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  1. #1

    My First Project

    With the exception of Fusion360 (which is perhaps a little too complicated for its own good), most processes to go from an idea to a physically machined part require several steps.


    1. Designing my part from scratch. You need to use CAD software for this. Sketchup, Solidworks, etc etc. Export in typically an STL / STEP (for 3d files) or DXF (2d files - more CNC routing than milling)
    2. Creating G-Code. The MicroMill can't except an STL/STEP or DXF file - much like a 3d printer cannot except them directly either. These formats contain the information of what the thing is - its size/features/etc - enough for it to be loaded in an program, modified and manipulated. It does not contain the information of how to produce said part. This is where the CAM step comes in. A program like MeshCam will allow you to open an STL file of a 3d part, and input a range of settings based on cutter size, material type, material size, etc etc. From this stage you export the G-Code which is the step-by-step instructions the MicroMill uses to create a part.
    3. Sending the G-Code to the MicroMill. This is where GRBLpanel comes in. With the machine connected and homed (as shown in the GRBLpanel thread), you load/open the G-code file and press play. Off it goes! (note - depending on the CAM-software you use, some of them turn the spindle on automatically, others leave you to do it manually. Keep an eye on that!)


    This forum is FULL of ideas for different types of CAD and CAM software. Fusion360 combines the two, but it's not something I'd necessarily recommend you get started with. When learning to cook, ease yourself in with beans on toast rather than going full lobster thermidor!

    Easel

    "Easel is the all-in-one software solution for 3D carving machines. Designed by Inventables, Easel is the easiest way to get started in the world of 3D carving."

    There are lots of great YouTube tutorials for this program - for example - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCUHsJ4Ktj0

    However! This video shows Easel being used to control his CNC mill too. We're not going to do that because the MicroMill is not supported - we're going to use Easel to generate the G-code so we can download it and then send it to the MicroMill through GRBLpanel.







    • Sign in (or sign up) and then the home screen will load.





    • This is the default view for a new project. First thing we want to do is change the workpiece size to suit the MicroMill.





    • To change the work-area size, click the MACHINE button at the top, and enter the MicroMill X and Y size. (see the 'advanced' button right at the bottom of the machine menu? Remember this for later!)





    • Now we have the work area setup for the MicroMill, so its time to load a file get set it up for cutting.





    • We're going to start off really easy here and just go with a nice simple shape in their design library. Click the 'Icons' button to load this (under Machine button!) Many of these designs are better suited to laser-engraving as they're quite complex and intricate. Remember - a CNC mill can only machine details as small as the cutter you've got in the spindle. Lets pick a really nice and simple shape such as the moustache to begin with!





    • Once you've clicked it, the Moustache will drop into place in the bottom left-corner by default. This is where we've homed your MicroMill to, and why we attached the Foamex and spoilboard to bed plate without moving it. Everything should now be in the right place to get you started!





    • You'll see that the default material gets loaded as Birch Plywood with a 1/8" cutter (top right). These materials are not random, Easel will automagically change the feedrate and settings for each material - we are going to go and change these values, but its good practise to pick the closest material from their options as possible. Foamex is a rigid PVC board so thats the one to select.





    • Next up is cutter size - the 3 piece pack of Proxxon end mills you got in the box are 1mm, 2mm and 3mm. Whichever you put in to the spindle during the unboxing instructions is the one to type in here. 3mm is what I'd recommend for cut job number 1. You can change between mm and inches at the bottom of the window.


    Ok so you're signed in, have changed the work-area to the max MicroMill dims, you've selected the material and entered the cutter size. You've got your moustache loaded and its in the default location. The next major setup point is to set the workpiece size - or material dimensions. All the pieces of material you received with your MicroMill are the full size of the bed plate, but this won't always be the case.




    • Change the Material Dimensions to the X & Y of the material - and (most importantly for something you want to cut all the way through!) the Z dimensions too. Now we can start changing the size and position of the moustache.





    • Click the drag arrows on the moustache and make it whatever size you want. Ive made it about 80mm long (If you click the SHAPE tab you can input exact numbers). Id also recommend moving it away from the edge of the material as this is the edge of the machining area too, so its always preferable to leave a bit of wiggle room. By default, things tend to load on the FILL cut-type selected. This means it will clear all material that is black. Lets change that so we can wear this moustache!





    • Click the OUTLINE button and it gives you options for On-Path, inside or outside cuts. The inside/outside are really useful for inlay cutting. For this, lets cut On-Path. You can also click to remove the tabs as we're using double sized tape to hold everything down! This is entirely your preference, if you know you've got a good amount of tape under the corner where we're cutting its unlikely to go anywhere, and if it does its only Foamex so wont damage anything. You can rotate the part 90° with the SHAPE tab and move the moustache to align with a tape-strip too. (thats what Im going to do in the next screen shot!)





