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CNC Software

Discussion in 'CNC Mills/Routers' started by Nighthawkhp, Oct 28, 2016.

  1. Nighthawkhp

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    I have been doing CNC as a hobby for many years using a machine that I built using MDF, roller skate bearings, storefront aluminum, and black gas pipe (machine designed by John Kleinbauer at crankorgan.com). I have been using software that purchased on eBay or other websites, and though they function, I am looking for a solution that is less labor intensive from CAD to the CAM process. The current software requires me to draw the part, save the file as a DXF, open a DXF to GCode converter, and then run the GCode through a simulator to verify that the conversion has been successful.

    I currently own BobCad and TurboCAD 21 Platinum and TurboCNC for controlling the actual CNC machine. Can any of you provide recommendations for software that would allow a seamless operation from drawing to machining? I have purchased all new hardware from the Openbuilds Store to build me a new machine similar to the OX, and would like to have a software solution ready when the machine is finished.

    I have looked at Mach 3/4, Vectric software, and MeshCAM. I don’t have extra money to buy software only to discover it is too cumbersome or complex. I’m looking for something that will work for doing hobby activities, making signs, puzzles, toys, etc..

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Rod
     
  2. David the swarfer

    David the swarfer OpenBuilds Team
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    ugh
    I used to use TurboCAD, a long time ago. I found the 3D to be very hard to use. Now I do everything in Sketchup.
    Well, I am biased, but have you looked at Sketchup + SketchUcam

    Sketchup is easy to use and free, and there are a million plugins to help you do everything you can think of.
    It is accurate to 0.001" which has always been enough for me.
    Downside it has a disfunctional concept of layers since lines in different layers still intersect. But you can work around that with groups.

    SketchUcam is probably the simplest 2.5D CAM solution out there.
    Can it do everything? Nope
    Can it do a lot? well, yes, it can (-: (but the human has to do some thinking)

    I have been deliberately either avoiding adding things that need more settings options, or automating things internally so the user does not have to choose 'yet another option'. Sensible defaults and reasonable automation simplify learning and using SketchUcam. For example, you set the Stepover%, how much to step over in pockets and hole boring operations.
    Internally this value is used to select different cutting strategies based on the simple assumption that a step over of less than 50% indicates a hard material while > 50% indicates a soft material.
    Similarly, if you want something to cut before other things, just group it. Groups get cut first, and group order can be changed.
    Holes are automatically grouped so they always cut first.

    So, if most of what you do is 2.5D then give it a look. I am just about to release a new version with enhanced pocketing, among other things.

    oh yes, the Gcode will work with TurboCAD as it is just basic G0 and G1/2/3 codes. Nothing fancy at all because we want it to work on as many CNC controllers as possible without having to have 'yet more options'.


    (do look at my other videos as well, like the Seatknob project one, which shows a relatively complex part)(which is now simplified by the new pocketing routine!)

    If 3D or hard materials, where you need HSM toolpaths is your thing, then have a look at Fusion360. This is free for home use but does require a good internet connection as it stores everything in the cloud.

    Jon Saunders does some very nice tutorial videos for Fusion360
     
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  3. David the swarfer

    David the swarfer OpenBuilds Team
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    Watch this guy use SketchUcam to design and cut his new CNC machine....
    Atividade Maker
     
  4. ChadRat6458

    ChadRat6458 Journeyman
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    Check out Cam Bam. I can create stuff fast and easy with it. You get 40 free trials. Just keep it opened all the time to get the most free use out of it. Once all the trials are up, it cost $150 to get it registered. I have been trying to learn fusion 360. It is slow and difficult to use for me.

    Instead of Mach 3/4 I use linuxCNC. It is free and the guys at the linuxCNC forum are more than happy to help you get it configured. I tried the grbl stuff. Was not impressed
     
  5. Monkey

    Monkey New
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    Definitely Sketchup with the SketchUcam plugin as David said. I can't speaking for milling, but I use them to draw parts & generate Gcode for CNC plasma cutter after extensively modifying the plugin to better generate Gcode for plasma cutting with Mach3 and meet my specific preferences.
     
  6. David the swarfer

    David the swarfer OpenBuilds Team
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    No doubt you saw in the code that I started working on a plasma mode. I gave up when i realized I just did not know enough about plasma cutters.
    If you send me your code I can merge it into the next release
     
  7. Florian Bauereisen

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    Hi
    as mentioned CamBam is very good and powerfull.
    I love using it there is hardly anything missing.
    Also try Estlcam, wich is very cheap and extremely well made. I love using it for "single" parts.
    have a look at it

    greets

    Flo
     
  8. TerryOx

    TerryOx Veteran
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    I have used Sketchup for non-CNC projects occasionally for about 2 years. It is free and it works. I installed the free SketchUCam plugin recently and have some idea of how to use it to generate G-code.

