Wednesday, March 30, 2016

5-Axis Machining: Not As Hard As You Think

First, you had X, Y, and Z. That was hard enough. And now you can cut on the A and B axis too.

But it can be a little intimidating when you’re just learning 5-axis machining for the first time. Don’t worry though – you have absolutely nothing to be afraid of.

Cutting on all 5 axes isn’t as tough as you think. So relax, take a deep breath, and read these tips to make your first 5-axis machining experiences as successful as possible:

Should You Have a CAM System?
In the overwhelming majority of situations, no, you do not need one. If you only need to program 2D and 2.5D 3-axis work on different sides of the same part, you can use conversational programming to do the job.

However, if you do need to run full 5-axis simultaneous work, you do need a CAM system. But, this only happens in about 20% of all situations, and maybe even fewer than that.

Will I Have Any Additional Maintenance Costs?
If you do, they’ll be minor at the very worst. That’s because really the only additional check you may need to make would be to re-measure the centerlines for the A and B axes. You might want to do this annually to make sure all the cuts are done right. But, that’s it.

The CAM Software You Should Use
Good news: if you’re happy with your current CAM software, you don’t need to make a change. So, that’s not absolutely essential for doing the job.

However, you may want to consider making a change if you just tolerate your software and have been thinking about a change for some time already. As you know, some CAM software manufacturers make a better product than others.

The Main Difference Between a 5-Axis and 3-Axis Setup
To help ease your fear about trying this new setup, take a look at an example. Say you’re cutting a part that would benefit from a 5-axis setup. Normally, you’d manually flip the part and do more setups to finish the work. However, with a 5-axis setup, you simply program the parts you would normally setup manually.

You do the entire setup just like you would do a manual one. You first create an origin point. Then you create a work plane your tool axis will be perpendicular to. Finally, you program the 3 axis geometry needed to finish that side of the piece.

That’s it. Nothing to be too worried about at all. And the best part yet? You’ll be so much more efficient in your production. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

CNC Machinery FAQ: Top 4 Questions about CNC Machinery

Whether you own, or are considering buying CNC machinery, you’re probably full of questions about it.
Don’t worry. We have you covered. Here’s some of the more common questions we find many customers like you have:
Q: We’re strapped for time. Should we consider training?
A: Only if you want to dramatically reduce the time it takes to produce the parts and start making more money more efficiently almost immediately. Seriously, regardless of the process you use, it’s worth your time finding a qualified expert to help you create a more efficient process that delivers the same quality of products, and possibly better.
Just make sure you research their background carefully and that they take the time to ask you questions so they have a 100% clear understanding of your problem. This may even be worth investigating for routine processes you haven’t analyzed for years.

Q: When Should I Upgrade my CNC Machinery?
A: There’s a lot of subjectivity in this question. First, you’ll have to analyze your needs and see how well your machinery meets them. At the same time, start talking to vendors out there to see what’s available in the market.
Of course, you want to get the most life out of your CNC machinery as you can. But a reliable vendor can show you how long it will take for an investment in new or upgraded CNC machinery to pay off.

Q: If I’m Considering Upgrading or Buying New CNC Machinery, What Makes One CNC Machine Different from Another?
A: For the most part, CNC machinery is pretty similar. But, the differences come in the details required to run the router.
For example, preparation, programming, procedures, assembly, sorting, and error handling are the main cost areas you’ll want to investigate closely.

Q: What Should I Look for in a CNC Machine?
A: Before you look, you should know precisely what you need your CNC machine to do, what you want to make with it, and how you’re going to do that. Some areas of consideration that you might look at, depending on your needs, include:
  • ·         The level of precision you need
  • ·         Finish
  • ·         How productive you want to be
  • ·         How long you’ll need the CNC machine to live before replacing it
  • ·         And of course, the price you can afford

The price question generally gets answered on its own after you analyze all the other considerations.

We hope these answers help guide you in finding more efficient and profitable ways to use your CNC machinery in 2016 and beyond! 

Friday, October 16, 2015

6 Unbreakable Safety Rules for CNC Machinery Safety

Learn what to do, and what not to do, to keep yourself safe when you operate CNC machinery. Computer numerical control (CNC) machines are generally safe. But worker misuse can easily jeopardize their safety. That’s why it’s important for their operators to know exactly what they should – and should not – do.

