Tuesday, 22 May 2018

How to square your X and Y Axis - episode 212

Like tramming the Z axis on your machine to be square to the tabletop, Squaring the X and Y axis is another job you need to complete for your machine to cut accurately. The biggest problem with this is it isn't as simple as grabbing a square and checking it. Machinists squares are far too small for this task and builders squares are not really accurate enough. Even if it was then on a large machine like mine even a builders square is too small and there is nowhere I can put it to reference square from anyway. This is true of most CNC machines but none the less it has to be done and done accurately.
If your X&Y are not square to one another then nothing you cut will be square. 
The good news is that it takes very little in the way of technical knowledge and tools to set your axis up square and when you are finished it will be super accurate.
For this we will use Pythagoras's theorem but don't worry if you aren't good with maths.

Click to watch video

 Pythagoras's theorem
 The square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides.

              {\displaystyle a^{2}+b^{2}=c^{2}.}

The 3,4,5 Triangle
 While it is handy to know the actual theory there is an easier way to use it and that is by simply using the 3,4,5 triangle

This method is used all around the world by builders to set things up squarely when it isn't possible to use a builders square. If you wanted to set up boxing for a large pad for a building you would use the 3,4,5 triangle to lay everything out and this is also the best method for us to use on our machines. The bigger the triangle we use the better. Each side of the triangle can be multiplied by fixed amount and the result will always be correct. In the Video I multiply each side by 200mm giving me  600 x 800 x 1000mm but I could have just as easily used 8 inches which would have given me 24 x 32x 40"
If my table had been a bit larger I could have gone 3 x 4 x 5 foot. So long as the same multiplier is used for each side then it will hold true.

Now I have square what do I do with it?
This process is something you only want to do once so when you finally get it set right you need to have a simple way to resetting it each time you use your machine. There are 2 methods for doing this. You can either set your hard limits to be a reference or set up auto squaring.

Hard limit squaring
This is my preferred method to square my axis. Simply engage the Estop and manually pull the gantry toward the front of the machine until it rests on the Hard limits. Then release the Estop and it is done. Of course if you are using leadscrews then the gantry needs to be driven into the hard limits as you cannot pull against the screws like you can on a rack and pinion machine.

Squaring with homing switches
No matter how good people think having homing switches are, and I have nothing against them, you still need to go through this process to establish what is square in the first place. From there you can position the homing switches for the auto square. Don't forget to test the auto square feature after setting them up to make sure that all is working as it should.

You need to ensure that both your X and Y axis are moving exactly the correct distance or your results will be meaningless. If you find that they aren't then use the calibration tools built into Mach3 or UCCNC to correct the error. If you are using control software that doesn't have a calibration feature then manually adjust your steps per unit until the axis move the correct distance.

I recommend you use a steel ruler rather than a tape measure as a ruler is easier to manage. In the video I used a 1000mm rule so that is why I chose to make the longest side of the triangle 1000mm. 

If you need to use 2 rulers as I did in the video then make sure that the units of measurement are the same on each by comparing them against one another. I have seen instances where some rulers are not the same. This isn't a problem as such so long as the divisions on the ruler are even and you use the same ruler for all measurements but it is a big problem if you change rulers part way through. 

The pointy bit
I don't recommend you use an engraving bit for this as the point on them are off centre. The pointed stick I made only took a minute to make and was ideal. I left is about 0.5mm or 0.002 of the table top while jogging around. Just high enough to get the tape under.

While I was doing this video I found that already having the cross drawn on the tape and sliding it under the point was the best way of doing it. It is unbelievably easy to do and accurate.
In the past when doing this I either jogged the point over the cross at the starting point and  tried to draw the cross under the point at the end. Both methods very frustrating, time consuming and inaccurate.

Final thoughts
Is is really handy once you have your machine square to run a cutter down the sides of your spoilboard to give yourself reference edges for setting stock on the table and other things.

I hope you find this information useful and can get your machine set up nice and square.
Don't forget to tram your Z axis as well or you will only have done half the job. For he machine to work right you need to have everything set right. If you want to know about tramming your Z axis please follow the link below.


