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Results of Our DNC Survey

Jul 30, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Manufacturing, Software, Techniques  //  2 Comments

Every CNC machine user needs a way to get g-code programs onto their machines.  Our recent DNC Survey was aimed at understanding how people are going about doing this.  Here are the results:
Use DNC:  59%
Use Memory Cards, Direct Network Connection, or Other:  41%
This is not surprising.  DNC is going to be more common at larger shops, at least shops with multiple machines.  It does give some idea of the readership’s propensity along those lines though.
What do you use DNC for?
     Downloading G-Code:  88%
     Drop Feeding G-Code:  56%
     Monitoring Machines:  6%
Assuming you use DNC, which features do you take advantage of?  Predictably, the most common is simply downloading g-code to the machines, but interestingly, some shops (22%) are not doing this.  In all likelihood they are Drip Feeding all their g-code.  Drip Feeding is the practice of feeding the part program to the machine just a few g-codes at a time on an as-needed basis.
Lastly, about 6% are using the DNC to monitor machine status.  This is a sophisticated and valuable function that enables shop to directly monitor what the machines are doing.  It helps them to monitor, understand, and optimize machine and even tool…

50 Interview Question Ideas for CNC Jobs

Jul 29, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Business, Techniques  //  2 Comments

I have always told managers that the one decision that is the most important one they will ever make is hiring.  No other decision has the potential to cause so much pain if done poorly, or to make the manager’s job and the underlying business more successful if done well.  Yet many hiring managers go into the process without having thought about it much, treating is as a distraction that they fiddle with, and often waiting for some sort of consensus among the interviewers to make the final decision easy.  Like anything else, there’s no free lunch, but what makes the job easier and the outcome more successful is to do a little homework.  For example, think about the questions you want to ask your job candidates way ahead of time.  What are you trying to find out and how will that affect the outcome of the hiring process?  Keep a list of questions and review it every single time you use it to see how you can improve it.  Before too long, your list of interview questions will be a valuable tool that’s always ready to go the next time you need to hire.
Job Applicants, same story.  Don’t…

4 Ways Geometry Affects Machining and What to Do About It: Infographic

Jul 25, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, FeedsSpeeds, Software, Techniques  //  No Comments
Rubbing, Chip Thinning, Tool Engagement, and HSM all have geometry consequences.

Geometry has a profound effect on your cutter’s health and well-being, not to mention your surface finish and material removal rates.  Here is an Infographic that walks through 4 ways geometry can affect your machining along with what you can do about it in each case:…

Does Your Shop Use DNC Software to Move G-Code Around?

Jul 19, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Manufacturing, Products, Software, Techniques  //  2 Comments

How does your shop go about getting g-code part programs on to the various CNC machines on your shop floor?
There’s the old stand bys–usb key, floppy disk, PCMCIA, and so forth.  These involve plugging some sort of media into the machine temporarily to transfer the code.  Newer machines can connect to your WiFi or cabled Ethernet and access folders on a server.  These methods are all fairly manual, but there’s a more automated way to transfer g-code to your CNC machines that is called “DNC,” which stands for “Distributed Numerical Control.”  The idea is to control what g-code winds up on a group of CNC machines from a central server.  A menu can be called up on the DNC software on that machine that causes a particular part program to be sent to a particular machine.
DNC requires connecting every machine back to the DNC Server that’s going to manage that machine.  This is traditionally done using RS-232 serial connections, like the cable on the right.  Newer machines have protocols that work entirely over Ethernet (cabled or WiFi), but this is typically an expensive option, so even newer machines may still be using RS-232.  To make the connection requires…

