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First Time using a CNC


Jackyl
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Figured it would probably do me well to ask some questions. I picked up what I believe was a decent deal on a CNC setup that a person had invested some serious money into, but I got it from the 2nd owner. The second owner I believe had no clue how to use it and could not demonstrate it to me other than run the axis, but he did not run it very far which caused me a headache this weekend. All said and done, I figured out that he never set up the software correctly and the Y axis was not slaved between the motors, all is good now.

That said, the person was using DeskCNC, their documentation is less than friendly and that is about the extent of the software that was there. What would be a good design software for a first timer? It has been 30yrs since I did any designing and that was on a piece of paper, using a ruler and pencil. I see a lot of people discussing this Mach 3 Software, would that be something to replace the DeskCNC? Honestly I have yet to figure out even how to get a demo circle to the board, so when I say I know nothing, I know less than that.

I am just glad that I figured out what was going on with the motors and which I believe was the reason this person had never done anything with it. If there are publications that you think would be good points of reference throw them my way, until then I will continue to mess around with the software and build my guitars by hand. The reason I purchased this unit was to save myself and my son time when doing logos and names on the fretboard. I would like to do much more with it, but just taking one step at a time.

Thank you for any advice or direction.

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I've been pleasantly surprised with the design capability of SurfCAM however I do my drawing in TurboCAD and export as DXF to SurfCAM. It might well be that you find some similar combination that works best for you. Can't comment on Mach3 because I've never used it. The stage I am at with CNC work is that I am adapting my existing work processes in CAD.

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Mach 3 is kind of the hobbyist industry standard. Extremely capable and well thought out. However, if you don't want to drop the $200 on it, LinuxCNC is free, though it requires the installation of a special Linux Ubuntu OS build. I have a dedicated PC for my CNC (since it is an old PC with parallel port), so it doesn't matter. Works very well, though not quite as fast to get up and running as Mach 3 and the interface isn't as pretty. But it is open source and free, with a good support community.

As far as CAM goes, I am still on the trial of CamBam, and like it alright. I still need to demo other programs first, before committing the money there.

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I feel your pain jackyl.

I'm in the process of ordering a cnc myself and everything I'm told, everything I read just sounds like complete gibberish. Nothing I read sinks in as I simply don't understand it and in having next to no luck using autocad once I go from 2d to 3d.

I can draw basic stuff like pickup pockets etc, but trying to co complex curves etc is doing my head in.

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Just in the last year I have started getting interested in CNC. Here is a site that has a lot of information.

http://www.cnczone.com

CNC zone is the best place to lurk for "how to's". Although it's a very large forum, and can be overwhelming at first.

Here's the best way to look at the different softwares:

CAD software - Is the software used to draw the outline, and other details of whatever the project is. It is usually exported in a DXF, or EPS "vector" file.

Rhino (3D modeling software) - Is the software used to turn the 2D vector artwork into a 3D model like a carve top, or a neck profile.

ArtCAM (toolpath generation software) - Takes the 3D, or vector files, and generates a code that makes the selected tool follow the contour of the vector, or 3D model.

Mach3 (control software) - Runs the machine. It takes the the G-code file that is generated in a CAM software, and actually tells the machine what to do.

Some softwares, like ArtCAM will do everything but machine control. Overall, the learning curve is very steep. The best thing to do is start with vector files (DXF). Learn how to import and edit files...and go from there. Don't take on too much too fast. Read a lot, and ask questions. :)

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Doug - are you suggesting I should draw 2D in autocad, then export into Rhino for the 3D?

I've been trying to draw 3D in Autocad which is quite complex

I looked around for a "free" download of Rhino and didn't come up with anything, so I've been trying to use Autocad

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There seems to be so many different packages out there. That Artcam looked pretty good at first glance, but the price was through the roof. I can tell you that the CNC machine that I picked up was half the price of the software. I liked the idea that the unit was 28x35, but it will be hard to do much with it without the software. The end game I'm sure will be worth it.

I was watching a video today and the guy was using words that I have never heard before, makes me feel a bit stupid honestly. When he got into the relative plane vs the neg z, all that was going through my head was, am I landing the space shuttle?

Looks like a lot of good info though, I did happen to stumble on the cnczone web site already while trying to figure out the DeskCNC software which I guess is out dated from what I could gather. A lot more digging and trial and error I guess.

Thanks

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Doug - are you suggesting I should draw 2D in autocad, then export into Rhino for the 3D?

I've been trying to draw 3D in Autocad which is quite complex

I looked around for a "free" download of Rhino and didn't come up with anything, so I've been trying to use Autocad

AutoCAD is very complex. I quit using it about 10 years ago. I use an old sign software called CASmate for most of my vector design. Sometimes I use ArtCAM to edit vectors. I only use Rhino for 3D modeling, but you can do vector editing in it.

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Doug - are you suggesting I should draw 2D in autocad, then export into Rhino for the 3D?

I've been trying to draw 3D in Autocad which is quite complex

I looked around for a "free" download of Rhino and didn't come up with anything, so I've been trying to use Autocad

AutoCAD is very complex. I quit using it about 10 years ago. I use an old sign software called CASmate for most of my vector design. Sometimes I use ArtCAM to edit vectors. I only use Rhino for 3D modeling, but you can do vector editing in it.

