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The Secrets of CAM for Beginners

Sep 29, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, Products, Software, Techniques  //  9 Comments

Do you find CAM as frustrating and mystifying as I once did?
I remember when I first started messing around with CAM.  It was before I got my CNC mill up and running and a little while after I had gotten reasonably proficient with CAD.  I got hold of some free trials and couldn’t believe how hard it all seemed.  Much worse than CAD.  The CAM program was constantly asking me mysterious questions I had no idea the answers to, or it would seem as though the CAM software didn’t understand my 3D model from the CAD package quite right, or sometimes it would just do absolutely nothing and I couldn’t figure out why.  It wasn’t just one CAM package, but three or four that did this.  Eventually I figured them out after watching lots of videos and doing lots of experimentation.
Recently, the subject of CAM for beginners came up again from several sources and I was reminded of my own original experience.  Basically what I was hearing was the same story I had gone through.  Part of the problem is that beginners have entirely the wrong expectation:
After working hard to learn CAD and having labored to produce…

23 Websites to Help You Start and Grow Your Business

Sep 24, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Business  //  No Comments
advice_bad time

Periodically I pass along resources to help folks who are interested in starting or growing their businesses.  I don’t do it often, because that’s not really the focus of CNCCookbook.  But I do know that a great big segment of our audience is interested in this sort of thing either because they own their own business or would like to start one up.  Having been a 7-time serial entrepreneur (yes, CNCCookbook is my 7th and by far the one I have enjoyed the most!), I do come across some useful things from time to time.
This time, it’s a list of the 23 Websites I have found most helpful to my own efforts.  I wrote them all up along with links to lists from Forbes and Inc magazine on their suggested best sites for entrepreneurs.  You’ll find them over on my Business Strategy blog, which I call Smoothspan.…

Messing Around With Tormach’s PSG 612 Surface Grinder

Sep 24, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Products, Techniques  //  No Comments

It’s been a little while since I had a chance to catch one of John Grimsmo’s Knifemaking Tuesday videos, but this one caught my eye when it came through recently.  It basically shows the Grimsmo brothers using their Tormach PSG 612 surface grinder on some sheet titanium that they’re preparing to be made into knife parts.  What attracted me was the chance to see the PSG in action.  It’s a neat little machine.  Surface Grinders are extremely handy to have around, but unless you buy a much more expensive automatic surface grinder, they’re pure drudgery to use.  The problem is they take off very little material with each pass, and you have to handwheel the thing to make the multiple passes needed to cover the surface being ground in X, Y, and Z.  It winds up being a lot of passes if any appreciable material is to be removed!
Tormach came up with the clever idea of applying relatively inexpensive commodity automation to what had been a manual surface grinder to take the drudgery out of it, and they managed to do so for a very reasonable price–$3989 as I write this.  That’s about $2000 for the automation versus a…

Visual Factory, Agile Software, and Standing Meetings: Lean Manufacturing Principles, Part 9

Sep 23, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, Business, Manufacturing, Techniques  //  No Comments
Visual Factory is about improving communication

This is Part 9 of our series on Lean Manufacturing Principles.
Poor communication is the bane of almost any form of teamwork.  The more complex the process the team is working on together, the more difficult proper communication is, but also the more critical it becomes to successfully implementing the process.
The somewhat peculiar title for this piece, and its inclusion of Agile Software and Standing Meetings, is due to the ideas behind Visual Factory being evocative of some of the early practices I adopted managing software teams in order to improve their communication.  These practices involved creating a “Standing Meeting” that involved gathering my whole team briefly every single day to make sure communication was happening.  Some authorities credit my original Quattro Pro team (yes, I have been doing Calculators of one kind or another for quite a while!) with having started this essential part of Agile Software methodology.  My emphasis was on what’s new, what needed to be clear, and keeping the meetings very short:  15 minutes to half an hour max.  They were also very visual when possible.  We didn’t want to just go around the table and get the usual boring progress report.  Instead, we insisted…