When your workplace is safe, you’re able to attract the best employees. Worker satisfaction and productivity stay high. Turnover and costs related to workplace accidents stay low. So here’s what to look for to keep your workers safe:
  1. Only Operate CNC Machines You’ve Been Trained to Use
Sounds obvious and simple, but some companies do allow untrained employees to operate CNC machinery with little or no training. Many accidents do happen this way.
  1. Always Have at Least One Person Observing the CNC Machine
For some, it’s tempting to leave the room while the programmed CNC machine does its work. Most likely, nothing will go wrong. But once in a while, CNC machines break or don’t work right. It happens. They’re machines. And that’s when injuries can happen too. So make sure you have every CNC machine under observation by at least one person.
  1. Always Do These Things Before Operating Your CNC Machine
Here’s a brief list of to-dos:
  • Make sure the CNC machine isn’t operating when you load a tool magazine
  • Ensure the tools are sharp and free of cracks
  • Double-check to make sure all tools are set correctly
  • Double-check that you have set the right tool data for the program
  • Test tools before every new use
  • Examine seating surfaces for cleanliness before installing new tools
  • Set the spindle direction correctly for right and left-handed operators
  • Only use tools within manufacturer limits and tighten them to their recommended torque
  1. A Few Things Never to do Before Operation
Pretty simple and straightforward here. Never use blunt, cracked, or chipped tools. If you notice tools with damaged tips, don’t use those either.
  1. If You Use a CNC Router…
Before you operate a CNC router, make sure there aren’t any screws in the path of the bit. At best, the bit will get broken and the screw will get embedded into your project. However, in some cases the screw can shoot off and hit you or another worker. If, during operation, you notice anything unusual with the bit, hit the pause button, or the red emergency button for immediate shutdown. Fix the problem before you begin operating again.
  1. Always Make Sure You’re Mentally Focused
If you’re not feeling well and it’s hard for you to concentrate because of a sickness, don’t use CNC machinery. Supervisors, send your workers home if you notice them behaving unusually. Workers, notify your supervisors if something doesn’t seem right. Better to miss a few hours of work that cause an injury to yourself or someone else. And, better to leave work than it is to break the machine and cause costly repairs and downtime. Do those things – and you and your workers will stay safe.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Let’s Talk Texture: A Guide to EnRoute’s Rapid Texture


Rapid Texture

The Rapid Texture tool is a design tool that lets you utilize the shape of the tool to create a wide range of interesting surfaces. Rapid Texture can be applied to almost any surface, including simple flat rectangles, relief surfaces, and any shape you can think of. Even though EnRoute has made the process of creating Rapid Texture as simple as a few mouse clicks, they haven’t removed the designer’s part in the process. The design process allows you to be as creative as you want to be with Rapid Texture. The process begins with Seed Contours which are used to create initial offsets. You can then use Relief Surfaces to shape the Rapid Texture contours and make any relief a part of your Rapid Texture design. The Rapid Texture parameters allow you to create the effect you want by adjusting how Rapid Texture contours are created. Lastly, simply select whichever contours you want to use for trimming your Rapid Texture. Do you have a large area that requires several panels? No problem. Any Rapid Texture design can be seamlessly extended over as many panels as you need. Rapid Texture is the latest example of how the EnRoute team is always working to provide you with interesting and capable tools that will keep your creative juices flowing and give you new ways to make the most of your machine.

Parametric Texture

There are a number of ways to create textures in EnRoute. One of the methods offers unlimited possibilities – this is called Parametric Textures. Parametric Textures are created by mathematical equations and go in all directions infinitely. In as little time as five mouse-clicks, you can add a vector-based 3D texture that you can resize on-the-fly and toolpath. Whether you wish to create backgrounds for signs or add textures to cabinets, wall panels, or even furniture, look no further than EnRoute since the design possibilities are endless!

What’s New With EnRoute

EnRoute continues to add new features and make improvements to its Rapid Texture tool. In what’s being called its most powerful software ever, EnRoute has included the following features in EnRoute 5:

Resolution and Tolerance

Two new parameters were added to let the user define the resolution of the noise pattern and a cleanup tolerance for the Rapid Texture contours. These two parameters used to be built in to the tool, which created limitations for small and very large designs.

Fade Function

EnRoute introduced a new Fade parameter to Rapid Texture that lets you define a distance over which to fade out the noise texture applied to the RT offsets. This gives you another way to make your RT designs creative and unique.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Difference Between HSK Toolholders and Standard Toolholders

