Posts Tagged ‘Rhino’

The Autodesk Fusion 360 seems to be suffering an identity crisis. It is acting like it no longer wants to be the choice of hobbyists. Fusion 360 is abandoning its “Hobbyist” license and is calling what remains a “One Year Personal Use” license. No indication that can be renewed on a year-to-year basis.

To me this “Cool Hand Luke” failure to communicate is a flashing beacon in the fog. “You hobbyists can play another year, but after that you better “pony-up” for one of our revenue stream licenses,” Is the message I read.

Could be they discovered too many “professional” users claiming hobbyist status.

That is not a problem for me to solve.

I must decide what is best for the 3D CAD drawing that I do. I have many other paid-up options. That means I already own them. Rhino 6 and Vectric Aspire to name the two main ones. I also own Pixologic Z-Brush which is not exactly a CAD but does produce quality 3D drawings and models.

I love working with Fusion 360. It is the more commercial Machine Tool CAD and has the built-in CAM for machine tool operations. Of course, it does far more than just machine part drawing.

I have decided to wait and see what Autodesk has done to F360 for the “Personal Use” license. It has been dumbed down and the number of “Open Projects” has been limited to ten. What that actually means is yet to be revealed. I never work with many “open projects”.  I work on one at a time.

If it means I must store closed projects on my computer rather than accessible in their cloud server, that is perfectly fine with me. That is my preference and always has been. I do not need a cloud server to “share” files.

Meanwhile, I have been working back in Rhino 6 and have decided to upgrade to Rhino 7. Neither are a subscription service nor require storing my files in a remote cloud server. (I have BOX if I need to do that.)

Rhino lacks the built in CAM unless one ops for the RhinoCAM (or other) add in CAM plug-ins. That is a minimum of $400/year for the CAM.  Makes Fusion 360 look good. It was the prime reason I started using Fusion 360.

I am not doing the CNC machining as I once did. Three-dimensional printing has gotten in the way. Slicer software generates the g-code for 3D printing. CAM is not required.

With so many CAD programs already available, working, and fully paid; I do not want another drain added to my hobby funds. That is the driving force pushing on me now.

If the personal use term with F360 is extendable past one year and the software can do what I need with no pain, then it stays in the mix. It could remain my go-to CAD. But if Autodesk is slapping my face and only interested in converting personal use into paying subscriptions, I am prepared to bid F360 “Adieu” and work with the quality tools I already own outright.

CNC Milling


S. Whiplash, Typical CAD

It’s been a while since I have run my original CNC Taig Micro-Mill. It’s the one configured for metal work and has the mist cooling installed. There is nothing operationally wrong with it as far as I know. Just haven’t had a project where I needed its services.

I have always used RhinoCAD (Rhinoceros) with RhinoCAM to generate the design and the Gcode necessary to run the mill. I am presently working with FUSION360 CAD with its built-in CAM. FUSION360 has become my go-to CAD for 3D printing because of the very good built-in STL generator. Rhino can do STL too but has some issues (for me) in producing first-time usable STL.

CAM is a whole new layer of complexity after creating the CAD drawing. Of course, the first challenge is the CAD, as what is drawn must be something that can be produced by milling. It is possible to draw parts that can never be machined.

The CAM requires the complete understanding of the milling operation and all the tools that can be deployed on the target milling machine. In the case of the Taig Micro-mill, tool size is limited to the machine’s abilities and speeds. I have no need for things like an automatic tool change. I am a hobbyist, not a manufacturing center.

CNC is certainly not “push the button and go”. The complexity is what I love about the process.

I use two different CNC controller software systems to control the movements of the milling machines. The older mill is using MACH3. The newer WAX cutting mill runs on LinuxCNC controller software. I was very pleased to see what is called a POST processor available in FUSION360 for both controller formats.

The POST processor is a function in CAM that converts the machine movements to the dialect of G-code the machine controller can understand. G-code is a standard, but there is a huge variety in how the actual code is written for the controller.

Every controller manufacturer does control in their own way. That is what a POST processor does. It puts the standard code in a format the actual controller program can understand. It is a patch.