    I also downloaded Fusion 360, free for non-commercial use. It is very impressive, and it has some advanced design capabilities. The learning curve is steeper.

    Either one will probably work for me.
     
  9. Tracy Ranson

    Tracy Ranson Journeyman
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    Is LinuxCNC a windows based software? If it is where can I get it?
     
  10. Nighthawkhp

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    I've not used LinuxCNC but by the prefix Linux, it most likely runs under the Linux OS, which is very similar to Unix.

    Nite

    If there are any other suggestions for programs that execute the Gcode, keep sending them my way. In the mean time, I will look into the programs that have been suggested.
     
  11. David the swarfer

    David the swarfer OpenBuilds Team
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    LinuxCNC is a system comprising
    • Linux operating system that has been modified to be deterministically realtime. (the realtime kernel)
    • a controller backend that interprets Gcode and outputs control signals for motors. The hardware control can either be the parallel port or dedicated hardware for controlling servo motors.
    • various GUI frontends that provide the user interface, from text based ultra simple/retro, to macro enabled, Python extendable graphic user interfaces
    It has various plugin modules that allow it to control anything from lathes (with threading) to 10 axis non linear systems, including hexabots, Hbots and in fact anything you can write the math for.

    Hardware control can be parallel port, dedicated servo controllers, or a mix, or custom stuff you provide a driver for, or a combination.

    Where can you get it? LinuxCNC of course
     
  12. ChadRat6458

    ChadRat6458 Journeyman
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    David covered it pretty good. I have an old Dell optiplex. It has a built in parallel port. Got it free from my father in-law. I create all my CAD stuff on my windows laptop. I transfer the files with a usb thumb drive. stampede.jpg
     
  13. AndyC

    AndyC New
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    I am fairly new to CNC, and used CAD sparingly over the years - but only old software at this point, so not at all familiar with current offerings. After building my C-Beam Machine (Thanks Mark and Crew!) I started out with sketchup, going through tutorials on the site. They were wonderfully helpful, but I found much of it a bit on the arcane side and focused way too much on drawing architectural stuff and fancy unmachinable constructs. I switched to learning Fusion 360, and using their tutorials. Very nicely done, and I found easier to learn. I especially like the way you can look for topics easily, and see videos on each (though they tend to use overly complex constructs in the videos). The CAM is easy to use, though I have no experience with SketchUcam ;-). I have fairly cruddy internet (dsl), but that does not seem to be much of a problem. I have some complaints, but I guess you could say I have more to learn? A minor inconvenience is that in my hands, the generic Grbl configuration does not enter and exit the part above the workpiece, but drags the tool across the surface at z=0 to the starting point; between features it picks up correctly however. It requires a bit of trivial manual editing of the cut file to fix. I've tried a bunch of things to avoid this, but have not found the trick.

    Someday when I have free time (thats a problem!), I'd like to try Sketchup again, with SketchUcam.

    It is amazing to me that we have access to such sophisticated software tools, at zero cost!
     
  14. Giarc

    Giarc Master
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    I noticed the dragging at z=0 at the end too. So, I open the generated g-code in notepad (or the editor in Fusion) and go to the end of the code and change the z=0 to a 5 mm height then save it and load that code.
     
  15. AndyC

    AndyC New
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    Yup, same here. Replace "G28 G91 Z0" with "G0 Z10" at beginning and end.
     
  16. David the swarfer

    David the swarfer OpenBuilds Team
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    I think you need edit the post processor to fix this, google will find out how if you search for it.
    Looks like you started at the official sketchup tutorials which are good but are very much buildings and furniture.
    Try this....
     
  17. Nighthawkhp

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    Is SketchUp and SketchUCam free software?

    From what I now understand about the software, I don't see any method to control the CNC machine with the Sketch software. It is only used to draw the parts and with the SketchUCam it will generate the Gcode necessary. However, it will not control the machine.

    Do I understand this correctly?
     
    #17 Nighthawkhp, Nov 3, 2016
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2016
  18. David the swarfer

    David the swarfer OpenBuilds Team
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    Yes, both are free.
     
  19. ChadRat6458

    ChadRat6458 Journeyman
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    I re read your original post. Looks like you do an extra step when you convert the dxf file to gcode. I do not know of any program that does both design parts and control the machine.

    To design parts and create gcode files use either Cam Bam, Fusion 360 or the sketchupcam. I can create parts in Cam Bam very quickly. Trying to learn fusion 360 but it has a big learning curve. I have not tried SketchUCam.

