Monday, August 8, 2016

CNC Machining’s Best Kept Secret: Parametric Programming



Even experienced CNC machinists aren’t always familiar with parametric programming. And those that do know of it, often don’t know how to use it. Once you understand what it is and how it can improve your CNC machining life, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t taken the time to learn it in the past.

What Is Parametric Programming?

You can easily compare this type of programming to any computer program language. Parametric programming allows you to create custom macros, which as you might guess, are quite useful to many businesses. But as it stands, they’re not even using the custom macros which could boost their productivity noticeably.

Here’s some other situations where parametric programming comes in handy:

 Families of parts

Pretty easy one here. If you cut families of parts repeatedly, you’re going to benefit from custom macros.

General purpose routines: 

Okay, so let’s say you’ve created custom macros for parts families. Well, you do likely also have certain cuts you have to make on a routine basis. You know what they are. And they’re a perfect opportunity for parametric programming.

One benefit for this kind of parametric programming is that programs become shorter and easier to change. If you’d like to learn more, these routines are commonly referred to as “user-created canned cycles.”

Any complex motion you need to make: 

Let’s say you need to cut a taper on a thread. Now, that’s a difficult motion to pull off. Instead of programming that one every time, create a macro to save yourself time. To put it in perspective, parametric programming would only require 50 lines or so of code in G code. Do this on a CAM system, and the exact same process requires hundreds or thousands of commands.

 Any other process that takes time: 

Think about how you use your CNC machinery here. How long does it take you to set it up? What if you need to transfer a program? Consider all the steps you have to implement with your CNC machine, and then replace those repetitive ones with macros.


When it comes to parametric programming, the most common uses you’ll find for it include for families of parts and creating your own canned cycles. Once you get these functions programmed in, you’ll be glad you did because it saves you so much time and improves your productivity. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Everything You Need to Know to Get Started with Ballscrews



New to CNC machining? You might wonder, like many others, what ballscrews are all about.

What is a ballscrew, and why would you use one anyway?

First, take a look at ballscrew theory. Think of this as your introductory college course to ballscrews. Very simply, ball screws transfer rotational motion into linear motion with next to no friction. They do this at about 90% efficiency. This is far more efficient than any other method that does the same. This greater efficiency also means ballscrews also have a much longer life than other components that perform the same function.

Why would you use a ballscrew?

They’re usually used in situations where you have a lot of lead or need a lot of life. They compare to lead screws, which get used for the same purpose, but they’re used in smaller, lighter duty applications. Lead screws also have more customizability, as you can change the leads, sizes, and their nut configurations quickly and with ease.

How do Ballscrews Work?

They’re pretty simple in nature. The threads on a ballscrew allow a hardened steel ball to transfer rotational motion from a ball nut into linear motion along the shaft. Inside of the ball nut, there’s grooves, and these grooves fit with those on the shaft, allowing the multiple balls to travel along.

Ballscrews also have a high degree of accuracy. They can easily be accurate to 1/10000th of an inch.

Comparing 2 Types of Ballscrews

When you look to buy ballscrews, you’ll run into these common types:

Ground ballscrews
Rolled ballscrews

Ground ballscrews are made when abrasive wheels cut the channels the ball moves through. While they carry a higher price, they do have high tolerances and exceptional accuracy. They also tend to operate much more quietly than rolled ballscrews.

Speaking of rolled ballscrews, their main benefit over ground ballscrews is their cheaper cost. In fact, they can easily cost 15-20x less than their ground counterparts. However, you will sacrifice accuracy. Rolled ballscrews can be found with accuracies similar to that of ground ones. But, they also then carry the same price.

In nearly every case, ground ballscrews work out better than rolled. So when deciding which to use for your CNC machine, the question usually comes down to the accuracy you need and the price you’re willing to pay for it.


Hope that helps

Thursday, July 14, 2016

CNC Machine Modes of Operation

http://www.multicam.com/products/cnc-routers/


All right. More CNC machine basics here. Today, we’re discussing the various modes of operation your CNC machine can use.

Let’s get right to it:

Manual Mode

Note that this differs from Manual Data Input (MDI) mode. In manual mode, your CNC machine acts like a standard machine. You can operate it just like you would any other machine that doesn’t use programming. You can push buttons, turn wheels, and turn switches on or off.

The difference between manual mode and manual data input mode is that with MDI, you can do certain things that you can’t in manual mode. More on that in a second.

Manual Data Input Mode (Also Called MDI or MDA Mode)

In this mode, you can do some programming and data entry. However, everything you enter will only be done once. If you need all the functions done again, you’ll have to program them again.
The advantage of this mode is that you can do manual operations that simply cannot be done in manual mode. Some CNC machines, for example, don’t have manual controls to change the spindle speed.

 Single Block Mode

Each CNC program is made of blocks. They may be numbered something like N20, N30, and N40. When you enter this mode, just a single block of code executes. Additionally, this means your CNC machine only stops moving on its access. For example, the machine spindle keeps turning, and coolant continues to flow too.

