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Browsing articles from "December, 2010"

America: Built by the Little Guys, Not the Big Ones

Dec 22, 2010   //   by   //   Blog, Business  //  3 Comments

I correspond with quite a lot with friends in the Manufacturing world, as one of my big interests aside from software is building things.  Come to think of it, that’s really my interest in software too!
For a long time there has been a great hue and cry about the demise of Manufacturing in the US.  It’s been a victim of outsourcing, fewer and fewer new entrants to key careers like being a machinist, automation killing jobs, social pressures around whether blue-collar manufacturing jobs get the respect they deserve, the scarcity of good vocational programs, and so on.  On the one hand, the big manufacturing economy seems more and more hostile to its professionals.  They want to outsource overseas, pay as little as possible to button pushers on soulless assembly lines, insist on credentials over wisdom and experience (ask a room full of grizzled veteran machinists what they think about the new kid just out of Engineering school some time), and all the rest.  Plus, some of these corporations have been very poorly run and they want to make their workers pay the price through layoffs and other wage cuts.
On the other hand, it’s a great time if you’re…

And Now, the Secret RSS Link for CNCCookbook

Dec 21, 2010   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog  //  2 Comments

I will tell you the secret link…
I’ve had a lot of requests over the last year for an RSS feed for CNCCookbook. What many don’t realize is the ‘Cookbook reads like a blog, but I’m not using any blog software like WordPress to produce it. Each page is hand crafted in Dreamweaver. I’ve got a set of templates that make the process nearly as easy as using a blog, but alas, no RSS feeds. The answer is I need to switchover to some real blog software. Given the amount of content on CNCCookbook, that’s not easy. For example, CNCCookbook has not quite 500 pages. Moreover, there are tons of links to our pages that we don’t want to disrupt. There are well over 12,000 pages that link to our home page here alone!
Fortunately, it’s simply a matter of programming to fix it, so I’ve been quietly building up an alternative. I will take the opportunity to do a mild site redesign as well since it has been years since I’ve revisited the site’s graphical design. Consider all that fair warning that changes are afoot, but they won’t be immediate changes and hopefully they’ll be very much for the…

The Results are in on the CAM Package Survey

Dec 17, 2010   //   by   //   Beginner, Blog, Software  //  15 Comments

Wow! We had a lot of folks participate in the CAM package survey. Thanks very much for your time!
And now it’s time for the results.
We’re dealing with two radically different groups here. It’s not really fair to compare an under $1000 CAM package against a full-featured package costing many thousands of dollars and up. At the very least it would give a pretty distorted picture of the relative appeal of these packages in the overall market. So I’ve divided the results into two camps based on the price of the package. This is not to say that the “Hobby” category is populated entirely by hobbyists. I have no way of knowing how you’re using your CAM package, and I do know for a fact that some of the less expensive packages can be frequently used for professional operations. Vectric’s V-Carve comes to mind as a great example of a specialized CAM package that is very reasonably priced and so is used by hobbyists and pros alike.
Here are the results for the “Pro” category:

I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised to see Mastercam has the largest share, but I was surprised at the rest of the shares.…

Which CAM Package Do You Use?

Dec 14, 2010   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Software  //  No Comments

I’m starting to do the research that is a precursor to building integrations between the G-Wizard software (calculator and editor) and various CAM packages. Towards that end, it will help me greatly to have some idea the relative popularity of the various packages since I won’t be able to build integrations for every package all at once.
If you have a spare minute, please take the CAM Package Survey. It’s just one question and I promise, it won’t hurt a bit!
Click here to take the CAM Package survey…

G-Wizard High Speed Machining Feeds and Speeds

Dec 14, 2010   //   by   //   Blog, Software, Techniques  //  2 Comments

The G-Wizard Machinist’s Calculator has a new HSM Feeds and Speeds feature:

HSM Toolpaths can estimate your Tool Engagement Angle, tell you how much to slow down in corners, and tell you how much faster your feeds and speeds can be if your CAM program generates HSM toolpaths with constant tool engagement angles…
“HSM” refers to “High Speed Machining”, a collection of modern techniques designed to wring maximum performance out of CNC machine tools.
The HSM section provides several tools for dealing with the effects of Tool Engagement Angles (also called Cutter Engagement Angles). The TEA provides a means of measuring how hard a cut is working the cutter. Think of it as the angle of the cutter that is actually engaged in cutting. For example, when slotting, a full 180 degrees is engaged. This is the maximum, except during plunging, when a full 360 degrees may engage. TEA changes as a function of corners the cutter may be forced to negotiate in a complex toolpath for CNC. If you don’t use CNC, the TEA functions are probably not important to your work.
This portion of the G-Wizard Calculator enables you to do the following:
– Calculate the straightline TEA…

Machining an AR-15 Lower Receiver with G-Wizard

Dec 14, 2010   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, CNC Projects, Cool  //  1 Comment

This is one of those ridiculously cool projects that brings home what I love about CNC and machine work: you can build anything!
Here is a video that details the software that Jim used to set up for his project:

Nice plug for G-Wizard at the beginning!
Lots of good stuff in the video about how he modified the original blueprints to customize his lower, and how he approached the CAM programming with some two relatively inexpensive pieces of software. The machining vids are also fun:

First stages to machining the AR-15 lower from a big block of 7075 aluminum…
Obviously the little CNC-converted mill can’t compete with a full-sized VMC for production, but if all you need is one lower receiver for yourself, it’s doing a fine job and moves right along. Jim, you need to ask for a mister for Christmas to keep those chips out of there so you don’t have to do it by hand!
The rest of the videos are also great, check them out on Jim’s YouTube Channel.
It’s really neat to see a complex part like that taking shape in a home shop.…

G-Wizard G-Code Editor Gets a Little Touch of 3D Graphics

Dec 14, 2010   //   by   //   Blog, Software, Techniques  //  No Comments

Sometimes, it’s the little things that help out usability. I added a 3D rendering of the tool to the G-Wizard G-Code Editor and suddenly it’s much more obvious what’s going on in the simulation:

Check out the G-Wizard Editor Beta Test: It’s Free!…

CNC Embroidery

Dec 14, 2010   //   by   //   Blog, Software  //  1 Comment

Somehow, I never tire of finding new CNC applications. It’s gotten to the point where it’s relatively cheap to create custom CNC controllers for odd applications, or in this case, custom CNC software. This is Khalid Khattak’s CNC Embroidery program:

Visit Khalid’s blog for more information…
If you’re doing something unusual with CNC, drop me a note so I can write about it!…

The Future of Robots in Manufacturing

Dec 14, 2010   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Business  //  No Comments

I just watched a couple of fascinating videos on where robots are going and how that relates to manufacturing. They’re by Artificial Intelligence expert Rodney Brooks, who was also the man behind the iRobot robot vacuum cleaners. The nearly hour long series from Maker Faire 2009 can be seen here, but the interesting segment showing robots interacting with people can be seen in this YouTube video:

The Future of Robots in Manufacturing…
The technologies are fascinating. Apparently the breakthrough in machine vision has come from watching the relationship of objects to the background behind them. With the ability to construct a 3D model in the robot’s software coming from the computer vision, the kinematics needed to make the manipulator arm function are apparently also fairly straightforward. No super computers needed–these robots run with fairly modest cpu requirements and hence should be fairly cheap.
Brooks’ latest company, Heartland Robotics, just got a second round of venture capital to the tune of $20M, so real robots from them must not be far away.…

A Peek at the Upcoming G-Wizard Cut Knowledge Base

Dec 14, 2010   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Software, Techniques  //  No Comments

What’s a Cut Knowledge Base (KB for short) you ask?
It’s a way to dramatically enhance your feeds and speeds based on the real world performance of your machines, tooling, and shop practices. Look at it this way–wherever you’re getting your feeds and speeds inputs, be it a sophisticated calculator like G-Wizard, or directly from your tooling manufacturer’s data sheets, that information is a set of recommendations to use as a starting point. The more variables it considers, the better the starting point you get, which is why many of our G-Wizard customer’s like the product so much. But, it’s possible to do so much more.
So how does it work?
Let’s suppose that every chance you get machining a part, you push the envelope a little bit. Turn up the feed rate override or the spindle override. Make the job go a little faster. Further, let’s say you’re keeping good notes throughout all of this. It won’t take a busy machinist very long to have mapped out a lot of useful information about how far the envelope can be pushed without breaking a cutter, producing a bad surface finish, failing to meet tolerances, or otherwise getting into trouble.

G-Wizard Picked Up in Tormach Face Milling Video

Dec 14, 2010   //   by   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Check out the Tormach blog for a lot more information, but here is the video:

G-Wizard and SpeedyMetals play along with the Tormach Video…
It’s a cool video. That little facemill moves right along. I’ve had great luck with APKT tooling.  In this case, I wonder how the facemill would do with a little roughing work either peripheral milling or pocketing? If you’ve got a CAM program that can do rest machining (eliminate “air” cutting in successive operations) it could really bring down your cutting times.
The Tormach people are really excellent to work with. One thing I love about the company is they are constantly pushing the envelope and looking for new ways to solve problems for their customers. Those guys never stand still!
BTW, SpeedyMetals is a great supplier for your work stock needs.…

Last Day for Special Beta Pricing on G-Wizard!

Dec 14, 2010   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Today is the last day for special beta pricing on G-Wizard. The special price is $99 for 3 years. After today, the price goes up to the regular $129 for 3 years.
Be sure to check it out!
Note:  this is a repost.  The last day was 11/20/2010…

Cutting Edge CNC Knee Mill From the 70’s

Dec 14, 2010   //   by   //   Blog  //  1 Comment

Well, in truth I don’t know if it was really cutting edge or is a 60’s or 70’s machine, but I think these old machines are a hoot:

Note the tape drive and funky looking pneumatic mechanism to run the quill for Z…
As cool as it is, I know guys with retrofitted knee mills running Mach3 that would probably run circles around it and their machines are not even going to get close to a “real” CNC. Note the pneumatic quill has some “canned cycle” options for dwell and so on:

Weird and wonderful!…

Throttle Body Injection: Feeds and Speeds Courtesy of G-Wizard

Dec 14, 2010   //   by   //   Blog, Cool  //  No Comments

Here’s a very cool project from one of our G-Wizard customers:
Throttle Body Injection: Feeds and Speeds Courtesy of G-Wizard
Gotta love the 5-axis work!…

Part 2 of Tool Data Management with Tool Presetting, TDM Software, Chatter Management, and More

Dec 14, 2010   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Software, Techniques  //  No Comments

I just posted Part 2 of my two-part series on Tool Data Management. Part 1 was all about what kinds of data you’d be managing such as Tool Length Offsets.

Tool Presetter…
Hopefully you’ll come across a thing or two of interest!…




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