Thursday, July 27, 2017

Hardware Requirements of Universal GCODE Sender

Universal Gcode Sender is the software I used to control the CNC machine. It is a full featured gcode platform used for interfacing with advanced CNC controllers. As per their website, here is the list of features:


  • Cross platform, tested on Windows, OSX, Linux, and Raspberry Pi.
  • Executable All-In-One JAR file - if you have java there is nothing to install. The JAR file includes native dependencies for all supported operating systems.
  • 3D Gcode Visualizer with color coded line segments and real time tool position feedback.
  • Duration estimates.
  • Over 3000 lines of unit test code, and another 1000 lines of comments documenting the tests.
  • Configuratble gcode optimization:
    • Remove comments
    • Truncate decimal precision to configurable amount
    • Convert arcs (G2/G3) to line segments
    • Remove whitespace
Based on my actual expeience, this software will work fine with small pc's like raspberry pi, atom-based pc's, or any pc lower than i5. But if you plan to make complicated designs with gcodes greater than 10Mb, it is highly recommended to use pc's with at least i5 and 8Gb ram with Video Card, not the video card built in the CPU itself.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Z-Axis Dust Cover Prototype

I have previously said(X and Z Axis Upgrade) that the designs of my cnc has provisions to add dust covers on each axis. I actually have not created one so I decided to create a prototype for the z-axis.

It wasn't difficult to create the dust cover, with skectch-up, creating the prototype is peanuts.

Here's the parts before assembly:

Here's how it looks like when assembled:

This will surely perfectly fits in front as shown here:

And here is the final product:

This is only a prototype so I used black electrical tape to join the parts together. It would be awesome if aluminum plate about 0.5 to 1.5mm thick it would even be so much better if stainless steel plate will be used. It will really make the cnc machine good looking at the same time you are prolonging the life expectancy of the machine not to mention lowers maintenance cost.

The advantage of creating a prototype, is that it will let you discover the advantages and disadvantages and by identifying the disadvantages which are primarily features that will make it more useable, you will have the option to include these features in the final design.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

VisualCad with FreeMill A great TinkerCad Substitute

I used to have given up using VisualCad with FreeMill plugin installed because it basically slows down my quadCore Atom mini laptop given that it is way above the minimum hardware requirement of the Software. On the brighter side, I could not resist the feature wherein I could specify the x/y step distance. This is feature allows me to specify the quality of the wood carving output of the Cnc. This extremely important feature is what ArtCam don't have considering that it is a very very expensive software.

The downside of VisualCad is that I could not add 3d letters and numbers or it may have that feature, but, it is very difficult. I need to do more extra research on this. Ok, going back to the original subject, I tried to explore the software(VisualCAD) again but this time, I will be using a hardware with core i5 with video card, and I was so surprised with the result. I could now edit even the stl with very complex design and I can do solid manipulation just like what I usually do with tinkercad which is great! I can do great stuff with this thing but looking into it deeper, I found out that the software lacks another very important feature, I could not specify the z step distance which is the strength of ArtCam, but I found a great way as work around to ignore this feature, anyways, I realize even with this feature around, I would still need an end mill with extra long cutting length, so it is not really important, but it is a good to have feature to make it and extremely awesome software.

So from now on, I will be using VisualCad with Freemill plugnin as my primary cad software because its free. I will still be using tinkercad for 3d printing.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Z-Axis Upgrade

During my tests, I found the movement of the stepper motor at the z-axis unsatisfactory. It moves a lot causing too much vibration. I realized the force that it needed could not be efficiently handled by the acrylic bracket. So I decided to upgrade the Z-axis to have similar designs as the x and y axis.

Here's the old z-axis:

The old z-axix is purely made of acrylic brackets so I decided to replace it with 20x40 aluminum profile:

And here is the result:

Sunday, April 16, 2017

ArtCam Update: Free Software Version Was Scrapped

Last year when I downloaded ArtCam, the available software for download was non expiring version of the software but with limited functions. As I explored the non-expiring version, it does not support 3D modeling/machining. Toolpaths is good only for 2d cutting. This good if you are only into 2d cutting. So I thought I would shift to VisualCAD with Freemill plugin for 3D machining but when I try very complex 3D design, my Dual-Core laptop could no longer handle.