Installing G-Wizard Software on a New Machine

Sep 23, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, Software  //  No Comments

Periodically, everyone upgrades their PC’s, whether for opportunity (there’s a more powerful one available!) or necessity (my hard disk crashed!).  When that time comes, you face the task of reinstalling all your software.
To help make this process easier, I do a couple of things for my own PC’s.  First is I keep a log that lists every piece of software I have installed.  It’s just an Excel spreadsheet, and there’s not much more in it than that.  But, it’s great to be able to refer to it when configuring the new machine so I don’t forget to install something.  Second, I keep a folder on the machine called “CustPC” (for Custom PC).  It contains any downloaded files I need to reinstall.  Drivers files, downloaded software installers, and so forth are all there.  With these two resources available, bringing up a new machine usually goes pretty fast.
If you need to install our G-Wizard software on a new machine, it’s very easy.  First, you’ll need to download the latest versions.  You can always find them on our Help page.  Just click the “Help” menu at the top of any CNCCookbook page to go there.  The install links are mentioned in…

The Ultimate Tony Stark Inspired Workshop, Part 3

Sep 23, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Cool  //  No Comments

This is part 3 of our Ultimate Tony Stark Inspired Workshop Series.
Time to dive into some of the beefier areas of our workshop, namely what kinds of machines will inhabit these hallowed halls?
Cutting Rough Stock to Shape
Cutting rough stock to shape is an important early step in most projects for our Ultimate Workshop.  We’ve postulated an inventory of every imaginable type of material and stock shape, so now we need to cut that stuff down to size.  Ideally, we want to get within 0.1″ of our final target dimension, regardless of the shape of the part.  Being able to do so typically results in high productivity because cutting rough stock is usually much faster than machining the same amount of material today.
5-Axis Waterjet
A workshop like this needs to start with one of the highest productivity machines there is for cutting rough stock:  a waterjet.  These machines are awesome, and shops I’ve talked to tell me that for many parts, they waterjet and then the milling work is largely a function of finish passes.  Productivity is so much higher.  Since the is an Ultimate Workshop, I think we’ll invest in a pretty special waterjet too–how about…

Lean Manufacturing for Job Shops: Lean Manufacturing Principles Part 8

Sep 17, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, Business, Manufacturing, Techniques  //  3 Comments

This is Part 8 of our Introduction to Lean Manufacturing Principles Series.
With the first 7 installments of our series, you now have a pretty good overview of what Lean Manufacturing is all about.  I’ve gotten a lot of great compliments on the series, and I appreciate that.  But at the same time, I know there is a contingent out there wondering whether Lean Manufacturing is even the right thing to do for a Job Shop.  It’s very easy to look at Lean and conclude it’s only useful if you’re going to be making a whole lot of the same parts for a very long time.  You know, like Toyota was doing when they came up with the whole thing. That group is likely starting to feel a little bit like our friend on the right.  You’re bursting to come out with, “Go ahead, say Lean Manufacturing one more time, I date you!”
Hang on friends, there really is quite a lot that Lean Manufacturing can do for Job Shops.  This post is all about understanding how to apply it in Job Shops, what the most valuable components are for Job Shops, and how to get started.
How Are Job…

6 Ways G-Wizard Editor Can Save You Time and Money With G-Code

Sep 15, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, GCode, Software, Techniques  //  No Comments

CNCCookbook’s G-Wizard Editor is a full-featured g-code editor and simulator with loads of features.  But I want to call particular attention to these 6 Power Features because they have the potential for the biggest savings of time and therefore money when you’re dealing with g-code:
–  Hints and Information Tabs:  GWE will give you tons of information about your g-code that’s hard to impossible to get any other way.
–  Conversational Wizards:  Create g-code for common operations with simple point and shoot wizards.
–  Soft Limits:  Get alarms when your toolpath exceeds the limits you set.  Who couldn’t use a simple tool to help avoid many crashes?
–  Machine Acceleration Adjustments:  Are your time estimates on code always too optimistic?  Are there moves that are never even getting up to the commanded feedrate?  Find out with GWE’s Acceleration Adjustments.
–  Revisions: Wouldn’t it be great if you had an experienced hand at g-code programming available to edit your code and make revisions to it under your guidance?
–  Naming Macro # Variables:  It’s hard to remember all those variables, #100, #112, #221, etc..  Why not give them real names like #PROBE_DIAMETER?  GWE can do this even when your control doesn’t…

