Learning Curves

Short and steep!

Despite having some (limited) experience with CNC routers, I hadn’t tried parts fabrication before – cutting out one of the patterns as listed in my previous post.

The website provides next to no instruction on how to use the patterns, so I was left either watching the 98 or so minute ‘tutorial’ video that someone had made, which although useful for info, was very difficult to watch through, so I skipped about a bit to try to glean some answers.

Suck and See.

Biting the bullet is sometimes a faster learning curve, so long as nothing gets damaged in the process!

I created a path for one of the simpler dinosaurs – using a 1/4″ upcut solid carbide router bit from Toolstoday.com, created a few tabs so parts would remain in place once cut out, and sent it over to the CNC computer.

Some things to note.  When the program says something about it being outside of the soft limits, what it really means is that somewhere around the circumference of the design, you are going to ask the router to move further than it can physically achieve.  While that makes sense in hindsight, you can find yourself trying to work out why the program just wont run, quite fruitlessly.  Note to self – don’t deactivate the soft limits!

Somehow, even though I had set what the full depth of the job was meant to be, it only did one pass, rather than the two or three that would be needed to cut all the way through.  Have to look at what I missed there!  That is why we test these things to see how they work!

Where it did cut all the way through (I reset the Z height so it would achieve a full depth, and ran the program again – effectively manually causing it to cut through in two steps), the tabs I had made were no-where near large enough, and parts were coming loose and impacting the cutter.  Using an upcut bit exasperated the issue, as it was trying to lift the pieces out as well.

Four clamps on the board, one in each corner is not enough, especially as the board becomes riddled with cuts.  A vacuum table will be a significant improvement, when I get around to making one.

And a 1/4″ bit is too large a diameter for a 6mm thick design – none of the slots needed to join pieces together were cut, so I need some smaller diameter router bits for this sort of work.

Well, nothing was damaged in the process, and plenty of information was gathered to make the next attempt more successful.  No matter how sophisticated the equipment, there is always a learning curve on how to best utilise it.  Of course that is part of the fun!

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