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Browsing articles from "March, 2012"

Pardon Our Mess!

Mar 31, 2012   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog  //  No Comments

We needed to do some urgent upgrades to one of our servers, so we’ve stopped processing for trial registrations and orders.  You can still register or order, and they won’t be lost, but they won’t take effect until late Monday.
We’re sorry for the inconvenience.…

Small Injection Molding Machine: Morgan Press

Mar 30, 2012   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, CNC Projects, Cool, Products  //  7 Comments

I got a note from a machinist friend saying that he’d just gotten a used Morgan Press off eBay and had been able to get it working.  I hadn’t heard of one of these machines before, so I went and looked it up.  For the ultimate do-it-yourself or Maker small shop, this would be a cool machine to have on hand!  Imagine a tabletop small injection molding machine with some big machine automation.  Here is my friend’s machine:
Here is a YouTube video that shows a number of machines from a TechShop, including a Morgan Press:

The little plastic parts box that comes out of the Morgan Press looks great.
These machines are designed to make it easy to prototype injection molded parts, test molds, and even do small production runs.  It sure looks a lot more robust than the typical benchtop injection molding machines I had been seeing:

Small Injection Molding Machine from Galomb…
A brand new machine like the Galomb is circa $1500-1800.  Not cheap.  These machines are somewhat specialized.  Not clear where hobby injection molding originated, but there are definitely also articles out there about building these machines.
You’ll need a CNC machine to make the molds.  …

Software Sale Ends Soon!

Mar 29, 2012   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Just a reminder, our sale on the G-Wizard CNC Calculator will be ending March 31–just a few days from now.  Take advantage of our 15% off pricing on the 3 year subscription if you haven’t already.  Click the page linked above to register or go straight to our G-Wizard purchase page.…

10 Tips for CNC Router Aluminum Cutting Success

Mar 27, 2012   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, CNC Router, FeedsSpeeds, Techniques  //  20 Comments

Folks often ask whether a CNC Router can cut aluminum.  They’re used to seeing the primarily cut wood and plastics.  My answer to this question is always, “Yes, if you do it right.”
There are a couple of things to remember about how aluminum (and other metals) are different from wood or plastics.  First, they have a much smaller “sweet spot” for optimal feeds and speeds.  If you leave the sweet spot, cutters start breaking, wearing out a lot faster, and surface finish is poor at best.  In fact, there are several sweet spots depending on what you want to accomplish:

Metals have much smaller sweet spots (narrower range of acceptible feeds and speeds) than wood or plastics…
The second thing is that for aluminum (and some other metals), there is a “stickiness” factor.  Aluminum wants to stick to the tool.  In fact, it will do so to the point that it welds itself to the tool.  Once you have gummy aluminum deposits on your cutting edges, that tool is not long for this world, especially not at 20,000 rpm or more.
Despite these challenges, you can cut aluminum very successfully on almost any router.  Here are 10 tips for…

Hello CNCCookbook on Facebook!

Mar 25, 2012   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Software  //  No Comments

It’s not very well known yet, but we have a CNCCookbook page on Facebook.  If you like Facebook, you’ll be able to get a notification from there whenever a new post is added to our Blog here.  It’s an increasingly connected world we live in!  Please amble over and give us a “Like” if you can.
If you like Twitter, we also have a CNCCookbook Twitter account you can follow and we tweet every post.  Please flitter over (seems like how you’d go to Twitter to Tweet) and give us a Tweet and a Follow if you can.
If you use a blog reader, you can grab out RSS feed over on the right hand side of the screen.
Over time we’ll add more connections until everyone can connect in whatever way they prefer.
Thank you for your support!…

5 Axis CNC Benefits

Mar 25, 2012   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Cool, Techniques  //  6 Comments

5 axis CNC machines are the pinnacle of milling machine sophistication.  They’re the most expensive machines to purchase, and due to the complex motions involved, even more cost is involved with the need for the most sophisticated 5 axis CAM packages available.
What are the benefits of 5 Axis CNC that justify all this cost?
It’s Uber Cool!
I admit, this is not a business-worthy benefit, but how can you not get excited by videos like this:

Reduced Machining Time
Okay, this is a little more like it–reduced machining time.  What shop wouldn’t want that benefit?
The time is reduced because a 5-axis machine can use a flat bottom endmill and by maintaining perpendicularity to the surface (there’s a reason the tool or part swivels constantly in the video), you can use full diameter step-over instead of having to use little short stepovers more common to ballnose endmills.  Those of you running very small stepovers to generate a nice smooth surface can really appreciate the savings in this.
Better Surface Finish = Less Manual Cleanup Work
No more little scallops when you use that flat bottom endmill.  No more cleanup with elbow grease and abrasives.  Sweet!
Fewer Setups
When you…

CNC Gear Hobbing with a Fourth Axis: It’s Simpler Than You Think

Mar 24, 2012   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Software, Techniques  //  No Comments

I ran across this new post from Dave Decaussin (one of the founders of Fadal, now retired and doing other things) showing how he cuts gears on his 4th axis:

He makes it look easy and fun to try.
He’s cutting a 40 tooth spur gear with a diametral pitch of 24.  Diametral pitch is a measure of how many teeth there are per inch of circumference on the gear.  For more gear terminology, see this Carnegie Mellon University page on Gears.  David basically describes four things you’ll need to make a gear:
–  A Hobber, which can be purchased.  He is using one designed for use on a mill that cuts a single tooth at a time.
–  Calculation of Pitch Diameter, in this case 40 teeth / 24 Diametral Pitch = 1.667″.
–  Calculation of Major Pitch Diameter by adding 2 teeth and divide by diametral pitch = 42/24 = 1.75″
–  Calculation of Minor Pitch Diameter by subtracting 2 teeth and dividing by diametral pitch = 38/24 = 1.583″
The Major Diameter is the overall diameter of the gear and the minor is the diameter the gear hobbing cutter needs to cut to.  So, in this case,…

Unit Conversion Calculator: G-Wizard Tips and Tutorial

Mar 22, 2012   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, Software, Techniques  //  1 Comment

So you need to do some unit conversion?  Our G-Wizard CNC Calculator has some feature designed to make working with lots of units especially easy.  Let’s see how.
Continuous Conversion Display
Continuous Conversion Display is an awkward name for a very simple and useful feature.   As you type in a number or compute a result, G-Wizard automatically converts that result to the unit of your choice.  For example, we can quickly see that 1 inch equals 25.4 mm:

Continuous Unit Conversion:  Whatever you type gets converted.  1″ = 25.4mm
That “Use” button lets you swap the original units you typed in over to the new units with one mouse click.
Unit Selection
G-Wizard includes an extremely large collection of units.  You start by selecting the type of unit:

Start by selecting the type of units you’d like to work with…

After selecting type, select from available units of that type…
Fractions Anyone?
Another handy feature related to unit conversion is the ability to work in fractions.  Whenever a decimal number is displayed in the calculator readout, you’ll also see on the Fraction button whether that number corresponds to a fraction:
0.125 corresponds to 1/8…
If you need to enter a…

Machinery Skates and Toe Jack to move a 5000lb lathe: Basic Rigging

Mar 20, 2012   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Techniques  //  7 Comments

So you just located a fantastic deal on a piece of used CNC equipment.  Just one little problem–the cost and complexity of rigging the machine into your shop are giving you heartburn.
“Rigging” is the technical term for moving heavy stuff into position.  It covers everything from unloading a heavy machine (or other load) from a truck or trailer to moving it even slightly around a shop.
Dominic Amae recently sent some links to several great videos on rigging.  I’ll start with this one where he shows how to use shopmade machinery skates and a toe jack to move his large 5000lb Mori Seiki CNC lathe:

As Dominic mentions in the video, do as he says and not as he does and keep your hands well clear from under the machine.
Thanks for sharing this video, Dominic!…

C-Axis Turning and Live Tooling: Turning and Milling on One Machine

Mar 18, 2012   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Techniques  //  No Comments

I’m fascinated by the mill-turn machines.  They combine the best elements of a lathe and a milling machine to turn out complex parts quickly that would be much less productive if done as multiple ops across different machines.  Here’s a great video of a Haas CNC lathe turning out such a part:

The secret behind these machines is two-fold:
First, they have the ability to treat the spindle as another axis, called the C-Axis.  This allows positioning the part with great position to any angle.
Second, they have live tooling.  Instead of an ordinary lathe tool in a turret position, there’s a miniature motorized spindle that can hold endmills, twist drills, saws, or whatever else is needed.
How does one convert a spindle into a C-Axis indexer?
One obvious answer, used in many machines, is to use a servo as the spindle motor.  Think of it as the brute force approach.
Another approach is to use a secondary servo that may be engaged or disengaged.  Here is such a setup on an Emco lathe:
Lathe C-Axis Mechanicals…
We can see a number of interesting functions from the photo:
–  There is a collet pulling mechanism to open or close the…

Spindle Orientation, Drive Dogs, and Repeatable Runout

Mar 15, 2012   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Techniques  //  1 Comment

Every CNC machinist has seen the ubiquitous “drive dogs” found on many tapers:

Spindle Drive Dogs…
They’re the two little “ears” that engage notches in the toolholder.  Not every taper has them, but many do.  Getting the drive dogs positioned to line up with the toolholder in the changer carousel before a toolchange can happen is called “spindle orientation” or sometimes “spindle positioning”.
You might think spindle orientation is only about lining up the drive dogs with toolholder notches, but I recently learned differently.  Dave Decaussin, one of the original founders of Fadal, recently remarked on a video I was watching that spindle orientation is also essential to maintaining tolerances while machining.  The reason is runout.  When you maintain the same spindle position relationship to the toolholder, you ensure that whatever runout there is will at least be consistent–either consistently good or consistently bad.  Consistency is the main thing, because if it is consistent, we can compensate for it.  If you think about it, the runout just makes the endmill act like it is a slightly larger diameter as it wobbles in the cut.  If that effective diameter changes every toolchange, the CNC machinist will have a tough time maintaining…

Mill a Strip of Parts in a Vise

Mar 12, 2012   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Techniques  //  1 Comment

So you want to make a bunch of small parts at once in one setup, and using one vise. Make a strip of parts in a set of big soft jaws:

The parts keep a strip underneath. To finish, flip the whole thing, drop it into softjaws of appropriate “negative image” of the parts, and mill of the back.
An alternative would be to make a tooling plate that goes in the vise and acts as a pallet. Use Mitee-Bite clamps or the equivalent to hold the parts. Make at least two plates so you can load one while the machine is working on the other.
If you start getting some chatter, the backing is probably too thin, or your jaws are holding it well enough. You call also try some big “Jaws of Doom” like I made up for 2 vises:

The “Jaws of Doom” have been handy to have from time to time!…

Want to use a Smoothstepper and Servos for your CNC project?

Mar 12, 2012   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, CNC Projects, Techniques  //  No Comments

Due to a query from a customer, I put together a quick page that shows how I set up my CNC4PC boards and Smoothstepper for the Servo setup on my IH mill.

The Smoothstepper is a USB pulse generator for Mach3, and it improves the performance of Mach3 considerably.  I’m not sure I’d want to run Mach without a hardware pulse generator after having tried it both ways.
If you’re curious about how something like this helps, see my articles on motion control boards for use with Mach3.…

I Don’t Care What You Say About Us As Long As You Link to Us!

Mar 11, 2012   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Business  //  1 Comment

There is a famous quote about PR:
I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.
It has variously been attributed to Mae West, P.T. Barnum, Will Rogers, and a host of others.
Times have changed, so I have changed the quote:
I don’t care what the web says about me as long as they link to my site.
Thanks for any link love you can pass along!
PS  Links in emails sent to friends who might like to try our G-Wizard software are always appreciated.…

Benefits of a Simple CNC Lathe Conversion in a Home Shop

Mar 11, 2012   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, CNC Projects  //  No Comments

I’m a bit video happy today.  Having just finished catching up on Steve Simpson’s amazing Millturn videos, I wanted to pass along this video of John Grimsmo using his CNC lathe to make some nifty parts for his knife-making business:

John has a great little CNC lathe there, conversions like he has done are very straightforward, and as you can see, he can pop out some cool parts very quickly with it!…




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