Edit Mode

Just as it sounds, you can enter programs in your CNC machine’s memory, or you can modify current programs. Programs are usually organized by number, and you can make the program you want active.

You can also insert new info into the program, alter its current info, or delete info from it. Some, but not all, CNC programs allow you to cut, paste, find, and replace data just like you would in word processing software.

Automatic Mode/Program Operation Mode

Again, no surprises here. In this mode, you get to find out how well you did with creating your program. So, take a deep breath, and execute yours. Most CNC machines allow you to see the commands executed as they happen. So, if you notice a mistake, you will be able to easily identify where it is in your program.

Those are your basic modes of operation. Feelin’ ready? Awesome. Time to give your CNC machine a try!


Thursday, July 7, 2016

5 CNC Machining Basics Every Beginner Should Know


“Fail your way forward” is a common saying among entrepreneurs. And it’s the way many of us learn.

Mistakes are okay. But some of the big ones can really cost you. So why not avoid them by reading the tips below, if you’re a beginning CNC machinist:

Knowing How to Program A Sequence of Machining Operations

Let’s start with this obvious one, which is one of the biggest advantages of CNC machines: programming sequences so workpieces can be quickly and efficiently cut. It gets a little tricky though because every CNC machine’s different. So, the real trick may be getting acclimated with the particular machine you’re about to work on.

The basic process for understanding a new CNC machine is to:
  • ·         Learn the most basic components
  • ·         Get comfortable with the various axes
  • ·         Understand any accessories
  • ·         Know how the programming works

Incremental Versus Absolute Programming, And When to Use Them

These are the two types of programming modes for CNC machines. Neither is overtly right or wrong. Most controls on CNC machines can do both.

The difference between the two? Incremental programs use their source location as the preceding point. With absolute programs, the source location is always the same fixed, original point.

Have a Decent Vise

Yes, vises cost some money. But, they’re well worth it. A good one lasts for years. And with CNC machining, there’s nothing more valuable than holding what you’re currently working on in precisely the same place.

Use a Misting Setup if You Don’t Have Flood Coolant

Yes, a misting setup costs some money too. But it’s well worth it for the problems it prevents. Not all CNC machines have flood coolant. You can get a decent misting setup relatively inexpensively if you’re willing to search hard enough.

Be Paranoid about Chip Removal

At the very least, chips cause additional wear on your cutters. You’ll have to replace them sooner than you should. At the very worst, you break your cutter. And that can lead to an inaccurate cut, or pieces you need to cut again.

As you cut, watch for any chip buildup. Adjust your mister’s nozzle until you know exactly how to position it correctly without further adjustments.


If you follow those tips, you’ll be well on your way to making quick and accurate cuts without experiencing many of the problems other beginning CNC machinists run into. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Quick Introduction to Post Processors



You’ve probably heard of “post processors.” But if you’re like most CNC machine operators, it’s kind of a foggy idea. You realize you know the term, but you’re not quite sure about much else.
Don’t sweat it! We have you covered. Here’s some introductory info to make sure you know:

First, What is a Post Processor?
Your CNC cutting machine needs to know what commands you’re giving it. A post processor is software that translates CAD or CAM data to specific commands your CNC cutting machine can understand. Whatever CAD or CAM system you use, it has a certain point where it produces generic output called a “CL-file.”
This “CL-file” only represents the paths your CNC machine will take when cutting your part. However, these paths are not yet specific to your CNC machine. So, that’s where post processor software comes in and translates this CL-file into specific data your CNC machine can use.
See, not so hard to understand how it works now, is it?

Why Do You Need Post Processor Software?
The final accuracy of your cut and optimal use of your CNC machine depends on your post processor software. Without it, or with poor software, you can end up with longer cycle times, damaged parts, ruined equipment, and injuries to employees. That all translates to wasted time and money at your business too.
That can also mean lower part quality. And that can lead to angry customers who take their business elsewhere.

 A Fair Warning about Post Processing Software!
With this kind of software, there’s a wide range of quality. If you don’t recognize the company making the software, you have a good chance of getting post processing software that only causes you more headaches. Go with a name that’s well-known to prevent problems. And you should take extra caution to follow this guideline if you have complex machining needs.

Example Post Processing Customizations You Might Use
If you have more than a single person doing CNC cutting, you’re going to save serious time and increase your productivity with post processing software. You might use it for probing, custom drill patterns, setting familiar patterns, right angle heads, tracking tool life, documenting your G-Code to add clarity for operators, or to set variable setup options.

Finally, make sure you have an open post processor. Some companies “close” them, which means only a particular authorized party can customize them. That could add quite a bit to your costs if you’re not aware of it ahead of time.

Post processing software can make quite a difference at scale. Consider implementing and customizing it if you haven’t already. 

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!