Until next time

Monday, 30 April 2018

DIY Vacuum Table Part 2 - episode 211

Following on from the last episode I have made changes to the Vacuum table to get the project back on track. Many thanks to those who provided feedback and suggestions on possible fixes to the problems I faced. In the end I opted for the simplest solution of painting the MDF base and the edges. This sealed the table very nicely and because most of the vacuum was being lost throught the bottom of the table I added a vinyl sheet puchased from a local craft shop for a couple of dollars. It is very effective and enures the perfect seal on the bottom. Once this was done the vacuum was restored along with its holding power. The solution I used was only one of several suggested by viewers all of which would have worked
Use a non porus material for the base like Plastic sign board or HDPE
Use Malamine coated MDF and seal the edges with edge banding.
Seal the MDF with paint, shellac or similar product. 
Leave the vacuum running while painting to pull the paint deeper into the MDF to get a better seal.
Cover the MDF with a vinyl or similar coating.

Here's the final result.

Click to watch

Getting a better seal
Even with the table sealed and maintaining the vacuum the issue of sealing the material to the tabletop remains. With the table flat there are still small paths for the vacuum to escape due to material imperfections. What is needed is come form of gasket to get the good seal and many solutions use Orings. these won't work if you want to cut through the material as I do and making special vacuum bases per project isn't practical.
I remember Micheal, who visited me about 18 months ago, telling me he used some form of material between his vacuum table top and the stock to get a better seal. I can't remember what it was but I had an idea to put a piece of newspaper on the table surface and see how that went. To my surprise and great pleasure it makes a huge difference to the holding power of the vacuum. It will reduse the air flow through the unused holes while alloing the vacuum to build up under the stock. I will also provides a little clearance between the tabletop and the bottom of the stock so when cutting through the cutter won't touch the table surface all going well.

Small Holes
The use of the small holes in each pod looks to be just ideal. The vacuum pulls very quickly but even with most of the pods uncovered or covered with paper the vacuum seems to have good holding power. Had I put 1/4" holes in in each pod the uncovering of just 1 or 2 of them would have meant loss of vacuum on the entire table. It also eliminates the need for sectioning off areas of the tabletop though if I had made it larger it mag have been necessary.

Vaccum source
This is the hardest problem to solve and something you need to be aware of.
Vacuum cleaners are not made to but used with vacuum tables. While they obviously work and are used by many people the restricton of the hose robs the cleaner of the necessary cooling air it needs to keep the motor cool. If you don't cool the motor it WILL burn out. The vacuum I used in part 2 of this video is made by Festool but has been superceeded. It has seperate cooling for the motor so is a good option for this project. 

 The motor cooling outlet can bee seen as the grill on the front of the cleaner and the exhaust for the vacuum is visible on the left hand side of the cleaner. when you block the hose the exhause on the left stops but the one at the front keeps blowing. the only down side of these is the cost but it is a professional unit made to collect fine sanding dust etc. At over $1000 for one of these I think I will borrow my brothers on the occassions I need it.
Other options are real vacuum pumps though I dont know what size pump is really needed for this application. Ebay has some cheep ones at less than $100 USD but whether it will work with a midsize table top I don't know.
The other suggestion was to convert an air compressor to pull a vacuum. After all while it blows at one end it has to suck at the other. I'm told it can be done quite simply and not loose the compressor function. 
I actually have a 2 stage vacuum pump that I used to use as a compressor but its piston seals are damaged and it will not pull a vacuum any more. If I can find a suitable material I may be able to repair it but in the meantime the current setup will work just fine.

Please be aware of ordinary vacuum cleaner limitations.

Well that is all for this project. I am looking forward to using it on an upcoming video so until next time


Monday, 16 April 2018

DIY Vacuum Table - episode 210

I finally have gotten around to making a vacuum table for my machine. I was planning to make one the fill size of my tabletop but decided it was a bit ambitious for a first attempt. How right I was.
The idea for this build was built on one simple idea. Large holes for the pods fed by tiny holes such that even if many of the holes are uncovered the vacuum cleaner that I plan to use fore this projecj will still be able to keep the vacuum up to the rest of the pods. This is the mistake made in many designs that I have seen. They use large holes which as soon as they are uncovered, the vacuum source can't keep up with the air pooring in through the holes and the rest of the pods loose their vacuum as well.
By keeping the holes small the effect of uncovering these holes is minimal and the rest of the pods should keep their vacuum. The price to pay for this it the increased time to pull a vacuum on the individual pods but this is very minimal.

