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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
VMCvsHMC

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…

Announcing Our July 4th Firecracker Super Sale!

Jun 29, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Business  //  No Comments
BlackCat231W

Summertime, and the livin’ is easyFish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
I love that old song, the summer, and especially the Fourth of July.  It’s a great holiday to be with family, BBQ, and do whatever else is your custom.  It’s been a while since our last sale, so I wanted to run a sale for the holiday: our July 4th Firecracker Super Sale.  We’ve used coupons and specific product discounts in the past, but this time we’re doing something slightly different.  I’m trying to make it easier for everyone, so this sale is completely automatic.  Just order what you like and the shopping cart will knock 15% off, provided your order is for $100 or more.
If you’ve been meaning to purchase one of our products, or maybe add some time to your subscription, this is a chance to save.  Here are a just a few ideas of the savings you’ll get with this sale:
–  3 year G-Wizard Calculator Subscription, regular $129 on sale for $109.65.
–  Lifetime G-Wizard Calculator Subscription, regular 249, on sale for 211.65.
–  3 year G-Wizard Editor Subscription, regular 199, on sale for 169.15.
–  Lifetime G-Wizard Editor, regular 299, on…

Project Idea: CNC’d Flashlights

Jun 28, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, CNC Projects, Cool  //  3 Comments
FlashChromeGroovy

You’d like to collect something made via CNC, or perhaps you just need a one off project or a gift idea.  What’s rugged, well suited to that odd modern adjective “Tactical”, made via CNC, and just the thing when firearms and knives are not your cup of tea.  How about making your own very cool tactical flashlight design?
Yes folks, there is a hobby centered on making cool custom flashlights.  There’s even a great big online community that’s chock full of ideas, techniques, and others who are enthusiasts.  It’s called “Candlepower Forums,” but these babies are anything but simple candles.  Be forewarned, a lot of these threads do not involve custom machine work.  Most are focused on modifying existing commercial lights in some way or another to improve and customize.  Like so many other hobbies, those who have the gear and the know how to CNC are in the minority, but that minority has the ability to really push the envelope when it comes to creating some cool projects.  No matter, even commercially made lights can serve as inspirations for your own custom designs.
To do this kind of work,  you’ll want a CNC lathe, and probably a mill too.  …

Adding New Materials to G-Wizard Calculator

Jun 28, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, FeedsSpeeds, Software  //  No Comments
BlastFurnace

There’s a minor release out, 2.49, that I’ve just uploaded.  It primarily concerns adding some new materials:
–  AR400 and AR500 abrasion resistant steel plate.  Use this for buckets on excavators or it is also popular for making firearms targets.
–  Hastelloy X:  One of those solid green unobtanium super alloys.  It’s a nickel alloy used because it is corrosion and heat resistant.
–  4145 Steel:  A low alloy steel similar to 4140, but it can be hardened more.  It is common in oil patch applications.
We add new materials to G-Wizard Calculator all the time, and always by customer request.  If you need a material added, just drop me a note via email.
To help make the addition happen as quickly as possible, there are a couple of things you can do.
First, it is easiest to add materials that fit under one of the existing families.  I’m definitely going to add those first.  I have some requests for some really exotic stuff such as machinable ceramics that require creation of a whole new material category.  This means quite a lot of number crunching has to be done and I need to research and gain access to tooling manufacturer’s…

Lost Wax Casting with 3D Printers

Jun 27, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   3D Printing, Blog, CNC Projects, Cool, Manufacturing, Techniques  //  1 Comment
fixer14

One of the chief limitations of hobby scale 3D printing is its inability to print metal.  Yes, there are commercial 3D printers that can print metal, even exotic metals like Inconel.  But the cost of such 3D printers is prohibitive for all but the most high end applications.
What’s a poor 3D printing hobbyist to do about metal?
One great answer is to use their 3D Printer to create the models that are to be used to cast the part from metal using the lost wax casting technique (known more formally as investment casting).  With lost wax, one makes a full size replica of the desired part.  That replica is then embedded in a material capable of withstanding the high temperatures of the molten metal to be used for the part.  That result is then placed in a kiln where the model (normally wax, but in this case 3D printed plastic) is “burned out” of the mold.  It is literally burnt away leaving behind a void shaped exactly like the desired part.  Next, molten metal is poured into this new mold to case the part.  The material is chipped or washed away and Voila!  A new part is born.
Here…

Top Blog Posts and CNC Machining Articles for First Half of 2014

Jun 18, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   3D Printing, Beginner, Blog, CNC Router, Cool, DIY CNC, Guest-Post, Techniques  //  No Comments

