So I posted my experiences in the “My startup experience” thread, and I thought I’d give some observations on my second experience.
I was all set to do the 2nd tutorial. I’d read the file into MeshCAM, I’d looked at the various details, got everything set up, and was all set to put in the 0.125 ball cutter. Something looked funny. Yup. As Mr. Blurrycam confirms, it looks like I got a 0.0625 ball cutter in a 0.125 ball cutter tube.
So I went into the settings for Tools in MeshCAM. I could easily measure all of the details required in “Dimensions” – although for some like “overall length” I wasn’t sure what I should enter. The full length of the cutter? The approximate length that would be emerging from the collet? Putting off that measurement for a moment, I realized that I didn’t really know what values to put in for any of the default toolpath settings. I’ve seen references to tables online, etc, but I was anxious to actually cut something, and my Google-fu was not good enough that I could get a quick answer.
Throwing caution to the wind, I decided to cut a design I had been toying around with. I exported my model as an STL file, and brought it into MeshCAM.
I hadn’t really thought it through, but my design had enough of a smooth curve on it that MeshCAM suggested a ball cutter. Because I thought it would take too long with the 1/16th inch ball cutter, I decided to forge on with my 1/8th inch end-mill. MeshCAM didn’t complain, and generated me a toolpath.
I brought it up in Carbide Motion, and got machining on my very first try this time! Carbide Motion did still complain about an invalid machine parameter, but it happily cut my design.
I obviously did not take stock thickness into consideration when setting up the model in MeshCAM. Still, I was impressed at how well it managed to smooth the top fillet curves even with an square end-mill. I’m quite pleased with the quality!
This experience raised a few questions for future work:
- What’s a reasonable best-practice for pausing / vacuuming? At some points, there are a lot of chips in there. I didn’t think it prudent to vacuum while cutting was in process.
- Should I be keeping a fire extinguisher handy? A lot of fine chips get thrown around in there, and the spinning cutter must be generating some friction.
- I’m going to be getting a collection of other cutters. I think for detail work, I’ll want 1/16th inch end mills, maybe even 1/32nd inch, and I’ll definitely want some larger ball cutters. I’ll need to figure out how to set the MeshCAM parameters for them.
- Is there an advantage to larger mills? For example, if I’m roughing out a design that requires removing a lot of material, do I save substantial time with a 1/4th inch mill over a 1/8th inch?
As I learn the answers to these questions, I’ll be posting here!