CNCCookbook’s 10 Best Magnet Articles

Jul 18, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Suppose you’re a CNC enthusiast, out browsing the Internet, looking for something interesting.  You’re using Google or your favorite search engine to find it.  What pages on CNCCookbook are most likely to get you “hooked” as a regular CNCCookbook reader?
It’s an interesting question.  Lots of pages have answers to common specific questions.  Folks land on them, collect their answer, and then go back to what they were doing.  I was curious to find pages that were gateways to more regular CNCCookbook consumption.  Pages where someone who landed on them was delighted enough that they would stop and spend time exploring the site, even though they were brand new visitors and probably weren’t planning to get distracted.  Having generated a list of these pages with no little effort involving complicated Excel spreadsheets and data from Google Analytics, I quickly realized these are pages that my regular readers might like to see too.  You see, there are several thousand articles here, and one of our challenges is to help people unearth new gems from the rich ore that can be mined here.  So, without further ado, here are 10 “Magnetic” articles.  They’re Magnetic because they keep people browsing the site by…

CNC’ing the Ultimate Arduino Case: A G-Wizard Customer’s Project

Jul 18, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Business, Products  //  No Comments

No matter what you’re building that involves using our G-Wizard Software (Calculator or Editor) to make it better, we love to hear from you.  This week’s customer story is about Ridgeline Enterprises, which is making what may be the ultimate case for the popular Arduino single board computers.  They’re offering the Arduino cases for what look like reasonable prices for good CNC work via Kickstarter.  The cases are very solid and from the Kickstarter article, it looks like they were first created so an Arduino could be used to control a custom toolchanger project.  Here is one of Ridgeline’s cases:

Whittled from a solid block of aluminum via CNC milling…
These cases are substantial and designed for practical tough duty use.  You can see any LEDs or whatever else through the clear cover.  Side openings allow for cable connections.
A number of our customers are very active on Kickstarter and have found it to be a succesful vehicle for launching their product ideas.  Considering our recent surveyed revealed that the vast majority of our readership like to design their own products, it’s good to have a marketing channel like Kickstarter to help generate revenue for these ideas.
This is probably…

Helical Interpolation: New Chapter in the G-Code Programming Tutorial

Jul 18, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, GCode, Techniques  //  No Comments

Have you tried Helical Interpolation yet?  It’s a handy g-code programming technique that causes the cutter to move in a helix.  It’s useful for thread milling, making holes larger than your cutter, and for doing circular ramping to get the tool down to the proper depth before beginning the rest of a toolpath for a feature such as a pocket.  Your CAM software may generate Helical Interpolations for you, but it’s still a good idea to understand what the g-code is doing.  The new Helical Interpolation Chapter in our Free CNC G-Code Programming Course lays it all out:
–  What is Helical Interpolation?
–  When Should You Use Helical Interpolation?
–  How to Program Helical Interpolation
We’ll show you how to make programming Helical Interpolation fast and easy using G-Wizard Editor’s Interpolated Hole Wizard and G-Wizard Calculator’s Interpolation Mini-Calculator to get the correct Feeds and Speeds for your particular Helical Interpolation.
You’ll learn how and why to use Helical Interpolation to make holes or to create gentler entries for your tools in tough materials by doing Circular Ramping.
Check it out!…

What Do CNCCookbook Readers Do In CNC Machining?

Jul 17, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Business  //  1 Comment

As part of our recent article, Where do CNCCookbook Readers Come From, we ran a little survey to see what role they play in CNC Machining.  Folks were allowed to check as many answers as they wanted, so be aware that there is overlap–a person may play more than one role.  For example they might like CNC both as a hobby and as a profession.
Here are the results:

How are you involved with CNC Machining?
If you would’ve asked me, I would have said our readers are a diverse, creative, and skilled audience, but the survey really nails that down with numbers:
–  Over half of you, 51%, design products–talk about creative, very creative.
–  Nearly half enjoy CNC as a hobby–me too, it’s great fun!
–  In terms of roles, the majority are CADC/CAM Operators, followed by Engineers, followed by Machinists, followed by Machine Operators.
–  20% of you manufacture commercial products and that’s broken down as half job shops (I make products for others) and manufacturing of your own products.
–  Almost 15% own the shop and 12% manage the shop.
For a little context, CNCCookbook gets 2.5 million visitors a year, which makes it the…

