Fun while it lasted

Had to take back the CNC Shark to Carbatec today – thanks for the loan!  It was interesting to experience CNC machining, and I can see how having a CNC router would be very useful in a cottage industry setting.

It is quite a different animal to a laser, but both operate on a similar, adjacent playing field.  One of each would make an ideal setup – some jobs are perfectly suited to one, some to the other.  Both work from a subtractive perspective, so a 3D printer would provide the additive component.  That shouldn’t be too far away now.

Think next time, one of the requirements for a CNC router, is to have one that doesn’t have a router that screams so loudly when it operates.  Many of my machines are moving towards a quieter form of woodworking (not as far as getting away from murdering electrons mind), but at least either quiet brushed motors, the even quieter brushless, or induction motors on the larger machines.  Having a small thing that screams for the 2-3 hours of a larger CNC job is just not pleasant!  The CNC Shark doesn’t have to use the Bosch router, so I’d be looking for a different router if I did get one of these.

So back to more traditional forms of woodworking, at least for the time being.  I expect at some stage that each of these options will be available in the shed, just not sure about the timeline.

Urgent trophy job

One of the family friends does woodcarving on the side, and had a job dropped onto him at the last minute.

So we decided to get the CNC Shark to do some of the heavy lifting.

6 shields, by tomorrow! Not a problem.

2 hours later and they were done.

I suggested that he follow Dennis’ lead, and use a resin filler – makes the designs really pop.

Anyway, it was a bit of a distraction, but at least sawdust was being made (and even the Festool ETS 150/5 made an appearance).  Slowly a sense of normalcy is returning to the shed space.

Spuds & Onions part 2

Dennis sent through a couple of images of the resulting tops for his potato and onion boxes we cut with the CNC Shark, after then filling them with west epoxy with a sandstone oxide, sanded through grades to 800 grit.

Came up bloody well – I was most impressed!

Picture 173 Picture 172

Walnut Dragon

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Engraved on the CNC Shark Pro, using a Carbitool laser bit (solid carbide, 15o).  250mm diameter, 45 minute machining time.  Finish: Festool Surfix Oil System

SSYTC055 Routing the Japanese Dragon (CNC)

SSYTC055 Routing the Japanese Dragon (CNC)

It’s Life Jim, But Not as We Know It

Yesterday got a bit busier than I was hoping, so last night I worked on the computer for a while to fine-tune a couple of vector designs ready for the CNC machine.

The first is a traditional Japanese dragon design, which needed some cleaning up (the benefit of having a reasonable understanding of Adobe Illustrator)

dragondragondetail

So this morning, I sent the files across to the PC laptop I am using to drive the CNC Shark Pro to get it working.  I had it set to pretty light passes – perhaps a bit slow, but off it went.

And while I was ‘woodworking’, I also managed to do the dishes, cook two cakes with my daughter for her Nana’s birthday, shop for dinner, cook dinner (slow cooker), force feed the cat (long story), and respond to some comments on the blog.  And all the while, the constant buzz of a noisy little router buzzing in the background.

It’s woodworking Jim, but not as we know it.

CNC machining is quite incredible, and opens up all sorts of possibilities.  Not only in what I have been playing with so far in carving and patterns (wooden signs seems to attract a lot of buyers), but also in part fabrication, and repeatability.  A CNC can easily become a cottage industry (as many have discovered).

If I had one of my own, I’d potentially see how far I could head down that track myself, but not to the detriment of my actual woodworking.  This is fun, and the results are mindblowing, but it isn’t an end unto itself for me.  I would see it being an incredible tool to supplement the others in the workshop without question.  Some things can be done easier on a CNC machine, some thing can be done on the CNC that I have no experience in at all, yet it allows me the ability to incorporate them into my projects anyway.

I had the machine running much of the day on a few projects – swear I can still hear the router!

The first came out pretty well – the resulting dragon.

Photo 25-08-13 20 08 36Photo’s a bit blurry, but you can see it came out pretty well.  The material is a laminate of a masonite-like material on MDF.  Makes the designs pop!

My initial reason for using it was the flatness – carving intricate designs needs a very flat surface, otherwise detail can easily be lost.

There were some replication errors – I don’t know enough about CNC to know if the machine deserves the blame, the controlling software, or the V Carve program.  Not too big a deal, but I wouldn’t want to see too many errors creep in if I was looking at selling items.

Onto the second program, and this one was a serious workout.  The Mayan calendar.  Took about 4 hours.

Photo 25-08-13 20 08 55Not the best material for such an intricate design, nor the best cutter.  It came out pretty well considering, but the combination of cutter and machine, and it pushed it a little beyond its limit.  Probably needed to be done in stages, as it developed a bit of a calibration issue as time went on.  There are a number of lines missing, as the CNC shark seemed to forget exactly how low zero was on the Z axis.