Just in the last year I have started getting interested in CNC. Here is a site that has a lot of information.

http://www.cnczone.com

CNC zone is the best place to lurk for "how to's". Although it's a very large forum, and can be overwhelming at first.

Here's the best way to look at the different softwares:

CAD software - Is the software used to draw the outline, and other details of whatever the project is. It is usually exported in a DXF, or EPS "vector" file.

Rhino (3D modeling software) - Is the software used to turn the 2D vector artwork into a 3D model like a carve top, or a neck profile.

ArtCAM (toolpath generation software) - Takes the 3D, or vector files, and generates a code that makes the selected tool follow the contour of the vector, or 3D model.

Mach3 (control software) - Runs the machine. It takes the the G-code file that is generated in a CAM software, and actually tells the machine what to do.

Some softwares, like ArtCAM will do everything but machine control. Overall, the learning curve is very steep. The best thing to do is start with vector files (DXF). Learn how to import and edit files...and go from there. Don't take on too much too fast. Read a lot, and ask questions. :)

Unless it's questions such as asking someone you bought a CNC from about setting it up, or where your jigs you were promised are, or where all the files you were promised are. Then you need not ask.

I picked up quite a bit on my own by asking actual helpful people, and joining CNC forums. There are guys here VERY handy with CNC. If you have any questions I would be more than glad to help you. The learning curve is pretty steep. First lesson, don't trust someone who you give thousands of dollars to follow up with all their promises, in the end you end up getting blamed for giving up when all you've asked is what you were told to ask.

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Unless it's questions such as asking someone you bought a CNC from about setting it up, or where your jigs you were promised are, or where all the files you were promised are. Then you need not ask.

First lesson, don't trust someone who you give thousands of dollars to follow up with all their promises, in the end you end up getting blamed for giving up when all you've asked is what you were told to ask.

Kindly stop playing out your personal dramas in public. It is non-productive, nobody wants to hear it and it certainly does not constitute a lesson of any sort. This is your first and only warning on this.

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Like others have stated, there's a very steep learning curve, but it's well worth it, especially if you're doing production work.
When I first got into this, I was pretty overwhelmed, and I have a background and degree in 3D modeling, so don't feel bad about asking questions.
You found CNCZone which is a great resource, but it can be very overwhelming. Read everything you can, and learn whichever software you end up using as well as possible. Duh, I know, but there's always more than one way to do things, which few people actually move beyond.
As far as design software for a 1st timer like you asked, there's a bunch out there and none of it cheap (from what I've seen). I tried the Rhino3D (design) and RhinoCAM (NC code generation) demos and just couldn't deal with its maddening interface and UX, but it works for a lot of people. I've heard BOBCam is decent and not terribly expensive. Personally I use SolidWorks (design) and HSMWorks (NC Code), but that's serious overkill for just doing guitars.
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Since AutoCAD is way out of my price range I use a convenient combination of software. Since I am learning CNC as part of my degree this adds more software....

For design I stick purely to TurboCAD on the basis that it is lightweight (at least in comparison to AutoCAD) and affordable. TurboCAD Designer is $39,99 and therefore a total bargain. I use this for all of my design work whether it is destined for CNC or not. In the case of CNC stuff I export to DXF which should be easy to import to most CAD/CAM packages, in my case SurfCAM. I don't like the design tools in SurfCAM but it seems plenty easy enough to create toolpaths from.

IMSI Design who make TurboCAD also sell a CAM plugin for $300 but that would be a major outlay for me at this stage. SurfCAM is twenty-thirty times that cost making recommendations such as CAMBam, BobCAM or even RhinoCAM superior propositions. I feel that if I were ever in a position to invest in a CNC for whatever reason, Rhino3D/RhinoCAM would be the way forward as a small percentage of the larger outlay.

As an aside, I also use AutoCAD 360 (https://www.autocad360.com/) as a method of sharing designs between my devices in the cloud. I am often found referring to my drawings and extracting dimensions, etc. off my Android phone or my Nexus 7 tablet when paper would just become clutter. Not sure why this would be useful but I guess I wanted to mention it since I outlined my workflow. ;-)

SolidWorks? No idea. Never touched it since I have no specific reason to at this stage. My son is learning this as part of his machining degree which I am sure will become useful for outsourced slave labour.

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I have been messing with DeskCNC for the past 2 days. I am not crazy about it, but I have been able to import pictures and got that to engrave itself, but the one thing it has not done is actually carve out the letters. I was mainly trying to inlay something, but when in carving mode it takes a long long time doing each 1/32 it seems with a 1/8 bit. It might be faster for me doing it by hand, I am sure I am doing something wrong. I might give the turboCAD a try, price wise that is much more reasonable.

I will keep plugging along, as my son tells me, making dust.

Thanks

Steve

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TurboCAD is a good tool, especially for your basic 2D work. It does not really provide direct assistance in CAM work however since that isn't its original intent. I use it purely out of familiarity (I work very quickly and efficiently in it) with the additional bonus that I can export parts of my main drawings out to a CAM package in DXF format. If the drawing tools in say, DeskCNC are not too good then TC can fill that gap I guess however you would still need something in addition to create the toolpaths, etc.

It's the same for me. I would not be able to produce the standard of CAD work that I do in SurfCAM, but that isn't its purpose really. Try a TurboCAD demo if there is one....I seem to recall there being one anyway....

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