3D-Cam dialog-box

See Add 3D Cam

Open 3D-Cam dialog-box

Edit the 3D-Cam:

1.Double-click a 3D-Cam in the graphic-area or Assembly-Tree.

- or -

The 3D-Cam dialog-box is now open.

3D-Cam dialog-box


There are three tabs in the 3D-Cam dialog-box:


Buttons at top of the 3D-Cam dialog-box:

Rebuild button

Save Cam button

See below for more details.

Cam tab

Rims in 3D Cams

Rims along the Cam-Flanks (Purple), the Top and Bottom (Orange), and Points along each Rim.


We specify 3D-Cams with four(4) cam faces. See image to the left.

The four (4) cam faces are the:

Two working faces or the Cam-Flanks.

Cam-Flanks: the two faces along which the Cam-Roller will roll or slide.

Two non-working faces. These are called the Root-Face and the Top-Face.

Root-Face: the 'floor' of the cam. It should not contact the actual Cam-Roller at any time.

Top Face: does not have a function in the actual cam. We use the Top-Face to close the 3D-Cam, when we export the data to SolidWorks, or save it as a STEP file.

Each Face is specified by: Rims and Points

There are a number of lines, that we call Rims, along each cam face. We can specify how many Rims - see below.
There are a Points along each Rim. We can specify how many Points - see below.



# Points along Rims:
Number-of-Points along each Rim

# Rims along Flanks:
Number-of-rims across each flank (working faces) of the Cam

# Rims along Top & Bottom:
Number-of-Rims across the Root and Top (non-working faces) of the Cam:

# Hoops (data for CAD only)
Number-of-hoops that wrap around the 3D-Cam and connect the same Point along each Rim:

The hoops help SolidWorks to keep the shape of the surfaces.

Taper-Roller VelocityDiagram-464


Note: the equation: V = r ω (Linear Velocity = Radius × Angular Velocity)

Different points on the cam-flank surface are at different radii from the cam's rotational axis. The tangential velocity of points on the flank of a 3D-Cam are not the same. A point that is at a large radius from the Cam's rotational-axis has a greater tangential velocity than a point that is at a small radius.

Points on the surface of a cam-follower have identical radii from its 's rotational-axis. Thus, the tangential velocities of all points on the surface of a cylindrical roller are identical.

The surface speed of the cam and the surface speed of the follower can only be the same at one contact points. The follower must be skidding at all other points!

If you use a tapered-roller, with an apex that is coincident with the rotational-axis of the cam, then pure rolling can occur during the dwell periods, and nearly pure rolling during the motion periods.


Nevertheless, cylindrical rollers are most often used as they are readily available, cheap, and can take high loads when they have needle-rollers.

What is the Roller Diameter of a Taper-Roller?

We cannot consider this until we understand the Extrusion-Offset and Extrusion-Depth parameters that define the Profile Extrusion of the Cam-Follower Roller.

In MechDesigner, to model a 3D-Cam, we sketch a circle to represent the diameter of the Cam-Roller. We add a Profile to the circle to represent the cylindrical sides of the Cam-Roller. We use Extrusion dialog-box to make the Extrusion-Depth parameter equal to the 'Length/Width' of the Cam-Roller bearing (Typically, 'B' parameter in bearing catalogues).

Extrusion dialog-box:

Extrusion-Offset (mm): Positive or Negative value

A dimension, that may be positive or negative.
Equals the position of the Primary-Contour (when the Part-Offset parameter = 0mm).

Extrusion-Depth (mm):  ONLY a positive value.

Extrusion-Offset (mm) + Extrusion-Depth (mm)= the position of the Secondary-Contour.


Note: In image to the left, +Z-axis direction is down.



Taper-Angle' of the Cam-Follower Roller.

Taper-Angle (degrees) inclines the Flanks of the 3D-Cam. The taper angle pivots about the Secondary-Contour. This is not as convenient as the Primary Contour, for which we apologise.

With reference to the image to the left, we can see the

Positive Taper Angle increases the diameter in the +Z-axis direction.
Negative Taper Angle (shown in image) decreases the diameter in the +Z-axis direction.

Recommendation , if you are going to use the Taper-Roller parameter.

Below, we assume you have made sure the Mechanism-Plane of the Cam-Follower is half (mid-)way through the width of the Cam-Follower. It if is not, then change the dimension below to suit your model.


C = Actual Roller Width

C = Actual Roller Width


1.Edit the Cam-Follower Extrusion with the Extrusion dialog-box

Enter these parameters:

Extrusion-Depth(mm) = 0.5 × Actual Roller Width(mm) (Dimension 'C' in image to the left (thank you SKF)
Extrusion-Offset (mm) = Extrusion-Depth(mm) (Equal to –C)

The Extrusion-Offset is the negative of the Extrusion-Depth.

