Knowing how to choose a CAD/CAM software program is essential to the success of any injection mold making company. Investing $1,000’s in a system that is difficult to use, does not do what is expected or has poor service can be a huge weight on any business. This article seeks to make the decision making process a bit easier for.
Overall considerations with a CAD/CAM system
- How easy is the program to use? Unless you have an in-house team of rocket scientists who relish learning how to use a complicated program you would be much better off investing in one that is easy to use.
Workers are busy, mold designers and mold makers especially. Nobody has time to spend in a complicated learning curve with no end in sight. On-site courses or vendor courses are helpful to get people up and running. If the program is easy to use the basic course should be sufficient to get started, with more in-depth offerings later on.
A good system should be designed specifically for the use intended. I’m always surprised to see companies struggling with programs that are not really intended for mold making, when there are several top-notch CAD/CAM programs made just for mold making. This also holds true for electrode design and manufacturing.
- Use a reliable vendor. Software companies come and go, but you certainly do not want to find yourself left in the lurch because the CAD/CAM program you bought from an unknown company is now virtually obsolete due to the fact that the company is no longer in business.
The relationship you develop with the vendor plays an important role in the event of upgrades, advanced training or new developments. A reliable vendor wants to keep you as a customer and should be more than willing to keep you up-to-date with upgrades, new versions and further training.
- What features and functions do you need? The CAD/CAM industry is very competitive and the available software is generally sufficient for most every need. However, plastic injection mold making is a specific industry with specific requirements. Be sure to select a program that has the features and functions that you really need.
For mold making, you need to consider high speed milling, 5 axis machining, CNC milling, CNC turning, WEDM, sinker EDM, robotics, CMM programming, laser machining, and whatever types of machining that may be unique to your shop.
- How much do you want to spend? The cost of the CAD/CAM program is, of course, important, though not as important as the above mentioned criteria. This type of software is nearly always sold in module form, with a path open for upgrades and expansion.
Make sure you don’t spend money on things you don’t need, if possible. Buy the modules you need and make sure you have the option of adding or upgrading at a later date. Prices don’t fluctuate much and basically there are no “special deals”.
- How good is the support? Service and support are paramount in any business, especially in the software business. Make sure there are techs available when you need them and that you are easily able to communicate. Consider time zones, language and their business hours. It can be maddening to have to wait days for a simple answer, or to speak with a knowledgeable tech whom you just cannot understand.
Upgrades should come out on a regular basis, i.e. every 12-18 months. These upgrades may be free of charge, but often, with a CAD/CAM program, they come as an additional expense. It is wise to keep up-to-date as you may find yourself so outdated that there is no longer any tech support for an old version.
Take your time, use common sense, compare apples with apples, if possible. Ask for a test run on a real-life program. This is much better than relying on a canned program that may be whiz-bang in theory, but totally irrelevant for you. This is the best way to compare one company with another: real life examples specific to your unique needs.