a finished part off, while making piles of chips in between.

Whether you’re building something, 3D printing layer by layer, or milling out material from a solid block of metal, holding your idea as a physical part is what it’s all about.


Chris Fox

Chris comes from a publishing background with years of experience in science, technology, and engineering publications. Previously an editor with Product Design and Development and Gizmag, he has a keen eye on the maker community and the changing landscape of the world of prototyping, product development, and small-scale manufacturing. Chris has been working with clients to create Tormach's customer success stories since 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheChris_Fox

Chris Fox