So what went wrong?

Click to watch

MDF is a porus material 
You don't need me to tell you this. If you have ever tried to paint it you will know it acts like a sponge and soakes up the paint like a thirsty man in a desert. I therfore thought it might loose a bit of air through the sides and I might need to seal the edges. I did keep plenty of material between the channels and the edges to reduce this but I wasn't prepared for the results. I had thought the compressed surfaces would be immuned to the air being pulled through them but how wrong I was. Inital testing early on in the buikld showed the MDF held the vacuum of but as time went on the MDF became more porus to the point where it doesn't really load the vacuum when the entire surface is covered. 

Where too from here?
 I have already come up with a simple way of fixing it and will be giving that a try next.
It has also given me a crazy idea on how to make the workds somplest vacuum table which I will give a go as well.

Until next time.


Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Joining Stuborn vectors in VCarve and Aspire - episode 209

This video is inspired by a subscriber who was having trouble closing the vectors on a project he was making. This video will show the issue and solution to the problem. Hopefully you will find it useful if you have a vector that stubbornly refuses to behave.

The problem is a lot more common that you might think and if not closed correctly can cause more problems than it solves. Simply increasing the tolerance of the join feature can sometimes be the worse thing you can do. Vectric software offers many tools that make drawing easier and there is more than one way to achieve the same thing. the trick is finding what is right for you and what gives the result you are looking for.

 Click to watch

Software used in this Demonstration
For this demo I used Aspire V9 from Vectric. I have been using Vectric software since 2006 and find it to be an easy to use in my day to day projects. I am yet to explore the 3D drawing features of Aspire as I have only just upgraded but the 2D functionality is the same as VCarve Pro.

Many episodes are created as answers to viewer questions and I thought I would try this to see if others are interested in small videos like this one. I could be opening myself up to an avalanche of drawing questions so I will need to see what happens.

In the meantime I hope this helps and I'll see you on the next episode.



Support my Channel
If you would like to support my channel you can do so by using the link below whenever you make a purchase from ebay. By using it I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you which will go toward making new videos. The link below will take you to the Ebay home page where you can do your shopping as you normally do. 
Thank you for your support.




Thursday, 22 March 2018

How to Modify a Mach3 Screenset - episode 208

This episode is a revisit of a video I made almost 2 years about configuring my Mach3 pendant and modifying the screenset. What I didn't realize at the time was the screenset was messed up when the screenset editor opened the file. While it was subtle a viewer who was having the same problem contacted me and pointed it out. Until I saw it on my video I hadn't noticed it but now it was obvious. I tried at the time but couldn't get it to work and I still don't know why it doesn't work. Changing computers to edit the screenset seems to make thing much worse to the point that it was impossible not to notice and even more impossible to use the screenset. In my defence I don't use the 1024 screenset in my day to day machining and the editor worked well with the screenset I use. I picked on the 1024 set because it comes with Mach3 so everyone has it and in theory one screenset is as good as another. 
A few weeks ago I was helping another subscriber with a problem he was having and decided to add a digitizing LED to the screenset main page which meant I was back battling my old friend the screen editor again. This time I tried the newer version editor Screen4 and found it works well with the 1024 screenset. With the new skill learnt I thought it would be a good opportunity to update my previous video and introduce the pendant to new subscribers as I find it an indispensable addition to my machine. Especially with the modified keys on it. It is also a good opportunity to introduce the updated Mach3 Autozero script which gives added safety to the script.

Click to watch the video

The software used to edit the screenset is available from the Mach3website on this page.

Direct download link.

Buttons, images, DRO's, OEM's and much more
The Screen4 software allows you to add more than just an LED to the screnset. You can add the entire range of components needed for your screen. It is well worth taking the time to have a play and see how a screenset is made. Wile I only added with an LED the priciple is the same for all the other components. Selct the component type from the left havd column and click to add it to the page. Drag  to the required location and double click to open the properties. Enter the required changes and that is it.

List of OEM codes used in Mach3

The new Screensets
If you would like to use the new screenset you can fint them here

The New scripts
If you would like to download the new scripts with the touch test functionality you can download it here. They can be found in the Mach3 folder. Select either Metric or imperial depending on your machine and don't forget to change the plate thickness in the script.

