What are people using for CAD / CAM design work?

cvoinescu
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Re: What are people using for CAD / CAM design work?

Post by cvoinescu » Tue Apr 16, 2013 5:13 am

I have some code that can mill arbitrary polygons (outside and inside profiles -- no true pockets yet), with dogbones, bisect lines or rounded corners, but it needs a little clean up. If I don't forget, I'll post it in a few days.
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twforeman
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Re: What are people using for CAD / CAM design work?

Post by twforeman » Tue Apr 16, 2013 12:34 pm

Much of what I'm currently doing is boring arrays of holes, so I wrote a perl script to generate the G-Code. It does straight plunge and bore, and spiral boring.

https://github.com/twforeman/g-code-generators

You can really mill holes in MDF pretty fast by spiral boring with a spiral upcut router bit.
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AnthonyB
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Re: What are people using for CAD / CAM design work?

Post by AnthonyB » Thu Apr 18, 2013 12:34 pm

Well, here's my effort so far:

https://bitbucket.org/anthonyb/python-gcode/

It does a fair bit of stuff so far - drill holes, mill lines, rectangles with inside and outside profiles, filled rectangles (pockets?) and dogbones (I think that's the term - so you can insert rectangles without having to worry about rounded corners).

Still to come - circles and anything else that seems neat. So if you have an idea for something I may be able to add it for you.

My plan is to use it to mill out a set of bitbeam - see attached image :)
Attachments
bitbeam_0.1_alpha.jpg
Early 'cut' of bitbeam
bitbeam_0.1_alpha.jpg (83.4 KiB) Viewed 2541 times
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danimal
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Re: What are people using for CAD / CAM design work?

Post by danimal » Sat Apr 20, 2013 1:46 pm

AnthonyB wrote:Hi All,

I'm having some trouble finding a decent CAD and/or CAM package that works for me. My initial criteria:
  • reasonably easy to use, although I'm tech savvy (programmer/sysadmin/vim user), so some learning curve in exchange for power is ok.
  • open source, free, cheap, in that order
  • runs under Linux, although I have Windows if necessary
My initial tests are pretty simple - draw a small cube and generate some gcode for it to mill on the shapeoko. So far, I've tried the following:
  • makercam.com - seems pretty reasonable, although the drawing options are quite limited (not sure why there's a freehand option instead of point-to-point lines). I've actually managed to make something with this option.
  • heekscnc - seems to be the recommended option, but I'm finding it unusable. It was a complete pain to install all the bits and compile under Ubuntu, but wasn't too bad on Windows. It's hard to use, continually crashing, does sort-of CAM but adds weird things in, even for a simple box shape. It also seems to be unmaintained.
  • FreeCAD - similarly hard to use ("shape assembly" seems the best workbench), although people are apparently using it for all sorts of fancy widgets. Easy to install, but it doesn't do CAM, so you need to export to something. Not sure what to export drawings as.
  • gSimple - CAD/CAM, but can't import anything other than 2D shapes, so you need to use the built-in drawing tools, which are hard to use.
  • Google sketchup + Phlatscript - seems to work ok, except that sketchup doesn't seem to support any precision-things, like snapping to a grid or resizing elements once you've
  • PyCAM - there are two versions - 0.5.x, which sort-of works except that it produces really odd gcode which jumps all over the place. 0.6 is the new version, which doesn't seem to work or do a profile style cut.
  • Cambam - does CAD/CAM - I'm looking at this more seriously, except that it's expensive and also seems quite hard to use. Early days still though.
  • I'm also looking at generating the gcode programmatically with Python, a'la David Beazley's python talk (https://speakerdeck.com/pyconslides/pyt ... id-beazley and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWyDA5y6TIg), but I suspect that this will get hard for shapes which aren't simple geometries
Have I missed anything? Other people seem to be generating lots of neat stuff (eg. look at IC's spoilboard here: http://shapeoko.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1430 but most of the posts are about the machines themselves, not how they're being used. Are there blogs or posts that I've missed where people talk about this aspect a bit more?

Thanks,

Anthony
This hits the nail on the head as far as my experiences go as well. I am trying everything and have little problems with all of them. I have been working hard at getting better with HeeksCNC, but with every time that it crashes or generates tool paths that randomly cut into my pieces I move closer and closer to just buying Cambam. I installed it and used it a little, but knowing that it was going to lose functionality soon I just pursued other avenues just as you have. I do not require a very high level of functionality so it seems that there should be an opensource or free option out there, but as of now I have found no fix all solution. I think that every time that Heeks crashes or I start screaming at my computer because it generated retarded tool paths I am going to make a small cash donation to a bucket in my man cave. Then when I have enough money in there to buy it I will just switch over and un-install everything else.
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WillAdams
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Re: What are people using for CAD / CAM design work?

Post by WillAdams » Sat Apr 20, 2013 2:18 pm

There is an old / beta version of CAMBAM which is free:

http://www.cambam.info/downloads/

>CamBam free
>WARNING! This version of CamBam is completely free and functional, with no time restrictions.
>However, the current free version is rather old. There have been many bug fixes and improvements
>in the later CamBam plus versions.

http://www.cambam.co.uk/downloads/CamBam-beta0.8.2.msi

I only have .NET 1 installed, so haven't tried it.
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lordmundi
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Re: What are people using for CAD / CAM design work?

Post by lordmundi » Tue Feb 25, 2014 12:21 pm

I've just got to say (and echo Danimal's sentiment), that this hits the nail on the head.

