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Brother Can You Spare A Little 4th Axis G-Code?

May 24, 2013   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, GCode, Software  //  No Comments

One thing that can really move G-Wizard Editor ahead is access to new g-code.
Let me explain.
Recently, I had about 3 people send me some really complex Fanuc macros.  Very cool stuff.  By working through some of the problems they were having, the g-code simulator got a lot better for everyone.  The thing is, it is very hard to get everything just exactly right just by reading the manuals.  There are subtleties that are lost there.  It takes real world g-code to expose those subtleties.  As I tell people, once I can duplicate an issue on my own computer, I can make things better very quickly.  The more g-code I have to test with, the more accurate and well-tested the simulator becomes.  To date, I have several thousand files.
Because of all that, I need to reach out to the CNCCookbook community and ask for a favor.  If you have some 4th Axis g-code, please send it to me.  I will only use it for my own internal testing and nobody but me will see it.  It’s time for me to start looking at 4th Axis support for GW Editor, and the best way to do that is with…

Nesting Software from Sigma Tek to MyNesting.com: An Introduction

May 21, 2013   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Software  //  2 Comments
Nesting Software

Have you heard of Nesting Software?  It’s one more piece of the CNC Software puzzle, but an important one in terms of minimizing material waste, particularly for large flat pieces of material such as you would put on a CNC Router, CNC Laser Cutter, CNC Plasma Table, or CNC WaterJet.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here is a picture of what Nesting Software can do:

I chose that sample just because it shows familiar shapes (letters) in an unfamiliar configuration.  Imagine software that takes arbitrary outline shapes, and then rotates and positions them to maximize the number of those shapes that can be cut from the flat material.  You can see pretty quickly this is an application you want to let the computer’s raw CPU horsepower chew on and not something you’d want to have to do by hand.
Typically, nesting software takes in some sort of CAD files that give the part profiles.  Only 2D information is needed, so something like a DXF file does this fine.  Wants you’ve imported your part outlines, you give the Nesting Software a few more pieces of information.  How many of each part do you want?  What’s the…

Take the CNCCookbook 2013 CAD Package Survey

May 20, 2013   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Software  //  No Comments

We love to do surveys at CNCCookbook, and our readers clearly love them if their page statistics are any indication.  The last survey we did was on CAM packages and was particularly popular.  This time around, we want to survey which CAD packages are most popular.
Let us know what you’re using:
Click here to take survey
Once we get a few hundred responses, I will collate and present the results in a later blog post.
Some of the packages are a bit specialized.  Blender, for example, is really only useful to the 3D printing community.  I’m sure there will be many choices I didn’t think of, so be sure to use the “Other” category to explain what you’re using that I missed.…

MeshCam is Here By Itself

May 20, 2013   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Business, Software  //  No Comments

Not that it has to be by itself, mind you–MeshCam is the Belle of the Easy-To-Use CAM Ball.  It’s just that I’ve gotten so many notes from people as our sale is ending asking to buy it separately rather than in conjunction with one of the G-Wizards that I finally felt compelled to add it to our MeshCam ordering page.
So, there it is now, in all of its glory.  You can buy a single copy for $250, and as it happens, you can save 15% on that during our current sale (ends tomorrow, so not much time left!) simply by using the coupon code “MAYDAY” in the shopping cart when you order.
MeshCam is one of the simplest and easiest CAM packages I’ve ever come across, as I said in my review.  It’s only gotten better since I wrote the review, too.
I recently got to sit down with MeshCam founder and the man who wrote the software, Robert Grzesek, as he was on his way up to visit the MAKERFaire here in the Bay Area.  What a super smart and genuinely nice guy who just loves the software, the industry, and loves the challenge of simplifying the User…

G-Wizard’s Conversational Pocketing Wizard

May 13, 2013   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, GCode, Software  //  No Comments
Conversational CNC Pocketing Wizard

