"One Perfect Part at a Time"

CAD/CAM/CNC

Tormach xsTECH Router

Tormach xsTECH RouterA first impression. My impression.  NOT a user report.

Note well:  It called a ROUTER not micro-mill. Or any type of mill.  Routers and mills are cousins, but don’t live in the same family group.

I was extremely excited when I saw this tool for the first time.  I like Tormach equipment and I especially like their Linux based PathPilot controller software. This little baby OH router, the Tormach xsTECH actually runs full strength PathPilot!

It’s also a complete, full house, tools and all, everything one needs to get up and running — 3-axis micro overhead router. WOW! Continue reading

Machining in the 4th Dimension

The fourth dimension is often mentioned in science fiction as a dimension beyond the human senses. Today, real scientists (if there are such people) claim the fourth dimension does exist. But there are IMHO plenty of pseudoscience, especially promoted as video “entertainment.”  Material for a future rant…

In machining there really IS a fourth dimension. Usually called the 4thaxis. The Hobbyist Machine Shop (THMS) has a fourth axis for use on the Taig micro mill. It’s been on both the mill used for metal machining as well as the wax milling machine. Currently it is on the Taig micro-mill used for wax carving

THMS has (owns) four software CAM software packages that can create g-code for the 4thaxis machining. I’ll list them but will not (here) get into the fine details of using them.

Two types of 4thaxis operations are most common.

First is indexing. The material to be machined is held in the 4thaxis rotational device. Standard X, Y, Z three axis machining is performed on the surface facing the Z axis. 3 axis machining is paused, and Z axis is raised to clear all dimensions of the material. The 4thaxis rotates (indexes) the material to another face. This can be 180, or 90, or 45, or any equal or non-equal rotation. Then 3 axis machining operation resumes on the new surface plain presented. Repeat as necessary.

The second process (A axis rotation) requires setting Z axis Y position perpendicular to the center rotational axis and A axis assumes the movements of the Y motion vectors by rotating. Where A axis was stationary in the first method, the actual Y axis is stationary in the second.… Continue reading

Ring Carved on 4th Axis

Everything came together for the first real use of the forth axis mandrel for ring carving. It’s nice when the plan comes together and everything works as intended. There was of course far more than just making the mandrel. There is the CAD design stage and the CAM (Desk Proto) for generating the G-code for the 4th axis. Then running the G-code on the micro-mill. I use LinuxCNC and I had to write my own metric post processor for Desk Proto. Not all that hard, actually. I made a USC (inch) version too. One tiny code change.

The first picture is the carved ring blank on the mandrel. I can accommodate a wide range of wax sizes. There will be much more experimentation and determination of the correct wax width for a project. This example worked fine.

The second photo is after the wax master model was hand finished and at this point is ready for casting. Sprue’s were added the ring put into a flask and the investment added. This post is not about the lost wax process. However, I thought it was interesting to show the wax carving and the final result the mandrel helps create.

The last picture is the finished Sterling silver ring shown on my hand (size 11). It really looks great. I will be doing a lot more wax carving on the 4th axis of the Taig micro-mill.

DeskProto for 4th Axis

Using 4 axis milling, requires a CAM software system to create the necessary CNC G-code. It’s not something one can easily hand code when doing 3D designs. Simple level surfacing could be hand-coded on a 4thaxis, but probably lathe turning would be far easier.

Aspire, a three-dimensional CAD/CAM produced by Vectric can produce G-code for the 4thaxis. It is one of my go-to programs. However, I don’t design everything in Aspire CAD. Fusion 360 and RhinoCAD are also programs I use for design.

Both these programs have 4 axis CAM built in. Fusion 360 has a built in CAM, and with Rhino5 I have a plugin RhinoCAM 2012 w/4axis.  In Fusion the 4thaxis CAM is 2.5D and cannot produce 3-dimensional 4thaxis G-code. I added 4thaxis 3D CAM to RhinoCAM 2012 but find it extremely difficult to produce quality cut pathing. It seems to contain some very strange algorithms producing highly fragmented pathing.

This has led me to another 3rdparty CAM software (from the Netherlands) called DeskProto. It can take input (in the proper format) from any CAD software. (I won’t be getting into describing the process here.)

DeskProto’s claim is that it is CAM software for creative people and not the die-hard machinist. I find agreement to that statement. I find details missing with some lack of particular seldom-needed features perhaps needed by a high powered VMC machinist. For the rest of us common users, making things (on up to 5 axis milling systems), DeskProto gets the job done without micro-managing every single minor detail.

Having made that (limiting) statement, there remains plenty of useful variables that will insure getting the results a user like myself desires.

I will admit I put off choosing this program,… Continue reading

Swarf Blower Added to Taig HS Spindle

Wax swarf blower system

The blower that was added to the Taig spindle on the original WAX milling system has been updated to operate on the new high speed water cooled spindle. A full article with pictures can be found here: https://thehobbyistmachineshop.com/cms/projects/wax-fan-v-2-0

This is not a dimensional, How-To article. It demonstrates how 3D printing can be utilized to add accessories to the Taig mill and a high speed water cooled spindle.

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