3D CAD to CNC

I didn’t find a thread which answered my question, so i’ll just put it out there.

My school has a MasterCAM router, which is driven by software called Toolpath for Windows (from 1998!)

I want to use the router to carve out some foam in the shape of my Solidworks model.

The file types that the routing software accepts are .nc .cnc .dxf .hpgl .rdy files. The only workaround i could find that was even close to looking like it might be the right thing was exporting from SW to Rhino, and saving as a very early version DXF. Unfortunately this did not work at all.

So my problem is that I need to make the code for this router to use, and SW doesn’t seem to have anything that’ll work. Apparently (according to the old shop guy), NC files are what I want. Can someone recommend the best way to turn SW files into NC files? If not, what’s the best way to do what I want?

Thanks

Ed

Not sure about NC files but… try making a full size 2D drawing of your part (i assume it’s a flat part correct?) and save that as a DXF. I’m sure there are other ways to do it, but this might get you started.

The .nc files holds the G-code that tell the router what to do. You can’t Import your file into Mastercam and generate the code?

I have not worked with the “Toolpath” software, but I’ve worked with some older routers and associated software. In my experience, you will need to re-draw your parts in AutoCAD (as 2D lines - we are talking about flat parts, right?) before importing into the CNC software to get the best results. Something about Rhino’s DXF export doesn’t work well (if at all) when trying to import into some CNC software.

The best work-around may be to upgrade the old software to something more recent that will read SW files…

Sorry, I should have made it clear. It’s 3D , which I have painstakingly sliced and remodelled so it can actually be done by the 3-axis CNC router. So a 2D drawing won’t really help me at all. I didn’t think the DXF format did anything for 3D, but it was worth a try.

2d isn’t a problem ( i think), but I need 3D.

I know the obvious solution is to upgrade the router software, and that will probably happen. Thing is, it’s likely to be a bureaucratic nightmare to get that done, and i don’t really have the time to wait for that.

Apparently some students were able to eport directly from Rhino, but this was back in 2005 (the last time someone routed something in 3D on this particular machine!)

I just wish I could convert my 3d file(s) to NC easily.

holy crap, where to start.

Let me begin with… you’re in over your head. Find someone to do this for you.


There are 3 software components to getting from CAD to cutting. The first is your CAD package, you’re using Solidworks I gather. From SW you need to output a file format that can be read by the second piece of software - youre G Code, or Toolpath generator, it looks like you’re using “toolpath” for this. This will commonly take in a .dxf or .dwg file to generate 2d profile cuts, or for 3d work will use .stl, .3ds, iges, or similar surface based xfer format. Your G-Code generatore analyses your file (with a LOT of input and knowledge based on experience from you) and generates a text file of G-Code commands to be run by the machine. It GIGO all the way here, the software is generally intended for experienced machinists who know what tools to use, and where, surface speeds, feed rates, all of which are encoded in the file. It’s endless and you’re certain to screw up several times just figuring out the best way to make your cuts. The last piece of software is your Controller. This reads the G-Code file and comminicates with the servo controllers that run the mill. This is also how you move the table around to home your tools, make tool changes, etc etc.

If you’ve never done any of this, get some help, you won’t figure it out on your own.

if spoony didn’t scare you enough…

Most CNC machines, if programmed or manually used improperly, have ability to seriously destroy themselves.

However, there are lots of post processors available, a few open source, that will take a 3D model and generate program. Some pretty good, you enter tools and height offset, not too difficult.

It’s still up to you to set up machine, fixture part, origin, find edges, run through with foam or wax at low speed with hand on Estop! Do you require tool changes? You have to program that, cutter diameter compensation, climb mill, end mill, ball mill, shell mill, fly cutter, coolant, HSS, carbide, etc…

It is fun. Best to learn with baby steps: make a few straight shallow cuts, a few simple drill cycles, graduate to milling a pocket, plunge cutting. Then go into your multi axis profile milling.

spoonyd and pier you answered what I was thinking but to lazy to write, good job I agree. What kind of school shop gives untrained students access to CNC machines, who is running the shop? First rule in a machine shop is don’t use a machine if you don’t know how it works. Getting the code generator is one thing but setting up the machine is another. First find out what post processor is is needed for your machines then get help from someone who knows how to do setups.

thanks for the answers people!

It turns out that the schools ID department actually deleted the required software without telling anyone! Computer upgrades and software re shuffles have caused the problem, and it’s on it’s way to being rectified. AusCAD MIlling program is bring reinstalled, and will allow to CNC to my hearts content.

Writing G-code is far beyond me, I know that! IT turned out i had 2 of the 3 pieces i need - SW and toolpath, with auscad to generate the code. I don’t have unlimited access to the machines, so I don’t think the school is doing anything wrong.

Thanks,

E

Glad to here everything is going to workout. It be pretty cool if you posted a pic of your success, if you get the time :wink:

will do - process pics also look good in the folio…