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Browsing articles from "September, 2010"

Exoskeleton: Beats a Forklift!

Sep 28, 2010   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Cool  //  No Comments

Having a little trouble loading that 4th axis onto your machine table? No worries with this Raytheon powered exoskeleton:
Isn’t technology cool?…

G-Wizard Parts!

Sep 28, 2010   //   by   //   Blog, Software  //  No Comments

G-Wizard user Wes was kind enough to send a couple of photos of some soft jaws and a fixture he whipped up in a few hours with a little help from G-Wizard:

He has a cool DynaMechatronics benchtop CNC machine. Looks like it gives a pretty good surface finish on those parts. Like many other G-Wizard customers, Wes has given me a number of great ideas to improve the G-Wizard software.
Wes, thanks for the “Glamor” shot of your parts with G-Wizard!…

What’s the Optimal Monitor Configuration?

Sep 28, 2010   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Techniques  //  1 Comment

Too many!
As CNC’ers and machinists, we spend a lot of time in front of computer monitors. You’ve all seen multiple monitor configurations, and like me, I’ll bet you’ve wondered whether they’d help your productivity. If nothing else, these setups look cool as all getout, don’t they?

Gorgeous, but still too many?
But then I start asking myself what I would actually put up on all those screens? Would it be too distracting?
Don’t get me wrong, I have a great big Dell monitor. It’s a 27″ flat panel with 2560 x 1440 resolution. I got it on sale for surprisingly little money, and I have loved it ever since. It’s big enough I don’t have to use bifocals and crane my neck to see it, which is a blessing in itself.

About right? Lose the top screen?
But the distraction thing is a real issue. I find that when I need to get something done, I have to stop the distractions. I’ve got to close the e-mail, the RSS feed reader, and all of the other million-and-one interesting but distracting things that come across my computer screen. If I had extra monitors that had email or instant messenger available,…

Getting the Best Performance from ER Collet Chucks

Sep 28, 2010   //   by   //   Beginner, Blog, Techniques  //  16 Comments

ER Collets are actually an excellent workholding system. Consider how the different toolholders ranked ranked in terms of stiffness (see my Milling Surface Finish page for more on this):

Tool Holder Type

Modal Stiffness

Dyamic Stiffness




Collet Chuck






Milling Chuck



Surprising that the lowly collet chuck performed nearly as well as finicky shrink fit tooling and quite a bit better than more expensive hydraulic and power chuck-style holders!
For best surface finish, we want to maximize the modal or static stiffness. Here, the collet chuck is second only to the shrink fit holders. Where roughing is concerned, the Dynamic Stiffness is important for suppressing chatter. For maximum material removal rates, we want to maximize Dynamic Stiffness. Here the Collet Chuck also performs pretty darned well, and it is in hogging out lots of material that the hydraulic and milling chuck style holders start to come into their own. The shrink-fit performs poorly because the shrink fit doesn’t dampen the vibrations, it just holds the tool very very tightly. Makes you wonder if it doesn’t make it more likely to ring like a bell when held so tight?
Here is another…

Rob Wilson’s “Big Dog” Bicycle Built for Four

Sep 28, 2010   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Cool  //  No Comments

I love it when somebody does something offbeat, but lavishes tremendous care and craftsmanship into the design. I’ve got a few like that from MAKE magazine’s blog (if you haven’t subscribed, you need to!). First up is Rob Wilson’s “Big Dog” four person bicycle:

Doesn’t Big Dog look like it would be a blast to ride around in with your friends or family?…

Larsplatoon’s Electromagnetic Coil Gun

Sep 28, 2010   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, CNC Projects, Cool  //  No Comments

A coil gun propels projectiles using an electromagnet. They’re sometimes incorrectly called rail guns or mass drivers. The military has experimented with rail guns (an alternate style electromagnetic weapon) on a large scale (large meaning battleship gun-sized weapons at the Naval Surface Warfare Center with a 200 mile range), but Larsplatoon has build one for the individual sci fi soldier:

Note the charging capacitors in the Bullpup shoulder stock…
Check the MAKE magazine post for some video of the coil gun in action.…

A Quick Course in Feeds and Speeds, Part 2 (Practice)

Sep 24, 2010   //   by   //   Beginner, Blog, Techniques  //  No Comments

Here is Part 2 of the Quick Course in Feeds and Speeds which focuses on how to use the G-Wizard Feeds and Speeds calculator:
The video demonstrates the basics plus in depth walkthroughs of slotting, peripheral, and pocketing feeds and speeds calculations that show how the Cut Optimizer helps you decide on the best depth and width of cut as well as evaluate trade offs between HSS and Carbide tooling.…

A Quick Course in Feeds and Speeds, Part 1 (Theory)

Sep 24, 2010   //   by   //   Beginner, Blog, Techniques  //  No Comments

I’m putting together a quick video course in feeds and speeds for machinists. Here is the first installment:
Part 1 takes you through some of the theory. It’s a 10 minute video that covers things like chip thinning, relationship of cutter edge radius to chip thickness for best tool life, ballnose cutter compensation, and a number of other topics associated with feeds and speeds. Part 2 (not yet ready), will be a demo of the G-Wizard Feeds and Speeds software that puts the theory into practice.…

Rock Lobster? More Like Robot Lobsters

Sep 24, 2010   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Cool  //  No Comments

This video (hat tip to MAKE Magazine) was a real hoot:
Is there anything some talented person somewhere hasn’t made or isn’t working on as we speak?…