    To move the machine, I would use LinuxCNC. It is free. Lots of support in the forums. You can customize it. If you like to spend money then get the Mach 3/4. I have not tried the Mach stuff. I have tried the grbl stuff first. It did not work that well for me. Went to LinuxCNC and very happy with it.

    My standard operating procedure is:
    1. create something cool in Cam Bam using my windows laptop.
    2. Save the gcode to a thumb drive.
    3. Copy the gcode files to my LinuxCNC desktop machine out in the shop.
    4. Run LinuxCNC and cut the parts.
     
  20. Giarc

    Giarc Master
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    Yes. You are correct. If I am making a simple part where I am just cutting something out and/or drilling holes, I like to use Sketchucam because I am very familiar now with Sketchup after spending almost a year designing and building my cnc. For more complex parts where I do multiple bit changes, I use Fusion 360, but the learning cure has been a bit steeper for me. I use GRBL Panel to control the cnc. The reason: it was the first one I tried and it has worked for me, so if ain't broke, don't fix it. Also, when I ask questions about it on the forum here, they get answered quickly.
     
  21. David the swarfer

    David the swarfer OpenBuilds Team
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    Yes, correct. SketchUcam does one thing very well, and that is generate 2.5D G-code.

    To control your machine you need a controller like Mach3, LinuxCNC, TinyG, Planet-CNC, GRBL etc.
    Mach3 and LinuxCNC use an ordinary PC to control the stepper drivers.
    TinyG and Planet-CNC use USB based hardware controllers to control the steppers, and software on the PC to control the hardware. Chilipeper for TinyG and the Planet-CNC software for the Planet-CNC board. (you still need a PC)
    GRBL runs on an ordinary Arduino UNO and controls the stepper drivers. You can choose from a number of different bits of software for sending the Gcode to GRBL, like a simple Python script (no GUI), Universal Gcode Sender, GRBL-Panel, bCNC, and others. Since many of these GUI's are Java or Python based, they can run on a tablet or RaspberryPi type platform so you do not need a PC to run the machine (so long as you have a USB connection!).

    This video shows the basics of setting up a GRBL system, just to give you more info
     
  22. Crchisholm

    Crchisholm Well-Known
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    Has anyone managed to use raspberry Pi for running the controller software for ox cnc? I have a couple 3D printers running off a Pi and I love it.

    So I am about to pull the trigger on the ox and am still very fuzzy about what controller and software to use. I design everything I print in either FreeCAD or openscad. I slice in Slic3r and use Marlin (on Pi) to feed the code to a Rambo controller. I am hoping I will be able to keep FreeCAD to produce the STL files, but I guess everything changes after that. Will the work flow be similar? (Design, slice, gcode sender, controller firmware)

    Someone recommended tinyG and chillipeppr, but where the ox will be used, the Internet is very unreliable, so I need to stay local. Any help with understanding the workflow would be very much appreciated.

    Oh yah, if I can go Linux instead of Windows it would be great. After 35 years of riding the Microsoft train, I am slowly moving everything I can to Linux in general and Ubuntu specifically.
     
    #22 Crchisholm, Nov 7, 2016
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2016
  23. David the swarfer

    David the swarfer OpenBuilds Team
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    you mean like this?
    "The Moagie Mill" My C-Beam X Large
    (-;

    I will not that bCNC is one of the more complex controllers, it can do a lot of stuff, but the interface is 'busy'.
    So maybe start with Universal Gcode Sender to keep the GUI simple and get the machine to work correctly first.
    Any of the Java or Python based GUI's will work on the RPi.
    For CNC routers you do not slice, so you can skip that step.

    The 'normal' controller for the OX is an Arduino running GRBL, with drivers of your choice. There are also 'all in one' controllers that host GRBL on a microcontroller and have built in drivers etc (Openbuilds sells one...).

    I advise against using Marlin to run a router as it is 'tuned' for 3D printing.

    You can stay with FreeCAD and feed the STL files to pyCAM for Gcode generation.
    or you can import the STL into Sketchup, flatten it, and use SketchUcam to generate the Gcode (2.5D, which is 90% of what a router does anyway).
    or .... well there are lots of 'or's (-:
    Heekscad, Fusion360, Estlcam, Inkscape, BobCAD.... and so on. oh, Fusion will need good internet >-:

    In general you want to pick one and stick to it so you get good with it. Swapping products will just slow you down.

    I am with you. Sketchup runs fine in WINE (-: I run Linux at home because my home computers are not allowed to annoy me (-:

    An alternate for machine control is LinuxCNC, needs a parallel port unless you have money for a dedicated control card. There is a version for the Beaglebone Black though.
    LinuxCNC is full featured and can be extended with plugins etc. Tormach is using it as the basis for their machine controllers which are very nice indeed.
     
