"One Perfect Part at a Time"

More Than a CAD

CNC Milling

A CAD

S. Whiplash, Typical CAD

It’s been a while since I have run my original CNC Taig Micro-Mill. It’s the one configured for metal work and has the mist cooling installed. There is nothing operationally wrong with it as far as I know. Just haven’t had a project where I needed its services.

I have always used RhinoCAD (Rhinoceros) with RhinoCAM to generate the design and the Gcode necessary to run the mill. I am presently working with FUSION360 CAD with its built-in CAM. FUSION360 has become my go-to CAD for 3D printing because of the very good built-in STL generator. Rhino can do STL too but has some issues (for me) in producing first-time usable STL.

CAM is a whole new layer of complexity after creating the CAD drawing. Of course, the first challenge is the CAD, as what is drawn must be something that can be produced by milling. It is possible to draw parts that can never be machined.

The CAM requires the complete understanding of the milling operation and all the tools that can be deployed on the target milling machine. In the case of the Taig Micro-mill, tool size is limited to the machine’s abilities and speeds. I have no need for things like an automatic tool change. I am a hobbyist, not a manufacturing center.

CNC is certainly not “push the button and go”. The complexity is what I love about the process.

I use two different CNC controller software systems to control the movements of the milling machines. The older mill is using MACH3. The newer WAX cutting mill runs on LinuxCNC controller software. I was very pleased to see what is called a POST processor available in FUSION360 for both controller formats.

The POST processor is a function in CAM that converts the machine movements to the dialect of G-code the machine controller can understand. G-code is a standard, but there is a huge variety in how the actual code is written for the controller.

Every controller manufacturer does control in their own way. That is what a POST processor does. It puts the standard code in a format the actual controller program can understand. It is a patch.

I have a simple 2D CNC machining metal project to cut new wrenches to fit the ER11 collet holder on my new high-speed spindle.  The spindle  installed on the Taig mill used for 3D wax machining.

The design of the wrenches is simple, but the CAM details needs to be configured within FUSION360.

The “tool table” defines in exact detail, the milling bits and holders used. Next is configuring the speeds and feeds the Taig mill can utilize with those tools in the specific materials to be machined. Saving all those details so they can be reused later in a new project. I’m lovin’ it!

It appeared overwhelming when first looking at the tool table. It was huge, with A LOT of tools pre-listed. But I soon discovered how to easily make a personal table better suited to my needs.

The results will be posted when the FUSION360 CAM is used on the wrench project. For now, its all about getting a new system configured. It just needs to be done correctly and I foresee no major obstacles. Stay tuned.

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