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Lowlysubaruguy

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#1
I have a little machine shop CNC mill, operating system is mach3

It was kind of a bonus in a retiring engineers machine shop that I bought everything, we literally took everything in his garage and swept the walls and floors when it was all loaded. The CNC mill was part of the purchase but I bought everything for a large mill, and lathe and a ton of tooling that I am really happy to have.

Im an auto technician not a computer geek by any means. Don’t get me wrong I own and run two auto shops and work with computers daily but I’ve never written any coding. Im probably quite capable of learning enough to perform most of the tasks I forsee in front of me however I’m pretty much ran ragged physically and mentally just keeping my shops in motion so I don’t see me sitting down for hours at a time learning to write codes to spin out a hand full of parts on my mill.

Are there programs for mach3 software that would help me make simple circles and squares. I seem to need precision holes in pieces a lot. Ive done a number of 1000 hole holes and whittled some nice squares with my big manual mill but doing so with a CNC mill sitting on a shelf makes my head hurt.

Reading some posts here a number of people have learned to write the needed programs only to find the effort isn’t worth the results for there needs. I think down the road five years or so I’ll make the time but right now it isn’t there. Thought maybe some one here can either point me in the right direction or guide me in the path of either selling it or boxing it up until time allows me to learn what’s needed to use it.

What’s really amusing to me is my wife has what is called a Cricut it’s basically a CNC crafting mill. She can take an image of something from almost anywhere and in few minutes have one printed and or cut out of almost anything that comes in sheets. Its a $300 crafting toy. It prints, cuts, scores while its basically two deminsional seeing it score paper for a folding edge tells me its operating on a three diminsional format much to the same needs of a CNC mill. We picked out a wicked looking fox from an image on line, ten minutes later she’s got a left and right facing one with three colors of ink dozens of complex highlighted areas scored and the entire fox cut out of decal material for my son. One would think there is a program for a mill to help me cut a circle or squares.

I hope I don’t come off to stupid or lazy looking for the easy way out. Im a realist I’ve got a nice tool without the knowledge to work it and not enough time on my hands to really learn complex coding. If there’s some simple solutions I’d love to try them. Thanks.
 

Groundhog

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#2
I have a small CNC mill and do not do any coding. But I learned AutoCad (I have TurboCad - a clone) a long time ago and VisualMill (CAM program) when I got my mill 6 years ago. Both are somewhat expensive. However you can replace both programs (a CAD program and a CAM program) with the single program - Fusion 360 (by AutoDesk) which is free to hobbiest and small business. But you need to learn Fusion 360, which seems to be really easy for some and quite difficult for others.

Either way you need to learn Mach3, which isn't all that hard. Included with Mach3 are some simple programs that can do what you are describing (circles, square holes. pattern holes, etc) without a CAD or CAM program. There are bunches of Mach3 tutorial videos (as well as tutorial videos for all other CAD and CAM programs). Learn just a little bit of GCode and you can use your CNC like a manual mill with a DRO.

I'm sure there will be a lot of other good ideas appearing here!
 

JimDawson

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#3
Two of my favorite softwares are Fusion 360, Full featured professional CAD/CAM software, free to hobbyists, students, and startups. A bit of a learning curve. The other is CamBam, liberal trial period, and only $150 if you decide to buy. Limited CAD capabilities, but excellent CAM, pretty easy to learn.
 

magicniner

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I bought and set up a small CNC mill several years ago and was fooled by all the model engineer forum content on hand coding into thinking I needed to learn to write G Code. CAD/CAM is still a fairly steep learning curve, choosing something with a supportive community forum will be a big help.
 

coherent

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#6
As others said, you don't need to code. If you learned your business accounting and inventory software, you can learn cad/cam. Some are pretty user friendly now days. Once you cut a part with a cnc mill, you'll be hooked! Manual is great and there are times it's easier to do something simple manually, but there are things you can do with cnc that you just can't with a manual mill. For those that can be accomplished manually, it's faster and easier with a cnc mill.
 

