Monday, October 3, 2011

CNC Rooster: Third Time's a Charm

In a prior post, I'd made a mistake handling the material when cutting a full 3D object using gcode files generated by Vectric's Cut3D CAM software. After that I tried again. That time things were going swimmingly until I got some gunk on a leadscrew that hung up the X axis and ruined the cut.

Well, I tried again today. After doing some preventative maintenance on my microCarve A4 CNC, testing it thoroughly and making sure of myself as well, I managed to turn out a small urethane rooster:

CNC 3D Rooster cut from Butter-Board using Cut3D and EMC2
Rooster, Side A


CNC 3D Rooster Back Side cut using MicroCarve A4 CNC Router
Rooster, Side B

The part turned out very well. The whole time the second side was cutting, I was fretting over how good my alignment would be. It turned out to be just fine.

The beak looks worse than it actually is because of a loose bit of plastic that'll come off when I scrape it with a thumbnail. It isn't perfect, however, because of the overcut depth I specified for the first side's cut. It's too deep for the thickness of the beak, and though the overall alignment of front and back side is excellent, the beak is at an angle, so one side is lower than the other. If I hadn't specified such a deep overcut, it would not have cut through this way.

Still, it'll clean up nicely.

Further Observations

The facets you see, particularly in areas like the chicken's breast, are part of the original 3D model. They aren't machining flaws. On the second side I cut the machining marks that are there are a little deeper than they should be because I trimmed my tab sizes down way too much, so they flexed a bit during machining.

Still, the overall quality of the part is such that I could clean it up to use as a casting master easily, if I were going to duplicate this part.


The Materials

The prior two tries were done using NC Proofboard, a urethane foam board, with densities of 60 and 48 lbs. per cubic foot. This last one was done in Butter-Board, which has a density of about 64 lbs per cubic foot. All are machinable plastics from Golden West Manufacturing.

60# NC Proofboard
The 60# proofboard was a very nice material. The cell size of the foam is very, very small and could easily be coated to smooth it enough to use a part made from it as a casting master. In fact, the mold release might be sufficient. It's very tough, and machines like a dream.

48# NC Proofboard
The 48# proofboard machines very easily as well, but tends to be a bit more brittle in thin sections than the 60# board. The cell size is about half again as large, but still small enough to be easy to coat, it'd just take more to do it--some sort of filler rather than a primer coat or a thick mold release agent.

Butter-Board
The Butter-Board machines to a fine, smooth surface. It takes a little more care in feed rates than the proofboards, which have a lot of resiliency thanks to being foamed products. But the completed part has an impeccable surface so far as the machining makes it so. It's not as tough in thin sections as the 60# proofboard, but it's stronger than the 48# board in thin sections in general, though it tends a bit toward the brittle.

I like all three materials quite a bit, and plan on getting some more of the Butter-board and 60# NC Proofboard soon for both business and hobby use.

Tooling
The rough cuts were done with a 1/8" 2 flute square end mill, the finishing cuts were done with a 1/16" 2 flute ball nose end mill. Both bits were purchased from IMService, at nice prices and the bits are very good. I was concerned that I may want to use single-flute bits, but these bits performed admirably with these materials. At some point I'll try a future cut with single-flute bits for comparison's sake, but these bits cut well, showed no propensity for clogging. They stayed sharp and cool through the cuts.

CAM Software
As to Cut3D, I'm quite happy with it so far, and I'm planning two more jobs for it in the immediate future. I'm also going to be giving MeshCAM a spin for a high relief piece of work in the near future, and I'll be reporting on that soon.

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