I have a simple 2D CNC machining metal project to cut new wrenches to fit the ER11 collet holder on my new high-speed spindle.  The spindle  installed on the Taig mill used for 3D wax machining.

The design of the wrenches is simple, but the CAM details needs to be configured within FUSION360.

The “tool table” defines in exact detail, the milling bits and holders used. Next is configuring the speeds and feeds the Taig mill can utilize with those tools in the specific materials to be machined. Saving all those details so they can be reused later in a new project. I’m lovin’ it!

It appeared overwhelming when first looking at the tool table. It was huge, with A LOT of tools pre-listed. But I soon discovered how to easily make a personal table better suited to my needs.

The results will be posted when the FUSION360 CAM is used on the wrench project. For now, its all about getting a new system configured. It just needs to be done correctly and I foresee no major obstacles. Stay tuned.

I am presently using two very good 3-dimensional CAD programs. They are Autodesk Fusion 360 and Robert McNeil & Associates Rhino3D. I am at a decision point on which one will be my standard go-to drawing program.

I have had the longest association with Rhino. I started with version 3 and version 6 has just been released. Major version number upgrades must be purchased. That’s why I am at a decision point.

Fusion 360 is free for users like myself. That is a major advantage. The Rhino3D upgrade is $375.00.

It seems like a no-brainer to stay with the free one. But for me price is not always the sole determining criteria.

My problem is that both programs are very good. The largest difference is the cost-to-own. If I had to pay for Fusion 360, I must admit that cost would be a very large determining factor. I certainly don’t want to be paying for two programs that are almost equal in results for how I use them.

My decision is to continue using both. I will pay for the upgrade in Rhino. It’s about $1.05 per day for a year. I can live with that. Major upgrades do not occur yearly, so the cost spreads out thinner.

I have no idea if Fusion will remain free. It does seem to be a very friendly marketing strategy.

One hesitation I have with Fusion 360 is it is cloud-based and dependent on a connection to the Internet. It seems to me it access could be shut down very quickly. But every computer activity today depends heavily on an Internet connection.  I feel any change in the free use policy won’t be immediate.

I have just changed my business accounting to a web-based service. It’s how we work today.

What keeps my fingers happy with Rhino is my long experience using it. It has changed a lot, but I have changed with it. It’s like working with an old friend.

My initial attraction to Rhino was its lower cost than other 3D CAD at the time and the fact I could run a plug-in, RhinoCAM, to create tool-paths for my CNC machining.  Both programs together were not low cost, but together do the job I needed.

Right now, I don’t know if my older version (2012) of RhinoCAM will operate with the Version 6 upgrade of Rhino. Disappointing if it doesn’t but not a reason to leave Rhino.

The Fusion 360 has a built in CAM so the tools still do the same job. I could export Rhino drawings to Fusion.

There is my conundrum. I choose not to make it a choice between CAD programs and instead continue to have the option for using both.

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 NOT a McNeel product. There are probably 50 companies making add-ins for Rhino.

I am still on Version 1.0 of the standard edition RhinoCAM plus 4th axis. I just now after 6 years upgraded to version 2012. I also purchased the yearly support package. They have not yet arrived . I jumped several versions and the newer version of RhinoCAM is much more enhanced to what I have been using.  It was time for the change.

The version 1 with 4th axis cost me $2000 new. The upgrade today (4th axis) is slightly more than half that amount.

It’s this decision of what to do before spending that kind of money that led me into a re-evaluation of many of the other options available. I looked at tested and dissected four other competitors. One was in the five figure range. I want to see what kind of fish that bait would land, actually far more complexity than I could ever manage.

Sorry, I am not going to get into a blow by blow comparison. In reality all of the considerations were good CAD/CAM programs. My decision and purchase is a personal one. No fan boy ranting and trolling other products involved in my choices or what I say in this blog.

After all the hard work (Yes there was a lot of mental anguish.) I had a new appreciation of where I was and what I have. Having many years of experience with two programs that are still improving and staying cutting edge slapped me back from wonder lust.

