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What is a CNC Simulator? Plus: 5 Reasons to Use One

Nov 20, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, GCode, Products, Software, Techniques  //  2 Comments
GWEToolTab

I just put the first two installments in place to launch our G-Wizard University for G-Wizard Editor.  One is a quick walkthrough of GW Editor and the second is entitled, “What is a CNC Simulator?”  If you’re not really sure what a CNC Simulator is, what’s it’s for, or why you’d want to use one, this quick video is a great introduction:…

How to Survive Your First CNC Router Fire

Nov 19, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, CNC Router, Techniques  //  5 Comments
campfire

Take some sawdust and add heat.  My brother likes to use a 9V battery touching steel wool to make it red hot.  Poof!  It bursts into flames pretty easily and you’re on your way to feeding your little fire larger and larger pieces of combustible material until you have a campfire happily burning.  If you’ve done your job right, you’ve arranged for the right draft to facilitate oxygen reaching the fire and perhaps you’ve even had to blow on it while cupping your hands around it to get it to take off.
So what’s the difference between that and a CNC Router?
– You’ve got plenty of combustible dust available–that’s what the router does to the material it’s cutting.
– You’ve got a source of heat–that cutter spinning so fast will get hot in a hurry if it rubs up against the material being cut for very long.  It’s made of carbide so it’ll resist that heat until it is way past the point of being hot enough to start a fire.
– There’s better fuel available than the dust, either your workpiece or more likely the spoilboard you’re cutting on.
– The draft is no problem, especially if you’re…

20 Most Popular Articles and Blog Posts for Pro CNC’ers

Nov 18, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Business, FeedsSpeeds, GCode, Manufacturing, Techniques  //  No Comments
HighStriker

Here at CNCCookbook, we get visitors from all ends of the CNC spectrum–about 2.5 million of them a year.  In all probability, we are the most popular pure CNC blog there is.  I try to keep a balance on the content to keep the ends of that spectrum of visitors happy.  That means we need material that is of interest to Hobbyists and Pros alike.  It’s not always easy to tell the difference between the two, because I know hobbyists that have brand new VMC’s, Conversational CNC Lathes, and the best CADCAM software money can buy.  But there are certain topics that are either so advanced, so related to the money side of the business (at least seemingly), or so critical to the success of the business side, that I would put them in the category of appealing primarily to Pro CNC’ers.  This article gives you 20 of those articles, half drawn from the CNCCookbook blog and half from the rest of the CNCCookbook site.
Pro Blog Posts
#1: 10 Tips for CNC Router Aluminum Cutting Success
I talk to so many pros with CNC Routers who get involved with our G-Wizard Calculator primarily to make it easier for them…

8 Holiday Season Projects to Make Your Home Shop More Productive

Nov 17, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, CNC Projects, DIY CNC, Manual, Techniques  //  1 Comment
Cyclone

Each Holiday Season we get a bit of time away from work.  We’ll spend much of it with our families, but with any luck, we’ll be able to steal away for a few hours now and then to our workshops.  I see the Holiday Season as an ideal time to take on a  project that improves your Home Shop’s productivity.  Here are 8 projects small enough to take on during this time that will each enhance your shop productivity in some meaningful way.
1.  Upgrade your Shop Vac with a Cyclone Dust Separator
I’ve got a medium-sized Shop Vac that I use a lot.  Shop Vacs are essential to keeping your shop tolerably clean, but like any other tool in the shop, they can be hot rodded to make them better.  You could get a bigger Shop Vac, of course, and I will probably do so when this one wears out.  You could make a cart for your Shop Vac that carries all of its accessories and makes it easy to coil up the hose so the whole thing is compact and easy to store out of the way.  That’s another thing I should do.  While I’m at it, I…

Mix One CNC Lathe And a Brilliant Product Idea. Result: Kickstarter Success

Nov 15, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Business, CNC Projects, Cool, Manufacturing, Products  //  3 Comments
SpinningTops

Came across this neat project on Kickstarter in an email from the iBox 3D Printer people (who 3D printed one of these little tops):

Manufacturing the Foreverspin Top on a CNC Lathe

Optional Forever Base…
The best ideas are often the simplest.  They’re easily grasped and can resonate with a large audience.  By CNC’ing a Toy Spinning Top, Foreverspin has created a successful Kickstarter project.  There is something so beguiling about the look of finished CNC parts.  I think the reason is that ordinary people come into contact with them so seldom because theye’re expensive to make compared to injection molding some plastic, cast, or stamped metal.  To most people’s eyes, they’re things of wonder, even for something as simple as a child’s toy spinning top.
I’ll have to try making one on my Tormach CNC Lathe one of these days.  Seems like a great gift idea for Christmas too.…

Fusion 360: Promising Power, Uneven Usability

Nov 12, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Products, Software  //  18 Comments
GraphicsCardError