Cadillac STS

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Mach 3 will do exactly what you want with simple holes, series of holes, etc. There is a tab called Wizzards in there and it takes you to it. No coding, simple to understand

Look at this youtube and search more for yourself:

 

T Bredehoft

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CNC is fun, there's no doubt about that, On the other hand, Its really great for making 5,000 whatzits. If you're a hobbyist, you don't need that many.

I ran several CNC machines in my working life, really enjoyed it, but as a hobbyist, I dont' miss them.

Just so you know.
 

BGHansen

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I have a Bridgeport mill with a 30+ year old Anilam Crusader II control (2-axis). The RS-232 port doesn't work so I can only program through the control box keypad (conversational programming). So, had to learn manual programming. It isn't too bad, but I'd love to be able to draw something in CAD and dump a CAM routine into my mill. Like mentioned above, learn Mach3 and download Fusion 360. Once you make a few parts, you'll be hooked and will be hard-pressed to do manual milling anymore. It will totally change the way you machine.

Bruce
 

MontanaAardvark

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CNC is fun, there's no doubt about that, On the other hand, Its really great for making 5,000 whatzits. If you're a hobbyist, you don't need that many.

I ran several CNC machines in my working life, really enjoyed it, but as a hobbyist, I dont' miss them.

Just so you know.
It depends on what you're going to do. If you're running complex shapes, CNC with a good CAM program is easier and sometimes the only reasonable way.

Think of cutting the shape of the green anodized parts of this paintball gun by hand, turning all three axes at once to get the shapes.
paintball_gun.jpg

Or carving plaques, names or other things.

walking-bears-3d-cnc-wood-carving-06.jpg

For things like these, CNC is the only way to go. (IMO, of course).
 

magicniner

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CNC is fun, there's no doubt about that, On the other hand, Its really great for making 5,000 whatzits. If you're a hobbyist, you don't need that many.
I used to think like this until I discovered that CNC is excellent for onesy-twosey parts with compound curves and 3D features which would be impossible with manual equipment or would take so many set-ups with custom fixtures that they wouldn't be worth doing.

This is a .20 cal rotary magazine I made for a target air pistol, the central mag advance ratchet feature has areas where the cutter must be less than 0.8mm diameter

Rohm.20Mag.jpg

Even with a rotary table, multiple custom fixtures and a high speed spindle I suspect it would be a bit of a pig to machine with 0.6mm or 0.7mm end mills :D
 

Robert LaLonde

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#12
I bought and set up a small CNC mill several years ago and was fooled by all the model engineer forum content on hand coding into thinking I needed to learn to write G Code. CAD/CAM is still a fairly steep learning curve, choosing something with a supportive community forum will be a big help.
CamBam has the BEST support community of any on-line community I have seen. Its also one of the easiest CAM programs to learn. No its not the only one I know or even the first. That being said some basic knowledge of code can be helpful even if you do zero (0) hand coding. Nice thing about Mach 3 is all the basic G&M codes are available along with descriptiuons right from the home screen.

Mach 3 will do exactly what you want with simple holes, series of holes, etc. There is a tab called Wizzards in there and it takes you to it. No coding, simple to understand

Look at this youtube and search more for yourself:

I pretty much only use the NFS Wizards. They are consistent in style and layout and work quality. One or two of the others left me wondering what was wrong with my machine.

Isn't it limited to 3-Axis?

Yes, and no. You can always use your other axis for indexing. Realistically very few projects actually require simultaneous 4 or 5 axis motion. I see lots of very high end machine videos on YouTube where they have a 5 axis machine basically doing 3 axis work, and just using the 4th and 5th for indexing. Sure there are a few doing real 3+axis machining, but not many. Usually I see it in carving machines where the the spindle has the multi axis mount rather than the work piece.
 

magicniner

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Yes, and no. You can always use your other axis for indexing.
Bob, I've suggested manually adding indexing tothe code to a guy on another forum who wants to 3D carve some things but doesn't have CAM that supports a 4th.
Does it allow adding an indexing feature in the 4th axis so you can toolpath one feature then simply add another 7 copies at 45 degree intervals to get 8 identical features around an object by selecting the option and filling index angle and number of copies? That's how I added the locking slots on the periphery of the magazine on that mag. It would be easy enough to copy and paste 8 copies of the path and manually add indexing but it is nice not to have to ;-)
 

Karl_T

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I have a little machine shop CNC mill, operating system is mach3
...

