Machine Shop Estimating Methods: Part 6 – CAM Cycle Time Estimating

A CAD engineer working on a computer with drawings on his desk.

Written By Joseph Rose

April 19, 2023

Welcome back to our blog series on machine shop estimating methods!

In Part 6, we’ll explore CAM cycle time estimating, a highly accurate method used for determining the time and costs involved in machining complex or custom parts using computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software. This method is especially beneficial for machine shops that require a high degree of precision and customization.

Let’s dive into the details!

What is CAM Cycle Time Estimating?

CAM cycle time estimating is a method that uses CAM software to simulate the machining process and calculate the time it will take to produce a part based on factors such as tool paths, cutting speeds, and feeds. It’s typically used in machine shops when a job requires a high degree of precision and customization.

How to Implement CAM Cycle Time Estimating

To implement CAM cycle time estimating in a machine shop, follow these steps:

  1. Ensure access to compatible CAM software that works with your machines and parts.
  2. Create a 3D model of the part and input the necessary parameters into the software.
  3. The software simulates the machining process and provides an estimate of the cycle time required to produce the part.

Pros and Cons of CAM Cycle Time Estimating

  • High accuracy: Provides an accurate estimate of cycle time, especially for complex parts that require multiple operations.
  • Optimization: CAM software allows for the optimization of tool paths and other parameters, helping reduce cycle time and increase efficiency.
  • Customization: CAM software can be tailored to fit the specific needs of a job or part, offering greater flexibility in the manufacturing process.
  • Time-consuming: Setting up and running the CAM software can be time-consuming, particularly for complex parts or jobs with many operations.
  • Specialized knowledge and training: Effective use of CAM software requires specialized knowledge and training, which may not be accessible to all machine shop employees.
  • Cost: CAM software and associated hardware costs can be high, making it less accessible for smaller machine shops or those with limited resources.


In Part 6 of our blog series, we’ve examined the benefits and challenges of CAM cycle time estimating. This method offers high accuracy, optimization, and customization, making it an excellent choice for machine shops that require a high degree of precision and customization. However, the time-consuming nature of the process, the need for specialized knowledge, and the costs involved may limit its applicability in some situations.

Stay tuned for Part 7, where we’ll delve into cost-based estimating as another method for determining costs in a machine shop setting.

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