If you are looking for a pendant similar to mine this it the current version. It has a 4th axis that mine diesn't have which you can use either for a 4th axis or another function of your choosing simply by changing the screenset  as shown.
The link will give you multiple search results so you will want to fine a pendant that looks the same as the picture below and at the best price for you.

This particular pendant is available from multiple sources such as Amazon, so it will pay to look around.

Where to from here?
This will help those who wish to modify their existing screenset to add additional functionality or even make a new custom screenset for your machine. you are only limited by your imagination. 

I hope you find it useful and until next time keep those chips flying.


Support my Channel
If you would like to support my channel you can do so by using the link below whenever you make a purchase from ebay. By using it I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you which will go toward making new videos. The link below will take you to the Ebay home page where you can do your shopping as you normally do. 
Thank you for your support.




Saturday, 10 March 2018

Lets talk about Stepper Motors - Episode 207

Stepper Motor kits abound on Ebay and unfortunately all too often they are not very good kits.
They sound great. Huge holding torques, very very reasonably priced drivers, motors and power supplies. Unfortunately most of these kits use poorly designed stepper drivers, they are feed with low voltage power supplies and the motors are a very poor match for the drivers that have the job of making them turn.
In this video I try and show the issues associated with stepper motors, why they are as they are and how to choose a well matched system. The drive system on your machine is the biggest hardware investment you will make and one of the most important. It doesn't matter how good the machine is, if your drives are rubbish so is your machine.

 Click to watch video

The biggest myth of stepper motors is that bigger is better.
While in some respects this is true, there are certain criteria that must be met. The motor, driver and power supply must compliment one another to get the best out of your motors. A small well matched system will invariably out perform a poorly matched motor / driver / power supply combination.
Stepper motors are rated in holding torque which is how much power they have when they are doing nothing. The larger they are the better they will do nothing for you.
Big stepper motors are sold to catch the buyer not run your machine. The bigger the motor the bigger it's internal losses are and the more power you require overcome these losses and drive them properly. Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with a properly driven stepper motor and in many cases large motors are needed to move heavy axis. Generally though the home builder making their DIY machine does not need to exceed 400 ozin or so unless it is a big heavy machine they are building or they need it to move very fast. Medium powered motors are more common in this hobby.
The problem comes when kits sold on the likes of ebay driven by a TB6560 based driver board using a 24 volt power supply and trying to drive 425 ozin motors. The TB6560 boards were never very good to start with and many of the boards have design flaws that have been extensively discussed on the CNC Zone over the years. The voltage is way too low to drive a medium size stepper motor and many of the adverts don't even give you the basic specs of the motors.
It is vitally important to check the spec on every part of any kit being offered and make sure it is a reasonable match for the rest of the system. If it isn't or there are no specs then move on and find something else.

Additional Information

Click the link below to download the Spreadsheet for calculating Drive voltage and current requirements.

Click the link below to visit the Gecko site and read their Stepper motor guide. 

Click below to download the Stepper motor guide.
Stepper Motor Basics.pdf

My personal opinion
One thing in Geckos stepper motor guide that I disagree with is the sizing of the motors. While I am sure they are correct in their assessment, they are talking about a product you may be producing that will never change. As a hobbyist we are constantly tinkering and upgrading. In the case of purchasing a Gecko G540 I would purchase the largest motor that it could correctly run rather than one that fits my needs today. In the case of the G540 that is the 381 ozin motor I showcased in the video which if memory serves my correctly was actually specially made to compliment the G540 drive when it first came out. No matter how big a motor you put on it you will not get any more power out of it. A larger motor will give you more power at slow speed but as you try and move faster it will rapidly loose power and the 381 ozin motor will out perform it. Not only that but that little motor is capable of running a range of Joe's DIY CNC machines built up to 4 x 8 foot configuration for example. 
They will drive your small machine today and can be moved to a larger one tomorrow.

It is also important to note that Gecko are not the only makers of good drives systems on the market but the G540 is the only one that I have experience with which is why I reference this one.

4 Axis Drive kit.
I wish to point out that by using the links below I will earn a commission on any purchase you make at no additional cost to you. It is important to note that if you purchase the individual components making up the kits from various suppliers and assembly them yourself you will save yourself money. Your responsibility is to yourself and I will be happy no matter where you purchase your drive solution from so long as they work well for you. I encourage you to look around for the best deal and solution that meets your needs. I have not personally purchased from this supplier but it is a USA based company that is selling this product.

