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Marking 40 Years of CAD/CAM Technology

July 5, 2012
The Hayes milling machine operating an original version of CAD/CAM programming, on display at the 1972 Machine Tool Exhibition in London.
The Hayes milling machine operating an original version of CAD/CAM programming, on display at the 1972 Machine Tool Exhibition in London.
The latest Hermle mill-turn equipment, recently added to Delcam’s Advanced Manufacturing Facility in Birmingham, England. Delcam plc held a series of Technical Sales Partner Meetings in the U.K. and U.S. over two weeks in June, with over 150 engineers from the company’s sales network taking new training in the group’s latest software releases. The meeting in England coincided with the 40th anniversary of the first public display of CAD/CAM technology at the Machine Tool Exhibition held in London’s Olympia exhibition center, in June 1972. The late Donald Welbourn arranged that initial presentation. Welbourn had lead research into computer-aided manufacturing at the Cambridge University Engineering Department since first becoming fascinated by the possibilities of the new technology in 1965. In 1972, the CUED obtained two 3-axis NC machine tools with a U.K. Dept. of Trade and Industry (DTI) grant, thus enabling the previous work in CAD to be expanded into CAM. One of these machines, a Hayes milling machine, was displayed by the firm at the Exhibition.

Commercialization of the Cambridge technology began in 1974 after The Delta Group seconded Ed Lambourne to work with at the University for two years while earning a Master of Science degree. In 1977, Delta founded a new subsidiary, Deltacam Systems Ltd., to advise on CAD/CAM and to supply time-sharing services to other firms in the group. The managing director of the subsidiary was Hugh Humphreys, while Ed became the technical director. Hugh and Ed subsequently lead the staff buyout from the Delta Group, which created Delcam as an independent company in 1989.

Since then, Delcam has established itself as a global specialist for CAM software and associated services, with a large team of developers at the Birmingham headquarters and overseas subsidiaries. Delcam’s software is used by more than 39,000 organizations in over 90 countries. Its customers range from multi-national corporations to independent designers, toolmakers and sub-contractors, supporting numerous manufacturing segments.

The company offers a comprehensive range of machining software, including PowerMILL for high-speed and five-axis machining; FeatureCAM for feature-based programming; and ArtCAM for artistic applications, while PartMaker provides a dedicated solution for Swiss-type lathes and turn-mill equipment. Supporting software for product design, tooling design, reverse engineering and inspection is available for companies that require a complete CAD/CAM solution.