My Second Project

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!

Great Post, thanks for your contribution.

I would also like to know the answers to your questions.

I am a bit surprised that there isn’t an example on the Carbide3D web site that explains the issues you bring up, along with the other obvious things someone new to CNC needs to know to really make use of the 883.

What is the material you used for the cut in the photo?

Thanks Steve.

The material is a block of the Renshape “Synthetic wood” that came with the Nomad.

I think the tutorials on the Carbide3D site are really good, but leave some questions. I’m hoping as we post our experiences, the team will see where things are unclear to us, and be able to add documentation for them.

To be honest, I’m not surprised at all that there are gaps in the documentation. I do software development and write lengthy manuals for my customers, but am always surprised to find where I have failed to answer their questions. The problem is that when you know a subject too well, it’s hard to know what’s not obvious to a newcomer. In any case, I’m hoping that by asking questions, we can get those gaps filled quickly :slight_smile:

Sorry about the cutter confusion. If you send Jorge an email, jorge@ our domain name, we’ll send you the right cutter. To use that one, it’s a #112, or a 1/16" flat cutter.

Regarding your questions:

  • You can pause and vacuum. we’re testing new firmware that will turn off the spindle when you pause to make this easier. If you’re daring, we’ll post instructions for how to upgrade the firmware on existing machines. (don’t worry, you can’t brick it)
  • Can’t hurt to have an extinguisher handy but don’t worry about chips catching on fine. It’s not a problem.
  • The current cutters we offer are build into the Carbide plugin for MeshCAM. As we release more, we’ll update the plugin to make that a non-issue.
  • Bigger mills machine a larger volume in equal time but are no capable of finer detail if they don’t fit into the areas to be machined

@3dsteve - We’ve been around this kind of equipment for a long time and we’re not good at anticipating what new users will be confused by. Part of our goal for this forum is to talk to users and see where the pain points are so that we can fix them for future users. Unfortunately, we’ve spent more time on the hardware and software than we wanted so we haven’t had enough time for more training material. Apollo is itching to knock out more videos in the near future.



Thanks for the quick feedback. Looks like this group is going to be a good thing.

I was engineering VP of a printer company. We addressed this problem by having people
who were not familiar with setting up printers open the box and set it up while the process was video taped.
Many things the engineers took for granted were just not in the knowledge base of the people who
had never set up a printer. We used the info to completely change the packaging, documentation, and
set up software. It was well worth the effort. I did the same process with much more complex products and it also worked well. The customer forms an opinion of the product in the first 30 minutes that is hard to change. Get new guys making things quickly and they will love your company for a long time…

What about giving an 883 to a first time CNC user and having them develop a list of questions that you could
answer in writing and post on the website. Also you could provide free accessories to new users who posted
how to videos on this group site.

I know there is never enough time in a startup, been there and done that, but getting the new customers started right
is key to things working well down the road. Delay production for a day, bring in three new users, watch them open the
box, set up, and make four parts each. Then document how to do it. Your customers will quickly forgive you for taking a
couple days longer to get the 883, if when they open it they can quickly make several parts.

Hope you don’t think I am out of line here, I am really trying to help by sharing things I have done that worked.

Unleash Apollo on videos for a few days, we can wait a few more days to get the units; much more important to know how to effectively use it. If we know how to set up and easily make a half dozen different parts you will
have a lot of happy campers. A lot of new users will want to cut some wood and then plexiglass signs, make boxes in a couple different shapes, download a few STL’s from Thingiverse and make parts (although most of the stuff on Thingiverse is problematic it is still the go to place for people who don’t do their own designs), learn how to attach material to the 883, learn how to set depths for cutting, learn how to select which cutter to use for different types of projects, etc…

If it is helpful to mention, I also received a 0.0625 ball cutter in a 0.125 ball cutter tube. Perhaps there is a mix up at the packing station.

However, I went ahead and bought sets of all the Carbide 3D cutters, so I’m not missing anything.

In my first experience, I also received the “machine parameters invalid” error.

The part was machined successfully, but my concern is that I could not reset the zero. I would power down the machine, close Carbide Motion, unplug the USB, replug the USB, check that the eStop is disengaged, turn on the machine, load the file, and the machine would bypass the setting the zero.

What if I had moved the material?

Hi Rob,

I appreciate the quick answers!

I’m happy to be a guinea pig for the firmware update. I work with embedded systems, and most of my firmware update experience is over unreliable satellite connections to devices that are several days drive away from civilization, so this seems like it would be a piece of cake :smile:

I’m using the Mac OS release of MeshCAM (build 22, 13 Nov 2014), and the only tools that show up are the #101 and #102. I tried downloading the latest, but it appears to be the same.


Where is the Carbide plugin for MeshCAM? Is it something I download separately and install? Or enable somehow?