View Full Version : The Lack Of The One Program To Do It All And Do It Right

01-07-2007, 07:34 PM
Sorry for poor spelling and grammar....... THIS MAY BE A BIT OF A RANT AS WELL..

First a little bit about my self, call it a quick snap shot of my life. But it all started like this... Err well maybe I wont start from where the doctor slapped me. Ok so in any case I've been doing DIY cnc starting with my first and only machine http://www.cnczone.com/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/945/cat/500/ppuser/3850 . Making all kinds of things mostly etchings and small cut outs which I've sold to bar's and as holiday gifts in the malls. The greatest challenge I've found so far has always been and really singled out to be the editing software!
I have been in the CNC realm for about three years now, I've tried just about every version of software out there legal or illegal (illegal method often was the only choice do to no demos for testing but I never keep a program in that state. If i like it I buy it). I've found some programs I like others that I just hated but I've NEVER found the one program that does the majority of what I need. And above all else, does not require you to read and understand at least two three pound books. The only cad program I've found to do mostly what I need is dolphin cad, but even that program doesn't work very well because it was coded so poorly. It crashes on almost a timed bases every time I use the thing. Oh and the output files always have to be rescaled for some reason.
From my experiences so far I view my self as having a respectable minds eye picture of the perfect software. One that is GPL Linux/windows build, and built with very few limitations. Its what I like to call the MS-PAINT design. All of the VERY basic tools you need have been placed in the program to let you do really almost any thing you need pertaining to exactly what you are doing. In ms-paint that would be well editing a picture.
Other examples of finding the perfects program though in different fields. Say I'm editing a PCB out of all the software out there, there is just one program that I've found to be my pride and joy (win board). When it comes to graphics, adobe page maker, Ink scape, and photo shop are my top choices in there fields of use. I know there are a lot of other programs out there that do the same things (EAGLE PCB, GIMP, PAINT SHOP PRO, CUREL DRAW and the list goes on....). But the short list of favorites I've posted so far FOLLOW one major rule. Its what I call the common sense design rule Again MS-PAINT! You do not have to go threw a complicated series of steps to achieve the same results.
I'd love to get a lot of input on this, because I know I'm going to be hit with the. Its not hard to figure programs out after you read the manual. Yes I know I've lost count on how many programs manuals I've read only to find my self questioning the mere design logic that went into the design constructs and structure of the program. So many steps that could be avoided, by simply adding simple features.
For me to design the perfect program, to in general create and edit and run a cnc using dxf, gc, and hpgl files. The list is much bigger I know, but these would be the most common file types for the beginner. You really wouldn't need all that many features. The most common bit of editing for those using for example turbocnc. Is the need for fine tuning the gcode mainly in the starting stopping lifting and such area of the axises. Also setting max plunge etc. using note pad, vi, text gcode editor, to add g00 etc. I've seen plenty of programs which give you a gcode editor on the side. Great but whats one more, then again the ones with the sole function of editing gcode will seperate the commands from plots by color coding them. Now if you take it a bit farther, lets have the gocode highlight when you click on them in GUI editing. Say you click on a line or lines they should highlight in the gcode editor. Great gues what now you can cut/copy/paste/move them around. Well if you just did that you are now able to adjust what is first and or the order in the file. As in making your machine cut constant instead of having to stop and lift and jump all around. Sure I've seen this feature but only in a few programs, and it gave you arrows to set the direction of the cut as well. Ok so that is the creation and or editing of a file above the minor Gcode additions or subs. But I'm also talking in terms of moving lines with a mouse or styles in GUI. Now for example there are the different type's of arches. I'd love to have a setup where I can just click on an arched line and or line and it will highlight X number of +/- plot points from the center of where you clicked, Then have the option to change the mode from oh I forget the term's right now. But mathematical arches using 3+ points and an equation vers arches made by adding many points going all the way around.