It is important to note that this supplier does have a 3 axis kit but I would recommend asking them to price you this kit and leaving off the extra motor and 12 foot cable if you want 3 axis. Their current 3 axis kit uses a 7.3 amp power supply and if you want to add the 4th motor later you will need to upgrade the power supply to power it. Getting the 12.5 amp supply now will save later on. It never hurts to have a spare motor and cable just in case, if funds allow. Buying a 4 axis motor kit for your 3 motor machine is not crazy. When you want to add a rotary axis or have a faulty motor or cable you will have the parts you need..

With this kit you will need to supply a case or build one to house it in and a minimum of wiring is needed. If you want an Estop button you will need to purchase this separately.
The Gecko G540 has a built in Break out board to which you can add relays and limit switches. Additional wiresare added to the G540 using screw terminals so those who are not comfortable soldering need not worry.

This kit includes:
4 x 381 ozin motors
4 x 12 foot cables to the motors
1 x 6 foot parallel cable  
1 x 48 Volt 12.5 amp power supply
1 x Gecko G540 4 axis drive system

Please let me know if this link stops working or the kit no longer matches the photo above.
Use the contact link on the right.

Mushroom emergency stop switch if you want one.

Support my Channel
If you would like to support my channel you can do so by using the link below whenever you make a purchase from ebay. By using it I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you which will go toward making new videos. The link below will take you to the bay home page where you can do your shopping as you normally do. 
Thank you for your support.



Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Lets get down to earth - episode 206

This video is inspired by Jestah Carnie
Thank you for the question. It raises some interesting points which I try and address in this video.
 If you would like the short answer "I honestly don't know", but if watch this video you will see my reasoning for connecting my machine up the way I did.  don't know if I am right or wrong but things are working ok for me and until that changes I have no reason to change things.

 Click to view

The real problem
The Internet is a wonderful thing but sometimes it seems that half of the Internets purpose is to contradict the other half. For some reason in this day and age some people still think that the earth is flat and that the Global warming is a hoax. We are of course entitled to our own opinion and this video is simply me giving you mine. Tomorrow another video will appear telling me why I am wrong and that is fine. 
I haven't been able to find anything much in the way of real information on this subject so I have tested to see what works for me. The other issue is that everyone's machine is different. This is the Apple  / Windows PC argument. Standardisation over Variety. The penalty for variety is that it becomes harder to nail down the best way to do something so providing general advise is the best you can do. My Gecko drive with isolated inputs will behave differently than a cheap Chinese break out board with no isolation. Both can do the same job but one will be less susceptible to noise than the other so one will be more reliable than the other.

What's your opinion?
I'm always interested to hear what others have to say and this is no exception.
Let me know your thoughts.
Am I right?
Am I wrong?
How is your one setup?
Was I doomed before I began?

Thanks for taking the time to watch and I will catch you next time.


Sunday, 11 February 2018

Installing a Touch off Plate in Mach3 & UCCNC - episode 204 & 205

This week we have a double feature. How it install a touch off plate in Mach3 and UCCNC.
These have been put into different videos which will make following the install process easier.
A big Thank you to John Revill who has updated his UCCNC macro and shared it with us so that we can all use this process. I have updated the Mach3 script so that the experience is now the same in both controller software's which will make interchange between these 2 software's easier for people like me who use both.
Simply select the video that matches your control software and away you go. If you are curious why not watch both.

Click to watch Video


Click to watch video

Setting the touch off plate thickness
 The most critical part of using these scripts and macros is entering the correct plate thickness.
I started by measuring mine with digital callipers and entering this figure into the script / macro. If you find the cutter is sitting above or digging into the material in the thickness test then there are a couple of possibilities. 
Your Z axis might not be properly calibrated or the digital callipers might be slightly off.
If you are sure it is the callipers that are at fault here is a simple way of finding the correct value. If there is a gap between the cutter and the material surface then the value you entered into the Script / Macro is too small. If the cutter buries itself in the material then the value is too large and needs to be reduced. Make changes small and retry. 