We’re close to the half way point on the year and as always, I like to pass along which blog posts and articles (articles being those pages outside the CNCCookbook blog proper) have been the most popular.  We have several thousand CNC articles on the site, and there are a lot of undiscovered treasures.  Hopefully these 20 leads will help you to find something new and interesting here.
Blog Posts
Let’s start with the 10 most popular blog posts so far this year:
1. 10 Tips for CNC Router Aluminum Cutting Success
This one has been on the top for quite a while.  Welcome to all the CNC Routers users who are looking to make cutting aluminum easier.  It’s very doable, you just need to know a few of the tips.
2. 10 Things Beginning CNC Milling Machine Users Need to Succeed
Intro articles have always been a strong suite for CNCCookbook so I was pleased to see this article for CNC beginners did well.
3. Motion Control Boards Take Mach3 From Hobby Class to Industrial Grade
We cater to professionals as well as DIY CNC’ers.  The latter tend to be from the more advanced end of the DIY spectrum,…

What’s the Difference Between CADCAM Wizards and the Feeds and Speeds Calculator?

Jun 12, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, FeedsSpeeds, Software  //  No Comments
GWCFeedsSpeeds

Recently a user of G-Wizard Calculator asked to understand better the difference between Calculator’s CADCAM Wizards and its Feeds and Speeds Calculator.  It’s a fair question as they look totally different and the CADCAM Wizards are so unique nobody will have had experience with anything like them before they tried G-Wizard.
Let’s start with the Feeds/Speeds Calculator.  It’s familiar to any machinist because it presents concepts that have been around for a long time:

The Feeds/Speeds Calculator presents concepts familiar to almost every machinist…
The idea is you work your way through, left to right, top to bottom, until you’ve filled in enough blanks to get back RPM and Feedrate.  That basically means filling in the sections labeled “Machine”, “Tool”, and “Cut”.  The Mini-Calcs are specialized little calculators that help you with specific problems like Interpolated Holes, Ramping into a Cut, and Plunge Roughing.  The answers appear in the “Feeds” section, and the areas below “Feeds” are optional areas to fill in.  You can override almost anything G-Wizard calculates and force it to deal with that.  For example, you might want to arbitrarily reduce the RPM’s, or you might want to provide your cutter manufacturer’s chipload and surface speed.  Most…

3D Printer Tuneup: Calibrating Your Extruder Steps

Jun 12, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   3D Printing, Beginner, Blog, Techniques  //  1 Comment
Esteps1

Machine tools of all kinds need adjustments from time to time and 3D Printers are no exception.  If anything, I have found mine to be quite finicky as I go through the dialing in process.  In this article I want to talk about calibrating your extruder steps.  That is, the number of steps the motor on the extruder makes to achieve a certain result.  Adjusting this value is critical because it determines whether the extruder is injecting too much or too little filament plastic compared to what the software is expecting.
How do we choose the right value for this setting?
There’s more than one way.  In theory, we’re talking steps per some unit distance, so we could simply mark the filament relative to some distance, command the extruder to run 10mm of filament through, measure exactly how much went through, and adjust our number accordingly.  This is a good step to take, but rather than choosing the “right” value, I wanted to get the “best” results, where “best” is the best subjective result, so I opted for a different method.  I tested values on either side of “right” to see which one produced the best results on a test…

Ultimate Benchtop CNC Mini Mill Part 7: Spindle, Drawbar, and Toolchanger

Jun 11, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, CNC Projects, DIY CNC  //  7 Comments
R8vsCAT40

This is the seventh installment of our Ultimate Benchtop CNC Mini Mill series.  The series is dedicated to helping DIY CNC’ers work through the design considerations and tradeoffs for their CNC Mill projects.  Here are the installments so far:
Part 1:  Donor Mill
Part 2:  CNC Mechanicals (Ballscrews and Such)
Part 3:  Close Loop vs Open Loops (Servos vs Steppers)
Part 4:  Motion Performance
Part 5:  Acceleration and Cutting Forces
Part 6:  Motor Selection Wrap Up
In this installment, we’ll wrap up the process for selecting your axis drive motors, leadscrews, and timing belt drives.
Whether you plan to have one from the beginning or add it later, any Benchtop CNC Mill project worth the word “Ultimate” needs to be toolchanger ready.  As it turns out, the decisions that need to be made on the taper/toolholders, powered drawbar, and toolchanger, all go hand in hand.  Also, they need to be considered right up front to make sure we don’t paint ourselves into a corner when the time comes to add a toolchanger later.
In this installment of the Ultimate Benchtop CNC Mini Mill Series, we will take a look at the decisions that relate to the toolchanger.  In the next…