One of the largest problems I've come across is the stacking of traces. I'll use a raster to vector program, only to find that it worked ok but traced over the same line 3-50 times. All using the same elevation Z axis, where is my photo shop flatten click option. I cant tell you how many times I've found my self fighting this issue.
When it comes to controlling a cnc machine, of all the programs I've used so far (win/dos only) turbocnc works great but has a number of errors and lack of functions which hamper with the system. And the lack of support for more complicated gcode commands. There is also the lack of support for file types other then raw GCODE. And above all its a pure DOS program which must run in..... real mode dos. Now on the windows side I've played with bob cad and a few others but even with the special drivers you still don't get the real mode control over the par port. As well few windows programs support serial driven cnc machines. Kcam is one of the few which do, and IMO takes the cake or at least the largest slice when it comes to being a useful program. But its lacking editing functions. Yet it has both par and serial control options for driving a cnc machine. And support for a large number of file formats. And it has a gcode editor list window on the side. But you are limited to only making minor adjustments of the file you are working with. Like scale location elevation and manual gcode editing, thats it......
I guess what I'm saying is that there is this gap or void of good design in a final program that does it all with the least complicated requirements. The few programs that do enter this realm sadly are not in the GPL ring. And even then I could list options that would save people hours and hours of work fine tuning a file because the software doesn't support some simple features to automate the adjustments you are trying to do. Give you a great example: the first time you run the concept software i'm talking about, it should have a setup options wizard, yes to edit your control method par serial usb etc directions and every thing else. But thats a one time thing, I'm talking about every time you work on a new file. When working with this new file, I'd love to have a work area that has been pre designed to look like and be scaled to the dimensions of my cnc machine. In other words you have a great over view idea of where your material is and is positioned. Yet there are more options you can add to that. Remember I was saying the issue with having to add adjustments to compensate for say the shape of the material. Lets say your are etching something on a bit of flat wood say like a door but its pitched the top half is 5” deep and the bottom is 2” deep. Its not much but its still a slope. Now this piece of wood still follows equal aspect ratio's and squareness. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to draw the entire shape of the work piece or at least just a square/rectangle/circel or basic shapes. And set the end points to the exact hight that they will rest at when sitting on the machine. Then you just edit your file as you normally would and simply hit a function button to have the work piece affix its self to the angle of the entire work piece. Now to do this same function with almost all other software you have to do a bunch of measuring some math and you have it set. Even still your are going to end up standing over the machine for X amount of time making sure its still in the correct spot. So using this method you would need only the basic shape and location of the work piece. Then its all but automatic from that point on working with your file(s). I'd call that “materials dimension scaling and placement adjust (MDSPA)”. Again I've seen features like this in other program but they are not that simple. And they are more for final virtual testing of a file. Those programs often range from $500-$3000.
I've only just started describing what I'm looking for in a good editing program and what I find to be easy fixable problems. I'm just so so tired of having to use a hand full of programs to make, edit and do the small changes to a file which one program should be able to do yet does not. Please someone tell me are there others that feel the same as I. Or am I ranting at this point, having missed something that stands out like a home depot sign. Or have I rantingly started on a mental construction of at least in my opinion to be the most ideal program. Honestly I feel we need to have an open source common editing program that is a community based made and edited and refined software for doing most to all of what we need! I've seen a number of programs made in that fashion which have turned out very very well (oh ya its called Linux)!
Lets see if this goes anywheres?