Are there programs for mach3 software that would help me make simple circles and squares. I seem to need precision holes in pieces a lot. Ive done a number of 1000 hole holes and whittled some nice squares with my big manual mill but doing so with a CNC mill sitting on a shelf makes my head hurt.

...
I'm going to offer a contrary opinion. For some CNC almost becomes a religion - the answer to everything.

Looks like your need is for accuracy in bored holes. That large manual machine with a quality DRO is going to do a better job than a little CNC mill. IMHO, I'll take a rigid machine over wimpy one that has CNC added any day. Remember, CNC just turns the crank for you.

Now, I am a big CNC user. But I do find my huge Supermax manual mill gets nearly all the high accuracy drilling and boring work.

I also think CNC will just frustrate you, unless you are willing to take the time to bust through the learning curve. Worth it once there, but can be a steep one for some, not so much for others.

Just my two cents

Karl
 

JimDawson

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Isn't it limited to 3-Axis?
No, Fusion 360 Ultimate is 5 axis. Not free, but I think it's about $300/ year. Still pretty inexpensive. There is also reference to multi-axis machining in the standard version but I have never used it.
 

RJSakowski

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#16
My primary reason for getting a CNC mill was to machine parts that couldn't be done by any other means. I have done jobs with up to 100 parts but those are rare for a hobbyist. I my particular case, the machining could have been farmed out to a local job shop but the cost would have been close to what the Tormach CNC cost.

As far as getting your feet wet, it doesn't take all that much effort. Conversational programming will allow you to do some fairly complicated machining and you can be proficient at that in a matter of minutes or hours. There are a variety of CAD and CAM packages available for little or no cost. There will be a learning curve but it needn't be too difficult.

The point is that the CNC gives you added capability. It may sit idle for some time but at some point, you will have a job that cries for the CNC and you will be glad that you have the resource at your disposal.
 

Robert LaLonde

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Bob, I've suggested manually adding indexing tothe code to a guy on another forum who wants to 3D carve some things but doesn't have CAM that supports a 4th.
Does it allow adding an indexing feature in the 4th axis so you can toolpath one feature then simply add another 7 copies at 45 degree intervals to get 8 identical features around an object by selecting the option and filling index angle and number of copies? That's how I added the locking slots on the periphery of the magazine on that mag. It would be easy enough to copy and paste 8 copies of the path and manually add indexing but it is nice not to have to ;-)

Which software? I am more familiar with CamBam than Fusion360. I know in CamBam, I could just copy/paste the machine operation and add a line of code in the operation header of each operation to advance the 4th axis. Because you are doing it before CAM generates code its pretty easy. In the operation parameters there are fields for entering code manually at the beginning and end of each operation.

CamBam also has a 4th axis plugin, that effectively swaps one linear axis for the rotary axis. Sort of like CNC Wrapper, but better.

I have read that Fusion360 has basic 4th and 5th axis indexing capability, but I have never used it. I just use Fusion for its adaptive clearing in 3D. Often I will generate that part of the code in Fusion, and then drop it into CamBam as an "NC MOP."
 

magicniner

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#18
Bob,
I think he was experimenting with deskproto
 

Robert LaLonde

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#19
I used DesKAM (Deskproto) a very long time ago when I didn't know anything. I seem to recall it was pretty hard for me to do anything with it, but that may have just been my ignorance. Still, you can always edit a code file in a text editor. If its a single operation it would be pretty easy to copy paste it with an appropriate G00 A(xxx) manually entered at the beginning of each new paste.
 

