So I have been home sick and bored because I am getting over a kidney stone and now have an ear infection. I haven’t felt well enough to work in the shop, but I did take time to get the video footage together over the last couple weeks. I just got all the parts in to finish hanging the storage rack and got all the engineering done to make sure that every support can hold the total weight of the rack and the cargo. As soon as I am feeling better, I will start on getting the mounts made up. Anyhow, check out the latest:
If you couldn’t guess from my last post, I’ve been really searching for capable 3D CAD/CAM that won’t really break the bank. How does FREE sound? I say it is pretty stinking good. I’m not sure if Autodesk has lost it’s mind or what, but they are literally giving away Fusion 360 with Integrated CAM. Fusion 360 is Autodesks new hybrid direct modeling software. It is somewhat of a cross between parametric modeling and direct modeling. It does assemblies too. In terms of modeling, I haven’t found anything that Inventor can do that Fusion 360 cant. It is really quite capable software. They have also incorporated cloud based collaborative services and cross platform compatibility. Further, they are giving away part of what appears to be Inventor HSM 3D CAM. It does high speed 2D/2.5D/and 3D toolpathing as well as remachining and rest machining. You can’t even touch that kind of capability in other CAM software for under $2500 at the moment. Furthermore, its INTEGRATED CAD/CAM, meaning if you wan to change your part in the middle of production, the CAM will update itself based on the constraints you put in the model. That is truly AWESOME.
The user interface is quite a bit different than inventor, but after spending a little time with it, I got the hang of it. I was able to model a little soap dish:
Primarily I did this to test the CAM capabilities because nothing on this piece can be done in 2D
I picked up the CAM really quickly and easily. It was fairly intuitive. I’ll show the bottom:
I did an adaptive rough with a 1/2″ ball mill, a scallop on the more flat parts with a 1/4″ ballnose, followed by a contour on the legs with a pencil trace where the legs meet the dish.
So the question is, what is Autodesk doing here? They are undercutting even their own software. This does much much more than Inventor LT in terms of solid modeling with Assembly’s and even does more than their HSM Express CAM. Even the full priced software is only $300/year. I’d do that in a heartbeat, but they are honestly giving it away for free for personal use. I am halfway suspicious that Autodesk is doing this to undercut the market and will then raise prices when they get people hooked. But right now, anybody would be insane to use other software given these prices and capabilities. Basically, a year and a half ago, I would have had to pay nearly $10K to get software that could do what I just did with a legal license in 2 hours today for free.
There are still a few quirks with the software that I found maddening. Basically, the push pull tool needs some rework. When you push a surface, the default behavior is to get a delta measurement. To get an absolute movement you have to select re anchor from a menu and reference against another object, but I found that it didn’t work as it did in the tutorial and I couldn’t find anything to reference against for objects with a diameter. They could really improve that part of the software.
In the process of looking for CAD software, I was looking for CAM software as well. I came across HSM by Autodesk. They make some incredible software and it is INTEGRATED right into the 3d CAD. What does this mean, besides pure awesomeness?????
Well, for starters, there is no more exporting cad neutral formats, importing it in CAM, then doing all your toolpathing. Why, because the CAM add-on runs DIRECTLY in the 3d CAD software. That’s right, it is just another ribbon option within Inventor and/or Solid Works. Have you ever made a part and then found out that it was not right or needed to change? Man I sure have, and that is quite a bummer because there is a pretty large number of steps to do to change the G-code that you ran to make the part. Well… these days are GONE, GONE, GONE!!! Having the CAM software integrated into a parametric, 3d CAD program means that it is possible to maintain part associations all the way through the CAM export! That’s right, you want a support with a hole and tap moved? Go into your model and move it and the tool paths you defined earlier move with it!!! That is incredible! Furthermore, you save a lot of time through smart feature picking and bounding. It is really quite awesome and a HUGE time saver.
How much would you expect to pay for this??? $1,000,000,000????
Well, Autodesk may have invested multiple billions in developing the software, but they are giving it away for FREEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!
If you have Inventor or Solidworks they make a product called HSM Express which is an incredible piece of software for 2.5D problems. It does high speed machining, rest machining, profile toolpathing, pocketing, etc. Wait, did you just say high speed machining AND rest machining? Yes I did. This capability used to only be available only in very high end production CAM programs (think tool and die mold making levels). This is the first time I’ve seen it in a free package anywhere!
They also offer a 3+2D package which will do 4 axis machining, and indexed 5 axis for $7500. Wait, that’s really steep right? Well maybe, but when you consider that that package comes with Inventor, its actually not a bad deal. For a small shop (or wealthy, really committed hobbyist), that is doable.
Finally, if you have spent multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars on a 5+ axis machine, they have a multi-axis CAM solution for $10k which also comes with an inventor license.
I should also mention that these prices are not annual subscriptions they are perpetual licenses. They have a subscription service as well, but really, its probably not worth it if you know you are going to use it for 3 years or more.
