SolidWorks: CAM Tool Path

SolidWorks CAM

SolidWorks CAM is a fully integrated, knowledge-based technology that allows you to integrate design and manufacturing processes under one system to evaluate designs earlier in the process to avoid unexpected costs and delays in finishing products on time.

What is SolidWorks CAM?

SolidWorks CAM provides CNC programming right inside SolidWorks. This program generates all the machining information needed to create components quickly with it’s feature recognition abilities and with added SOPs (standard operating procedures). These SOPs can be input manually and saved to match the company’s standards based on their best practices with things such as tool types and sizes. The best part of all of this is that SolidWorks CAM Standard is free with any SolidWorks 2018 subscription! There is some extra cost to using the next step up with some added features inside of SolidWorks CAM Professional.


One large advantage with using this add-in is that it’s built right into the SolidWorks interface. All that will need to be done in order to access this tool is to enable it by going to the options gear at the top of the screen while in SolidWorks, selecting the drop-down arrow and selecting add-ins.

Figure 1 - Add-ins Tab Within Options.png

Figure 1: Add-ins Tab Within Options

In this window, the next step is to navigate to the SolidWorks CAM option and choose to activate it. The option to have it load on startup can also be selected if they want to use it without having to go through this window each time to enable it.

Figure 2 - Enabling SolidWorks CAM Window.png

Figure 2: Enabling SolidWorks CAM Window

Another advantage with SolidWorks CAM is its use of knowledge-based machining as well as the tolerance-based machining. The option to extract machinable features is very useful when it comes to creating toolpaths. The software will automatically recognize features and based on both tolerances and the company’s SOPs, provide the toolpath in no time! The software also allows for going back through and adjusting the created toolpaths to ensure the best times possible for creating parts. For instance, the time it took to create the toolpath for the designed component in Figure 3 took less than 2 minutes to generate.

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Figure 3: Toolpath Timed Part

Finally, there is no worries associated with adjusting component features and potentially ruining the created toolpath. SolidWorks CAM has the ability to instantly adapt and change creating new cutter paths and machining operations for the edited feature. Not only will it adjust to allow for new features to be created, but it will also warn the user if there is a potential of collision between the stock and the tool shank or holder. Processes can the be moved to help avoid this issue whether it’s adjusting which tool cuts when or changing cutters.

Figure 4 - Simulated Toolpath.png

Figure 4: Simulated Toolpath

How it’s Used

There are many ways that this software can be used to benefit a company. For one, it can be used to ensure that designed parts are able to be manufactured with no issues. Before parts are sent to the shop floor to be created, the tool path can be monitored and inspected for problems with features not being able to be machined. This is big for eliminating any question on if the part can actually be created.

It can also help with saving time on machined parts. After the software extracts the machinable features, it will generate the operation plan for the features, generate the toolpath, and finally, it will simulate the toolpath. Once this has been created, the simulation can be inspected to see if there are time-saving opportunities for using one tool as opposed to another or if there are too many tool changes between creating features. With this software, operations can be manually adjusted and reorganized based on the most optimal way to produce parts accurately and quickly.


SolidWorks CAM is a great software for all of the things it can accomplish and the fact that it’s free with any SolidWorks subscription is just an added bonus! With all of the capabilities and customization it has, it’s definitely something to look into for companies that work with CNC machines, tool pathing, or just generating G-code for a customer.

Written By: 

Cody Cook.PNG

Cody Cook

CAD Designer at Perception Engineering