ozzie34231

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#20
Guys, this is 2018 and you're talking Mach 3. Mach 4, a copy of their Mill Wizards, and Fusion 360, (free for hobby or small business), is a 2018 way to go. You don't need to ever learn a bit of G-code.
My recommendation is to download a trial copy of Mill Wizards and it very soon reveals what you can do without knowing G-code, or having a Cad/Cam program..
You can also download a trial copy of Mach 4 to see what it is about.
You can download Fusion 360, but that will take a little time to learn. There are however, many, many Youtube videos to help you learn.
The comments about a big machine accuracy vs CNC are silly. If you're talking a knee mill vs a tabletop CNC, yes the knee is more accurate. But the fact is that CNC can be more accurate than manual comparing like size machines.
I have a knee mill built in the 1970s running Mach4 and it can machine to .0001" accuracy, and then with a probing sequence measure the work. If it had handles, I'm not sure I'd know how to use them.
 

MontanaAardvark

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Ozzie34231 raises a good point about Mach3 vs 4.

In my case, I stayed away from Mach4 because I was using the parallel port and liked that. Around May of last year, I switched to a Warp9 Ethernet Smooth Stepper so that I can run three CNC machines off one ESS, and the ESS is Mach 4's preferred way of working. I should go remind myself of what Mach 4 gives me that 3 doesn't do and grab a copy.
 

ozzie34231

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Hey Bob,
Just saw your post and signature tag. When you grab that copy of Mach 4 take a look at the Lathe program and the built in Lathe cycles. You'll be converting one of those lathes pronto. I'm running it on my self converted 1440; love it.
I'm in Sarasota and been in CNC since about 2002
 

Robert LaLonde

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Guys, this is 2018 and you're talking Mach 3. Mach 4, a copy of their Mill Wizards, and Fusion 360, (free for hobby or small business), is a 2018 way to go. You don't need to ever learn a bit of G-code.
My recommendation is to download a trial copy of Mill Wizards and it very soon reveals what you can do without knowing G-code, or having a Cad/Cam program..
You can also download a trial copy of Mach 4 to see what it is about.
You can download Fusion 360, but that will take a little time to learn. There are however, many, many Youtube videos to help you learn.
The comments about a big machine accuracy vs CNC are silly. If you're talking a knee mill vs a tabletop CNC, yes the knee is more accurate. But the fact is that CNC can be more accurate than manual comparing like size machines.
I have a knee mill built in the 1970s running Mach4 and it can machine to .0001" accuracy, and then with a probing sequence measure the work. If it had handles, I'm not sure I'd know how to use them.
LOL. Ok. An overly simplistic approach, but it may well be true for some people. Just remember there is no such thing as a free lunch and Autocad has a past reputation for being a mercenary company. Fusion does not do simple 2D layouts easily. If it did I would probably use it more. It does do 3D fairly nicely though. You trade off by having to do more time modeling. I routinely use 2d layouts in combination with 3D models. Why model a groove when you can just engrave a line. I get it. You think you have it all dialed in and the rest of us are uninformed, but the fact is I am fairly familiar with Fusion360. Its great for 3D adaptive clearing.

Mach 3 works, and since I have 4 PAID licenses and they work just fine on modern PCs there is no reason go buy new licenses to run the same machines. LOL. All are running ESS. Sure I could make a donation to ArtSoft, but I have no need to. Some might argue that Mach4 is "better" but you have to use it on better computers as well. I can easily run a million lines of code in Mach 3 on those same better machines. I do it regularly. I have heard Mach3 has a 3 million line limit. I haven't hit that yet. 2.3 million lines of code in a single file is the largest I have run so far. When I run into that limit then it might be time to upgrade a machine to Mach 4. More than likely I will have more machines by then, and at that time I'll decide what licenses to buy for them. (My big mill is still running on a single processor W98 box. LOL.)

As to not needing to learn any code. Well, maaaaybe not, but it doesn't hurt. I actually did some of my first molds by hand coding by swapping the working plane and cutting progressively deeper arcs in X & Z. It was quite a learning process. By having learned that I've been able to stop a machine, and make a code change on the spot with Notepad to fix a simple oversight instead of going back to the design computer and re-rendering the entire file. No I didn't "need" to know code, but it sure saved me a lot of time.