Testing the offset value
When you test the script / Macro by entering an offset value of your material thickness no not be alarned or surprised if the cutter sits above or buries itself in the material. The cutter is set to be the value you entered above the spoilboard when you tell the Z axis to go to 0 and your material is probably under or oversized. If the discrepancy is larger than you expect then you will need to investigate further what the cause is. A simple check of the materials actual thickness will probably answer the question as it might be far thicker or thinner than you thought. If you find that you have a problem with both setting the touch off plate thickness and the offset value test seems to be way off then take a look at the Z axis calibration. If might be off.

Macros and Scripts

Please read this first.
The date included in the script will allow you to check if you have the most up to date version. There may have been changes to the script for bug fixes or feature improvement so please check.

If you find an issue with a script or Macro please advise me ASAP so that a fix can be found and implemented. Use the contact form on this page.

Mach3 Scripts
There are 4 scripts available here split into metric and imperial and single pass and 2 pass touch off.
All files are based on Big Tex's Auto zero setting script  Select the script you want to use and you will need to change the Plate Thickness value to match your tool setter plate but other than the remaining values should be OK.

Updated 11/02/18 to add additional information in question box


UCCNC Macros
Macro courtesy of John Revill
Select either metric or Imperial and rename to M31.txt
Replace the Aluminium touch off plate thickness value to match your own plate.
Replace the M31.txt in your UCCNC profile with the new one. 

Updated 09/02/18 to remove the need to enter 0 in question box. You can now just press the enter button if you are not using an offset. eg you have the tool setter on top of the material.


Thank you for watching  and I hope you find this useful.
Feel free to leave a comment or any suggestions you may have.


Sunday, 4 February 2018

The Nominal Tools Setting Thickness Guide Take 2 - Episode 203

After designing, making and demonstrating the Nominal thickness Tool Setter last week it has become obvious that the same thing can be achieved with a tweak to the Mach3 Script or the UCCNC macro for tool setting. This video shows how this works.There are advantages to  a software based solution such as infinate nominal thicknesses and the ability to use whatever tool setter you want. The toolsetter I made still has its place for those who want a hardware based solution of for those who are unable to impliment a software solution because of control software constraints.

Click to view

Please read this first.
The date included in the script will allow you to check if you have the most up to date version. There may have been changes to the script for bug fixes or feature inprovement so please check.

If you find an issue with a script or Macro please advise me ASAP so that a fix can be found and implimented. Use the contact form on this page.

Mach3 Scripts
There are 4 scripts available here split into metric and imperial and single plass and 2 pass touchoff.
All files are based on Big Tex's Auto zero setting script  Select the script you want to use and you will need to change the PlateThickness value to match your tool setter plate but other than the remaining values should be ok.

 Files updated 11/02/18 to add additional information in question box


UCCNC Macros
Macro courtesy of John Revill
Select either metric or Imperial and rename to M31.txt
Replace the Aluminium touchoff plate thickness value to match your own plate.
Replace the M31.txt in your UCCNC profile with the new one. 

This script is slightly diffrent from the Mach3 one demonstarted in the video. You need to enter 0 when setting to the surface of the stock as Enter will not work at this time. This will be updated ASAP so keep an eye out for this.

Script updated 09/02/18 to remove the need to enter 0 in question box. You can now just press the enter button if you are not using an offset. eg you have the toolsetter on top of the material.


Thank you for watching  and I hope you fint this useful.
Feel free to leave a comment or any suggestions you may have.


Saturday, 27 January 2018

The Nominal Thickness Tool Setting guide - episode 202

For years I have avoided using the auto tool setting function in my Control software.
While it is an excellent way to set your cutters height accurately and repeatably it does not suit my style of machining. I like to change where I reference my cutter to during my project machining and a standard tool setter will not work for me. Over the Christmas break I got to thinking about this and whether there was a way to use a tool setter. This is what i came up with and in last weeks episode I machined up a piece of Aluminium to create a custom tool setter that covers most of the common material sizes I use. 
This video shows how the tool setter works and more importantly why I need one like this.

