Thursday, July 14, 2016

CNC Machine Modes of Operation

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! 

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.