Tuesday, September 20, 2011

CNC with Vectric's Cut3D: It's Great, I'm So-So

After running through a bunch of free CAM software that didn't do what I wanted, I finally ended up where I pretty well knew I was going to end up. I downloaded a trial version of Vectric's Cut3D software.

I also happened to have some samples of machinable urethane plastics to try out, and the new software was just the thing to do that with.

I started with one of Vectric's sample files, the rooster statue. The statue is initially scaled to stand twelve inches tall. My material was about 3.5 by 2.4 by 0.9 inches in size. So I used Cut3D to scale the object, no problemo.

I positioned it in the block, added some tabs, again no problem.

Vectric Rooster Top Side Cut Into Urethane Block

Since this was my first time using Cut3D, my only concern as I went through the simple linear process of setting things up was what I would end up with in the way of files at the end. Would I get a file with some sort of pauses in it, during which I would do tool changes and material flips (to machine top and bottom), or would I have to edit these in, or what?

As it turned out, Cut3D produced four gcode files. Top rough cut, top finish cut, bottom rough cut, and bottom finish cut. For machines with tool changers, it can consolidate the files that have tool changes between them.

So this makes it easy. Load up the material, align the machine, run the rough cut for the side you start with, and wait for it to complete. Then change tools, recheck alignment, run the finish cut for that side. When that's over, flip the material, put in the correct bit for roughing, align, and run the other side's rough cut file. When that's complete, change bits and check alignment one last time then do the finish cut on the second side. Voila, you're done!

When machining a part on more than two sides, I presume that there are more files.

Well, Cut3D worked great. I didn't have the recommended post-processor file for my setup, but the Sherline inches was close enough so I tried that. I got the recommended post-processor for my setup from Vectric's support in my email today. The Sherline gcode worked fine, however.

The only thing that didn't work was me.

Here's my CNC setup. Here's what I got:

Vectric Rooster Top Side Cut Into Urethane Block
Front Side, so far so good...

Vectric Rooster Bottom Side Only Rough Cut Into Urethane Block, Upside-down from the front side.
Back side. Whoops! It's Upside-Down!

Everything started out fine, but I let myself get distracted by some visitors when I went to do the back side cut. I got the alignment right, but had it upside-down from the orientation I should have had it.

Moral of the story: put unambiguous markings on your workpiece to avoid mistakes during machining, and if a distraction gets introduced, set the work aside until it's gone. ;)

The material I'm machining out of is one of the denser varieties of NC Proofboard from Golden West Manufacturing. They're a short way away from me, and this was the first sample piece of their materials I've machined. And it machines like a dream! I may never machine wood again. Well, wood is awfully pretty so I'm sure I will, but not unless I really have to.

Their materials deserve their own article, so I'll be writing more about them once I've tried out a few more of my samples.

Upshot, Cut3D is a great program, and the price is great. I'm looking forward to doing a bunch of work with it, and possible upgrading to VCarve Pro some time later when I feel the need for more flexibility.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Motorola 68000 "Art"

I got an email message today about an image I posted some long time ago of a poster for the Motorola 68000 processor. The original image is a black and white test of image detail with my then-new cell phone.

Well, looking back at that old image is downright embarrassing. So here's a better one, and some other M68000-related images to go with it.

Motorola 68000 promotional poster with chip die image.
My poster from the Wescon conference after the 68000 was introduced. It came with a 68000 die tacky-glued to the poster, which I've since misplaced.

M68K Family Microprocessor User's Manual
The M68K Family User's Manual. Hardware Design Stuff.

MC68000 User's Manual
The older user's manual just for the 68000, this one's programming info.

HP 9800 User's Manual for M68000 CPU
Another 68000 User's Manual, from HP, pretty much the same as the above, but smaller and with an HP label on.

M68000 Cross Pascal Compiler Systems Guide
The Pascal Cross Compiler's Manual for the 68000

68000 Data Sheet Front Page, 1979
This is the front of a pre-release M68000 data sheet I got at a promo event in 1979. It got me pretty excited, I can tell you!

The programmer's manual for the whole 68K family.
Cover of the software book that goes with the 68K family hardware book, above.