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)
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’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.
Not 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.
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.
Filed under: Manufactures and Suppliers, Techniques, Tools | Tagged: CNC, CNC Shark, Maya calendar, Woodworking | 2 Comments »