The Ultimate Tony Stark Inspired Workshop, Part 2

Sep 12, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Cool, Software  //  2 Comments

This is part 2 of our Ultimate Tony Stark Inspired Workshop Series.
Computers and design are a big part of Tony Stark’s Workshop.  Of course Tony has the robotic artificial intelligence J.A.R.V.I.S. to help him get things done, or perhaps mostly to clean up the shop and serve as a comic foil to Stark’s genius.  He’s got holograms and a variety of other things going on too that, like J.A.R.V.I.S, we’d be hard-pressed to come by–the tech simply isn’t available quite yet.  Fear not, there is plenty of awesome tech that is available for our Ultimate Workshop.
Computers Prefer A Darker Environment
First thing is, we need to house the CADCAM Design and Computer area in a darkened room.  All the light that is so beneficial in our more mechanical workshop activities just creates glare on our computer screens that makes them harder to see.  For that reason, we’ll put a special room that is slighlty darkened, with just a bit of halogen (for the warmth) indirect lighting so we can see our way around and not trip over things.  We’ll also specify a raised false floor for cabling so we can properly wire all the workstations without any exposed…

Kanban Visual Scheduling: Lean Manufacturing Principles Part 7

Sep 10, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, Business, Manufacturing, Techniques  //  2 Comments

This is Part 7 of our Introduction to Lean Manufacturing Principles Series.
Kanban Came From Studying Supermarkets Stocking Food
Kanban, which means signboard or billboard in Japanese, is a visual scheduling system for lean and just in time production.  While some think of it as an inventory control system, it is more of a logistical chain control system.
Like so many Lean Manufacturing ideas, it was invented at Toyota.  It seems they had started studying the way supermarkets stocked their shelves with food just in time with an eye towards applying this to factory production lines.  Supermarkets do this to maintain freshness–there’s no use stocking more than just what  you expect to sell because otherwise the food spoils.  Eliminating the waste of excess inventory and Work in Progress (WIP) was right up Toyota’s alley, so they focused on implementing it.
The analogy with the store is that the preceeding process is the store and the process that follows it is the customer.  Demand is created by customers which “pull” inventory through from the store.  Since the rate of demand may vary for all sorts of reasons ranging from incoming orders to problems with later processes being halted, this pull through…

Our 2014 Labor Day Sale Ends Friday: Just A Couple Days Left to Save!

Sep 10, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Our 2014 Labor Day Sale ends this Friday–just a couple days left to save.
We’ve reduced prices on all purchases over $99 by 15% as our way of honoring labor.  Click through the order button to see your savings in the Shopping Cart.
Here are some of our most popular deals:
–  Lifetime subscription to both G-Wizard Editor and G-Wizard Calculator for $373.15 – Save almost $275 vs buying them separately 
–  Lifetime subscription to G-Wizard Editor for $254.15–Save almost $45
–  Lifetime subscription to G-Wizard Calculator for $211.65–Save $37.35
There are deals on almost everything, check the Deals and Steals page for more details.  If you don’t see what you want, drop me a note.  I can also custom quote if you want to upgrade your current subscriptions to lifetime without paying the full lifetime price.
If you can, it would help us greatly if you’ll please tell your friends, like us, Tweet us, post about us on your favorite forums, or do whatever else you can to help us get the word out.  There are buttons all around this web page to help you help us to get the word out.
As always, thank you for all your…

Making G-Wizard Software Updates Faster and Simpler

Sep 9, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, FeedsSpeeds, GCode, Products, Software  //  No Comments

