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Thread: Your knowledge, please

  1. #1
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    Your knowledge, please

    Frank Howarth, prominent on Youtube, uses his huge CNC sometimes to whip out a small part or two.

    My question, not considering the hardware: What does it take to make a small part? Say you want to cut four donuts of 3/4” plywood.

    How long does it take to design that job, and what software do you use?

    Now, think low end, or low-low end setup for a home shop. How long did it take to learn the software?
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 10-13-2019 at 11:11 AM. Reason: Defaulted font size for readability

  2. #2
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    Hi Tony,
    Here are 4 donuts created with VCarve Pro -probably 3 or 4 minutes to draw, create tool paths, and post process. If I am at the computer next to the cnc router and the machine has already been initialized and the material clamped down to the spoil board, then around a minute or so to cut the parts. These could also be created (drawn) with Fusion 360 and post processed with same. I am faster with VCarve pro than Fusion 360, so it could take me 10 minutes or more with Fusion. The end result would be the same and cut time would be the same. Fusion 360 is free. VCarve pro is around $700.

    I think the learning curve is shorter for VCarve Pro than Fusion 360. You can download a free trail version of VCarve Pro to check it out.
    VCarve Pro free trial: https://www.vectric.com/products/vcarve-pro
    David




    4 donuts - no tabs.jpg
    Last edited by David Buchhauser; 10-12-2019 at 11:56 PM.

  3. #3
    To learn the software it took me a few months to really start learning and about a year before I becamse fairly proficient with it. Now something simple like donuts, will take you maybe 30 minutes or so to learn how to do those. I use vcarve pro. It isn't free but for software it's reasonably priced. Now, if you want to do things in 3D, you're talking an entirely different animal. Takes different software and have to learn more on the software side. Takes longer to create a file and much longer to cut it.

    Then you have to learn to operate the machine. It really isn't just click,click and it does the work for you. You would have to learn how to set the feed and speed rates for cutting with different bits on your machine. Some machines are heavier duty and can cut differently than other machines. Expect to have a lot of mistakes, wasted material, broken router bits, etc. at the beginning as you learn.

    A file like donuts that David gave you times on is pretty accurate to create time wise if you are fairly familiar with the basics. I have had files that took me weeks on the computer to tweak all the minor details but those were for more of a production run and much more detailed with multiple bit changes.

    They are fun to use and really not difficult if you are willing to invest a little time in learning.

  4. #4
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    Just spent the last two days with about 350 other CNC router owners at the yearly Vectric "User Group" meeting in Denver. Frank Howarth was there learning with the rest of us. Only met him briefly, but seems a very nice guy, very down to earth. The CNC Router Parts (now Avid) people had a CNC machine set up with their rotary making the mallet that he has in one of his videos. There were quite a few projects and machines on display and it was good to meet a few people that I only know from online. While many I spoke with had pretty serious machines (as you would expect from a conference people pay for and can afford to travel to, at least one from Australia, another who drove down from Alaska), I would say the majority had smaller, hobby type machines (Nextwave Sharks, Shapeoko, and similar). Met a very nice young lady school teacher, and several other definitely casual hobbyists.
    Last edited by Richard Gonzalez; 10-13-2019 at 1:01 AM.
    Colorado Woodworkers Guild
    Colorado CNC User Group

  5. #5
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    Thanks guys. I’m definitely interested in experimenting. I appreciate your answers.

  6. #6
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    Hi Tony,
    What sort of machine are you interested in? What is your budget? Are you interested in a kit, turn-key machine, or perhaps a used one?
    David

  7. #7
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    David,

    I’m looking to learn about CNC the hard way, I realize, and I hope to accomplish it, time allowing.

    Building one from scratch fascinates me most. I want to learn about the motors, programming, movement and design. Building a 12-inch by 24-inch, or 24-inch by 24-inch, hobby machine seems attainable, although I would not expect the accuracy and repeatability of a $4,000 machine. Maybe a 12-by-12 would be a worthy experiment. Who knows?

    Again, my dalliance with CNC will be educational.

    I’d like to learn how you guys sit down and whip out a design and cut it while I’m still finishing my morning coffee.


  8. #8
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    "In the beginning" it would have taken a bit of time for me to set up something simple like that. Now...mere minutes...because like anything, experience brings confidence as well as repeatable habits. For that reason, I can now absolutely tread my CNC as "just another tool" for utility work in addition to the more complex things I use it for for both client and personal work.

    Learning the software is the key, but also being able to visualize the process is important. Most software has learning resources available. For example, Vectric, which provides the very popular VCarve application (and it's big sister, Aspire), has a whole host of training videos that you can follow along using the downloadable trial versions of the software which are fully functional with the exception of not being able to cut from them.

    Assuming you move forward with building your own machine, try really hard to do something that has a cutting bed that will support something like 24" x 36-48" for the best small shop utility. 24"x24" can work, especially if it's open ended (usually the Y axix) because you an then tile longer work. I suspect you'd outgrow 12"x12" in about, oh...an hour...once you see what you can really do with a CNC.
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 10-13-2019 at 11:18 AM.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  9. #9
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    This is good to know, Jim.

    I know in printing I have have done plenty of tiling, but I didn’t know you could move your CNC work and realign it closely enough to continue accurately.

    The 24x36 size sounds great.

    Thanks.

