So what IS CAD/CAM anyway?

August 2, 2016



You hear people talk about CAD/CAM like it’s magic. A mystical computer “thingy” used for designing “thingys” that make other “thingys.”


Much like the infamous cloud, which we all know, is a wisp of digital air and vapors that holds all of our important files and information in the stratosphere… (Or you know, a fancy way of saying a company’s servers and/or computers.) CAD/CAM is simply put, the common way to refer to computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing. It’s an acronym.


CAD/CAM isn’t just used for dental applications. The term CAD/CAM is broadly referring to any software used to design products.  CAD/CAM has a variety of uses today. It’s part of the process used in making electronic circuit boards, vehicles, jewelry etc. The uses are nearly endless.


Basically a person will come up with an idea in their head for a product. Then maybe even sketch it out on paper. From there, they would use the software to plot points/click and drag/scan in/ to enter the specifics. Depending on the type of product, material and software CAD/CAM functionality varies quite a bit. Often a 3D model of the product is then printed or milled from the required materials using the data from the software. Sometimes only several parts are made separate from each other and then later placed together. This is the VERY simplified version of what takes place in CAD/CAM use.



For our purposes, when a dentist provides us with an impression, digital or analog, we construct a model out of gypsum. (Kind of like the Plaster of Paris volcano we made when we were kids that was never as impressive as we imagined it would be.)

Then that model is scanned into the CAD/CAM software and manipulated digitally to get the desired results. The plan is digitally sent to a milling device or 3D printer to produce the product based on the exact specifications entered in the software.


That’s where this step of the process stops. The rest of the manufacturing of your implants, crowns, bridges and the like are mostly by hand.


CAD/CAM has helped to simplify processes and increase productivity in a variety of industries.  Chances are, if you are alive today (I really hope you are if you are reading this.) your life has been impacted by technology in many ways you probably take for granted. Take a moment sometime and really look at some of the things you use every day. Imagine how many people had their hand in the process to make those things.


 Imagine right now: there’s thousands of people using CAD/CAM software to design products you haven’t even dreamed of today, that you will take for granted tomorrow.


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