The Secondary Profile is now on the Mechanism-Plane.

Now, the Taper-Angle parameter will rotate and pivot on the Mechanism-Plane.


Taper-Roller Parameters-Settings-General-3


In the Clearances separator (see below ):

Red-14-1 Root-Clearance = a minimum of 0.5 × Actual Roller Width(mm)

Red-14-2 You need to add more Root-Clearance and Top-Clearance to extend the flanks as required of the 3D-Cam, to suit your design.

Typical Root-Clearance = 0.6 x Actual Roller Width




Clearances are practical considerations.

Clearance assumes the Cam is a Groove/Track Cam.



A positive value 'pushes' the working cam-faces (flanks) outwards, to be outside of the cam-follower roller.
A negative value 'pulls' the working cam-faces (cam-flanks) inwards, to be inside the cam-follower roller.

Note: Total Clearance = 2 × Radial Clearance.


Note: the Top-Face may be the Root-Face of the Cam - Vice-Versa. It is a function of your actual model.

To find out which face is which face, enter values and Rebuild the model, to see which faces actually moves.

We will assume that the Extrusion-Depth of the Cam-Follower Roller (in the model) is equal to the Actual Cam-Follower Width (Dimension C)

Root-Clearance: Add Root-Clearance to make sure the Cam-Follower Roller does not touch the Root (also called the floor) of the cam-groove/track.

A positive value extends the Root/Floor and non-working face more into cam, and usually nearer to the centre of the Cam.

Top-Clearance: You make sure the Top-Face is outside the Cam-Blank.

You will not normally need to use this parameter. However, edit this parameter when the Top-Face is actually the Root-Face.




Flank Length  parameters apply to Indexing Cams.

When you add a 3D-Cam, we calculate the coordinates for the cam over a complete machine-cycle of the MMA, 0 – 360. However, cam-follower rollers of indexing cams do not stay in contact with the cam for a complete machine-cycle 0 – 360. The cam-follower rollers progressively engage, then disengage with the cam, in a similar way to gear teeth.

We use the 'Flank-Length' separator to calculate the cam coordinates for the period only when one of the cam-followers is engaged with the cam. To do this we reduce the 'Flank Length' from a machine period of 0 and 360, to a period between two other machine angles.


You may need to edit the 'Flank Length' to calculate the cam for angles that are not  from 0 and 360.



Edit the Start-Angle


Edit the End-Angle

As you edit the Start-Angle and End Angle, you will notice the Cam becomes shorter in length.

The Number-of-Points that we calculate along each rim in the cam does not change. Thus, the points along each rim become nearer to each other.

Display tab



The 'Display' edits how the 3D-Cam shows in the graphic-area.

Cam Display Options:

Solids* | Hoops | Rims check-boxes.

Solids*: show or hide, 3D-Cam as 'Solid' (with colour of the 'color' control, and with the Transparency %).
Hoops: show or hide a hoop at each Point along each of the Rims - see Point
Rims: show or hide the Rims along the 3D-Cam

* You MUST select the Solids check-box to see the 3D-Cam in the other Mechanism-Editors and the Model-Editor


Use the Windows® colour-picker to select a colour of the 3D-Cam


Use the slider to change the Transparency of the 3D-Cam.

Display Cam-Contour as...


When you show the 3D-Cam as Pressure Angle, the faces have a colour-code.

Red identifies a high Pressure-Angle
Blue identifies a low Pressure-Angle

Minimum / Maximum

By default, the colour-code scales to the maximum and minimum values of the Pressure-Angle

If you want to change the scale, use the Maximum Value and Minimum Value boxes.

Auto-scale button

Click the auto-scale button to reset to the maximum and minimum values again.

Export tab

Note: From MD13.2, it is much easier to save the 3D-Cam to a STEP file with the Save button.



It is often useful to link a SolidWorks document file-name with the 3D-Cam in MechDesigner.

Control buttons:

Get Cad Part Path

Link the active SolidWorks document file-name with the 3D-Cam dialog.

The file-name is put into the Cam Part Path box

Open Cam Part

Open, in SOLIDWORKS, the file-name of the SOLIDWORKS document that is in the Cam Part Path box

Note: From MD13.2+, it is much easier to save the 3D-Cam to a STEP file with the Save button.



We recommend you use save as a STEP file - See Rebuild and Save buttons

Alternatively, you can use these buttons to transfer the 3D-Cam data to SOLIDWORKS.

