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Why all knifemakers should know the difference between CAD and CAM

CAD is the design of what you would like to make, while CAM is how it’s made.

So, what does CAM do, and how does it apply to knifemaking?

“Computer Aided Manufacturing software prepares a model for machining by working through several actions, including:

  1. Checking if the model has any geometry errors that will impact the manufacturing process.

  2. Creating a toolpath for the model, a set of coordinates the machine will follow during the machining process.

  3. Setting any required machine parameters, including cutting speed, voltage, cut/pierce height, etc.

  4. Configuring nesting where the CAM system will decide the best orientation for a part to maximize machining efficiency.”

In order to be cut, all knife components must be represented digitally as CAD, then coded to be manufactured by CAM software.

digital CAD design with milling tool

Examples of how CAD designing goes from drawing to real-world machining. This is made possible with CAM software.

Milling tool milling piece of metal

Why does my CAD file not work in CAM?

If your CAD file is exported to our CAM software and has any problems with its geometry, then it will require engineering labor to make it machinable.

Common geometry issues include:

  • Polylines: Too many small line segments instead of smooth arcs

If you use Fusion360 or other CAD software, you must change the degree to 3 instead of the default degree 5, or else your arcs will export as polylines. For details on how to change this setting, click here.

CAD design of knife with polyline mistake

  • Intersecting, overlapping, or common lines

CAD design of knife with overlapping lines mistake

  • Skips or gaps in lines

CAD design of knife with gap in lines

  • Artifact nodes

CAD design of knife with artifact node

  • Bezier Lines: Bevels should not be included in the file to be cut. The CAD should show the part exactly as you want it cut from the raw material, not the finished knife.

CAD design of knife with bezier lines

For more information about CAD, please see our CAD help page. We will also be releasing more articles about CAD and knifemaking soon!

Leave additional topics or questions in the comments here or on Instagram.

Images courtesy of and

Deans, M. (2021, March 17). What is CAM (computer-aided manufacturing)?. Fusion 360 Blog.


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