It really needed a method to self-recalibrate during the run.  I suspect that a more recent model would have produced a better result (and the high definition CNC Shark even better again). Carbatec now have a newer model (and there was also a high def version – not listed on their website though).  Again, such an intricate design being done in 2-3 parts would have helped in this situation, rather than one long (400,000 steps) run.

A better cutter wouldn’t have helped the creep in the zero point, but could have produced a sharper image.  I will go into that in more detail soon, but just as a heads-up, the In-groove set from Toolstoday.com will make a real difference to the finish.

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So what am I going to try next?  Not sure yet, but looking forward to it never-the-less!  Could be 3d carving, could be cutting out parts – I haven’t begun to find out all the ways the machine can be used.

 

Plotting the End of Days

Given we are still here, guess that yet another “End of Days” has quietly slipped on past.  However, the Mayan calendar (or is it Aztec?) is still one of the challenging images that are sent to CNC machines all over!

I’ve been playing with this one today:

Mayan Calendar

Mayan Calendar

It is quite a challenge for a CNC machine – results in around 1/2 a million lines of G Code to produce all the required cuts.  I started off cutting it into pine, but the initial size chosen (200x200mm), the depth of cut and the crapiata used, the results were not worth pursuing, so I cancelled it after about 45 minutes (so at least I could get a good idea how it could look).

Photo 18-08-13 13 33 16 Photo 18-08-13 13 33 24 Photo 18-08-13 13 33 45

Given how packed the garage is waiting for the new shed, working on a CNC machine is almost the only way I can actually manage any woodworking at all!  Note the precarious location for the laptop, so it is somewhat out of dust range from the router.

I then decided to find something more suitable, and this laminated electrical board was eminently suitable, given the lower layer is a significantly contrasting colour, so the pattern shows up exceptionally well.  Again, this was only a test cut on the underside – this was scaled to 300×300, and would have taken 4 hours to complete.  I stopped it after an hour, again as it was only a test, and a couple of settings I chose were causing some issues.

The other side of the board is a shiny surface, and should look pretty spectacular.  However, I plan to make it near the limit of size of the machine (a 580×580 calendar).  I didn’t start it today as I wanted to get a better idea of the settings before getting it underway.  It will also take 14 hours(!!), so I need to get some noise control in place before trying it on.  I might drop it back to 500×500, which will probably be closer to a 12 hour machining.

Photo 18-08-13 14 28 19 Photo 18-08-13 14 28 32 Photo 18-08-13 14 57 41

The CNC Shark range can be sourced from Carbatec, and seen in operation on Stu’s Shed ;)

First Cut

This was a first go with the CNC Shark Pro. I must admit I didn’t watch any instructional videos or read instructions- I tend to jump in and work things out for myself!

Once I have a bit of a concept about how it works, then the instructions make so much more sense (if needed ;) ).

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This was a simple text file made in VCarve, without any defaults changed. It is a bit rough, partly the program, partly the timber, but it was certainly exciting to watch never-the-less!

The First Computer Controlled Blow has been Struck

No photos yet (will take some this afternoon), but I’ve successfully run my first couple of jobs on the CNC Shark.

It was remarkably easy, at least in the sense of creating a basic design in VCarve, saving it as a toolpath, then importing it into the Shark Control Panel.

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It is a shame the software only works on Windows, so I dusted off an old laptop to use.  Then dusted it off again a few times while the Shark was cutting!

Control_PanelThe G Code is the exported toolpath from the V Carve program.  You can run the file once loaded, but obviously it is probably better to set up the starting point for the tool first!

That is what the Jog tab is for.  You can move the cutter manually (via the computer) to the start point, and set it to touch the work.  This is then set to be the zero point. (0,0,0)  Run the file (which will not actually start until you confirm the router is turned on).

Off it goes, on its pre-determined path, opening a new path for woodworkers.  I certainly do not see this replacing more traditional forms of woodworking, and this will not be everyone’s cup of tea.

To parallel this with another experience – I was a very active photographer back in the days when photography was solidly in the realms of chemistry and traditional methods.  I was also very comfortable creating and manipulating images with PhotoShop and the like.  But when the two worlds firmly met, and the chemical photo world was swept away under a tidal wave of digital cameras, so did my undeniable passion for photography.  I still take photos, but at a rate only a fraction of that before.  Part is my remaining disappointment in the current cameras – the quality of the build, their longevity, but also how every man and his dog suddenly thought they were photographers because of what the camera was able to do for them, and not their real knowledge, skill and fundamental understanding of the principles of photography.

I don’t see that woodworking is at that point yet, and inherently it will never fully get there – photography can fully translate and remain in the virtual world.  Woodworking, whether from the outset, or after some computer work with CNC programs, has to put tool to timber in the end.

People look at photos.  They touch, hold and handle the end result of a woodworker’s efforts.

I will be very happy to incorporate CNC into my woodworking.  Not to replace other methods, but to add an additional tool to the arsenal.  And a powerful, versatile tool at that.

The CNC Shark range can be sourced from Carbatec, and seen in operation on Stu’s Shed ;)

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