CIM Support Software

Technical Applications


Computer integrated manufacturing (CIM) combines manufacturing hardware and software technologies to integrate product, process, and manufacturing management information into a single interactive network, greatly reducing the number of "transactions" necessary to produce a product. Although only in the initial stages of industrial implementation, CIM systems are significantly increasing productivity and lowering manufacturing costs by linking previously independent portions of the production cycle such as computer-aided design terminals and numerically controlled machine tools (usually integrated manufacturing cells) that actually produce the finished part. CIM incorporates a number of other technologies that are industries unto themselves, such as CAD/CAM, machines tools, controllers, material handling equipment, data management software, and robotics. CIM support software allows the movement of information between parts of the manufacturing process, and is thus the key to making CIM work.


European developers have made rapid gains during the past few years and are at rough technological parity with the United States in CIM technology. Japan will probably continue to lag in CIM because of an inability to link the various portions of the manufacturing cycle through sophisticated software. Two key factors affecting the future of CIM technologies will be the battle for dominance of operating systems and the adoption of international data standards. Standardization of manufacturing data would greatly facilitate the exchange of information and, in turn, ease the implementation of CIM.


This technology contributes to several national economic prosperity goals. Its major contribution is to job creation and economic growth because it is an essential part of the new manufacturing infrastructure centered on computer- controlled manufacturing. For example, by contributing to producibility and lower costs of "clean cars," CIM support software plays an important role in making clean cars more economically viable and giving U.S. industry advantage in the new generation of vehicles for world markets. It provides one of the tools which can be used to excel at the products and processes identified by the NEMI as essential for future competitiveness of U.S. electronics industry in world markets. It provides the capabilities to work with new materials tailored specifically to the needs of automotive, electronics, construction and aircraft industries, and is essential to the design and economic production of sophisticated new automobiles and aircraft. Finally, CIM support software contributes to the harnessing of information technology because many of the physical components of the information infrastructure, e.g., integrated circuits, can be manufactured more productively with reliance on CIM. By increasing the efficiency of the industrial base, CIM support software also helps U.S. national security by increasing the efficiency of the industrial base used for defense applications--particularly important in times of falling procurement budgets.


The United States and Europe are generally ahead of Japan in development of software for manufacturing applications. The U.S. CADAM software package is exceptionally useful for transferring CAD data into numerical control programs, and the recent integration of CADAM with the French CATIA design software provides a powerful system with significant capability for both design and transferring CAD data to production equipment on the shop floor. A large number of competing vendors provide software tailored for various industries and company sizes, running on a variety of platforms. This enables even smaller companies to afford some CAD/CAM capability. Major Japanese companies, on the other hand, tend to use proprietary software, and their smaller companies must purchase foreign software for CAD and CIM applications. Although the Japanese packages used in proprietary applications may be of similar quality to U.S. and European products, the relative lack of off-the-shelf packages in Japan is a market disadvantage.