"One Perfect Part at a Time"

CAM

The Siren’s Song

I have to admit to myself that I have run amok and spun off into the rocks along the shore of the barren hobby/craft islands for a while. Of course, that is figurative. I think I am still pretty much sane.

I am referring of course to my workshop interests and making tangible and valuable art and crafts. It was the song of the mythological siren creature that lured me off course. Maybe put me asleep. Its name is “3D Printer”. Ha!

Yep, I fell victim under its spell. I love design and making things and doing that with a 3D printer is very enticing. 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

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

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… Continue reading

Autodesk Fusion 360

fusion360logo

fusion360logo

First look. I poked around looking at the trending in 3D CAD/CAM tools. Autodesk (AutoCAD) has always been at the top of my unobtainable list because of cost. I have a now quite old LT version which is strictly 2D. I also have a standard AutoCAD I think is version 4 or 6. Neither are installed on my machines. I need 3D.

In my web search I discovered a new tool from Autodesk called Fusion 360. I was actually reading about Apple’s new super powered iPad Pro. I thought if I owned an iPad Pro, it would have to do 3D CAD. I discovered a new 3D CAD program for the iPad Pro called Shapr3D.

Shapr3D looks very Avant-garde performing on the iPad Pro. Here is a quote from their home page: “All you need is your iPad Pro, an Apple Pencil and Shapr3D.” The program is listed as “free” but the first two requirements are a bit beyond my budget. That didn’t stop me from exploring the application features,

In the reviews I read on this product, there was a mention of the Fusion 360 application. I followed the hyper-link and discovered it is an Autodesk product. Now I am paying attention.

Fusion 360 is more advanced than Shapr3D. It is also one of the new wave “cloud subscription” products. For professional users, it is a subscription service with a monthly/yearly user fee. It provides a huge amount of professional services, sharing, cloud storage, etc. I expect something from Autodesk to reek with such high end features,

What is truly startling, is a full featured, fully operational, free installation is available for start-ups groups and developers and individual hobbyists (me), no strings attached. I will have to confirm my non professional use on a yearly basis.… Continue reading

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