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Browsing articles from "March, 2011"

Tormach Tool Changer Getting Closer

Mar 27, 2011   //   by   //   Blog, Cool, Products  //  2 Comments

There was an update to their blog a few days back, so check there for full details. The beta test has been underway for about 1 month for some lucky Tormach owners. You’ve probably seen the original Tormach ATC video, but this new one shows a lot of other cool features:

You can see from the video they’ve done a real nice job with the Mach3 screens for the changer, and the integrated tool touch setter is really slick too.
Should be a pretty amazing productivity upgrade for these great little mills.
I got a kick out of this use of a floor jack to position the changer for installation:

PS Eric and several of the other Tormach folks are G-Wizard users.

What Price Machine Rigidity?

Mar 25, 2011   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Software, Techniques  //  4 Comments

Machinists know that there is no substitute for beef when it comes to the rigidity of their machine tools. That made me wonder whether we could verify and quantify this notion in some way. How much beef does it take to achieve a level of rigidity?
I frequently recommend to G-Wizard users that they think of rigidity in terms of horsepower. Horsepower from the spindle is what pushes against the rigidity of their machine, and barring harmonics (chatter) excited by certain vulnerable frequencies (which are a factor of both rigidity and damping), rigidity may be the limiting factor for many machines, especially small ones.
What I was looking for, then, was the relationship between horsepower and the weight (beef) of the machine. So, I fired up Google and started cranking horsepower and weight specifications into a spreadsheet for various commonly seen CNC machines. The results are striking:

The relationship between horsepower and weight holds up pretty well: about 600-1000lbs per HP on average…
I was pretty surprised at how well the numbers trend. There are some outliers–the knee mill and an older Cincinnati, for example, are way up there at over 1000 lbs per HP. In the knee mill’s case…

We Have 2 New CAM Programs at CNCCookbook!

Mar 22, 2011   //   by   //   Blog, Software  //  2 Comments

A warm CNCCookbook welcome to Mecsoft’s Visual Mill (and RhinoCAM) and HSMWorks. Their owner’s have graciously extended evaluation copies so we can try them out, review them, and provide feedback.
VisualMILL 6.0 CAM Software
Visual Mill and its cousins were extremely popular on our recent CAM survey, and I frequently hear about it from our G-Wizard customers as well as in many other places. Mecsoft President Joe Anand has encouraged me to go over their package carefully and reconsider categorizing it as a Hobby product. He says that just because they have a range of products that span the Hobby price range doesn’t mean their higher end offerings aren’t highly capable professional packages. Just the brief look I’ve had at the package so far tells me he’s right. There are a lot of innovative capabilities there that I’ll be reporting on in more detail soon.

HSMWorks is one of those up and coming packages that has a lot of buzz at the higher end of the CAM world. I’ve been hearing about it from a variety of sources and one of our G-Wizard customers (thanks Gabe!) made the introduction so we could get to try it. This product hails from…

Carbide vs HSS and Chatter for Small Mills

Mar 18, 2011   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, Techniques  //  No Comments

I came across a great thread this morning on the 1911Forum, a gathering place for Colt 1911 handgun enthusiasts with a good sub-forum on gunsmithing. The question was being asked of whether Carbide or HSS tooling would be better for reducing chatter on small mills. I responded as follows:
Carbide vs HSS for small mills is an interesting question, and chatter may not be the limiting factor.
There is a trade off in material removal rates and rigidity within the envelope your mill is capable of. For example, chiploads are generally higher for HSS than for Carbide, all other things being equal. So, for a given rpm, you can remove more with HSS. However, carbide will tolerate a much higher rpm that will offset this and overcome it if you can go to a high enough rpm.
Where rigidity is concerned, I would think about two rigidity issues. First is tool deflection, especially for smaller tools. Many machinists are surprised at just how much small tools can deflect. I have software called G-Wizard that does tool deflection calculations, and I can say that if you’re running less than a 1/2″ diameter tool, it may be a lot more than you…