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  24. Crchisholm

    Crchisholm Well-Known
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    Wow. David, that is exactly the information I need. It will take me some time to digest, but this should get me on the road. Thank you very much.

    I need to check out the Arduino and GRBL. I am already an arduino fanatic. I also have a Beagle Bone Black that I have never managed to use. This might be the opportunity.

    I really like the idea of LinuxCNC, but the way I am setup right now, If I can go through either the pi or the BBB it will be much more convienient. I have a linux machine in my shop and two 3D Printers. The Linux machine is not connected directly to either printer but I use Putty and remote desktop viewer to access he Pi's and I am pretty sure I can do the same thing to access the BBB. I have an LCD shield for the BBB, but It is not very easy to use a screen that small.

    Thank you again for the information. I have a lot to learn and now I know more about where to look.

    Charlie
     
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  25. Crchisholm

    Crchisholm Well-Known
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    Wow. David, that is exactly the information I need. It will take me some time to digest, but this should get me on the road. Thank you very much.
    I need to check out the Arduino and GRBL. I am already an arduino fanatic. I also have a Beagle Bone Black that I have never managed to use. This might be the opportunity. In the video on the Openbuilds site (video 2), the person doing the build questioned whether the Arduino / GRBL combo was adiquite to handle the nema 23 motors. I will be using all Nema 23s so I have to pose the same question. Well this combo work with those motors?


    I really like the idea of LinuxCNC, but the way I am setup right now, If I can go through either the pi or the BBB it will be much more convienient. I have a linux machine in my shop and two 3D Printers. The Linux machine is not connected directly to either printer but I use Putty and remote desktop viewer to access he Pi's and I am pretty sure I can do the same thing to access the BBB. I have an LCD shield for the BBB, but It is not very easy to use a screen that small.
    Thank you again for the information. I have a lot to learn and now I know more about where to look.

    Charlie
     
    #25 Crchisholm, Nov 8, 2016
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2016
  26. Crchisholm

    Crchisholm Well-Known
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    So, another question. I am reading that some of the more powerful spindles take 48v, I want to run the Nema 23's on 24v. And if I were to go with something like the Arduino / GRBL combo, I would need 12v max. Is there a tried and true method of handling this or do I just bite the bullet and buy 3 p/s.
     
  27. David the swarfer

    David the swarfer OpenBuilds Team
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    where do you get 12v max for GRBL? The Arduino itself is powered from the USBport.

    The stepper drivers are powered by whatever they need.

    so the http://www.spark-concepts.com/cnc-xpro-controller-v2/
    can take an ATX power supply for 12v, but also a 24v power input on that little green screw connector on the other end, use one or the other.

    the CNC Shield takes 12 to 30 volts on the screw connector (depends on the drivers you plug in)

    or you can use the DQ542 type of driver at up to 50 volts.

    or, of course, other drivers.

    so you will need 2 power supplies. why? the spindle should run off it's own power supply to minimize electrical noise interference with the stepper drivers.
    ALWAYS use the star grounding system and shielded signal wires.
    Electronics 101.
     
  28. Crchisholm

    Crchisholm Well-Known
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    I am still hoping to find a way to NOT have the CNC physically tethered to the computer. That's why I am trying to get the Pi into the layout. If I am successful, then the Arduino has to be powered by a p/s, even if just a wall wart. May not work but I haven't established one way or the other yet.

    .
    Ok so now I get that. I've read the Electronics 101 link and there are some new terms to me that I need to understand, but I think that's going to be a good guilde. My knowledge of electronics is all self-taught (by a very poor teacher), so my main struggle with concepts is terminology.
     
  29. David the swarfer

    David the swarfer OpenBuilds Team
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    yeah, just need a 9v wall wart. 12v will work too, but the regulator will get hot.
    the Pi will not need a monitor, you can operate it all via VNC (-:

    are you sure the Pi will not be able to power the Arduino via the USB connection?
     
  30. Crchisholm

    Crchisholm Well-Known
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    Hell, on most days, I am not sure if I'm upright..... so the answer is no, I am not sure. The Pi has four USB slots so depending on what else I need plugged into it, that might work. (I can only think of a wifi dongle right now). At this point, it probably doesn't matter. I have ordered the tinyG (and the ox) this morning. I am back to thinking that chllipeppr might be a good way to go. Looks pretty complicated for the number of brain cells I still have alive (after 35 years with Microsoft products), but I've somehow managed to learn everything else I've had to. ....hmmm....I wonder if chillipeppr will even run on the Pi. That might be a deal breaker.
     

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