Updates are less expensive than new programs. I don’t have to learn a new way of doing things. But then there IS a LOT of new things to learn in the updates. Well, that’s good and what new versions should be all about.

Has my investment in CAD/CAM paid for itself? The answer is, “Not even close” if you consider an investment as making profit from selling things I have designed. However, the answer is a resounding, “Hell Yes!” as an investment in my personal education and skills. Sometimes you just have to pay for hands on education in an avocation.

I plan to turn a few bucks for all this investment in training and education when I am in retirement, if that ever happens. Right now CAD/CAM is wonderful entertainment. 🙂

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. It could be my impatience with the redraw time.

There are many preset “views” available at the touch of a key when drawing.  Then I discovered I could not only switch views but open multiple views on one screen, just like Rhino, so nothing lost. I just hadn’t picked up on that at first. Edit in one view and all views are updated.

So many features just in the CAD part of BobCAD-CAM are available I can hardly do it justice when writing a first look review such as this. Let me just say, I don’t think any normal CAD/CAM user will find anything missing from what is available here on the drawing side. I am referring to making CAD drawings suitable for CAM. Artists may desire more rendering than I have yet discovered but if that is true, the deluxe rendering is usually an add-in with most other products to keep the initial cost down. (It is true for Rhino for example.) I think of it as just extra cost and overhead if not required.

The expected layering, color selection, line ends, dimensioning (if desired), exact sizing, drawing rotation, panning, ad infinitum is just all there. When I first started drawing a 3D part I wanted to make sure I could just grab the object I was drawing and turn it around. Yep, it’s in there (rotation) in one axis (at a time) but I had to learn how to rotate around a line that is there or draw one (temporary). Complex 3D is not for the timid computer artist.

One other command I had a bit of a problem using in 3D is the “Translate” function. It is a super handy feature that lets the user select a component in the drawing and move it around or copy it or use it like a 3D rubber stamp. It is a very powerful and critical tool in 3D drawing. However I had one heck of a time drag positioning a part in 3D space. It just doesn’t work as it should. Getting it perfect in the top view would make it drop out in the side view. I haven’t tried it with both windows open so that may be a fix. I solved my problem by entering the coordinates rather than dragging into position. I definitely need to spend more time on the 3D CAD features.

Another quirk I found is that BobCAD-CAM does not let me do 2D and 2.5D machining if I have drawn the part I want to make in 3D. I could only get pocketing to work from a 2D drawing. I could not find a way to render a 2D view from the 3D drawing I had made (See the pictures) of the keyer weight. All I wanted to do was cut the through slot. So I ended up making a second 2d drawing of just the end.

I worked with the 3D CAM – Z level rough and finish in the 3D drawing with no success with this part. It could be that since the slot had no bottom (a through cut) Z level didn’t know how to handle the path depth. (No issue with 2D paths as depth is a manual setting.) More CAM experience will stop me from this guessing.

The lesson for (me) now is to not do more drawing than necessary to make the part. The 3D was really not needed for this part except for display and the fact I wanted something ultra simple to try out BobCAD-CAM in all modes.

Even with my minor issues I think I am satisfied in saying I would not need to look for any better 3D or 2D CAD drawing system than is provided in BobCAD-Cam.  If my goal was to have a good CAD program to generate CNC code this will do it. There is a period of learning required. But that is necessary in any good (feature rich) drawing program. It’s not as intuitive as Google Sketch or graphic rich in rendering as Rhino, but it will import those files for use in CAD.

I intend to spend a lot more time with the software in the tool path generation process (CAM) and may find some of my minor CAD issues are just from being low on the learning curve. I will post any more pertinent information as I gain experience. There are just so many great features buried in the details. If you have any experience in CAD/CAM/CNC you know how many details there are to try out and evaluate! Next post will be about the CAM features.

From this first look I see no reason not to give this software “buy it” recommendation. I do suggest that you pay attention to the BobCAD-CAM website and probably other distributors as I have seen occasional substantial discounts from the $2495 V24 list price.

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