1.Open SolidWorks
2.Add a new SolidWorks Part and make it the active document.
3.Press the three buttons in the SolidWorks Data Transfer separator

Send Cam Blank

MechDesigner exports the sketch of the Cam-Blank and its Axis-of-Rotation.
MechDesigner instructs SolidWorks to add a revolved feature with the Cam-Blank and 'Axis-of-Rotation'.

Note: Typically, the sketch of the Cam-Blank is symmetrical about the middle of the sketch. If the sketch is not symmetrical (top to bottom), then it is possible that SolidWorks will put the sketch 'up-side-down' with respect to the 3D-Cam. To flip the Cam-Blank, mirror ( in SolidWorks) the sketch about the Y–axis and then the X–axis.

Send Cam Surfaces (Note you can also save the Cam as a STEP file, to import directly into your CAD.

MechDesigner exports each Rim and Hoop
MechDesigner instructs SolidWorks to:
oCreate a surface from the Rims for each face and flank of the Cam
oAdd end-caps to the surfaces, if it is an Indexing-Cam
oKnit the surfaces together

Remove Surfaces from Blank

MechDesigner instructs SolidWorks to:
oCut the knitted surfaces into the Cam Blank
oHide the knitted surfaces

Note: You may need to edit the Surface Cut feature to reverse the direction of the cut to leave the cam is a cam-track.

btn_delkeywordRebuild and Save Cam buttons


Rims in 3D Cams

Rims along the Cam-Flanks (Purple), the Top and Bottom (Orange), and Points along each Rim.

Rebuild button

Click the 'Rebuild' button:

to recalculate the 3D-Cam with updated parameters
before you transfer the 3D-Cam to SolidWorks
before you save the 3D-Cam to text files

Save button

Save as ASC and SLDCRV

The data in each file is the XYZ coordinates of the Points on a Rim. Each Rim is saved to a different file.

In the image to the left, there will be 20 separate files - one file for each Rim.

Save as STEP (recommended)

You can open the STEP file in most 3D CAD programs.


From the STEP file, I do these steps:

In SolidWorks:

1.Open the STEP file of the Cam, and immediately save the model as a SolidWorks SLDPRT file.
2.Open a Cam-Blank model
3.Use Insert menu > Part... and select the SLDPRT file that you saved from the STEP. (see 1)

Click the 'tick' to insert the Part in the default location.

You may need to move the Cam with Insert > Feature > Move/Copy. Or you can move the Cam-Blank model

4.Use Insert > Feature > Combine : Subtract to cut the STEP file from the Cam-Blank.
btn_delkeywordExample Transfer the Data as 'Curves' to SOLIDWORKS


I do not do this very often. I normally use the STEP file option.


In SolidWorks®, make sure the active document is a Part document.

STEP 1: Open SolidWorks®
STEP 2: Add a new Part
STEP 3: Save the new Part




STEP 4: Click the Send Cam Blank button

MechDesigner instructs SolidWorks to:

1.Use the Sketch and Rotation Axis in the Cam-Blank Mechanism (MD) to add the Cam-Blank feature (SOLIDWORKS)

See Getting Started Tutorials 6C for more information.

You can see 'Sketch1' and 'Revolve1' in the SolidWorks Feature Manager.


STEP 5: Click the Send Cam Surfaces button

To make the transfer quicker: Show a drop-down menu in SolidWorks® .  For example, show the help menu drop-down. We do not know why this is makes the transfer faster, but it is a significant change.

MechDesigner controls SolidWorks to:

1.Add the Rims as 'Curve' entities
2.Add four Surfaces features (or six if the Flank-Lengths are not from 0 – 360)
a.two Cam Flanks;  a Floor, and a Top
b.plus two 'End-Caps' if the Flank-Lengths are not from 0 – 360.
3.Add the Knit-feature to knit the Surfaces


STEP 6: Click Remove Surfaces from Cam button

The 3D-Cam Surfaces are 'Cut' into the Cam Blank.


STEP 7: Save the Part In SolidWorks®


If STEP 6 does not work, then 'manually' in SolidWorks® , use:

1.Insert > Cut > With Surface
2.Select the Knitted 3D-Cam Surface - the last feature in the Feature Manager.

If you get the 'negative-space' of the cam (see image)

3.Edit the 'Surface Cut' feature in SolidWorks® and click the 'Change Direction' button.
4.Hide the Knitted Surface feature of the 3D-Cam

Tutorials and Reference Help Files for MechDesigner and MotionDesigner 14.2 + © Machine, Cam, Mechanism, and Motion Design Software by PSMotion Ltd