My approach isn't for everybody either. But I recognize that people want to use the tools they have. Not always have to buy a new tool for every job.
 

magicniner

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#24
Guys, this is 2018 and you're talking Mach 3. Mach 4, a copy of their Mill Wizards, and Fusion 360, (free for hobby or small business), is a 2018 way to go. You don't need to ever learn a bit of G-code.
Mach 3 still works, if you must go that way choose a version before the current set of incompetents started filling with it for best functionality, the crew who bought Newfangled Solutions really suck.
Mach 4 was developed so slowly and advertised so far in advance of adequate functionality that it's a Busted Flush, it needs a separate motion controller and stand alone offline controllers are now available at reasonably similar costs, you'd be a mug to go Mach 4 at this point.
 

Robert LaLonde

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Mach 3 still works, if you must go that way choose a version before the current set of incompetents started filling with it for best functionality, the crew who bought Newfangled Solutions really suck.
Mach 4 was developed so slowly and advertised so far in advance of adequate functionality that it's a Busted Flush, it needs a separate motion controller and stand alone offline controllers are now available at reasonably similar costs, you'd be a mug to go Mach 4 at this point.
As much as I am a fan of alternatives I'd need to KNOW it supports a full Fanuc instruction set with all parameters, doesn't have any odd things it doesn't support like FlashCut, and will handle a couple million lines of code without bogging out. Last I checked I could still buy a license for Mach 3 for 150-175 and the "hobby" verison of Mach 4 was only 200. I checked the hobby version is also ok for a pro shop. An external motion controller like the ESS is a good thing. Its what saved Mach 3 in my opinion.
 

magicniner

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#26
As to not needing to learn any code. Well, maaaaybe not, but it doesn't hurt.
You don't need to learn G Code to start making parts but it you should pick it up as you go along, and this is a big help -

http://www.eng-serve.com/cnc/gcode_comment.html

I think the point we who say you don't need to learn it is that with adequate CAM you don't need to learn it first, there are dyed-in-the-wool hand coders on the model engineering sites that promote the view that you do, and that puts a lot people off as well as not being so ;-)
 

Robert LaLonde

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#28
You don't need to learn G Code to start making parts but it you should pick it up as you go along, and this is a big help -

http://www.eng-serve.com/cnc/gcode_comment.html

I think the point we who say you don't need to learn it is that with adequate CAM you don't need to learn it first, there are dyed-in-the-wool hand coders on the model engineering sites that promote the view that you do, and that puts a lot people off as well as not being so ;-)
If read in context I didn't say you HAVE TO learn to hand code, and I don't need to take that point of view to put people off. I' can do it all on my own.

So Mach 3 is 100% Fanuc compatible ?
I don't know for sure but its close. Better than some other stuff out there. Several old referrences I've run across while I was still behind the learning curve said if your CAM software didn't have a Mach 3 post to try a Fanuc post. I did and I don't recall any particular problems. The thing is even if that were a completely true statement you might have difference from one machine to the next because either Mach or the Post processor (or both) might need to be modified to deal with that particular set of hardware. Also Mach itself can be set in different modes for some things in simple software switch settings. You need to make sure your CAM software matches up with that or tells Mach what its giving it.
 

ozzie34231

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#29
It's nice to know G-code, but you can get started cutting without knowing all about it.

I resisted switching to Mach 4 for a long time even though I bought at the first offering because they were offering a commercial license with it. What got me to actually install and use it was the advent of Pokeys57cnc motion controller which offered dead accurate lathe threading via an encoder. And the price was right.
As for its mill use; Mach3 always gave me trouble when pausing or doing "start from here".
If Mach 3 is working for you, no need to change, but I wouldn't recommend a new user go out and buy it.
 

MontanaAardvark

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#30
Hey Bob,
Just saw your post and signature tag. When you grab that copy of Mach 4 take a look at the Lathe program and the built in Lathe cycles. You'll be converting one of those lathes pronto. I'm running it on my self converted 1440; love it.
I'm in Sarasota and been in CNC since about 2002
I have one Sherline lathe that I converted to CNC. I haven't really done anything useful with it, yet, but that's more dependent on what I'm building in the shop.
 
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