Definition (Executive Summary)

Mechanical Computer Aided Manufacturing (MCAM) software is used to create and assess tool paths that drive milling, turning and wire electrical discharge machining operations on numerically controlled (NC) manufacturing machinery.


In the development process, MCAM software can be used to:

  • Generate the NC code used for short run machining of the components as part of the prototyping process, where the emphasis is on building a working product.
  • Plan and prepare for the production manufacturing process. This involves producing NC code that meets the objectives and constraints of the procedure.

Capabilities Provided

MCAM software provides some combination of the following capabilities.

  • There are a number of approaches, many of which have emerged in the last five years, to generating tool paths in an automated way. This includes:
    • Geometry-Based Machining: With this functionality, tool paths are automatically generated once two inputs are provided: the geometry to be machined, such as a pocket or holes, and the machining parameters values, such as feed rates and speeds. Tool paths can be edited by changing one of those two inputs. This software can provide a means to edit the tool paths and commands manually.
    • Multi-Axis Machining: Some machining tools can articulate in up to 5 axes. This capability provides tool paths that can support moves in all of those directions.
    • High Speed Machining: With a high emphasis on time-to-part for production machining, some equipment now moves so fast that their own momentum must be taken into account to avoid quality issues. This is a specific capability offered by a few providers of this type of software.
    • Feature-Based Machining: For further automation, numerous tool paths, such as rough cuts and finishing passes with preset machining parameters, can be grouped together. This set of tool paths can then be applied to selected geometry to generate NC code. The ‘features’ referenced in Feature Based Machining is not the same as the ‘features’ used to build 3D models in MCAD software.
    • Model Based Definition (MBD) Machining: All of the information necessary to machine a component is captured in models completely documented using model based definition practices. These capabilities generate tool paths automatically by reading such information.
  • Tool path Assessment provides a means to digitally check NC code before it is used in a physical NC machine. This is done to ensure the tool path does not include errors like collisions or moves that might break tools.
  • Tool paths could ultimately be used on a number of different machines and their controllers, each of which use different commands. As a result, tool paths need to be post-processed into NC code for a specific machine. Tool path Post-Processing provides this functionality.

Related Technology Enablers

The most closely related technology enabler for MCAM software is Mechanical Computer Aided Design (MCAD) software. The design geometry is used to directly create tool paths.

Like MCAD software, MCAM software can produce a number of different deliverables, which can be managed by Product Data Management (PDM) software.

Technology Providers

Providers that offer desktop-based MCAM software include:

  • 3D Systems‘ Cimatron offers GibbsCAM for production machining and CimatronE for tool machining
  • Autodesk offers the HSM line of products
  • Dassault Systèmes offers machining capabilities as part of the CATIA product
  • Hexagon‘s Vero Software offers numerous MCAM solutions for different industries and applications
  • MasterCAM / CNC Software offers a suite of integrated products for MCAM
  • OPEN MIND Technologies offers hyperMILL and hyperCAD products
  • PTC offers MCAM as a part of the Creo product
  • Siemens PLM offers NX CAM and CAM Express and CAM Works as add ons to Solid Edge
  • Tebis AG offers a number of integrated MCAD and MCAM products

Providers that offer cloud-based MCAM software include: