CamBam

What is CamBam?  Well, it is a CAM software package.  That is, it can be used to create cutting paths from a geometrical definition of an object for the CNC router.  CamBam falls into the low-cost end of the market (~AUD$200).  It is available from www.cambam.info.  The CamBam web site contains much information about the package, how to use it and an extensive support forum that will help you get started.

More generally there is a wide range of CAM software packages, often originating from the larger CNC machine suppliers.  These are often supplied with the CNC machine package.  Some can be used more widely but are still quite expensive (perhaps $1000s).  The value of these tools will depend very much on your own situation.  If you want a tool that works "out of the box" and doe not require a steep learning curve then they be be just what you need.  This will be particularly tru if you have a well defined range of machining tasks, and they may be well accommodated by  a particular CAM product.

Of the modestly priced CAM packages, CamBam is clearly my preference, as it:

No software tool is perfect, there will always be bugs and the need to find work-arounds can be necessary.  CamBam is no different, but given the on-line support the resolution is often easily found.

There are a number of CAM tools that fall into the low-cost bracket, some have slicker user interfaces, and some have quite effective "wizzards" that can guide you through the CAM development phase.  It is certainly worth while testing out trial versions before making a decision to purchase. TYhe following notes provides a little more detail about CamBam that might be sued as a reference when looking at alternatives.

Purpose

The process of creating data to run an CNC machine required three stages:

For most installations each of these steps involve special purpose software tools.

The prime function of CamBam it to produce machine code instructions for the CNC machine in the form of G-Code instructions.  CamBam is  primarily a CAM tool. G-Codes are probably the most dominate method for describing CNC machine instructions, they include instructions to:

Machine cutting paths are built from the defined geometry and the required machining operation.  CamBam supports the following basic machine operations (MOPs):

In addition there is a range of specialised MOPs that provide some additional operations, some of these are provided by the user group, including:

To create the required machine operations, the geometry of the items to be machined must be first defined.  There are various ways of doing this:

While CamBam is not formally described as a CAD package, it does have some CAD capabilities.  For relatively simple geometries CamBam can be used to create the required geometries.  This makes the dependence on a CAD (or 3D modelling) package less critical.  It is also not uncommon to acquire the CAD drawings (both 2D and 3D) from third parties (probably from the internet).  The creation of complex CAD models, especially3D models, may be out your skill capability, so purchasing a model is a viable alternative.  3D models are often available for a few $s.

Capabilities

CamBam provides the following basic capabilities:

There is a wide range of plugins that extend both the CAD and CAM capabilities of CamBam.  These can be found here.

Support Issues

Like all software, CamBam will occasionally exhibit bugs.  The CamBam online forum is a very active support of all issues relating to its use, for all levels of user.  The forum is located here.  It is well worthwhile exploring the wide range of topics, and joining the forum so you can post questions.  From my experience you will get prompt responses.

The one issue that does need attention in CamBam is to provide full 64bit support to allow very large models to be manipulated.  For the moment, those with a 64bit operating system will need to use the 4gp_patch to extend the memory access capabilities from 2 to 4 Gb.  This makes quite a difference when using large 3D models that can easily run to 100s of Mbytes.

CamBam is a Windows application (Windows 10 no issues), though it is also supported on Linux environments using the Mono .NET framework.

A trial version of CamBam is available for down load (with a limited number of launches).