5 Golden Oldie Techniques Articles for Machinists

Jul 16, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, Techniques  //  No Comments

These are articles that were popular in the past about machining techniques, but that which are now hard to find and so less popular.  I’ll bring a few of these back up to top of mind every so often so later readers don’t miss out.
1. When to Use a Spotting Drill
When do you really need to use a Spot Drill, and is it okay to use a Center Drill instead?
2. Why Use a Single Flute Endmill?
For most machinists, single flute endmills are strange beasts seldom seen in the wild.  But, for the right application, they are just the thing to solve a number of problems.  Machines with high rpm spindles such as CNC Routers and HSM machines will find them especially useful.
3.  Programming to Cut a Higbee Thread, Higbee Start, or Blunt Start Thread
This way of finishing a thread is what’s specified for the threads on fire hoses and hydrants because it makes it super easy to thread something on.
4.  20 Bits of Tooling a Beginning CNC Mill User Will Need
Here’s your shopping list to help you get started.
5.  9 Easy G-Codes Every Machinist Must Learn
Who’s afraid of G-Code?  So…

GE Goes Full Throttle With Additive Manufacturing for Fuel Nozzles

Jul 16, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   3D Printing, Blog  //  1 Comment

GE is making a $50M investment at its plant in Auburn, Alabama to enable additive manufacturing for a specific jet engine part: the fuel nozzles for their LEAP engines.  The LEAP engine will be used on a number of aircraft  such as the Airbus A320neo, Boeing 737 MAX and COMAC (Chinese) C919 aircraft, beginning in 2016.  What’s different about the LEAP engines is they’re striving to achieve 15% better fuel economy and lower emissions than the current best in class alternatives–not an easy goal by any means.  The improvements come about because additive manufacturing (Industrial 3D Printing) can create parts that are impossible to create through conventional machining.  Parts that have significant enclosed internal structure can’t be accessed for conventional machining if they’re to be made in a single piece of material.
This video gives a great overview of what GE is planning to do:

The video includes shots of the Laser Sintering process used to create the parts as well as describing the rationale behind the choice of process and some of the challenges they faced.
I got curious about some of the technical details behind the project.  For example, the video mentions that the material they’re making the…

Keeping Your Email Inbox Clear and How Customer Service Works at CNCCookbook

Jul 14, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Business, Techniques  //  No Comments

Here at CNCCookbook, we offer a number of ways to get in touch.  Some are faster or slower based on how I prioritize the inputs.  Some are more guaranteed than others to get a result.  Just for the record, let me quickly walk through these mechanisms, and then I want to focus on Email.  So, if you need to get a response from CNCCookbook, here’s how you go about it in order of how quickly and surely that response will come:
#1 File a Customer Service ticket on our User Portal.  This is a dedicated software application designed to nag us until we have responded to each query there.
#2 Drop us an Email.  This method is nearly as good as #1 in terms of how fast you’ll get a response and how likely it is we will respond, but not quite.  I personally get probably 300 emails a day from the CNCCookbook audience.  I work hard to answer each and every one of them, but there is a pecking order (more on that shortly) and let’s face it: sometimes emails do get lost.  They get stuck in spam filters or they just don’t get taken care of soon enough…

Where Do CNCCookbook Readers Come From?