BuildTak: Get Your 3D Prints to Stick to the Printer Bed

Jun 9, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   3D Printing, Beginner, Blog, Products  //  No Comments
BuildTak1

One of the critical problems you must solve when 3D Printing is getting the print to stick to the printer bed.  Failure to do so leads to warping and all sorts of other nasty problems.  In the worst case the whole print comes lose in the middle of printing and is ruined.
People go to great lengths to avoid this problem, invoking glue sticks, hairspray, ABS + Acetone Slurries (the “Juice”), and who knows what all else.  We’ve touched on this problem in a prior article to give you some idea of the different approaches.  I am pleased to report that there is an easier way.  I contacted the BuildTak people to ask for a sample of their material in a round size that fit my Rostock’s round glass bed.  I got the sample from them fairly quickly and proceeded to apply it to the bed.  The process is simple, you peel off the backing paper and stick it on.  Take a little care that it is well centered on the bed, and peel the backing paper off a little at a time.  I used a credit card to help smooth out any bubbles as I was applying the BuildTak…

Estimating Cycle Times With Machine Acceleration: New G-Wizard Editor Feature

Jun 5, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, FeedsSpeeds, GCode, Manufacturing, Software  //  2 Comments
BlurredEndmill

An important concept that pops up from time to time is a CNC machine’s ability to accelerate.  Acceleration is often the real limiting factor to the machine’s motion, more so than absolute rapids speeds, for example.  In many real world g-code programs, the cutter may never get up to the commanded speed in some of the blocks. This will cause the program to run more slowly than expected, so understanding what’s at work can either help us make the program faster or make our estimate of its running time more accurate.
Why does inadequate acceleration lead to the cutter never reaching the commanded speed?
Simply put, if the move is too short, there is not enough distance to accelerate to full speed.  This can be true for both rapids and feed motion for g-codes like G01 (straight lines) and G02/G03 (arcs).  The shorter the distance moved, the less likely the cutter will get to full speed by the end of the move.  Clearly, very short moves may suffer more than longer moves.  If your CADCAM software is simulating a curve with very short line segments, your g-code program is almost certainly suffering from this problem.
Here is a table that…

Desktop CNC Trends: From Cobbled Together to 3D Printers

Jun 4, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   3D Printing, Blog, Business, CNC Router, DIY CNC, Manufacturing, Products, Software  //  2 Comments
WidgitMinRouter

The pace of innovation for Desktop CNC has really been flying.  First, 3D Printers rode the massive wave of hype and innovation.  Expect to see the same with Desktop CNC Routers before too long, and that evolution is what we’re here to talk about today.
Let’s start by defining the term “Desktop CNC Router” also known as “Benchtop CNC Routers” or just “Mini-Routers.”  These machines are more formally known as gantry mills, so they’re milling machines.  Typical examples work well on wood, plastics, and even some softer metals.  If you’ve got one that’s well made, you can cut aluminum and brass on your Desktop CNC Router, for example.  The “Desktop” indicates they’re small enough to sit on your desk, so they’re not freestanding.  Most industrial CNC Routers are sized to take a full 4′ x 8′ piece of plywood and sometimes even more.  Figure the table of a Desktop CNC Router will accomodate workpieces up to 4′ x 4′ and many are much smaller.  The little machine pictured to the right was made for me by a fellow named “Widgitmaster” on the CNCZone boards and is tiny as you can tell by the scale of the Dremel tool it uses…

One Wheeled Electric Scooters

Jun 3, 2014   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, CNC Projects, Cool  //  2 Comments
OneWheelSciFi

One Wheeled Scooters:  they’re not as good as flying cars, but they are pretty cool!
I try to balance the editorial content here at CNCCookbook between learning the art of CNC Manufacturing (you never stop learning, experts and beginners alike) and showing off inspirational articles about CNC Projects you could build or that others have built.  It can seem a bit eclectic, but the formula works as our readership has grown to circa 2 million visitors a year and continues to grow like gangbusters.  Thanks to all of you readers for that!
And while I’m at it, let me put in a plug for our email newsletter.  Click here to subscribe and we’ll add you to the list.  In exchange, you’ll receive a digest once a week of the articles published in the last week.  A lot of people like to save up several articles and not have to keep checking back.  The email newsletter makes that easy.
Now what’s all this about One Wheeled Electric Scooters?
I have been impressed by the efforts to build electric bicycles I’ve seen and have written about them in the past.  I aim to build one myself at some point, perhaps even a…

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