QCTP Boring Bar Holders

Sep 24, 2010   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, CNC Projects, Manual, Techniques  //  No Comments

I’m a firm believer that you can never have too many boring bars. If nothing else, this is an application where rigidity is always a problem as you reach down a hole with that long skinny boring bar. Shorter bars and fatter bars are more rigid, but they don’t work for every case. So you wind up needing a big enough selection so that when you go to find the shortest fattest bar that will work, you’re in luck.
With those random thoughts in mind, I enjoyed seeing this photo over on Chaski of Frank Ford’s set of boring bar holders for the QCTP lathe:

They look like they’ll hold the bars with less chatter than the usual cheezy stick-the-bar in a square slot holders…
And while we’re on the topic of boring, though not of QCTP boring, how about Glenn Wegman’s horizontal boring setup on his lathe from the same Chaski thread:

Notice he built a table to sit on the cross slide to hold the work…
With machinists, where there is a will, there is a way!…

G-Wizard Custom Tool Cribs

Sep 24, 2010   //   by   //   Blog, Software, Techniques  //  1 Comment

I’m still busy making G-Wizard videos. They’re a real quick way to show someone a lot of information. The one I just finished is all about making custom Tool Cribs for G-Wizard:
Making a Custom Tool Crib in G-Wizard
Custom Tool Cribs can serve a lot of purposes. Since you can have unlimited Tool Cribs, they can correspond to all sorts of useful things:
– The tools in a tool changer.
– The tools in a cart sitting next to the machine.
– Tools that need rework of some kind–broken endmill, face mill needing new inserts, tools needing sharpening, or whatever. There is a “Move” command that makes it easy to move tools between cribs. If a tool needs rework, simply “Move” it to the Rework crib so you can keep track of it.
The video is all about a custom crib that was the idea of a friend of mine named Peter. He wanted a crib that reflected the fact that his shop strictly uses TiAlN Carbide Endmills, HSS Twist Drills, plus a variety of indexable tooling. Pretty easy to set that up, so now Peter gets a menu tailored to the way his shop really operates.
That’s a…

G-Wizard Calculator Video Tour

Sep 24, 2010   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Software  //  No Comments

G-Wizard Calculator Video Tour
I just uploaded a new video tour of G-Wizard to YouTube. It gives a brief overview of each of the applications included with G-Wizard. I really like video as a way of getting a quick intro to something without requiring a lot of tedious documentation reading. Here is the video:
A quick video tour of G-Wizard…

Clever Binder Part Storage

Sep 24, 2010   //   by   //   Blog, Techniques  //  No Comments

There are never enough good ideas for organization, but I really liked this idea of using 3-ring binders for small parts storage I saw on the MAKE magazine blog:

Nice color code diagram on the outside of the resistor storage binder…

Plastic pockets hold the goodies…
There’s no end of things you could put in them. I’m envisioning binders for carbide insert storage. Divide them up by type of tooling, put some quick reference info on like the guy did with the resistor color codes (match tooling to insert type, with notes on SFM and chipload for various materials and applicability of various insert grades that have worked) and you’re there. Someone probably already makes exactly the right thing to go in the 3-ring binder to maximize its usefulness for this application too.…

Deep Pockets

Sep 24, 2010   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Software, Techniques  //  No Comments

Deep pockets are hard to machine. You’ve got tool rigidity problems with long tools to reach down deep coupled with chip clearance as the deeper the hole the harder it is to get the chips out of there. Couple that with thin walls and you have this part Eric Tate recently showed on the Yahoo Tormach forums:

3.125″ deep pocket, 3/8″ endmill, and thing walls too!
With a part like that, if the tool doesn’t chatter from the long reach the thin walls will want to.
Tate reports taking 0.030″ depth of cut passes and 600 rpm were the secret, discovered after some experimentation and a broken endmill. This is a perfect application for G-Wizard’s Cut Optimizer to use in determine how much depth of cut to take in a tricky low-rigidity situation like this. I plugged the numbers in for a 3/8″ carbide endmill cutting a full slot in 6061 aluminum with a tool reach of 3.5″ to give a little clearance from the tool holder when down 3.125″ in the pocket and G-Wizard Cut Optimizer came back with a suggested 0.026″ depth of cut. Pretty close to the 0.030″ that was determined experimentally.…

Homebrew 250W CNC Laser

Sep 24, 2010   //   by   //   Blog, CNC Projects, Cool  //  No Comments

This is one bodacious project that I first heard about on the MAKE Magazine Blog. It’s creator has a site that tells the story of how he spent a total of $15K and 2 years to build it, but the results speak for themselves:

There’s the laser cutter in all of its glory…

A “Lazer Fish” made from sheet metal. A gallery of some of the artist’s other laser creations is here…
I’ve seen other homebrew CNC lasers, but they were all of the much lower-powered (80 watts and under) “marker” variety–suitable for some engraving and cutting wood or plastic, but not really capable of cutting sheet metal the way this bad boy does. Like most laser systems, the lasre itself is fairly bulky and remains stationary. A moving set of mirrors is used to direct the beam onto the target. In order to cut, oxygen must be fed to the target as well, and a fume hood made of clear plastic pulls away the smoke and fumes from the operation.
In addition, the laser itself must be tightly focused in order to achieve the necessary power density for metal cutting. Such optics are not inexpensive:

Two sets of optics…




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