I wanted to get back quickly with a mini-review of Fusion 360 since there is this special offer that will expire sometime soon.  I took advantage of the offer, and I was happy to see it clarified that the offer of subscription to the low-end version for $300 a year will get you their “Ultimate” version (normally $1200 a year) for as long as you pay the $300 a year subscription.  That’s a substantial discount for what on paper looks like a very promising CADCAM package.
Promising Power
Fusion 360 bundles CAD and CAM together into a single package.  What attracted me to it was the promise of getting HSMWorks CAM in the full 3D version for $300 a year.  If you’ve never tried HSMWorks, it’s a very neat package that I really like using.  The original HSMWorks is still available, and is intended to be integrated with a CAD package.  As it originally shipped, they integrated with SolidWorks, and this is the version I am most familiar with.  It’s a slick clean sheet of paper approach that really cleans up the UI experience and that feels like a fresh and powerful approach to CAM.  The product was doing nicely…

A Sincere Thank You to All Who Have Served

Nov 11, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog  //  2 Comments
Form1VeteransDay

WWI Soldier 3D Printed in 3 Parts on a Form 1 3D Printer…
Please join us in offering our sincere thanks to all who have served as we commemorate them on this Veteran’s Day, 2014.…

Secrets of Going From CAD, Image, DXF, or STL to GCode for CNC and 3D Printing

Nov 10, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   3D Printing, Beginner, Blog, GCode, Products, Software, Techniques  //  No Comments
STLMesh

When you’re starting out with CNC or 3D Printing, the first thing you’ll want to get your arms around is creating some sort of model, drawing, or representation of your part.  Most of the time this is a function of a CAD program, but not always.  You may also need to start from images, vector art from a drawing program, or perhaps some other file types.  You might even want to start with a list of simple machining operations, much the way you’d approach creating a part “off the cuff” and without drawings on a manual machine tool.
The very next thing you will need to do is convert whatever representation of your part that you have into GCode, because that’s what CNC Machines run.  Let’s go through some of these different paths to give you a good idea of what kind of software you’ll want to have around to get the job of generating GCode done.
3D Printing and Slicers
3D Printers typically use software that “slices” a 3D model of a part into layers, and then they generate g-code that extrudes plastic to fill each layer.  There are a number of different software packages out that can serve…

What Every Job Shop Ought to Know About Reducing Inventory Levels

Nov 10, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Business, Manufacturing, Techniques  //  No Comments
StorageCostWorksheet

Why should Job Shops and other Manufacturers work so hard to reduce inventory?
One of the central tenets of Lean Manufacturing is that if you reduce inventory, including Work In Progress inventory, you’ll reap savings that make for a much more profitable business.  But what are those savings and how much more profitable can a manufacturer who goes Lean hope to be?
Customers Want You to Carry Their Inventory Risks
Once upon a time, Jobs could buy the inventory needed for a particular Job, run the Job, and then move on.  A shop’s inventory consisted of some off cuts, maybe an extra full piece of material, fasteners and small parts, and a few extra finished parts from an overrun.  But the times they are a-changin’.
Today, we see customers becoming increasingly aggressive about shifting their inventory costs and risks to their manufacturers.  Job Shops increasingly have to deal with:
– Smaller orders that are priced at big order discounts.
– Start and stop contracts that work to the rhythm of your customer’s sales rather than the availability of resources and cash flow in your Job Shop.
– Delivery time frames getting shorter and shorter as do planning times.  The phone…

Storehouse of DIY Welding Table and Cart Ideas

Nov 8, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, CNC Projects, DIY CNC, Techniques  //  2 Comments
BigRedTable

If you’re a pro, you’ve probably got lots of room in your shop for welding, assuming it’s important to your business.  But for the DIY guy, he’s trying to cram as much useful stuff as possible into what is probably a crowded garage shop.  Welding can be a dirty smell somewhat nasty business.  You don’t want it butting right up against your precision machine tools. Using a cart or rolling table allows you to roll it out of the garage where the light and ventilation are good and it’s away from the machine tools.  When done, roll it back in and out of the way.
I’ve got a little welding table atop a rolling tool chest that I threw together one afternoon. It has served me, but I need to build a much better one at some point.  I always research these things well in advance–you can get so many great ideas across the web.  Then I put it all together on a CNCCookbook page so others can benefit.
Check out our new DIY Welding Table and Cart Page.…

A Bargain From Autodesk I Couldn’t Resist

Nov 6, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   3D Printing, Beginner, Blog, Products, Software  //  6 Comments
Fusion360Versions

I need another CAD program like a hole in the head.  Currently I use Rhino3D and SolidWorks, and I’m very happy with them.  Rhino3D is my goto program for quick and dirty one-offs and weird shapes like rifle stocks.  SolidWorks is the lingua franca of the CNC world and the goto when I want to run CAM that is integrated with it or for complex assemblies consisting of many parts.  It all works and I’m not looking for too much more, though I might purchase the RhinoWorks plug-in that adds parameteric CAD to Rhino.  Between these programs I have file connectivity to everything.  I have a copy of Autodesk Inventor hanging around here somewhere too, but I haven’t done much with it.  These darned programs are hard to learn well enough to be proficient, and two of them is plenty to keep rattling around in my head.
But…
There’s the CAD I need and use and the CAD CNCCookbook’s customers use and need connectivity to from our products.  Autodesk’s Fusion 360 is a case in point.  They’re offering a pretty steep discount right now.  You can get Fusion 360 for $300 a year (less a month or quarterly), and when…