My experience so far: all I wanted to do was pocket some holes to install T-nuts in my wasteboard. Seems super easy. In inkscape/makercam, this should be like a 2 second project. And makercam is perfect for something like this. Unfortunately, every time I try to pocket a circle, it freezes. I tried moving the circles so they aren't overlapping... i tried moving the circles away from the origin. I got it to pocket 2 holes once, but could never do it again. After fighting with freezing software for 2 or 3 hours, you start asking yourself "why am I constantly fighting with this... go use something else!"

then, i spent the rest of the day fighting with other free software. I tried pycam (which has a slight bug in the pocketing operation when trying to compensate for the bitsize/offset). I tried the pocket_v1 gui. I tried the cp1 gui. And eventually, you start looking at the gcode and thinking "I could type this out by hand... why am I fighting with all these?"

So, the next day I found AnthonyB's python script. It's a small library of functions you can call to draw different shapes. All you have to do is write the little driver program, which is effectively the same exact thing you are doing typing in all the values into the gui - where you want the circle, how deep, etc.

Combining this with OpenSCAM to run 3d simulations of the output, I have found this to be a great solution. In fact, I'm thinking that with a few more mods and a coupling with OpenSCAM, it could really become a strong python CAM library that almost anyone can use and verify the 3d geometry and toolpath before ever cutting a part.

I'll email you AnthonyB... i have a few suggestions for some mods... but just mostly wanted to say thanks. This felt like being able to breathe after fighting with all that other software!

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Re: What are people using for CAD / CAM design work?

Post by WillAdams » Tue Feb 25, 2014 1:16 pm

lordmundi wrote:In inkscape/makercam, this should be like a 2 second project. And makercam is perfect for something like this. Unfortunately, every time I try to pocket a circle, it freezes. I tried moving the circles so they aren't overlapping... i tried moving the circles away from the origin. I got it to pocket 2 holes once, but could never do it again.
Did you upload the files in question to https://github.com/shapeoko/makercam/issues ?
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MeanderBolt
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Re: What are people using for CAD / CAM design work?

Post by MeanderBolt » Tue Feb 25, 2014 1:26 pm

I am trying to move my thinking into metric. I have been heading this direction for the past year and a half or so. My reasoning is that the rest of the world is metric.

I have tried MakerCam several times and I have decided to never touch it again. I know that there are issues with metric in MakerCam causing long decimal'd numbers, but it kept giving weird sizing differences as well. I could build something up in DraftSight and it would be completely different in MakerCam.

After reading a post on TwoForman's blog about his workflow, I am now working in LibreCad and Draftsight for the CAD side of things, and I in the trial of CamBam. It has been absolutely fantastic. After fighting MakerCam, this thing is a dream. I was trying to keep my software in a completely free zone. But after trying several cad and cam softwares, I have changed the way I feel about 'free'. Here is the way I see it... My time is worth something. If I have to spend my time fighting a program, banging my head against the wall trying to make it work, it is not worth the 'free', because my time is not free. I need tools that allow me to work right now, and CamBam does just that. So, if it costs $150, so be it. When you consider how much time I will save in not goofing around, not having to put in settings for every operation. It is SO worth it just for that feature alone, but it goes way deeper than that too.

Just my $.02
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Re: What are people using for CAD / CAM design work?

Post by WillAdams » Tue Feb 25, 2014 1:31 pm

Fair enough.

It'll be interesting to see how EaselCNC works out --- I really hope that they add an option / capability for grabbing files which cause crashes and forwarding them on to the developers.
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RobCee
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Re: What are people using for CAD / CAM design work?

Post by RobCee » Tue Feb 25, 2014 2:02 pm

I am using Sketchup, Draftsight and CamBam for most of my work.

Sketchup I use for working out what I want to make in the 3D world, I use it extensively for space planning of assemblies but have not tried to export anything out to CAM.

Draftsight is my go-to product for 2D anything, it isn't the greatest but it runs on my PC and my Mac(as beta) and allows me to quickly and easily draw exactly what I want. It is a capable AutoCad clone and is totally free, if a little difficult at times.

I tried using MakerCam, but it continuously crashed on me, even when I tried it outside the web environment.

I spent 15 years selling CAD/CAM software, so find it pretty simple to evaluate and work with most CAM products and to date I have found CamBam to be very capable. Again, it has it's idiosyncrasies, but from a CAM perspective, it works well. The few times I have tried to draw in it, I have ended up hating the lack of just a few commands (extend, for instance!). There are some useful plug-ins available from the community, the one I have used to date is the V-Engrave one for lettering, which works well.
Having used up my 40 free uses, I bought CamBam. I thought I had already had good value from it and in the realms of CAM software, the price is tiny.

The biggest problem with our ShapeOko end of the CNC world is that the companies that develop CAM software typically have clients that have spent tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of £/$ on a CNC machine and price their software against that level of investment. I have, in the distant past, sold CAM packages at £90-100,000 a license. Unfortunately, this means that the major CAM suppliers feel that a few thousand for their software is a low price, let alone a few hundred. If you are a business and your CNC is a valued employee, then justifying the large capital outlay is simple. It isn't nice to part with that much cash, but it can pay back pretty quickly. As a casual/hobby/maker user, it is not really an option to spend that much.

The good news is that the 3D printing revolution is having lots of knock-on effects across the CAD/CAM market space and some of the established software companies are seeing that there are opportunities to sell cut down versions of their software into specific market niches. A good example of this is Delcam, who have been in the mainstream CAM market for donkeys years with their PowerCAM products (shape, mill, inspect). They also have ArtCAM, an interesting product aimed not at the typical engineer, but at the more creative customer. Once again, things can get expensive fast in the CAM software world, but the product does look good for the things I have yet to master in CamBam, such as complex surface engraving.

Once I get a bit further along my ShapeOko journey, I will feed back on my findings in the ArtCAM world.
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