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  1. #1
    Hi, my name is Mike and I live in Devon recently retired from the software industry. Six weeks ago my wife bought me an Elegoo Arduino starter kit to keep me occupied during the Coronavirus lockdown. I made a few things using some Nema 17 stepper motors and then decided to make an XY plotter which went well. Now six weeks later I have a fully functioning CNC machine made out of plywood, softwood and some hardwood I had lying around. Of course I had to buy some rails SBR12 (ugh!) and some better stepper motor drivers TB6600 (?????) but apart from that most things I had lying around the workshop, including the Dremel I have attached. I have 4 Nema 17 (yes really) and they seem to drive the machine ok. I guess I have spent around 250 so far not counting the things I had lying around. I didn't sit down and design the machine I just made it up as I went along! My first piece of gcode was to cut a 20 tooth gear wheel (I sometimes mend old clocks and I'd like to use the machine to make the parts for a new build wooden clock). The accuracy of the gear wheel completely exceeded my expectations so I guess I'm now hooked. I'm treating this machine as a prototype so I'd like to learn as much as possible with this machine before scrapping it and starting again with some good spec items. Apologies if these questions have already been answered elsewhere but new forums can be a minefield for newbies like me.

    The machine I have ended up with has a 1000mm x 600mm base giving me approx 800mm x 450mm build area with a 20mm depth.
    I'm running GRBL on an Arduino with TB6600 stepper drivers and, as I say, 4 x Nema 17 motors.
    I'm sending the gcode using Universal GCode Sender version 20200425 (latest nightly build downloaded a couple of weeks ago). I must say having spent a lifetime in the software industry as a computer programmer I'm extremely impressed with this program, its simple easy to use and works, for me, perfectly.
    I have an aged Apple Mac that I'm using to run the software.
    I'm using Inkskape to create some simple .svg files and I'm also gradually getting my head around FreeCad.

    My biggest problem is getting a version of CAM software that works, I've tried MakerCam which seems temperamental and then I tried OpenBuilds CAM Gcode generator which on the face of it is good but very buggy. I also tried DXF2GCODE but couldn't get started with it.

    So can anyone suggest a sensible CAM program to run on a MAC that would drive my set-up? Ultimately I guess FreeCAD is the way to go but there is a very steep learning curve there, which I am committed to in the long run.

    Thanks in anticipation for any help.

    PS. I'll post a picture of my build when I figure out how to do so

  2. #2
    Sounds like you have sussed alot of the challenges!

    Try Carbide Create from Carbide 3D, free to download from their site and runs on Apples. It is the software they supply with their Shapeoko, so plenty of support on the Shapeoko Forum and designed to knock out GCode for grbl.

    Hang around here too long amd your ambition and budgets will scale considerably.

  3. #3
    Neale's Avatar
    Lives in Plymouth, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 10 Hours Ago Has been a member for 7-8 years. Has a total post count of 1,437. Received thanks 267 times, giving thanks to others 9 times.
    Mike - you're at the opposite end of Devon to me (near Totnes) but I've been playing with CNC stuff here since we moved to the area about 8 years ago. Would be happy to meet up sometime when it's allowed again! I'm on my Mk2 which is a damn sigbt better than my MDF-and-threaded rod Mk1 and happy to compare notes.

    I'm a convinced Fusion 360 user (which runs on Mac). The built-in CAM means that it gives you both CAD and CAM in one package but other peoiple prefer other solutions for a whole range of perfectly valid reasons.

    I have played a little bit with UGS and grbl and while they work fine, I prefer other things. I'm not sure that I wouldn't prefer a cheap used PC off eBay and a copy of LinuxCNC but again, tastes differ widely! These are just "free" options and clearly the field opens up if you start paying.

  4. #4
    Thanks Andrew, I'll give Carbide Create a go and see if I can get somewhere with it. All I've managed to do so far is to rout out a few shapes and a some signage, all of which came either from the native CAM programs or via Inkscape but everything seems a bit hit and miss at the moment!

    You're right about the ambition and budget thing, I'm already thinking about upgrades and MkII etc, but don't tell my Mrs!

  5. #5
    Thanks Neale for your reply. It would be great to meet up as I'm sure I would learn a great deal and who knows by the time this lockdown ends I might even be able to share some of my knowledge!? I've heard that Fusion360 is good but at the moment I'd prefer something that is free to download, then I can make all my mistakes without it costing an arm and a leg. I suspect for a MkII I would turn away from grbl and move to something quicker and move scaleable but for now grbl and UGS appear to do most of what I want. I guess I'm very much in the school of upgrade/move as and when the need arises. I will probably use the machine mostly for cutting things out accurately, in particular gear wheels for clocks and other projects I have in mind.

  6. #6
    As promised here are some pictures of my new build.

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  7. #7
    Muzzer's Avatar
    Lives in Lytham St. Annes, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 5 Hours Ago Has been a member for 2-3 years. Has a total post count of 135. Received thanks 22 times, giving thanks to others 4 times.
    Quote Originally Posted by MikeInDevon View Post
    ....I've heard that Fusion360 is good but at the moment I'd prefer something that is free to download, then I can make all my mistakes without it costing an arm and a leg. I suspect for a MkII I would turn away from grbl and move to something quicker and move scaleable but for now grbl and UGS appear to do most of what I want......
    Fusion 360 IS free to download and use. It would only start to cost you if you ran a commercial business off it, with turnover exceeding $100k or so. As Neale says, you can run it on Mac if you prefer but it include everything you could possibly need in one environment and has a very active and supportive user and developer base

  8. #8
    Welcome to the forum Mike, it looks like you've made amazing progress in just 6 weeks!

  9. #9
    Kitwn's Avatar
    Lives in Exmouth, Australia. Last Activity: 4 Hours Ago Has been a member for 2-3 years. Has a total post count of 530. Received thanks 71 times, giving thanks to others 14 times.
    Welcome Mike,
    Looks like a good 'intro' machine. Plenty of us have come along the wood and MDF route before committing the investment for something more serious. I share your interest in wooden clocks, they are dangerously addictive though. If you are serious about designing your own I strongly advise you have a look at the gearotic software. This is a quirky bit of software written by Art Fennerty, a name much revered among DIY CNCers as the creator of MACH3. There's an excelent forum to go with it with plenty of clock-building wisdom included.


    If you want to build someone else's designs I like several of those at Woodentimes.com. They are available as DXF files which can be imported into a CAD package for processing for CNC cutting. Your machine will be well able to cut out the pieces for clocks, though a Dremel may be a bit weak for the spindle, others will know more than me on that one.


    Engineering is the art of doing for ten shillings what any fool can do for a pound.

  10. #10
    A big THANK YOU to everyone for their assistance on this. I've managed to download the free version of Fusion 360 and made more progress in 24 hours than in a week with FreeCAD. I suspect FreeCAD is good if you already have knowledge of CAD/CAM but for me - starting from scratch, Fusion 360 seems much more intuitive. The only slightly worrying thing is when I went in the the Manufacture part of the program it came up with a warning saying, "available for a limited time only". I now have to move on to other more important niggles now such as why my machine has manufactured my first Fusion part with annoying lack of accuracy, 28.5mm wide should have been 30mm, 78.2mm long should have been 80 and 8mm depth should have been 4mm! I thought I'c calibrated the machine super accurately but it seems I have to go back to the drawing board on that one.

    BTW, thanks Kitwn for the links to gear2motion and woodentimes I have been experimenting with the software by Matthias Wandel at www.woodgears.ca but I'll look into these other.

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