Had a break in the middle of my project because I’m waiting on some parts, so I decided to review one of my recent tool purchases. I bought it at Lowes for $35. Tool buying tip: go find a sale online and ask the cashiers to price match. Lowes has a price +10% guarantee. Then you get another 5% if you put it on your Lowes credit card.
See my video review:
I got the bottom supports, the backstop and the hing brackets on. Check it out!
I got the glue up finished. It is constructed like a hollow core door. The half lap structure and method of construction ensure that any twisted lumber gets flattened out and that the entire frame ends up square and flat. Check it out!
Oh, did I mention that the kind of structure (a tortion box) is incredibly strong and stiff as you can see from me sitting on the frame. It has to hold 600 lbs of sheet goods.
Well, the woodworking season is upon us again (that’s winter for those of you who don’t know). I’m back in the shop and having fun! This year, I plan on making a few improvements in the shop to help organize my space and my tools. The first thing I plan on doing is making a sheet good storage system. I came up with a design that gets the sheets up out of the way so I can use the wall space more effectively. Check it out!
Basically, the idea is to create a pivot that allows you to rotate the storage rack down. The top then folds open to form a “V” shape which allows you to flip through the sheets and pick out what you want. Once you have it picked out or loaded up, you can fold it closed and get it up next to the ceiling where it is out of the way.
This is only the first part of making it. Stay tuned for more!
I didn’t want you to think that I had forgotten about all of you. I have almost finished the computer cart. The main box is done and the drawers are cut but not assembled. I forgot to order the 1/4 inch plywood for the drawer bottoms until yesterday (minor oversight right???… I have a full time job and a family so you’ll have to forgive me). Anyhow, those things happen for a reason right? I came down with the flue or a bad cold so I wouldn’t have been able to finish the project right now anyhow.
Just a few “lessons” I’ve learned so far:
1) the “blond wood” plywood at Lowes is significantly better than the plywood they used to have, but it is basically grade CC or X with the thinnest veneer possible slapped on top. It looks good, but don’t try to sand it or anything… if you look at it wrong it will chip and fall off. Plus when you cut it, the thin veneer falls apart into these nasty little slivers that get you really good. This plywood will work for your projects, but not for anything you really want to look nice. For this “utility” furniture, it is ok, but not fun.
2) If your local lowes or home depot has a “commercial” department, they can order you some better plywood. I got a quote for B2B plywood at $52/sheet if I ordered in multiples of 10 sheets. That is really good for domestic birch ply these days.
3) it is worth getting a compression bit to cut your parts from ply. I used a down spiral bit and I had a lot of cleanup to do on the bottom face.
4) 75 in/min is too fast to cut with a 1/8″ bit. The bit I bought for the “dog bones” was broke in about 15 seconds. That cost me about $1/second to run :(. I thought I was done cutting for a few days before I even got my first sheet cut until I realized that I had an 1/8″ bit in my Dremmel pack. I used it to finish the project with mediocre results. The bit has a cutting length of almost 1.5″ and it is HSS not carbide so it flexed a LOT and I ended up cleaning up a lot of corners with a file and chisel. Loads of hand work.
5) For some reason my dado’s did not end up as wide as they should have been. I measured the actual bit diameter and programmed the machine. I thought it may have been flex in my rig, but even running a single pass, the cut was not as wide as the bit. I have come to the conclusion that this cheap plywood uses alternating layers of hard and soft wood and that it creates a “spongy” dynamic when the plywood gets cut. You can feel it if you try to press your finger nail into the plies. The net result is that a pocket is not as wide as you programmed so oversize your dado’s and or your mortise pockets by at least 1/32. I don’t know if better plywood would cut nicer, but I suspect it would.
Despite all the problems, this project is coming together and was a tremendous learning experience. If I had to change one thing, it would definitely be the plywood I used. However, for a utility piece like this, I am not sure that an extra $20/sheet is worth it. I also regret breaking that bit because the corners would have turned out so much better.
I was perusing YouTube and looking at woodworking videos. I came across AppJourneyman’s series on inlay banding. He did a phenomenal job making the banding from a whole lot of cut up pieces. I have done segmented woodworking like this in the past making picture frames and it is a lot of work and time (but a whole lot of fun as well). The project was actually really really easy. I used a 90 degree V-bit to create a diamond pattern in the wood. The cut files were ultimately very simple… just a set of lines that I connected to make a zigzag pattern and then an offset. I made the line pattern 3/16″ apart and the cut depth 3/32″. That makes the diagonal of the square pieces 3/16″. I set the z height for each cut manually. That touch plate makes life very easy!
Check out the video… Also learned a few more video editing tricks that help a lot!
Decided to post a link to the video series that I did while building the CNC so you would have a reference here to the process and get a sense as to what it takes to build a CNC router for your self. You’ll have to deal with some shaky video as I hadn’t gotten my IPhone Camera Mount built yet.
The full playlist can be found here. The first video in the series is posted below. You can see where I started with my shop too. This was only a few months ago.