  10. #10
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    Yes, software like that which Vectric creates supports tiling and it will be "similar" to what you know from your printing experience. Other software may also support this, but I'm only personally familiar with Vectric's VCarve and Aspire solutions. The realignment will be "exact" if it's done correctly as you typically drill for pins into the table that you index the move(s) too. You can essentially cut "unlimited length" using this technique an there is a tiny bit of overlap to insure that toolpaths look continuous once the tiles are all cut. My personal opinion is that this is clearly best for 2D work like signs and other "flatter things"; cutting 3D might not provide quite as satisfying results, but I don't know that for a fact.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Zona View Post
    David,

    I’m looking to learn about CNC the hard way, I realize, and I hope to accomplish it, time allowing.

    Building one from scratch fascinates me most. I want to learn about the motors, programming, movement and design. Building a 12-inch by 24-inch, or 24-inch by 24-inch, hobby machine seems attainable, although I would not expect the accuracy and repeatability of a $4,000 machine. Maybe a 12-by-12 would be a worthy experiment. Who knows?

    Again, my dalliance with CNC will be educational.

    I’d like to learn how you guys sit down and whip out a design and cut it while I’m still finishing my morning coffee.

    Hi Tony,
    I built a small cnc router/engraver from an Ebay kit several years ago. I paid $130 at the time. It uses stepper motors with linear bearings. Its really a pretty nice little machine to learn the cnc programming part of it. The controller that it comes with uses an Arduino programmed with GRBL to convert the g-code output from programs like VCarve Pro and Fusion 360 to motion control commands for the stepper motors. If you are interested in learning to use Fusion 360 to create your small parts and generate the tool paths for the machine, you could be into the whole thing very inexpensively. I see one on Ebay right now very similar to mine for $130 with free shipping. I know that many of those with "real cnc routers" may look at this as just a toy - but it can still make useful small parts (the table travel is around 7" x 9") and is an excellent tool to learn the programming and machining concepts with.
    David

    20191013_200732.jpg 20191013_200740.jpg 20191013_200749.jpg 20191013_200804.jpg
    Last edited by David Buchhauser; 10-14-2019 at 1:15 AM.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Zona View Post
    David,

    Im looking to learn about CNC the hard way, I realize, and I hope to accomplish it, time allowing.

    Building one from scratch fascinates me most. I want to learn about the motors, programming, movement and design. Building a 12-inch by 24-inch, or 24-inch by 24-inch, hobby machine seems attainable, although I would not expect the accuracy and repeatability of a $4,000 machine. Maybe a 12-by-12 would be a worthy experiment. Who knows?

    Again, my dalliance with CNC will be educational.

    Id like to learn how you guys sit down and whip out a design and cut it while Im still finishing my morning coffee.

    Hi Tony,
    Here is my cnc router that I designed and built from "scratch" several years ago. Although I used mostly steel (with some welding/machining) for the construction, you could simplify your build by using the aluminum extrusions that bolt together instead. The table travel is around 24" x 24" (larger parts can be indexed in the Y direction - as Jim previously mentioned). An Arduino with GRBL controls the NEMA 23 stepper motors. I use a free program called "Candle" (looks much like the Mach3 control screen) to send the programs to the machine, jog the spindle/router around, and monitor the cutting activity. My total parts/materials cost including controller was about $900. This does not include the price of a computer with USB port to run it. I have seen plans for similar builds on Ebay. If you really want to do a scratch build, then this approach may be for you.
    David

    Scratch Built CNC Router.jpg

  13. #13
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    If you have space for a larger machine that 12 X 12 inches then you should build a bigger one. Once you start looking at what goes into building a machine you will discover that most of the money is in electronics, motors, switches, etc. The frame is a much smaller part of the cost. Let's put it this way, you can drive a 12 X 12 machine with the same electronics that you would drive a 24X36 machine with. For hobby use Nema 23 motors work just fine and have plenty of power.

    As for using software? That is one of the keys. Time spent becoming fluent in whatever package you choose is time well spent. I would NOT recommend Fusion 360 for most people, including myself. I am very, VERY experienced in CAD/CAM software, spent most of my career using it. Even for me F360 had a very long learning curve. Don't get me wrong, it is good software but the learning curve is huge. I do not use F360 anymore at all. I found that Rhino for 3D design and Vectric for outputting cnc code works best for me.

    One other thing, like most tools in the shop having jigs and fixtures can really speed things up. I have two wooden vises I built that can be clamped on my table in a few minutes. A low profile vise like that is really handy for making small parts quickly out of scrap material. I also designed my machine so I can work outside the front edge. That allows me to clamp boards vertically for doing things like finger joints and dovetail joints. Some guys just put a hole in the middle of the table. I also have a simple fixture that sits on the back edge of my work surface for jointing pieces.

  14. #14
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    I agree that the learning curve for Fusion 360 is a little steeper than that for VCPro - but it's really not all that bad. For a guy on a tight budget with more time than money, then Fusion 360 may be the way to go. On the other hand - if you have the $700 to spend on VCPro - it is much faster to get up and running with.
    David

  15. #15
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    Cost is the trade-off on choosing what design software to use for sure. Fusion306 is essentially "free" for the hobbyist but definitely has the learning curve. I've avoided it for that reason. I use Vectric software...that's what came with my CNC and I've since upgraded from VCarve Pro to Aspire. It also means that design and toolpath is all done in the same software. The downside is that for some types of modeling, other solutions have more capability. Rhinoceros that Ted mentions is extraordinary software, but requires a bit of an investment...and may still require software from Vectric or others to create the files that get sent to the CNC machine. So many choices...

    Of course, if one does choose to start out with say, a Shapeoko, the basic creation software that Carbide3D provides with the machine is adequate to get a feel for the design and creation of things using CNC and other software, such as Vectric's VCarve, etc., can be added later when more complexity and capability is desired.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

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