I was hopeless thinking I could not do any complex 3d machining so I thought I should never give up and maybe I will have a second look at ArtCam, I will try to check whether the non-expiring version can at least import STL files so that I can do some tweaking. I could not do this with TinkerCad because the file size that will be imported should be less than 25MB, and all complex 3D files are greater than 25MB.

So I googled for tutorial in ArtCam how to import stl files and led me to the official forum of ArtCam and one of the official support staff replied to the same query as I was hoping to find answers and that ArtCam staff posted a link to the download site of the free trial version of Artcam Standard Edition. And here is the link . I clicked the link and boom!!!... That's when I found out that they scrapped the non-expiring version. The 30-day trial version is a full Standard Edition version of ArtCam. So I downloaded immediately to try the software and I was not disappointed. Just look at my very first 3D Machined project using BigCarver Cnc-5090:

I used 2mm diameter 2 flute spiral end mill for both roughing and finishing. The quality can be improved further if the end mill used in the finishing stage was a coned shaped 2 flute spiral end mill having a 0.25mm tip. I am still waiting for my international orders to arrive to confirm this but unfortunately, the seller had shipped my order using airmail which I expect to arrive may be 3 weeks from now(04/17/2017) which is really disappointing despite choosing the premium shipping method and ordered several items which when combined together is more than enough for DHL/FedEx International Expedited Shipping mehtod. But for now, I am so happy with the result that I can do 3D machining with ARTCAM. 

Oooppssss... ok I noticed that  I could not adjust the resulotion of the finishing stage or maybe it is hidden somewhere in software and it is not as easy as VisualCAD. See screenshot below:

The 0.1 is the highest resolution in VisualCAD. This would result in a very slow carving process but the result is excellent.

This explains why the pixelated output from ARTCAM:
But like I said this will not be an issue at all if this type of end mill was used:

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Tutorial 003: 3D Cutting/Carving

Many people purchase CNC machines to create 3d objects and ArtCam can be an excellent software to get people create original and spectacular designs but it is too expensive and requires high level of expertise to create one. But what if you are not an artist and a newbie in cnc machining? Does this means you can no longer do what a highly skilled artist and machinist do? Well in this tutorial, you don't have to be a artist nor a skilled machinist to achieve they can achieve and you can do it the least expensive way.

To get started, the following free software are needed:
  1. TinkerCad. This is a free web based 3D CAD software.
  2. VisualCad with FreeMill plugin installed. This is also a free CAD/CAM software from MecSoft.
  3. GCode Universal Sender Software
The process is so easy, once you have all three software needed, you can begin by creating your favorite 3D Model in TinkerCad and once you are done, you can download your 3D model as STL file.

Next, you open the VisualCAD Software and import your 3d Model stl format. You can watch the following video how to create the gcode:

At the latter part of the video(during the selection of post processor, you should select Carbide 3d GRBL Post Processor since BigCarver Cnc uses the GRBL Universal GCode Sender software.

And that's it!! you are ready to start machining your design with the appropriate endmills.

And here is the resulting 3d carved on mdf:

I remove base of the 3d carved object and here is the final output:

The end mill I used was 4 x 2 x 6 mm spiral 4 flute. I would try other end mills like the 3.175 x 1.5 x 12 mm spiral 2 flute to compare the result. I could not find a local seller so I have to order online and wait for over a week.

Ok, I know it will be really difficult to create spectacular designs in TinkerCad but that doesn't mean you can stop there, I would suggest purchasing pre made stl 3D models at ebay. You can choose from a lot of designs and are very affordable. See example screen grab from ebay:

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Introducing the Big Carver CNC-5090

I have created a smaller version of the Big Carver CNC-9090 which is the Big Carver CNC-5090. It has the same specs but the x-axis area was reduced in half. This small version is for those people who have limited budget and space but wanted to create stuff just big enough for 500mm x 900mm x 175mm machines.

I also plan to have it enclosed so that dust wont be flying all over the place and with this option, people can do their projects within their garage or even inside their room and most importantly inside their office. Prototyping activities can be more convenient when the tools you need are very accessible.

I will post later the enclosure that I am currently designing for this machine.