Conversational CNC is a way to generate g-code programs without having to go through the whole CAD/CAM process.  It’s designed to make simple things simple, while reserving the complicated things for CAD/CAM.  By streamlining the process of creating simple g-code, it becomes a lot easier to use a CNC Machine for quick one-off tasks–the sort of thing often done on manual machines.  The difference is that a good Conversational CNC package make things that are still a lot of work on a manual machine quick and easy.  CNCCookbook’s Conversational CNC software is called G-Wizard Conversational CNC, or GWCC for short.  It’s an add-on module for our G-Wizard G-Code Editor that’s free while GWCC is in Beta Test.  To access it, just press the “Wizards” button on the GW Editor tool bar.
With that introduction to GWCC and Conversational CNC, let me go on to show the new Pocketing Wizard:

To access the Pocketing Wizard, press the “Wizards” button on the Toolbar, then select the Pocketing Wizard, which is on the top right of the pictorial menu.  You’ll be presented with this screen.
Along the top row are the different Z levels, similar to a CAM program:
–  Safe Z:  The…

15% Off Sale: Help Us Grow to 20,000 Users

May 6, 2013   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Business, Software  //  No Comments
Toy_sales_476x290

Okay, I just got done going over our database and we just crossed 19,000 folks who have used our software.  Amazing!
Thank you for all your support.  But, this just makes we want to see how fast we can get over 20,000.   Nothing I’ve ever tried gets the juices flowing like a sale, and it’s been a while since our sale to launch G-Wizard Editor ended.  Also, we haven’t technically had G-Wizard Calculator on sale this year at all, except when bought in combination with GW Editor.  So, the right answer is it’s time to have a sale.  We’ll end the Sale May 21, just because we gotta end it some time.
The Sale starts as I’m posting this to the blog, so go ahead, visit the Software Home Page, pick a product, and drill through to see what the sale prices look like.  Here are the highlights:
G-Wizard Calculator, 3 Year Subscription:  Regularly $129, on sale for $109.65
G-Wizard Calculator, Lifetime:  Regularly $249, on sale for $211.65
G-Wizard Editor, 3 Years:  Regularly $199, on sale for $169.15
G-Wizard Editor, Lifetime:  Regularly $299, on sale for $254.15
Those discounts are baked right into the shopping cart.  Just order up the…

3D Printing 101: Part 4: Software

May 1, 2013   //   by Michael Hackney   //   3D Printing, Beginner, Blog, DIY CNC, Software  //  1 Comment

This week I’ll discuss the 3D Printing software tool chain. For the most part, I’ll focus on commonly used Open Source software that runs on Windows, Mac OSX and Linux operating systems.
3D Printing 101: Part 1: 3D Printer Basics
3D Printing 101: Part 2: Mechanics
3D Printing 101: Part 2a: Delta Robot Mechanics
3D Printing 101: Part 3: Electronics
>>3D Printing 101: Part 4: Software
3D Model to 3D Object: 3D Modeling
The  3D printing software tool chain begins with CAD to create the 3D model. Most of the commercial and Open Source CAD software packages are used to create 3D models for CNC milling can be used to create 3D models for printing. The only significant requirement is that the CAD software has the ability to save or export the design as a 3D mesh STL (STereoLithography) file. Some common Open Source cross-platform products used by the RepRap 3D printing community include:

OpenSCAD
Autodesk 123D
Sketchup
Blender

OpenSCAD takes a very interesting approach and has become quite popular. Rather than draw your model with graphics tools, you define the model in a scripting language and then compile the script into the 3D model. These scripts can be parameterized…

Help Finding Stuff Like the Install Pages and Our Deal Pages

Apr 25, 2013   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, Software  //  No Comments
BeatlesHelp

I just updated the Software Home Page to make it easier for folks to find some key things on CNCCookbook.  If you scroll down the page you’ll see two new entries:
–  A MeshCam page link.  MeshCam is a super easy to use 3D CAM package by Robert Grzesek that we resell with some special deals.
–  A link to our “Cheapskate Page.”  You can always find any special offer we’re running on the Cheapskate Page, including volume deals, deals when you buy more than one product, sales, coupons, educational discounts, volume discounts, and probably even “Just Because Bob Says” discounts some days!
Okay, I’m really glad to get that stuff unburied a little bit and out in the open.
It’s nothing new, but I also wanted to talk just briefly about the Software Home Page itself.  If you’re looking for anything related to our software, start there.  It’s easy to find, just click the “Software” menu choice at the top of any of our pages.  On it, you will find the links to the home pages for each product, and also some really helpful resources including:
–  Links to Install Pages
–  Links to User Guides
–  Links to…

