"One Perfect Part at a Time"


Adding and Subtracting

Taig CNC Mill

Taig CNC Mill with 3D Parts.

I purchased a new 3D printer I have been using intensively for a few weeks. It is a low end hobbyist machine of what is called a RepRap design. You can read much more about it in Ramblin’ Dan’s Workshop. Here is a link to the section on 3D Printing.

What’s so cool is that now I am capable of both additive and subtractive creating. I have put the two together in an article, Taig Mill Swarf Blower, in the THMS main web site. The resulting combination is shown in the picture on the right.

I have a little struggle with where I should publish my efforts with the 3D printer. Does it really belong in with the regular “old school” machine shop?  It’s certainly not old school but I think it would fit in well here. I have chosen to publish what I do with 3D printing over in Ramblin’ Dan’s Workshop as I include all my nonspecific to machining activities there.

The 3D printer I own and wish to afford cannot compete with the precision I can obtain with conventional machining. It’s the second reason I don’t publish it here. My output surface quality with the printer is a little bit in conflict with the “perfect” in my slogan, “One Perfect Part at a Time.” But that doesn’t make it a bad tool.

3D printing, as I can produce it with my machine, will have a lot of application in the machine shop. The first practical application I developed is linked in the second paragraph above. I can make plastic parts I would not try to do otherwise. The entire process is based on slicing a 3D object into 0.1 mm, 0.2 mm, or 0.3 mm layers. Then building… Continue reading

Rhino Crazy

I have spent the last couple of weeks deciding what I was going to do to upgrade my CAD/CAM software. Not the software I use for Over Head Routing. I have one of the best for my purposes and cost restraints in the form of Vectric  Aspire.  I use it a lot and always find new things I can make or design using it. Aspire is not going to go away for something better in its class for a long time.

As the title suggests my struggle has been what do I do with my aging (over six years old) McNeel’s Rhinoceros and its CAM plugin, MecSoft’s RhinoCAM. I use this combination to do the things that Aspire was never designed to do in CAD/CAM, A few example projects are the stepper motor heat sinks on HB2, a complicated replacement gun part in aluminum, and the detailed A3 locomotive driver wheels I machined from stainless steel.

Rhino really rocks in the drawing department. Well, that is what it is, a 3D drawing program. I started with Version 3 and somewhere along the line I upgraded to version 4. It’s been in Version 4 for quite some time, but there have been updates on a regular basis. Version 3 was fun but when V4 arrived, I knew it was a real pro users program. I am now running the Beta for version 5 and it is another major leap.

Rhino sells for around $1000 new and about half that for upgrades. So I have probably $1500 invested in Rhino over 6 – 8 years. I don’t know where V5 upgrade will be priced, but I will be there.

MecSoft RhinoCAM is a special edition of Visual Mill that runs inside Rhino as a plug in. It is… Continue reading

Other Kinds of Projects and Materials

I am currently doing some design work with microprocessors. The first mission is to control a model boat. My intention is to include some computer “smarts” with some of my new projects. Why? Well, because I like to play with the little computers. I will be using machining to make housings for the computer components and some parts for the boat.

I realize that not all machine shop projects are for the making of other machines. The machine shop is intended to shape materials mostly* by lathe turning or milling into a part or product for any use imaginable. I have decided to start looking for those other uses, the freedom of unlimited possibilities.

Some of my recent “other uses” have been with the CNC carving and machining in 2D and 3D. That’s not making another machine but it is certainly machine shop work. The casting of pewter using aluminum molds also involves machine work. Pewter doesn’t “stick” to aluminum.  So if I want to make a cast part over and over, I machine the mold out of aluminum. That is machining. Making a master part by machining a metal or wax master then making a rubber mold to make more parts is also not out of bounds in my shop.

I don’t want to become narrow by thinking everything that is machined is part of a machine like a steam engine or IC motor, Ha!

Machining a dozen custom hinges from brass for a woodworking project is still machining.

Also occasionally missing from my thought picture is metal is not the only material that can be machined. I know that is pretty obvious. I have done a lot of machining in wax (mentioned above) and occasionally in plastic.  3D carving with CNC in wood, particle board… Continue reading

BobCAD-CAM First Test

BobCAD Logo I went through the full set of the supplied BobCAD-CAM V24 drawing tutorials and even though I am not a novice at this 2D and 3D CAD drawing stuff, I feel it is worth the time spent. The temptation is to cut corners and just dive right in. With any software this comprehensive it is best to follow the rules at first. There are many ways to skin a (Bob) cat they say, but it is best to make the first try with someone leading the way.

I am comfortable with the drawing (CAD) part in BobCAD-CAM. Yes, past experience helps a lot and any kind of previous CAD experience will be an asset. I am very pleased how complete this tool is for drawing.

The total user interface customization that is available is as awesome as it is daunting. I don’t suggest rearranging tool menus and so forth until you settle into a comfortable work style. Just wait until you want to make it a bit more convenient to your work habits. Definitely you can have it your way.

I thought I would miss the 4 view display I have in Rhino, but after working a short while in BobCAD-CAM, I didn’t even think of it. By the way, I will refer to Rhino occasionally here, not as a recommended alternative but as my basis of comparison. Rhino is a great 3D CAD and graphics program that I know how to use. You have to buy an additional add-on product to do any CAM with it. Actually BobCAD-CAM is very happy to import Rhino files.

The switching between various windowed axis views works fairly well but I did occasionally notice a few missed quick clicks when changing view, especially going into the rotate view.… Continue reading

Letting the Cat Out of the CAD

BobCAD LogoI am taking an opportunity in my project schedule to try another CAD/CAM package. I had looked at it long ago and it has been around for over 25 years. When I first saw it (back then) I believed it was one of those,”yet another CAD/CAM packages.” I am sure at some point I registered and ran at least the demo, as it seems I have been receiving occasional marketing from them forever. Back in that time, I was looking for a cheap all in one CNC solution. I was still a bit naive of all the requirements. I did find and purchase DeskCNC with its serial port interface. That worked OK but I am now using much stronger and expensive Rhino and Vectric 3D software and MACH3 from ArtSoft. You get what you pay for.

The product to which I am now referring to is BobCAD-CAM. I knew it was created by a guy named Bob (Bob Twaalfhoven) so I assumed he just called it BobCAD after himself. I was thinking simplistically it was Bob’s CAD. Today it is a more professional play on the image of a Bobcat, just change the T to a D. Whatever the thought on the name, it has survived the test of time.

Soon I will see if it survives the test of Dan.

DeskCNC is still around too but the web page has changed little to none. BobCAD-CAM is on version 24 and a first web site look, while allowing for marketing hyperbole, seems impressive.

It will take me a few weeks or a month or so to give it a full workout and use it to construct a CNC project. I’ll probably leak a few comments here in the blog, but I am considering doing a full report, probably… Continue reading

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