HSK toolholder vs. CAT toolholder
MultiCam is continually striving to offer the latest technological advances in CNC cutting technology. But we recognize that sometimes there is resistance to change, especially when the advances are not well understand or are as yet not widely adopted. We are often asked why we offer HSK style toolholders on the majority of our systems, rather than the standard toolholders such as CAT, SK and BT. An article written by Dr. Eugene Kocherovsky gives a highly detailed explanation on the benefits of using HSK toolholders rather than the older style.
Despite its growing use and acceptance in the United States, HSK technology remains widely misunderstood. Questions about its proper use have created substantial resistance among those who are accustomed to traditional, steep-taper shanks, including CAT, SK and BT. Although a significant portion of the machine tools imported to the United States from Europe incorporate HSK spindles, steep-taper shanks still represent the most widely used tooling interface.
The acronym “HSK” is the German abbreviation for “hollow taper shank.” An HSK shank has a ratio of 1:10, compared to CAT (BT, SK) shanks that have ratios of 7:24. HSK shanks must be connected to machines via compatible HSK spindle receivers. Whereas steep-taper shanks were developed prior to standardization, HSK shanks were developed to address performance problems associated with the traditional interfaces, particularly in high speed machining applications.
6 types of HSK toolholdersThe preliminary HSP standards included six types of HSK shanks designated as A through F and a total of 35 sizes. HSK shanks address three different application categories. Types E and F are designed for low torque and very high spindle speeds on machines that incorporate ATCs. Types A and C serve applications requiring moderate torque and moderate-to-high spindle speeds. (Type A is for automatic tool changing, and Type C is for manual changing.) Types B and D are designed for high torque applications with moderate-to-high spindle speeds. (Type B is for automatic changing and Type D is for manual changing.)

Differences between HSK and Steep Taper

High clamping force and radial stiffness

The first category of comparison is radial and axial stiffness- the most important aspects of any machining operation. Unlike conventional shanks, an HSK shank is hollow and the clamping mechanism operates from the inside (Figure 3, at right). The end of a typical, HSK Type A shank incorporates two drive slots that engage milled drive keys in the spindle receiver. The wall of the hollow shank deflects slightly when it’s clamped into the receiver. Radial access holes in the shank’s wall allow the clamping mechanism to contact an actuation screw. The inner surface of the shank wall also incorporates a chamfer to facilitate clamping.
Although different clamping methods are available depending on the tooling manufacturer, all HSK receivers incorporate segmented collets that expand radially under drawbar pressure to bear against the inner wall of the shank. Because the collet’s chamfer matches the chamfer of the shank’s inner wall, the shank is locked securely into the receiver when the drawbar is actuated. When this occurs, elastic deformation of the shank’s walls creates firm metal-to-metal contact around the shank, as well as mating the shank’s flange with the receiver.
Assuming that equivalent force is applied to the drawbar, twice as much clamping force is exerted on the flange of an HSK shank compared to a steep-taper shank. This extra clamping force makes the radial stiffness of HSK toolholders up to five times greater than the value for CAT, SK or BT. This makes the tool more resistant to bending loads, thus allowing deeper cuts and higher feedrates in milling and boring operations. Higher rigidity also translates to a higher natural frequency for the cutting system. This allows a tool to be operated at higher speeds before resonance or “chatter” commences. Because tool deflection is reduced, machining accuracy and surface finish also improve.

Easier tool changing

The HSK interface also offers some key advantages in relation to high speed machine spindles, tool collisions and maintenance. Using a conventional interface (CAT, SK, BT) at spindle speeds greater than 8,000 rpm, the spindle receiver expands at a much higher rate than the toolholder shank. This causes the shank to be pulled back axially into the spindle under the force of the drawbar. This changes the Z-axis position of the tool tip and often locks up the toolholder inside the receiver, thus making tool-changing difficult. Conversely, the design of the HSK connection prevents the shank from pulling back into the receiver during high speed operation.
Because of the short length of the HSK taper (approximately one-half the length of a CAT shank) and the lighter weight of its hollow shank, tool changes can be completed more rapidly than is true with conventional toolholders. Part of this time savings results from the fact that the HSK interface does not require a retention knob to clamp the shank.

Prevents damage to spindle during tool crashes

When a tool collision occurs using a conventional, steep-taper shank, the potential damage can be considerably greater than is true when using an HSK shank. Because a CAT (SK, BT) shank is solid steel, most of the collision load (and damage) transfers to the spindle. With its hollow design, however, the HSK shank acts as a fuse during collisions. When a cutting tool crashes, the toolholder breaks off and protects the spindle, thus reducing repair costs and machine downtime.

Can withstand variable cutting conditions

Variable cutting conditions can adversely affect the CAT (SK,BT) interface. This applies particularly to modern CNC machining centers that are used in flexible manufacturing systems. Under these circumstances, machines may operate at low speed and high torque, as well as high speed and low torque. Because conventional toolholders are clamped from the outside, centrifugal force causes the spindle walls to expand faster in relation to the shank at spindle speeds higher than 8,000 rpm. Consequently, the draw bar force pulls the shank deeper into its receiver, changing the position of the tool tip and frequently locking up the tool.
The HSK interface is not subject to this problem because of firm contact between mating components. This contact is enhanced at high speeds because, as the collet segments in the receiver rotate inside the hollow shank, centrifugal force increases the clamping force.

