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Old 12-08-2010, 10:00 PM   #21
Yuri_Rage
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I do have an account at CNC Zone, but only so I can download pictures and attachments. I've never posted. There is a ton of info there.

Here are some more details:

HF Mini Mill #44991 - www.harborfreight.com
Stirling Belt Drive - www.littlemachineshop.com
Fully upgraded 3-axis ball screw kit - www.cncfusion.com
Home/limit microswitches - www.surpluscenter.com
Mini ITX computer - homebuilt with parts from www.newegg.com
Mach3 software - www.machsupport.com
Ridgid laminate trimmer - Home Depot

www.kelinginc.net supplied the electronics:
48V power supply
381 oz in, 200 steps/rev stepper motors (one for each axis)
Geckodrive G540

I love the G540 for its convenience and simplicity, but its microstepping output is fixed at 10. I don't need that kind of resolution. I wish I could 1/2 or 1/4 step instead and take advantage of increased speed and/or torque.

I get about 9" of X travel, 4" of Y travel, and about 8-10" of Z travel, depending on the collet/chuck/tool. Rapids are set to 100 ipm for the X/Y and 50 ipm for the Z. I've actually used up to 200 ipm on all axes without missed steps, but I think I set myself up for failure by increasing the rapid speeds that much, particularly since I keep the gibs pretty tight.

My biggest complaint is the standard X2 owner's blight - it's not sturdy enough. If I take the time to tram the mill, adjust the gibs, measure the backlash, and re-adjust the Mach3 backlash compensation before each job, I can achieve accuracy to within 0.001". However, that is impractical, and I think I realistically see about twice that (if not more on occasion). The machine quickly falls out of adjustment due to a lack of rigidity.

When the gibs are adjusted, backlash is between 0.001" and 0.003", with the Y axis typically being "loosest" (its gib is the smallest and only has two set screws vs four for the X and Z axes). I'm likely going to beef up the column to help the Z axis to stay in alignment. The "engineer" that decided to fit a tilting column to such a small mill was an idiot.

If I had it to do all over again, I'd have gone with a BF20 or its clone (the G0704 that SweetSounds mentioned). I just didn't want to sink an additional $500+ into a project that had a high potential for failure/problems. The G0704 gets great reviews and is supposedly much higher quality than the Sieg stuff. It is obviously more rigid, since the column is fixed and fairly large for the size of the machine. Now that I'm a bit more confident with CNC electronics, I'd spring for a bigger and better machine in a heartbeat if space and funds allowed. Someday...

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Old 12-08-2010, 10:14 PM   #22
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I use CamBam almost exclusively for CAD/CAM. It's decent for 2.5D CAM, and I basically force it to be a CAD program for most of the parts I've designed and machined. It will read DXF/STL, and it's supposedly capable of 3D, though I haven't done any profiling with it.

I've used Google Sketchup and an STL export plug-in for some 3D playing, but it outputs everything as straight polylines instead of arcs, lines, and circles. The resulting G code usually sucks - it's either too blocky or has WAY too many lines, depending on the arc segment settings.

I've played with FreeMill a little bit. It looks cool, and I managed a simple 3D profile with it, but I've yet to do any serious 3D machining.

Stickfont is free and works great for single line font engraving, especially when the letters are less than 1/4" tall. With some tweaking, the text/engrave functions in CamBam can look nicer, but it only does "looped" TrueType fonts. I've used Deskengrave (also free), but I've come to hate it.

Mach3's LazyCAM is ok, but I don't think it's supported anymore. CamBam is similar, supported, and more fully featured.

I've used Blender in the past for 3D modeling, but I think it would have similar issues as SketchUp when it comes to exporting DXF/STL files.

I've yet to find affordable CAD software, and the open source stuff has all failed to impress me. In fact, I've yet to even bother downloading any open source CAD software because it's all been so underwhelming.

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Old 12-08-2010, 10:41 PM   #23
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FreeCAD looks pretty decent, but I've only ever used BricsCAD (very basic), AutoCAD Civil 3D (very complex), and dabbled in Solidworks.

http://sourceforge.net/apps/mediawik...itle=Main_Page

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Old 12-08-2010, 11:48 PM   #24
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Thanks, klyph. I'll check it out. I used AutoCAD 10 years ago at school. I'd love to use it again, but it's horribly overpriced.

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Old 12-08-2010, 11:59 PM   #25
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BricsCAD is pretty much identical to the AutoCAD of 10 years ago. I think the install file is pretty small, and since they are out of business (can't buy it anymore), I wouldn't feel bad about sending you a copy. It's actually very nice for a bare bones CAD program.

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Old 12-09-2010, 12:47 PM   #26
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I still use a REALLY old (10+ years) version of CadKey...

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Old 12-21-2010, 12:11 AM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuri_Rage View Post
Thanks, klyph. I'll check it out. I used AutoCAD 10 years ago at school. I'd love to use it again, but it's horribly overpriced.
I know its not 3d but since you mentioned AutoCAD have you considered using DraftSight? Its Dassault Systems (read SolidWorks) free alternative to AutoCAD. I have used it some for work, although we use AutoCAD natively as well as Gerber Cutworks I cant afford to use it all the time with patterning, but its essentially a clone of AutoCAD. 99% of the commands transfer over too.

http://www.3ds.com/products/draftsig...ight-overview/

If you are looking for a 3D modeler please ignore this reply. I have also been a bit underwhelmed by the free 3D CAD programs. I bought Alibre a little over a year ago and the older version which I have is manageable, not as nice as Solidworks but I get the impression that the two new versions that have been released since I bought mine are a bit more polished.
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Old 12-21-2010, 12:20 AM   #28
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Thanks for the point out. I've been playing with Solid Edge 2D lately. It seems pretty user friendly and will import/export most common formats.

I was looking at Alibre and ViaCAD as the cheapest options for 3D. Rhino and Dolphin are slightly too pricy. Inventor and SolidWorks are totally out of the question. 3D isn't a requirement for the moment, but I would like to utilize modeling software in the future.

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Old 12-21-2010, 12:29 AM   #29
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Yeah Alibre is pretty reasonable if you are OK with getting the personal edition. However, if you want the cool tools i.e. FEA, rendering, toolbox, sheet metal and things of that nature you are looking at a significantly larger investment. I haven't played with Alibre much lately as we use SolidWorks at work and I have a home license of it through them. They aren't as free giving out AutoCAD licenses though, so for any basic stuff I will use DraftSight at home. For the essential/critical and large files, I stick with AutoCAD simply because we aren't 100% sure of the way that DS will interact with our cutting software - I have no desire to loose 1 weeks worth of patterning because DraftSight and AutoCAD store 2 different things slightly differently (or 2 different things the exact same but after dxfout in AutoCAD, since the file isn't saved as an AutoDESK approved file, it throws a hissy fit.)

I also played with Rhino3D for a while on a trial basis, but didn't get too far because I am used to the parametric modeling of SolidWorks and Alibre and didn't put in the necessary time to get used to a NURBS based modeler in the 1 month I had to play with it.

On that note, I believe there is a free trial for Alibre if you are interested in trying it out as an inexpensive modeler.

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Old 12-21-2010, 12:35 AM   #30
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I'm ok without some of the cool toys. What I really want is 3D design software that will output a DXF with arcs instead of splined polylines that approximate curves. If it doesn't do fancy rendering with all sorts of lighting options and surface effects, I'll survive.

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