01-07-2007, 11:41 PM
I didn't read all of your post, I have to work tomorrow, but I just started using Deskcnc. There is a 30 day demo you can use but I bought mine with the servo package. Basically you draw a part in DXF format open it up in Deskcnc & then you define what you are going to cut the part with (what size end mill, how many passes, etc.) & there is the program. I've tried a few programs since I've had it, only 2 months now & still learning CAD, Deskcnc, etc. & for $250 it's pretty good. Imsrv.com Good luck.

01-08-2007, 10:06 AM
interesting story
is not artcam a simple...but yes expensive solution?
also i think the biggest problem is machine specific post processors for all these cam programs would make it easy for the beginner
take shopbot for example just draw what you want in artcam create tool path generate part file and you're cooking..in just a few clicks

problem is for all the drivers out there and home built machines someone needs to write all the posts to streamline the system..anyone out thier
good at writing post processors could make a bundle doing it for all of us guys and our DIY machines.

on another note i have long wanted a program to make pcb's
that you can draw a circuit diagram using electronic symbols
and the program generates the best milling layout for the diagram
automatically.then the code for milling.it would also be useful to have the program
give you the best layout for wiring on a prototype board like the ones that radio shack sells..anyone know of such a program?

just my two cents

01-08-2007, 01:03 PM
For what it's worth, I have used a simple PCB program called ExpressPCB that has a dxf export & plotter output. It also comes with a schematics part. The best part - it is free. The schematic will get you started on a layout quickly but is not a heavy duty industrial autorouter that does the best placement and board design.

If you don't have time, just send them the file and they make it for you with quotes online. This is a nice option if you want a pro finish with solder mask, text and multi layer boards.

I use this program for simple to moderate layouts and print them on a laser printer using Toner transfer paper. Thats the stuff that you Iron onto the PCB and etch it. Alas, I don't have a CNC Mill to do my boards. Overall, I think I get the job done almost as quick. With care you can get quite detailed and small track widths down to 0.006". I must admit a temp controlled hot press would help to get the consistancy of transfer and a temp controlled bubble etchant tank for even etching is almost essential for this detail to be produced consistantly.

01-08-2007, 03:14 PM
As far as the toner method of PCB making goes its good yes but there is a MUCH MUCH better way. It will cost you about $30 but save you a lot of errors And you get even smaller traces made. Press-n-peel PCB transfer film, the type i use is the BLUE type. non wet. www.techniks.com

Ya I've played with it, but as you agreed there is the cost factor. Thats why I'd love to get a bunch of guys togeather who know how to program. And start construction of an editor program which does it all.

01-08-2007, 04:00 PM
PCB- Very similar to what I use, except the wet varity. I used to use the blue type but found if you don't get the iron exactly right the toner peels off the copper. The paper type releases better if you don't get it perfect.

Similar rants are what made me shell out the big bucks for Camsoft Pro. This software is very versatile by the nature of it's design. However in the windows world it's "out the box setup" leaves a lot to be desired. Its interface and configuration are reminisant of windows 3.1. Wissards would be nice with some drag and drop features. The true benefit is that you can build your own G & M features and use the same software for many different types of machine. It gets real expensive when you go to the higher CAD levels that give you productivity features, so I have opted for Alibre CAD to produce my 3D work and import it into Camsoft.

01-14-2007, 05:30 PM
I think I've talked a friend into giving a hand on this topic. Only it will be open source based on win c++. I've also given him a list of just a few basic idea's for a good START. And he agreed its a very simple start. But can any one disagree that often the most simple program can be one of the most useful?
Also when I get to it, I'm going to setup a web page which will be the base station. It will be a google hosted web page, hosting all the source code. There will be a great need for someone to make a cross compiler for linux. The first beta when its started/finished is just going to be for editing gcode files at first, my friend know's almost nothing about gcode and cnc nc etc.. stuff. So I'm teaching him, but he know's how to program and I have less then no idea. The great thing about this program is that if all goes well its going to be the MS-PAINT of simple gcode editing which NO ONE PERIOD had created yet both open source and non.

I need suggestions, for a program Title but the title will be dedicated to cnczone and open software. So just a few examples: Open CncZonecam or nczonecam, or zonecam ?? I think there is a zonecam out there already, zonecam.com is available though :). but something similar to cnczone.com is the idea any sugestions?

01-15-2007, 02:15 AM
Yay I finaly put my odd controller up on ebay. That a friend gave to me wanting me to use for a cnc controller.