My desire here is to cut parts for my kits, which are mostly balsa that is 1/4" thick or less. I have some 1/16th ply in them, but not much. After doing a lot of reading I settled in on a 1/16th tool in my Dremel. The table came with a RotoZip, but I am also very concerned about sound levels. I'm going to try a brushless airplane motor as a spindle at some point.
The table I bought came with a full copy of Mach3 and I'm using TurboCAD to draw the parts. When I first started playing with all of this I learned that Mach3 could import the DXF from TurboCAD and it would convert it to gcode and I was running simulations on my laptop. pretty cool. I also ran a program called CNCSimulator for almost a year playing around before I got my own CNC Router.
I was familiar with the process of drawing parts to be cut out because I have been sending my files out to a laser cutting service for nearly 3 years now. I figured this would be simple.
When I got the router Mach3 had evolved into a bit more complex application and it now used something called LazyCam to import the DXF files. This looked cool because it could set cutting speeds, offsets, etc, etc, but I was lost. I now knew the chain here was:
TurboCAD -> LazyCAM -> Mach3 -> finished parts
but LazyCAM seemed odd and it doesn't seem to always do what I want.
On the ProBro site I started chatting with a guy named jspencer who also had a CNC router and was messing around with cutting balsa. He is in the same position as I am with a bit more knowledge, so he's been lending a hand. He got me going with LazyCam and pointed out that most functions are tied to lead-ins. If I want to set an offset I have to turn on lead-ins. OK, so I turn on lead-ins. The only problem is they are all over the place. My files are pretty complex with lots and lots of parts on each sheet of wood.
I spent the last 2 weeks messing around with LazyCAM trying to get the offsets to work right, but it's VERY frustrating. Half the time the tool is cutting on the wrong side, not doing what it said it was going to do. jspencer confirms this on his router.
I tried just setting the lead-in length to 0, but it still puts little notches in the wood. I have attached a pic of the latest cuts. This just is not going to work. Also, I put cut-outs in the parts to hold them in the wood for shipping. I don't want the parts floating around. The kit builder just uses his knife to "pop" the parts out of the sheets. LazyCAM's toolpath is all over the place. WHAT A MESS!!!!!!! Maybe in the future LazyCAM will be OK, but this is one buggy pice of software right now. To be fair, I know it's early in the development cycle.
I remember way back in my early readings finding a program called ACE that would generate gcode from a DXF. It does not create offsets or cutting speed settings, but I thought I might be able to set those by hand later so I tried generating some gcode with it and comparing the toolpath with that from LazyCAM.
WOW!!!!! it was WAY more optimized and the code was 1/2 the size. LazyCAM's was over 800 lines and ACE's was only 400.
Look at the pics to see.