Several Customer-Driven Updates to G-Wizard Editor This Week

Apr 22, 2013   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, GCode, Software  //  2 Comments
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We made several inline releases without much fanfare this week to respond to various customer’s feedback.  If you want the full details, you can always check the Change Log.  Suffice it to say there’s a lot of good fit and finish work being done based on what folks report when they use GWE.  We really appreciate your feedback and always prioritize items requested by customers as high as we can, particularly if they involve problems you’ve encountered.  Generally, if I can reproduce a problem, I will get it fixed pretty quickly and I won’t hold a release with those fixes for more than a day or two before turning it back around.
Some highlights for this past week of releases:
–  Added a new button to the Renumber Revision making it easy to set it up to remove all the “N” numbers from the g-code.  This is helpful if you’re trying to make the code as small as possible so you can drip feed a machine that doesn’t have much memory for g-code programs.
–  Speaking of renumbering, I made the Renumber Revision at least 100x faster.  The gent that was trying to use it to make his programs small…

Machining a Titanium AR-15 Lower Receiver on a Hobby Mill

Apr 15, 2013   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, CNC Projects, Cool, DIY CNC, FeedsSpeeds, Software, Techniques  //  5 Comments

We featured Kingjamez’ video on making an aluminum AR-15 lower receiver on a small hobby mill (Sieg X3) quite a while back.  He used our G-Wizard Feeds and Speeds successfully, and I was tickled to get a note from him recently about his use of G-Wizard for this project:
Just wanted to write and say thanks for GWizard. I’m a hobbiest (you featured my youtube video of my CNC’d AR-15 a couple years ago) and have a tiny CNC Mill, but thanks to GWizard my first efforts at machining 6AL-4V titanium went flawlessly. I used high speed machining techniques (at low speed, and inspired by your HSM blog post) on my little X3 mill and was able to make deep passes that had great surface finish the on the very first cut. I didn’t break any tools, or say any curse words! Who would have thought that possible on a benchtop CNC machine with an inexperienced operator? Not me! GWizard paid for itself on just this project alone in the tooling and frustration it saved me, and I’ve had it for 2 years. That’s money well spent. Thanks again.
Thank you Jim, for all your interesting projects on your video…

Our First LinuxCNC Post for G-Wizard Editor

Apr 1, 2013   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, DIY CNC, GCode, Software  //  No Comments
linuxcnc_logo

I just uploaded our first LinuxCNC milling and turning posts for G-Wizard Editor.  It’s a modest start, but we’ll build on this initial version.  The most important LinuxCNC feature we’ve added support for in the Editor are named parameters.
In LinuxCNC, you can write:
#<circle_radius>
instead of:
#1013
Much easier to read than the numeric notation.
What GW Editor does to accomodate this new style is it automatically sets up a mapping between the symbolic style and numeric #-variables.  With the LinuxCNC post, we start that mapping at #10000.  In other words, the first named parameter you create will be at #10000, the second at #10001, and so on.  You don’t have to know all that, though it will show up in our new Macro Variable Viewer.  Should you wish to change the starting point of #10000, that’s easy to do with a new post variable.
There’s also the beginnings of code in place for pre-defined named parameters, but I won’t go into that too much as it isn’t really ready for prime time yet.
I expect to have the LinuxCNC post finished by the end of April.  Meanwhile, it should be good enough to start playing with CAM program…

G-Wizard Editor’s New Macro Variable Tab, SETVN, and Naming #Variables in Macros

Mar 29, 2013   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, GCode, Software  //  3 Comments
G-Code Macro Variable Viewer