Click to Watch

Tool setter heights
I decided on the most common stock heights that suits my projects and these will cover 90% of what i do. The the times when there is no available step I can either return to manual tool setting to the spoil board. The one great weakness of this tool setter is it cannot reasonably be expected to cover every material nominal thickness without getting very large and unwieldy. That said it has many more than a standard touch off plate so it stands to reason it is more versatile.
 In my personal machining if my material thickness falls between 2 steps I would use the bigger of the 2 steps and lie to my Cam software telling it that the material was the larger thickness. Again anything that needs to be machined referenced to the material top I will simply zero the cutter to the material surface and when cutting through the material I will simply zero using the nominal thickness height I told my CAM the material is. Sure the first cut will be a bit high but the important thing is the final pass will be spot on, cutting through the material and leaving the spoil board undamaged.

Metric / Imperial
This is the metric version but an imperial version can just as easily be made to cover the common imperial material sizes. The 2 Tools setters are not interchangeable. You need a metric one for a metric machine and an imperial one for an imperial machine.

Have your say
Let me know what you think of this project.
Does it have a future or do you think it makes machining needlessly complex.
Post a comment in the Youtube comments and share your thoughts. All opinionsare welcome.

Until next time happy machining.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Machining Aluminium Update - Episode 201

This is an update to the last video Machining Aluminium. Acting on suggestions from comments made by various viewers I gave air assisted cutting a try and having found a suitable cutter for the job set about making another stepped block. The results speak for themselves.
Suggestions ranged from what cutter to use to feeds and speeds, cutting fluids and air assiatance to keep the cutter cool.

I found a suitable cutter to use and then set up air assistance on my machine. I decided to avoid liquid coolants and misting of coolant as I wanted to avoid liquids if possible this time.
All I can say is the difference in the cutting experience was immense with this being an enjoyable experience while the previous effort was little short of a chore. 

Click to watch

The result
The cut quality was much better and the machine sounded happier. If I cut more in the future this is the method I will use. Coolant or a mister may help but if I don't need it I would prefer to avoid them.

Air Assist
Link to Flexible coolant nozzle similar to the one I used on my setup. You need to sellect the size that suits the thread on your compressor hose. In my case it was 1/2" BSP.


Cutter used for this project

 In the next episode I will be covering the Tool setting block I made and how it differs from other versions I have seen and improves machining.


Friday, 19 January 2018

Cutting Aluminum on a CNC - epsiode 200

Aluminium and I have never got along. I never had much luck machining it and even when successful I haven't enjoyed the experience one little bit. But sometimes you just need to roll up your sleeves, bolt some on the table and go for it. This is one of those times and this is how I got on.
I used to opportunity to try different machining strategies and I share a few of my findings.

Click to watch

I hate machining Aluminium and will continue to avoid it. The mess it makes is hard to clean up and I don't want to vacuum it up as little bits on metal in my vacuum does nothing for me.
I would like a mill one day but that isn't going to happen anytime soon. 
The box I built with the plastic to covet the table was well worth the effort.

Best machining parameters I found for my machine.
Your machine will almost certainly require different settings but these are a good starting point.

Roughing pass
Depth of Cut 1mm  
Feed rate 30ipm
Speed 8000rpm
3 Flute 6mm cutter
Stepover 30% 
Offset machining

Finishing pass
Depth of Cut 0.1mm  
Feed rate 30ipm
Speed 8000rpm
3 Flute 6mm cutter
Stepover 5%
Offset machining 

Plunge rate 5ipm
Feed rate 10ipm
Speed 10000rpm
Solid Carbide 90 degree Vbit 3mm diameter

I used CRC CDT cutting fluid but I also found it seemed to cut OK without lube. All my final cuts were done using lube to try and get the best finish as was the VCarving.
The lube did have the advantage of binding the swarf together and stopping it flying around the workshop. If it does get on your MDF table clean it up as the lube will soak into the MDF if left.

But what is it?
Over the Christmas New Year I started working on a problem I had and how it coud be solved. This is what I came up with but you will have to wait for the next episode to fine out. I assure you it will be worth the wait.

Thanks for watching and until next time.


Monday, 1 January 2018

How to Change cutters using Mach3 - episode 199

An email I received a few days ago asked about how to change cutters in Mach3.
While it seems a simple question there are several things that need to occur before tool changes work correctly. For those of us that have this sorted we don't give it a second thought but if you have never done it before and your machine is not setup to work properly the process can be a bit frustrating.
This video will cover the 3 items you need to have to acheive a tool change

Click to watch

I hope this helps and you will be changing cutters without a 2nd thought.