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Author:  Robert Lak [ Tue Dec 13, 2016 8:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Software?

My son has access to a cnc at school and i thought maybe we could try to run some things on that. He says is uses something called vectric software but that seems a bit pricey to play with. Is there a free, basic version of CNC software that we could play with and create a basic file to use on the cnc?.. He says there's no tag or model on the machine and he thinks it was hand built by someone.


Author:  rlrhett [ Wed Dec 14, 2016 12:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Software?

Hands down the best value out there right now is Fusion 360. Your son can get a student license for... FREE. And it makes Vectric's offerings seem amateurish by comparison.

CNC machines, in general, run something called "G code". It doesn't usually matter too much what brand the machine is, although some use different flavors or have some quirky syntax requirements. If you can generate G code, and pretty much any CAM software can, you can cut on that machine whatever the brand.

All that said, CNC takes a lot to get started. This probably isn't the post to go into it in detail, but the first and most obvious thing is that the CNC can't cut what you can't draw in a CAD program. Learning to properly model in 3D is by far the most challenging aspect of starting with CNC machining. Then learning some tooling strategies to tell the CAM software (Fusion and Vectric both integrate CAD and CAM into one software) what milling steps you need. For example, you might do a clearing/roughing with a 1/2 bull nose bit followed by parallel surfacing and maybe pencil line. Last is developing a sense of what you particular machine can do. How do you hold the stock down? How do you register the stock to the machine's coordinates? How hard can you push it? What is the most efficient tool change strategy?

I once had a student say he thought CNC was "cheating" because all I did was push a button and then nervously hover while it did all the work. Of course he didn't know anything about the weeks of planning, drawing, and setup. That, in a nutshell is CNC machining. 100% of the work is done before the machine makes its first cut. Most of it in front of a computer screen. You will find that you will need to spend quite a lot of time on the software side before you can run anything on the machine. That is not everyone's cup of tea, especially if you are a woodworker first who loves creating with your hands rather than your mouse. But if learning powerful new software is up your alley, then by all means give Fusion 360 a good look.

Author:  Andy Birko [ Wed Dec 14, 2016 10:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Software?

Ditto what rlrhett says. Fusion 360 gives you way more than you need. The only thing I would disagree with is that Vectric is no good - for engraving and inlay, it makes life really easy. I use SolidWorks with Visual Mill but I bought Vcarve pro because the inlay goes so quickly on there!

Author:  Robert Lak [ Wed Dec 14, 2016 2:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Software?

Thanks... I do know he's used it mostly for making signs, but there's only so many places to hang signs in the house, especially signs with slogans suited to a 16 year olds tastes.

We'll download the fusion software and see if it's workable.
As I said, he's only used it for lettering, so maybe we'll have to post some questions when we try to get this thing going.

It is guitar related. There was a thread I started regarding a rosette cutter for the dewalt 611 trimmer and a few examples were given. I thought I could make one, and came up with a basic design that needs little of the hardware some of the more complex ones used without giving up any of the micro-adjustments.
I actually built one by hand but it took me all day, it is ugly and I made a design error so the adjustment knob is all but impossible to turn. Ugh! I am hoping I can make a few copies on cnc more easily so I can play with the screw tension...

I am hoping the CNC will make that process easier.

I too was resistant to CNC as "cheating", but I don't write letters by hand anymore so we adjust to technology. And in this case when making a tool, it's just plain smart. Besides, if you have seen my posts before, my woodworking skills are based on 6th grade shop, so.... :-)


Author:  Allen McFarlen [ Wed Dec 14, 2016 2:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Software?

Fusion 360 is the bee's knees, especially when it comes to 3D.

While the learning curve for any of these programs can be steep, once you get on to it, everything becomes so much easier and you'll wonder how you got along with out it.

Author:  Robert Lak [ Thu Dec 15, 2016 2:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Software?

I downloaded and played with it for a bit... definitely going to be a learning curve. I'll put my son on it and he'll have it done in a blink! lol

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