This is an industry in defensive mode, fearful of doing anything that might jeopardize their already weak hold on shrinking pieces of the pie. In fact, when is the last time you heard anything remotely interesting from this segment of the market? I’m guessing it’s been years, many years.
We have really tried for the last few years to reach out to the “established” CAM software community. You’ve heard of the vendors I’m referring to, GibbsCAM, Mastercam (CNC Software), etc.
Talk about the CAD software vendors being set in their ways, CAM software vendors make them look like Web 2.0 startups in comparison. God forbid they do something to upset this CAD software vendor or that. I mean, they might lose their Gold Partner logo, or worse not get invited to SolidWorks World or CAD Camp.
So we just decided enough is enough, quit trying to wake these companies up and get on with it.
The CAM software market needs a shake up just like the CAD software market, and given the pressure on US manufacturing, maybe it needs it more. So that’s exactly what we’re doing. Here is a link to our recent announcement of a new suite of Alibre CAM products.
If you aren’t aware, last September we released a fully integrated parametric CAM application called Alibre CAM. Alibre CAM is a CNC milling application that supports 2½ and 3-axis milling. It’s fully integrated with Alibre Design with a single user interface and databse, and the toolpaths it generates are associative with the 3D model from which they are generated, meaning if you edit the part, the toolpath updates. The entry point is free with Alibre CAM Xpress.
If you’ve checked recently, integrated parametric CAD/CAM can cost close to $20,000 per license. In fact, a current quote for Mastercam X2 Mill Level 3 comes in around $12,000, and that doesn’t include parametric CAD, actually it doesn’t include solid modeling at all, that’s an extra charge.
Being generous to SolidWorks, even though they claim an average selling price of over $7,000 a license, throw in the base version of SolidWorks for $3,995, plus $1,295 maintenance, for another $5,300. So now you’re at a total price of $17,300 and I haven’t included CAM maintenance, training, and who knows what else.
A lot of money for a machine shop struggling to remain competitive in an increasingly global manufacturing market. And what you’re left with is two separate products from different companies.
Our initial Alibre CAM add-on has received a great reception from customers since we launched. So we decided to up the ante by expanding the product line and making 3D parametric CAD/CAM accessible to everyone, starting at free.
As I discussed in my last blog post, this is also part of a bigger trend which we call Personal CAD, and now with Alibre CAM it’s Personal CAD/CAM. The trend includes a variety of companies offering Personal CNC equipment as well, companies like Tormach, ShopBot and Sherline. You can actually put together a Sherline CNC mill for less than $2,000. In fact, check out this recent post from an individual who designed and built his own CNC router with a goal of a cost around $750. Note that he used Alibre Design Xpress for his CAD work.
This is really cool, and it’s just the beginning.