"One Perfect Part at a Time"

Rhino

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

Dimensional Decision

I am presently using two very good 3-dimensional CAD programs. They are Autodesk Fusion 360 and Robert McNeil & Associates Rhino3D. I am at a decision point on which one will be my standard go-to drawing program.

I have had the longest association with Rhino. I started with version 3 and version 6 has just been released. Major version number upgrades must be purchased. That’s why I am at a decision point.

Fusion 360 is free for users like myself. That is a major advantage. The Rhino3D upgrade is $375.00.

It seems like a no-brainer to stay with the free one. But for me price is not always the sole determining criteria.

My problem is that both programs are very good. The largest difference is the cost-to-own. If I had to pay for Fusion 360, I must admit that cost would be a very large determining factor. I certainly don’t want to be paying for two programs that are almost equal in results for how I use them.

My decision is to continue using both. I will pay for the upgrade in Rhino. It’s about $1.05 per day for a year. I can live with that. Major upgrades do not occur yearly, so the cost spreads out thinner.

I have no idea if Fusion will remain free. It does seem to be a very friendly marketing strategy.

One hesitation I have with Fusion 360 is it is cloud-based and dependent on a connection to the Internet. It seems to me it access could be shut down very quickly. But every computer activity today depends heavily on an Internet connection.  I feel any change in the free use policy won’t be immediate.

I have just changed my business accounting to a web-based service. It’s how we work today.

What keeps… Continue reading

Rhino Crazy

I have spent the last couple of weeks deciding what I was going to do to upgrade my CAD/CAM software. Not the software I use for Over Head Routing. I have one of the best for my purposes and cost restraints in the form of Vectric  Aspire.  I use it a lot and always find new things I can make or design using it. Aspire is not going to go away for something better in its class for a long time.

As the title suggests my struggle has been what do I do with my aging (over six years old) McNeel’s Rhinoceros and its CAM plugin, MecSoft’s RhinoCAM. I use this combination to do the things that Aspire was never designed to do in CAD/CAM, A few example projects are the stepper motor heat sinks on HB2, a complicated replacement gun part in aluminum, and the detailed A3 locomotive driver wheels I machined from stainless steel.

Rhino really rocks in the drawing department. Well, that is what it is, a 3D drawing program. I started with Version 3 and somewhere along the line I upgraded to version 4. It’s been in Version 4 for quite some time, but there have been updates on a regular basis. Version 3 was fun but when V4 arrived, I knew it was a real pro users program. I am now running the Beta for version 5 and it is another major leap.

Rhino sells for around $1000 new and about half that for upgrades. So I have probably $1500 invested in Rhino over 6 – 8 years. I don’t know where V5 upgrade will be priced, but I will be there.

MecSoft RhinoCAM is a special edition of Visual Mill that runs inside Rhino as a plug in. It is… Continue reading

BobCAD-CAM First Test

BobCAD Logo I went through the full set of the supplied BobCAD-CAM V24 drawing tutorials and even though I am not a novice at this 2D and 3D CAD drawing stuff, I feel it is worth the time spent. The temptation is to cut corners and just dive right in. With any software this comprehensive it is best to follow the rules at first. There are many ways to skin a (Bob) cat they say, but it is best to make the first try with someone leading the way.

I am comfortable with the drawing (CAD) part in BobCAD-CAM. Yes, past experience helps a lot and any kind of previous CAD experience will be an asset. I am very pleased how complete this tool is for drawing.

The total user interface customization that is available is as awesome as it is daunting. I don’t suggest rearranging tool menus and so forth until you settle into a comfortable work style. Just wait until you want to make it a bit more convenient to your work habits. Definitely you can have it your way.

I thought I would miss the 4 view display I have in Rhino, but after working a short while in BobCAD-CAM, I didn’t even think of it. By the way, I will refer to Rhino occasionally here, not as a recommended alternative but as my basis of comparison. Rhino is a great 3D CAD and graphics program that I know how to use. You have to buy an additional add-on product to do any CAM with it. Actually BobCAD-CAM is very happy to import Rhino files.

The switching between various windowed axis views works fairly well but I did occasionally notice a few missed quick clicks when changing view, especially going into the rotate view.… Continue reading

Thoughts on CAD/CAM/CNC

I am going to take a time out here from the product specific (BobCAD-CAM) examination I am making of a CAD/CAM software product.

I consider myself a competent self taught hobbyist CNC machinist. I didn’t get here without a lot of study and hands on practical experience. Let me say I have paid for my mistakes as well as my successes. The creative process of following through from an idea, to a sketch, Computer Aided Design (2D & 3D drafting), Computer Aided Manufacturing, (generation of Computer Numeric Control code), Controller (MACH3) set up and finally understanding the physical limitations of machine moves and feeds and speeds, and the huge variety of milling cutting tools… is a stupendous undertaking! I think I left out machine set-up for holding material and tool changing.

In my opinion CAD/CAM/CNC (the trinity) is a several orders of magnitude more difficult task than straight manual milling. However, I see thousands of examples of hobbyists running CNC so it is definitely a doable process for a single non professional to master, but not on day one.

CAD/CAM/CNC is not an easier way of machining simple parts. The actual machining stage of CAD/CAM/CNC is only a part of stage three (the CNC portion) of the trinity. There is a lot of “desk work” to master before making chips in the shop.

There exists a small number of hobbyist “Motor Spinners” out there. This is a slightly derogatory term for the folks that love the concept of CNC but build or buy a CNC machine just to watch the axis motors spin. They have no established need to make anything. I have no issue with that. This is what any hobby is all about. A hobby doesn’t need to do anything but make you happy.

I am guilty of… Continue reading

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