Carbon Fiber Wingtips for a Jet Fighter

Mar 15, 2011   //   by   //   Blog, Cool, Techniques  //  8 Comments

As I mentioned recently, I got the chance to see some serious carbon fiber work in action–building a set of wingtips for a jet fighter. To be precise, these wingtips are going on Czechoslovakian L-39 Albatross planes destined in some cases for the Reno Air Races:

Talk about a cool project!
This is Sky Greenawalt’s project, and I want to walk you through it a little bit. I’m hoping to get Sky to do some guest blogging here too, especially to talk about how he did the CAD work for this project, so let’s start there. Here is the wingtip in Rhino3D:

If you know much about CAD, designing these kinds of smooth flowing shapes can be extremely difficult. But, Sky is a very talented guy and he has mastered a new power tool called T-Splines that he says revolutionizes this kind of work. I can believe it from the short demo he gave, so that’s what I want to see him guest blog about. You should check out Sky’s posts over on the T-Splines forum if you like this kind of thing. He has the L-39 wingtips, a custom turboprop cowling, and a design for a Reno air racer…

Carbon Fiber: UFO Quality Material

Mar 12, 2011   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Cool  //  No Comments

Carbon fiber has always captivated me. Its such a space age material, and when done right, it looks awesome. I’m fortunate to have owned a car or two with beautiful carbon fiber work, for example on the dashboard. I’ve always been interested in possibly making something out of the material, but have never had the time to learn.
Recently, a friend in the area has offered me a chance to swing by his workshop and see how he makes carbon fiber parts. He’s in the aviation business. Last night we trimmed the molds for some carbon fiber aircraft wingtips on my bandsaw and I’m going to get to see the vacuum bagging operation that puts carbon into place on these molds. Should be pretty cool, I’ll be sure to take plenty of pictures and write it up here.
The mold itself was a gorgeous piece of work. My friend uses a specialized CNC router to do the work, which is basically a lot of 3D profiling. The job ran for many hours with a 20 thousandths stepover on a 1/2″ ballnose endmill and came out looking great. The material he used was gorgeous too–heavy tooling foam. This is really a…

Henderson “Piggy” Motorcycle is the Coolest!

Mar 11, 2011   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Cool  //  No Comments

I need to design some cool looking brackets to mount some glass shelves in our home. I plan to CNC these, and I wanted something with a cool design motif, so I started cruising Google Images with searches like “Art Deco Brackets”. Somehow, I came upon this Henderson motorcycle, which has to be the coolest bike I’ve seen in a long time:

Our kids refer to the big-grilled Chryslers and Bentleys (the modern cars) as “piggies” because of their evocative features. It’s a term of affection, but this bike has to be the King of Piggy art. Definitely Art Deco influences, Henderson was one of the Big Three motorcyle makers of its day (Harley and Indian being the other two). Unfortunately, it was a victim of the Great Depression.
If you like the Art Deco look, but are not into the “phat piggy” aesthetic of the Henderson, this 1937 BMW R7 from the same site is also beautiful:

Thanks to Coolhunter for making me aware of these cool bikes and sorry for interrupting our regularly scheduled machining program. Back to looking for ideas for cool glass shelf brackets now.

G-Wizard Spring Deals are Coming

Mar 9, 2011   //   by   //   Blog  //  No Comments

As I’ve mentioned here before, we have two distinct audiences for CNCCookbook–professional machinists and talented hobbyists. So it is with G-Wizard, our CNC Machinist’s Calculator. I wanted to let folks know there is a special Spring promotion coming that has something in it for both groups that I think you’ll really like. I’ll be sending the announcement via our email newsletter, which you’ll get if you’ve registered for the G-Wizard Trial at any point (and haven’t opted out, LOL!).
The offer for hobbyists is innovative. It was given to me by one of the hobbyist trial users as a way to create a product for hobbyists that would serve all their needs while leaving the “original flavor” G-Wizard for professionals. I was a bit skeptical at first (right John?), but I have managed to “See the Light” (for you Blues Bros. fans). FWIW, John got a free subscription for his efforts to help, so if you have ideas, please drop me a note!
The professionals in my audience are very important too. In fact, our split is about 60% professional, 40% hobbyist. So rest assured, there will be an offer for professionals too!
Note that if you purchase between now…

Speaking of Art Suitable for Billionaire Playboys: Welcome Back Widgitmaster!