Upgrading software is a fact of life.  Most of the time its a good thing–bugs get fixed and features get added.  At CNCCookbook, we try to keep everyone pretty up to date on the available releases for G-Wizard Calculator and G-Wizard Editor.  Most of the time, if a bug is discovered that escaped our testing, I can get a new release up before most people have encountered it.  If you’re proactive about keeping up to date, you’ll probably see very few of those bugs.
The downside of new releases is they’re a distraction from your work.  You have to stop, go find the download page, wait for the software to download, and then install the software.  We’ve tried to streamline it where possible, for example the “Install” button at the top of the window will pop up a browser on the download page, assuming you don’t have a pop-up blocker that prevents that.  Still, updates can be a nuisance sometimes.  For that reason, we have slowed down the rate at which we do new releases on our two main packages.  I shoot for once a month and sometimes twice.  Also, most of the releases are optional.  You’ll hear about them…

Results of Our Setup Sheet Survey

Sep 8, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Manufacturing, Software, Techniques  //  No Comments

As part of our post, “The Art of the Setup Sheet”, we ran a survey to see how shops were approaching their Setup Sheets.  Here are the results:
How Are Your Setup Sheets Delivered?
– 87% print them on paper
– 33% make them available on computer or tablet
Frankly, I was surprised and impressed to see such a high percentage online.
How Are Your Setup Sheets Created?
– 60% using office software such as MS Word or Excel
– 20% are handwritten on a standard form
– 20% are generated by CAM software
I was surprised here at the number that are still handwritten.  Setup sheets are a form of documentation that can be useful to archive and keep around.  That’s hard to do when they’re hand written.  The use of Office software to create them is better, but seems labor intensive.  Only a few are using CAM, but for most of the packages I have seen, it’s not that easy to set it up.
What Kind of Information is On Your Setup Sheets?

Tool Table

Fixture & Workholding

Header Info

Rough Stock

Operations List

G-Code Information

Setup Checklist

CADCAM Information

The Ultimate Tony Stark Inspired Workshop, Part 1

Sep 4, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Cool  //  4 Comments

We’ve all seen photos of unbelievably spectacular garages filled with exotic cars.  Some of them are more like museums or theme parks than garages.  Jay Leno and Ralph Lauren both have amazing facilities of this kind.  But let’s say that in addition to having the time and wealth to do nearly anything you want, you’re also the type to get grease under his fingernails.  You know, the Tony Stark type:

Tony Stark in the section of his workshop intended for working on cars talking to Pepper…
Given that unlimited budget, this article series explores what sort of workshop you might create.  To be sure, every individual will have somewhat different needs.  Our friend Tony builds Iron Man suits with associated weapons systems and works on cars.  Perhaps you fancy something different.  Maybe you want to build custom firearms or create art of some kind.  This series will focus on creating a workshop that’s entirely flexible about the sorts of materials and projects it might be useful for.  The main emphasis is on reduction of your labor.  After all, as a billionaire tinkerer the one thing you can’t just buy more of is time.  You want to go as quickly as…

Who is Afraid of Tool Deflection?

Sep 4, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, FeedsSpeeds, Software, Techniques  //  No Comments

Well, if you’re not afraid of tool deflection, you should be.  Here are 7 things to know about it:
1. Tool Deflection is bad for Tool Life
Tool Deflection is bad for Tool Life in several ways:
–  It’s actually forcing the tool to bend.  Like a paperclip, if you bend it back and forth too much, it will break.
–  If the tool bends more deeply into the cut, it can increase chipload to the point the tool breaks immediately.  Consider adding up the target chipload based on feeds and speeds, the runout, and the tool deflection to arrive at the true chipload the cutter will experience.  If you’d never consider running with several thousandths of runout, or exceeding your endmill’s recommended chipload by several thousandths, why would you be willing to run with several thousandths of tool deflection?  All these things look the same to the cutter flute and they all add up.
–  The bending means the tool won’t follow the toolpath that was intended, which can lead to unforeseen consequences.
The latter is one of my favorites.  Here is an example of an unforseseen consequence:

You can tell something bad happened here, right?
I was visiting…




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