Very recently (October) my job description was forcibly changed on me, moving me from the tedius world of estimating into the world of CNC. The first days where hectic, I had 0 experience, and there were already projects backlogged for our CNC mill (a shopsabre 3 axis). We had also just purchased and had installed a streamline frogmill and wire machine (3axis mill and 4 axis w/lathe wirecutter) AND 3d laser scanner. I was charged with first learning CAD, second learning to use ArtCAM and Rams, then the laser scanner... and the list goes on. From the original CAD drawings I had to figure out what _I_ actually needed in terms of actually producing the piece, then how to copy/redraw/aquire the proper lines and forms that were usable in the software we were using at the time, create the toolpaths, and finally, hand the completed gcode to the machine operator (which over the last couple months has been partially handed off to me as well, and I much prefer it. I'm the only one that understands my train of thought ya know?). It's been quite an adventure. Prior to my boss dragging me into a conference with my supervisor (which I thought was going to be 'Bad News' given the state of things economically), I didn't even realize we HAD a CNC machine in our shop, let alone what a CNC router or hot wire cutter were. I knew there were machines that automagically cut things, but never really gave it a second thought.
So here I was, 5 hefty manuals piled on my desk, 3 projects behind schedule and me with absolutely 0 experience.... And somehow, pulled the rabbit from the hat. The first of the projects looked impossible to me... How am I going to make the machine cut all those curves only partially into the acrylic?!? And then cut the whole face out?!? Turns out, the projects where very simple, I was overthinking, and as fate had it, they were also each increasingly complex, each subsequent project building the on the skills I picked up from the last. Most of the things we create are rather simple in design, but some are fairly complex... Like replicating a 6" model of an american bald eagle into an 8'6", 12'10" wingspan behemoth, AND repositioning all of his respective parts because of course the model isn't in the right pose for the client's taste... We are a small, but pretty well known architectural manufacturing company (I'm not sure about rules and regulations here on tooting your own horn, nor am I entirely sure if the owner would object to my doing so), and MOST of the time, we make columns, cornice, balustrading... typical stuff, but always custom sizing, no stock molds for anything, so on and on.
Once my 3 projects were caught up (in roughly 2 weeks time) I got to sit down and actually take the time to learn what I'd just done. Looking back I'm absolutely embarassed at some of the methods and mistakes I made, and I still have NO IDEA what I'm doing. But I've had some time to actually PLAY with the equipment, and scan some very interesting things and replicate them in foam, to get a feel for how everything ties together. Fortunately, or unfortunately, during the last 2 months, I got bitten by the bug. You know the one... That giddy goofy "OMG THIS IS SO COOL" bug that seems to follow the CNC crowd like a stalking tiger. It's going to bite, you just don't know when. Well, mine finally caught me. It was right about the time we started assembling all the foam pieces for the eagle..... I had a huge dork-out right there in the shop..... And immediately started thinking of ways I could build my own machine.
I'm a roleplaying type nerd.... Spend a lot of time playing World of Warcraft. I used to burn the midnight oil around a pile of dice and fellow nerds, drooling over that sword of biting +4 I found in the dragons lair. That sort of thing. Yeah, hardcore geek stuff. The problem I've always had with my hobby is that visual aids (miniatures specifically) are rediculously expensive, and I've always wanted to find a cheaper way to get them, and am NEVER happy with whats availible. Now, as I've discovered, I can machine wax molds of ANYTHING I WANT, cast dental plaster... paint and play. But why stop there.. I can also mass produce, sell to my friends and fellow geeks for a reasonable price. My wife even got excited about the idea, she wants to use it to carve picture frames and poster corner caps for all her photography projects... As you all well know, you could come up with a million things to make....
Now then, here's my questions....
I want to build a SMALL (desktop size, probably 1'x1'x3-4" material) mill. I'll likely be working with wax, and perhaps some small wood parts. Can someone suggest some good stepper motors (I don't mind if they are grossly overpowered for the task, it may in the future get converted into a 2'x4'x6" table), preferably fairly inexpensive?
I know these motors need controllers, but my question is.. what do the controllers connect to? Surely if you have say, 3 motors, and 3 controllers, there would be another part that sends the signals to the motors, and interfaces to my PC? I saw in my brief looking that gecko has a 5 axis controller.. it seems it connects via usb.. is THAT the way to go?
My problem stems in the not knowing how to get gcode from my PC (I already set up a dedicated machine for the task with LinuxCNC) to the motors. Suggestions and comments more than welcomed!
Odd that I cannot edit my own post, non? I just plain don't get it.
I can edit my reply, but naye my original post. Very odd I think.
Either way. I seem to have solved my own problem, though no doubt will have 2 dozen questions once I assemble this thing.