Mar 6, 2011   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, CNC Projects, Cool  //  No Comments

I’ve followed Eric, who goes by “Widgitmaster” for a long time and corresponded frequently. He’s been one of my remote machinist mentors, and I’ve learned an awful lot from him. He’s been out of the shop for quite a while owing to some family issues, but recently came back to build this exquisite display of a Turner’s Cube:

This cube is mounted on a wallnut base between ball bearings and is motorized to spin slowly. For more on how it was made, check out Widgitmaster’s CNCZone thread.    Something like this would make a wonderful gift, perhaps for that understanding spouse who wonders why you’ve tracked so many chips onto her nice clean carpets.

A Photo Album for Machinists and Billionaire Playboys

Mar 5, 2011   //   by   //   Blog, CNC Projects, Cool  //  2 Comments

Ever since seeing the owner’s manual for Billionaire Playboy Larry Ellison’s custom Cobra, I have wanted to make one. In many ways, it is cooler than the car itself, which is no small feat. But the thing is, I’ve seen a lot of Cobras, and have even owned 2 (one of which I stiill drive). They’re wonderful cars, but I had never seen a photo album quite like this one until I came across it reading about Larry’s Cobra. There are many more details in the book than I can document here, so read the article on Kirkham’s site about the book and the car.
Or, just enjoy the eye candy:

Polished aluminum with an egraved inset brass plaque for the cover.  Actually, not brass but stainless heat treated to that color.

Inside cover looks like an aerospace part. They’ve could’ve used some HSM tool paths it looks like Those are simple spirals in the photo…

Nicely engraved and polished spine. That’s the car you see reflected in the photos…

Back cover is leather covered…
One day I will make one of these as a photo album!…

Great Video Series from Hoss on Tramming a Small Mill

Mar 4, 2011   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, Techniques  //  3 Comments

Squaring up and tramming their mill is often a puzzle for new home machinists. Hoss makes it look easy in his great video series. Here is the first one:

Hoss Trams a Mill–Pt 1
The other parts are here:
– Part 2
– Part 2B
– Part 3
Those videos are taken from his CNCZone G0704 series as he converts a Grizzly G0704 to CNC. If you haven’t come across Hoss before, he is a must-read. His G0704 thread is great, but still in progress–he has CNC’d and added a belt drive conversion to the spindle, but he is still in the middle of his power drawbar and eventually a toolchanger.
Look for his other threads on CNCZone, and be sure to visit HossMachine, his web site where he has gathered up all of his many fantastic projects. If you’re trying to convert one of the machines he has already gone through, you’d be well advised to purchase his plans and perhaps even one of his kits to save yourself a tremendous amount of work!…

MeshCAM: Great Ease of Use in a 3D CAM Package

Mar 1, 2011   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, Software  //  7 Comments

Most machinist I talk to go through the same experience the first time they try CAM–total bewilderment and frustration. Everyone has this idea that you create a 3D solid model, load it into CAM, push a button, and out pops a finished g-code program. If only it were true!
Instead, you generally have to wrestle with the solid model until it imports properly, and then you have to tell the CAM program where the parts of interest on the model are and what sorts of toolpaths to apply to them.
Imagine my surprise when I loaded up MeshCAM CNC Software, stuck a solid model in it, and discovered that with very little trouble I could (drumroll please): push a button and get a g-code program. Cool beans!
Here’s how it went:
First, I went and found a suitable 3D model I had done in Rhino3D. MeshCAM imports STL files for its 3D models, so I exported one from Rhino. Here was my Rhino model:

Coolant overflow tank…
It’s a coolant overflow tank inspired by parts I saw at my friend Joe’s CNC business Crime Scene Choppers. I’m not so into bikes as hot rods, but I dig his retro-WWII-aircraft look.…



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