What Are Cam Files?

If you are interested in digital 3D modeling and design then you have probably come across several different file formats from STL’s to CAM and CAD files. With so many different formats, it is easy to get confused, and if you have encountered CAMs then you may be wondering what they are and how you can use them.

Over the years there have been many different computer programs, and numerous different file formats to go with them. As such, there is more than one type of cam file, and not all of them have anything to do with 3D modeling. For those just beginning their journey into 3D digital design, this can be very confusing.

That’s why this article is here to explain what a cam file is, what information it holds, as well as what programs can be used to open them. We will also briefly cover the other types of cam files you might encounter while browsing the web so you can easily tell them apart.

What is a CAM File?

Many of the products created on automated assembly lines by machines start their life as CAD and CAM files. CAD stands for ‘computer-aided design’ and these files are used for designing 3D items to be produced by a machine. Once the creator is satisfied with the design, they convert this file into a CAM which stands for ‘computer aided manufacturing.

CAM files contain all the necessary information a machine needs to build a 3-dimensional object. This includes the types of materials to be used, how thick the material should be in all the different areas, and what order the machine should assemble the item in.

It also tells the machine what type of tools it should use for crafting each part of the finished product. Often CAM files will need to be converted to a different format that is compatible with the device used to assemble the item they contain.

What Programs Can Be Used to Open CAM Files?

In order to open a CAM file and view its contents you will need a program capable of doing so. Some examples of software that can open these files include Fusion 360, BodCAD-CAM, MasterCAM, and FastCAM drawing editor.

There are many other programs that can be used to work with these files and after a little bit of search, you are bound to find one that works for you.

Most CAM files are intended to be used by factory assembly lines so they can’t be used with household manufacturing equipment such as a 3D printer. If you do want to print an item contained in a CAM file you will first need to convert it into an STL (one of the most common file formats used by 3D printers).

Most of the software listed above is also compatible with CAD files. If you want to make significant changes to an item you plan to print, then restoring it to a CAD file first will allow you to make large edits, or completely redesign the object should you wish.

Other Types of CAM Files

There are quite a few different CAM files that have built up over the years. Some of them are still used, while others have become obsolete as the products that used them are no longer available. This section contains a shortlist of other CAM files that have nothing to do with computer aided manufacturing.

  • An image file that was used by Casio for their now discontinued QV range of cameras.
  • A stored project file in Camtasia studios
  • A backup file created by the cross-platform anti-virus software HouseCall
  • The instant replays for the racing game NASCAR racing 2002 were stored as CAM files, as well as the background files for the game Abe’s Odyssey by Oddworld Inhabitants.

How to Convert a CAM File to An STL

Most CAM files are converted into .gcode for use in factory assembly lines. Some 3D printers will accept .gcode files but not all of them. STL is a much more reliable format that is supported by nearly every model of printer.

If you want to build an item from a CAM file on your 3D printer, then the first thing you may need to do is convert it back into a CAD file. This is to remove any information that may confuse your machine, such as instructions to use specific tools your device doesn’t have.

Once it has been restored to the CAD format, you can use one of the programs below to convert your file to STL:

  • 3D Studio Max
  • Alibre
  • AutoCAD
  • Rhino
  • Solidedge

There are a few other programs you can use to convert CAD files into STL’s so feel free to look around for one that suits your specific needs.

Conclusion

Many of the items we see in our day-to-day lives were built on assembly lines, with most of the parts being manufactured by computers. This means they almost definitely started off as CAD and CAM files first. Being able to read and use these files is very useful for anyone interested in designing 3D objects on their computer.

For instance, if you need to recreate a spare part for a broken device, then locating the CAM file would allow you to potentially 3D print a replacement. Understanding CAD and CAM files will help you to learn more about digital 3D modeling and how it is used in modern industry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Edit CAM Files?

If you want to significantly alter an item contained within a CAM file, then you may need to convert it back into a CAD file first. Software capable of editing these files will be able to make more changes to a CAD file as it contains design information rather than manufacturing specifications. That said, you can make small edits to CAM files such as smoothing edges or other minor alterations.

Can I Load a CAM File Directly Into My 3D Printer?

By itself, a CAM file will likely be incompatible with most 3D printers. All the information your device needs are contained within these files, but the machine may struggle to read them without converting them into a different format first. Most 3D printers will work best with STL, OBJ, and .gcode files.

Michael Moore
Latest posts by Michael Moore (see all)