At MultiCam, the 32 and 63 HSK toolholders are our most popular, fitted on our high performance routers. To purchase these, or any of our toolholders, please visit:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Greasing Your CNC Cutting System

We’re always talking about how to maximize the longevity of your CNC machine and consumables. Proper and timely maintenance is of course the easiest way to ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck. Just as you would change the oil in your car or use WD40 on a squeaky door, adding grease to your CNC machine ensures it runs smoothly.

We recommend re-greasing your machine every month. There are 3 main areas for greasing: the bearing cars, the racks, and the ball screw (in most CNC models).

Bearing cars

Bearing cars can be found on either side of the x-axis gantry, y-axis, and z-axis. Using your grease gun, position the tip directly over the small ball inside the bearing car. Make sure you are compressing the ball. For a properly primed grease gun about 3 squeezes should do it. Wipe off any excess grease and repeat for all bearings.Greasing the bearing cars
On some older CNC machines the ball will not be directly accessible for the grease gun. Use the smaller attachable tips to compress the ball, and squeeze the grease inside.
Smaller attachment on grease gun


A light coat of grease is recommended for all of the racks. Lightly squeeze your grease gun as you move along the racks. Then use you finger to ensure the grease has gotten inside the teeth of the racks, as well as removing any excess grease. Remember only  a light coating of grease is needed; too much will just cause a mess and trap dirt and debris.Greasing the racks


On most MultiCam models, a ball screw is used to move the Z-axis up and down. Same as the racks, use just a small amount of grease around the screw. Usually just using your finger is sufficient. Again, if you use too much grease you will be trapping too much dirt, which can be especially problematic around the ball-screw. You don’t want chips or debris flowing down the ball-screw as this can damage the ball nut. For our V-Series models, there isn’t a ball-screw. Instead there is another rack and pinion so you can follow the instructions above.

After 6 months we recommend a complete grease clean-up. Using a de-greasing agent, de-grease all bearing cars and racks, and then re-grease them. Why go through all this trouble? Grease is a lubricant but it also traps dirt and debris, which can eventually lead to build ups. Too often we get calls from customers about poor cut quality or cut chatter and the reason stemmed from a build-up of dirt. Save yourself a potentially expensive service call by instituting a semi-annual clean-up.
For the ball-screws however, do not use a de-greasing agent. Instead use another lubricant, like a torch lubricant in a plasma system. Lubricate the ball screw and then wipe everything clean with water, then re-apply the grease. We say this because it’s extremely important that chips and debris do not travel down into the ball nut. A de-greasing agent can do it’s job too well and debris will slip down into the ball nut. Dirt in the ball nut can cause binding which eventually results in a motor fault. If debris is stuck in the ball nut, the motor needs to work harder to move the Z-axis, drawing too much amperage, thus causing a fault.
We sell grease cartridge packages and grease guns. Just visit and order yours today! Save yourself the hassle and expense of machine down time by just sticking to a proper greasing maintenance schedule.
Grease and grease gun pack

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Pro-Tip: MDF Spoilboards

We talk a lot of about spoilboards and sacrificial material, yet we still have customers encountering problems. Lately, we’ve had an increased number of customers call in about a lack of suction on their tables. There are a number of reasons why this could be happening. Perhaps the vacuum pump isn’t working correctly or the fittings aren’t secure. And yet the most common reason why a customer is experiencing a lack of suction? Their spoilboard.
We get that materials can be expensive and that picking up a piece of MDF at the lumber yard (or a piece that’s been lying around in your shop) is an inexpensive means of having a spoilboard. However, if you choose to use MDF you must TABLE MILL BOTH SIDES OF THE BOARD. This cannot be emphasized enough. MDF is created with a sealant, and this sealant prevents air from flowing properly through the board. If you do not route both sides of the board, air cannot pass through, and thus there will be a lack of suction on the piece you’d like to cut.
To create an MDF spoilboard, use a bit such as Onsrud’s 91-000 CT Spoilboard Cutter. If you’d like to use a material that doesn’t require the milling first, we recommend using LDF. LDF does not have the sealant that MDF has and its lower density means that air can more readily pass through, thus increasing your suction.
Onsrud 91-000 for MDF milling
So before you’re frantically calling your CNC support technician think, could the suction have anything to do with my spoilboard? By ensuring you’re using the correct spoilboard, you could save time, money on service calls, and headaches.