Jul 5, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Business  //  No Comments

I frequently get questions about who is reading CNCCookbook and especially about who is participating in our surveys.  I thought I’d share some information on our readership.  This is all based on the last 12 months of data for visitors to our website as reported by Google Analytics.
What Part of the World Are Readers From?
By country, it’s 49% US and 50% the rest of the world with the top visits being as follows:
1 United States 49.02%
2 United Kingdom 6.03%
3 Canada 5.53%
4 India 4.87%
5 Australia 3.73%
6 Germany 1.65%
7 Italy 1.22%
8 France 1.10%
9 South Africa 1.10%
By continent, it looks like this:
1 Americas 57.50%
2 Europe 22.41%
3 Asia 12.50%
4 Oceania 4.51%
5 Africa 1.99%
6 (not set) 1.08%
We’re only available in English, which I suspect limits things somewhat.  Nevertheless, we are very much an International phenomenon.
What Are Their Demographics?
Here are the age demographics of our readers:
1 25-34 24.08%
2 45-54 23.00%
3 35-44 20.81%
4 55-64 16.26%
5 18-24 8.08%
6 65+ 7.78%
Most of our readers are of professional age, from 25 to 64 years old–83%.  The biggest grop after that are 18-24…

Here’s Your Chance to Be a Cheapskate With Our CNC Software

Jul 5, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog  //  No Comments

We’re running our Fourth of July Firecracker Super Sale.  All purchases of $100 and over are 15% off.  Now’s your chance to be a cheapskate and cash in on some savings on our CNC software.  We don’t mind, really, we love when people take advantage!
I was just talking to a gent who bought a 1 year subscription to G-Wizard Calculator for $79.  It was a renewal as he’s been using the software for several years.  I pointed out that with the sale, our 3 year subscription is just $30.65 more than a 1 year subscription.  In other words, pay 50% more than the 1 year and get a subscription 3 times as long.  That sure makes sense to me as a way to save.  BTW, if you recently bought a 1 year (in the last 30 days), just drop me a note saying you want to upgrade it to a 3 year and we’ll give you full credit towards the upgrade for your 1 year purchase.  Same goes for Editor and same goes for upgrades to lifetime.
To get the savings, order any of our software and you’ll see the discount in the shopping cart.
Please check it out,…

Should You Choose a Horizontal or Vertical Machining Center?

Jul 4, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Business, Manufacturing  //  2 Comments

VMC vs HMC axes…
I hear this question a lot:  why would I choose a Horizontal Machining Center?  Or, when is an HMC better than a VMC, I hardly ever see HMC’s?
Like so many things, the answer to these questions is complex.  Let’s start by taking a look at how each one is laid out.  In the diagram above, we can see the axis layout for a VMC (Vertical Machining Center or Vertical Mill) on the left, and the layout for an HMC (you guessed it: Horizontal Machining Center) on the right.  The thin gray rectangular block is the machine table, the cylinder is the machine’s spindle, and in the case of the HMC, the gray cube is the tombstone.  “What’s a tombstone?” you ask.  It’s a big block of cast iron that sits atop an axis for rotation.  You attach the workpieces to the tombstone sides.  You can think of this whole thing as a 4th Axis for an HMC, and they have a lot in common with a VMC’s 4th Axis, but they’re much more pervasive.  One sees a lot of VMC’s with no 4th axis currently in use, but most HMC’s use them constantly.
HMC Cons…

Mail Bag Monday: Keep Those Cards and Letters Coming

Jul 1, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Since our blog newsletter goes out to 29,000 machinists, we get a lot of correspondence here at CNCCookbook.  I try to respond to all of it, and I usually succeed, but not always.  If I miss one of yours, or seem slow, feel free to ping me with another email.
Most of the mail is questions about our products, how to use them, whether they have certain features, are they suitable for certain circumstances, and so on.  Some is feedback about the products.  The latter doesn’t get a lot of attention, mostly because it doesn’t need a response other than, “Thank You!”  I really appreciate receiving feedback of all kinds, but the folks who take time out of their busy schedule just to tell me how much they like the software have no idea what a shot in the arm that can be for us here at CNCCookbook.  Unbridled enthusiasm is infectious, so I wanted to share some of that sort of correspondence in a new blog feature I am calling “Mail Bag Monday”.  I won’t run these articles every Monday, I think once or twice a month is plenty, but I think these folks that took the time to…




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