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  1. #1
    I'm just embarking on my first CNC conversion - a new Warco WM-16 mill. I have been using Ubuntu Linux for a few years now and have not used Windows since discovering Ubuntu. I have experience of programming software in many languages but Python is the one I am most familiar with. When I was a Windows user, my language of choice was VB6.

    I have been a maintenance and fabrication engineer for 18 years and have some experience in manual machining but none in CNC. I also have no experience in using CAD packages as we had to use pencils and paper when I was an apprentice! :lol:

    My main questions as a newbie are:

    1. Assuming that I will use EMC2 as my cnc controller, should I go for a CAD package and then use a g-code generator or would I be better off sketching on paper and then hand writing my g-code?

    2. Assuming that CAD is the way forward, which FREE packages are best at the current time? QCAD looks old and reliable but is only 2D...can 3-axis g-code be generated from 2D drawings? Others to consider are HeeksCAD and FreeCAD plus a whole list HERE. As a complete newbie, I won't have the problem of comparing it to AutoCAD or other commercial softwares, however I don't want a steep learning curve either as it is none productive.

    My plan is to setup a dedicated CNC control cabinet housing the PSU, stepper drives, breakout board and computer PSU, motherboard, hard drive, etc all in one. I was planning on installing EMC2 on the CNC computer and doing the CAD drawings/g-code on my desktop pc (in comfort!), transferring between the two via usb flash drive. Another option is to install EMC2 and all CAD/g-code tools on a flash drive, then boot from the flash drive.

    All advice is welcome, particularly for other Linux users. What I don't particularly want to do is dual boot Windows. I've managed without M$ products for over 3 years so don't want to take a step backwards...

  2. #2
    It depends on what you're making. Generally you're best to get a program to write the Gcode for you - or write your own program. I've done that for some things to make it more efficient.

    I've housed all the electronics apart from the toroidial transformer in a standard computer. The PM752 drivers fit nicely in the CD drive bays.

    Sorry can't help you on the software side on Linux.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan View Post
    It depends on what you're making. Generally you're best to get a program to write the Gcode for you - or write your own program. I've done that for some things to make it more efficient.
    The machine will be used for relatively simple pieces such as drilling plates, making motorcycle parts, milling keyways, etc. In other words, the CNC conversion will be mostly used as 3 axis power feeds. I don't think Gcode is going to be a major problem as there are loads of conversion tools available, plus I can write my own tools in Python if need be.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan View Post
    I've housed all the electronics apart from the toroidial transformer in a standard computer. The PM752 drivers fit nicely in the CD drive bays.
    That's handy to know. I was thinking I'd use either a server rack case or fabricate my own. I've made a steel stand for the milling machine with a couple of shelves under it, a stainless steel swarf/drip tray at the top and some lockable wheels on the bottom so I can move the whole thing around the workshop easily. Will be adding pumped coolant sometime in the near future.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan View Post
    Sorry can't help you on the software side on Linux.
    Shame, this is my main problem at the moment. I know software is a bit "horses for courses" but some are better than others so I'm hoping to be pointed in the right direction...

  4. #4
    NB70's Avatar
    Lives in Swansea, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 2 Hours Ago Has been a member for 8-9 years. Has a total post count of 44. Received thanks 5 times, giving thanks to others 3 times.
    I use EMC2 - its great! The EMC2 community is a useful source of information about linux CAD and CAM

    you could start here on their wiki:
    http://wiki.linuxcnc.org/cgi-bin/emc...ode_Generators

    I use Vectric Cut2D and Cut3D myself, but if you know python then there is pycam which can do more than just 2D

  5. #5
    I've installed EMC2 inside VirtualBox so I can have a dabble. I also installed QCAD and downloaded dxf2gcode. Never used CAD before but managed to draw a plate with radiused corners and 4 holes, convert it to g-code and run a simulation in EMC2. Quite pleased with that to be honest.

    My only question at the moment is regarding CAD software. QCAD seems fairly easy to use but is 2-D only. Forgive my ignorance, but can basic 3-D objects be drawn in 2-D using multiple views and then converted to runnable g-code? Can't see any reason why not - I most likely need to learn how to use QCAD first?!

    Thanks for your help so far.

  6. #6
    Birchy have a look at medusa4. Very extensive and a pro feel but it will take time getting used to it.
    If the nagging gets really bad......Get a bigger shed:naughty:

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by 2e0poz View Post
    Birchy have a look at medusa4. Very extensive and a pro feel but it will take time getting used to it.
    Looks quite nice but can't save as dxf in the free version. Assuming that you are using medusa4, how do you convert your drawings to gcode?

  8. #8
    It was recommended to me by a friend this week as i had been avoiding it so i still need to look myself. I know he also uses Autocad so he may not worry about things like file formats. I will look later today and see what it is all about. At the moment i mainly use QCAD but also mess with Heekscad and Blender. Draftsight and BRL cad are other good ones to try and many others. If you want to follow the norm then you still can as Cut 3D works under Wine but is fussy about computer. Download the demo's of the windows offerings and try under Wine before buying. Tool path converters i use DXFtoGcode, GCAM and GcncCAM. most of the stuff i do is 2D so not really an issue for me
    If the nagging gets really bad......Get a bigger shed:naughty:

  9. #9
    Like FreeCAD and HeeksCAD, I didn't find Medusa4 very intuitive either. QCAD and DXFtoGcode seem to work well together and I created some runnable gcode within a few hours of installing them. Given standard orthographic views drawn with QCAD, can 3-axis gcode be created? Or am I expecting too much? I'm not going to be making any highly complicated sculptures or anything like that, however I WILL need full control of the XYZ axis.

  10. #10
    Not in the sense of curves and rounds on the verticals but if we are talking steps in the work piece then yes. You just need to set the stepped parts up on separate layers and adjust with your tool depth. That is how i deal with things like countersink holes etc etc
    If the nagging gets really bad......Get a bigger shed:naughty:

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