Macros and subprograms are potent addition to the g-coder’s arsenal.  Used properly, they will make your g-code programs shorter, more general purpose, and easier to understand.  Unfortunately, not every g-code dialect supports macros.  Some have fewer features than others, while some have no support at all.  Others will have very sophisticated and feature rich sets of macro programming features.  Fanuc Macro B is probably the most common example.  But, another controller dialect that has very sophisticated macro features is LinuxCNC.  Perhaps that’s because it is open source and many software developers work on it and add features to it.  Your average software developer looks at the g-code syntax and finds it to be pretty primitive, so it is perhaps no wonder that a control aimed at that audience will have some pretty nice programming features.
Getting a high quality LinuxCNC post-processor together for our G-Wizard G-Code Editor and Simulator is the priority around here right now, and I was just sitting down to start implementing the various heavy-duty macro programming features of LinuxCNC when a thought struck me.  As I often do, I started out by looking at sample code our fabulous user community had sent over.  Once program was…

If You Follow CNCCookbook With Google Reader, You Know There’s Trouble Ahead

Mar 25, 2013   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, Software  //  2 Comments
rss

I find Google Reader and RSS Feeds to be invaluable tools to keep up with as many information sources as possible in an efficient way.  I track well over 200 blogs in Google Reader and a fair amount of that information makes it way into my blog posts here.  If you’re a Google Reader user, by now you will have heard that Google is going to shut down the product in July.  I could not have been more upset about the decision, which I think is misguided.  In fact, I have written a number of blog posts on my business blog, Smoothspan, about it.  Be that as it may, when companies get big like Google, they often do arbitrary things that are in their own perceived self-interest without regard to their Customer’s best interests.  We’ve all dealt with companies like that.
I am currently looking at a variety of alternative RSS readers, and will switch to one before Reader goes away.  So far, I don’t like any of them as well as Google Reader.  A big part of that is that they’re all slow and cumbersome as they try to take on millions of Google Reader users switching out of…

New Conversational CNC Graphical User Interface

Mar 25, 2013   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, GCode, Software  //  1 Comment
Conversation CNC Milling Wizards

Now that I have several of the Wizards up and running, I decided to go back and work on the UI to get it closer to what the final look and feel will be.  The latest GW Editor version has the new UI:

The individual Wizards also carry the thumbnail:

The Wizards are generally looking a lot tidier and friendly to use.  If you click the Help button on the main page, it’ll take you to some new User Guide pages I’m putting together as well.
More to come.  My focus at this time is to get all of the Milling Wizards nominally working.  On the Editor side, I am focused on adding a couple of new posts–LinuxCNC will be next up at bat likely followed by Heidenhain.
I am sometimes asked, “Why bother with Conversational CNC Wizards when I have a CAM program?”
The answer is simple.  Sometimes you just want to do something quick and dirty at the machine without having to go through the CAD/CAM cycle.  Manual Machinists are fond of saying they’re faster than CNC’ers for simple one-offs, but if you have some familiarity with MDI and something like our Conversational CNC Wizards, you can be…

GW Editor v1.020 Adds a Slotting Wizard

Mar 21, 2013   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, GCode, Software  //  No Comments
Conversational CNC Slotting

Close on the heels of our Surfacing Wizard comes a new Slotting Wizard for G-Wizard Editor’s Conversational CNC Module.  It looks like this:

It’s pretty self-explanatory, but here’s what you do:
1.  Make sure the Safe Z (the height where the tool can go anywhere without hitting anything), Rapid to Z (height we can use rapids in Z only), and Material Top Z are correct for your job.
2.  Give the Start XY of the slot.  This is the midpoint of the starting end of the slot.
3.  Give slot Length and Width.
4.  Give the angle of the slot.  The angle is in degrees and increases counter-clockwise, like most things.
5.  Give the Slot Depth, and the Roughing and Finishing Levels.  The g-code will make multiple roughing passes until it is within 1 finishing pass of the bottom of the slot, then it’ll make the finishing pass.  We use the Finish Level for cutter engagement on the walls too.  So, in the screen shot above, we’d cut 1/8″ on each wall until the 1/2″ cutter has gotten a slot 1 1/2″ wide.
6.  Tell it your Tool Diameter, and the feeds and speeds.   The Finish feeds are used when…

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