Secrets of Broaching on a CNC Mill

Nov 6, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Manufacturing, Products, Techniques  //  17 Comments
monel-socket-broaching

We’ve written about broaching tools in CNC’s before.  It’s a common operation and one that can certainly be automated via CNC.
Here’s a Monel socket that required broaching right through the helical threads:

That Monel can be some nasty stuff!
As we all know, that Monel can be some nasty stuff.  Here’s the tooling from CNCBroachTools that did that job:

CNC Broaching Tools…
It’s indexable tooling and the broaching inserts are easy to replace.  Here’s what a typical broaching operation in a mill looks like:

I’m thinking of adding feeds and speeds for this kind of tooling to G-Wizard Calculator and perhaps a Conversational Wizard to generate the g-code to G-Wizard Editor.  Let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in this sort of thing.

Postscript
I want to summarize the broaching vs spindle bearings issue a bit. There are no end of threads in various places going back and forth on this Holy War. Here are some examples for those who are interested:
http://www.practicalmachinist.com/vb/cnc-machining/shaping-internal-splines-mill-good-bad-237265/
http://www.practicalmachinist.com/vb/cnc-machining/broaching-cnc-mill-120688/
http://www.cnczone.com/forums/haas-mills/122046-locking-spindle-use-linear-broach.html
http://www.cnczone.com/forums/machine-problems-solutions-wireless-dnc-serial-port/31233-feed-g01-spindle.html
Plenty of people show up to these parties from two camps:
– We’ve done it for years and it works great. Here’s a good quote along those lines:
“Forget the…

9 Essentials to Think About When Setting Up Your CNC Lathe Tooling

Nov 5, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, Manufacturing, Techniques  //  4 Comments
CNMG LH

Having physically hefted the Turret onto my Tormach CNC Lathe, it seemed appropriate to start thinking about tooling it up.  I wanted to share with you some of the considerations I’m making, which are based on some experience, some advice, and a whole bunch of online research.  Here are 9 thoughts that should be going through your mind as you’re deciding how to tool up the Turret on your CNC Lathe.  They’re just guidelines and different jobs will certainly require changes of tooling.
Hey, don’t have a turret?  Have a gang lathe instead?  No worries, a lot of this is still relevant to consider.  And if you haven’t decided which style to get, try our Turret vs Gang Tooling post for some insights there too.
#1 OD Rough Turning Tool
Few jobs can get by without an OD Roughing tool.  You want something sturdy, something that can peel a bunch of stock quickly, and something whose inserts are economical to replace and last a long time.  Some of the most popular insert choices for OD Roughing are the venerable CNMG and WNMG inserts:

CNMG Insert…

WNMG Insert…
Each of these styles has strong adherents, and perhaps the best arguments for…

What’s the Fastest Way to Get Rid of the Annoying Little Nibs Left By Parting Off?

Nov 3, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Manufacturing, Products, Techniques  //  12 Comments
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You know what I’m talking about–those little nibs that are left after parting off.  If you’re lucky, you’ve got a hole down the middle of the part and no nib.  But if the part is solid, there will be a nib.  It’s just the physics of it–the part starts to wobble as the nib gets small enough it can’t support the part and eventually the part comes loose with a nib on it. For most parts, you’re going to have to perform some kind of second op to get rid of the nib.
You could do a part flip on the lathe and face it off.  Ugh!  Time consuming unless you have a fancy lathe that can flip the parts itself or maybe some handy robotics or tooling to help out.
I’ve seen some folks knock it off with a sort of manual shearing action and a hammer.  That’s gotta be painful if you’ve got 2000 of them to do.
There’s always the belt or the disc sander that you could fire up, but seems like there has to be a better way.  I came across a product that just might do the trick.  It’s called the “Beere Tip Shear.”  …

Why Do Shops Use Multiple Shifts?

Nov 1, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Business  //  1 Comment
TimeClock

Why do shops use multiple shifts?
It’s all about the economics.  The thing to keep an eye on that drives these economics is plant and equipment utilization.
Let’s say you’re running a shop every day of every week, and you run it with 3 shifts so things are going 24 hours a day.  Phew!
That’s a lot of activity, but it pays off because you’re keeping your plant and equipment productive for 7 days x 24 hours for a whopping 168 hours a week.
Now let’s drop back and say you’re only open 5 days a week and one 8 hour shift.  Now you’re down to 40 hours a week of plant and equipment utilization.  That’s less than 1/4 as much.  You plant and equipment are sitting idle 76% of the time, not making you any money.
Adding one more shift will just about halve this waste.  Now you can see why shop owners often want to run more than one shift.
Here’s another way to look at it.  Suppose you are doing well and your orders just doubled.  You’ve got two scenarios for how to double your shop’s production:
Scenario #1:  Hire More People and Buy More Machines
In…

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