    • Ok, so that's all done. The black line is the cut-line (the yellow are the tabs if you've chosen to leave them in to see what they're all about!) Now we need to set the cut-settings using the 'cut settings' button in the top right. Ive ignored their recommended settings and have gone for 500mm/min Feed Rate (the current MicroMill maximum) and 40mm/min for the Plunge Rate. Feed Rate is how quickly the X and Z move around, Plunge Rate is how quickly the Z moves down into the material. We're moving 1mm at a time, so this value is almost arbitrary as it doesn't make masses of difference - only to the time it takes. This value you'll definitely want to play around with and increase in the future. The Foamex is 5mm thick, we've set it to cut all the way through on the outline only - so it will take 5 passes to cut through. This won't take long.





    • Now we need to export the g-code for GRBLpanel to interpret. Click the MACHINE tab again and change the Spindle Control from Manual to Automatic. The RPM value really doesn't matter as its controlled with the twisty dial on the Proxxon anyway. Set it to 12,000rpm on both and leave it for this job. Setting the spindle to Automatic means the G-Code will know to turn it on/off at the start and end - so its one less thing for us to forget!
    • Once thats done, click the Advanced button at the bottom of the drop down.





    • These are the advanced options. It gives us the ability to generate and export the g-code so we can do what we want with it - in our case, give it to GRBLpanel to control the MicroMill. The Safety Height and StepOver values can be changed here too. Safety Height refers to how high above the workpiece the Z will be lifted to for it to move to a different location and begin cutting again. The default value I feel is too high as it just takes forever between each pass. 2mm is enough for the cutter to be pulled clear of the top of the Foamex. Step Over is essentially cutting overlap and has a lot to do with surface finish quality vs machining time. We're cutting all the way through so for us this doesn't matter. Leave it at the default 40% and read up more on it later!
    • Generate the G-Code, Export the G-Code.
    • Easel can now be closed as and we want to go back to GRBLpanel.


    Back in GRBLpanel

    This part you can do with the machine connected using the Z+ and Z- buttons, or do it by hand. If you do it by hand, turn the screw slowly as you don't the motor to generate any current and send it back into the board as this won't do it any good!

    The very last thing to do is to bring the bottom of the cutter into contact with the top of the foamex workpiece. If you've levelled a 3d printer, we're going to follow a very similar process. GRBL does support touch probes, so this is something you can add or play with in the future. For now, grab a piece of the double sided tape backing to get started.


    1. Lower the Z axis down until the cutter is nearly touching the foamex.
    2. Put the piece of paper/tape backing in between the foamex and the cutter.
    3. Keep lowering the cutter until it just about pinches the paper between itself and the foamex. This shows the cutter will be level to the top of the foamex. You want it to pinch just enough you feel some resistance (ie. if you blew on it the tape wouldn't fly away), but you don't want to pinch so much the paper rips.




    When your MicroMill looks like this - with the spindle levelled in the bottom left corner of the bed plate - press the ZERO XYZ button to set this as the new home place.

    Thats the machine setup all done. Close the door, press the green button on the MicroMill (to take the status back to IDLE).



    With the material in place, the cutter in the spindle and the machine all homed and ready to go - all thats left is to load the Moustache export file and press start.

    1. Press the Load File icon (shown in red box below)
    2. Press the Start icon (shown in green below) to get the party started!


    Its worth bearing in mind that the pause/stop functions are pretty much useless as it only pauses at the end of a command line - so you can be waiting a while. If you want to pause the machine quickly, just open the door. If you want to stop everything instantly, you can also press the red button. The red abort button wipes the log, so the MicroMill will forget where it was. This is a kill-operation and you'll have to re-home it all using Jogging to start again!

    ------

    If everything went well, this is what you'll be left with!

    (minus the Hog)



    Post your experiences and thoughts below!

  2. #2

    Re: My First Project

    (Continued)


    Ok so you're signed in, have changed the work-area to the max MicroMill dims, you've selected the material and entered the cutter size. You've got your moustache loaded and its in the default location. The next major setup point is to set the workpiece size - or material dimensions. All the pieces of material you received with your MicroMill are the full size of the bed plate, but this won't always be the case.




    • Change the Material Dimensions to the X & Y of the material - and (most importantly for something you want to cut all the way through!) the Z dimensions too. Now we can start changing the size and position of the moustache.





    • Click the drag arrows on the moustache and make it whatever size you want. Ive made it about 80mm long (If you click the SHAPE tab you can input exact numbers). Id also recommend moving it away from the edge of the material as this is the edge of the machining area too, so its always preferable to leave a bit of wiggle room. By default, things tend to load on the FILL cut-type selected. This means it will clear all material that is black. Lets change that so we can wear this moustache!





    • Click the OUTLINE button and it gives you options for On-Path, inside or outside cuts. The inside/outside are really useful for inlay cutting. For this, lets cut On-Path. You can also click to remove the tabs as we're using double sized tape to hold everything down! This is entirely your preference, if you know you've got a good amount of tape under the corner where we're cutting its unlikely to go anywhere, and if it does its only Foamex so wont damage anything. You can rotate the part 90° with the SHAPE tab and move the moustache to align with a tape-strip too. (thats what Im going to do in the next screen shot!)





    • Ok, so that's all done. The black line is the cut-line (the yellow are the tabs if you've chosen to leave them in to see what they're all about!) Now we need to set the cut-settings using the 'cut settings' button in the top right. Ive ignored their recommended settings and have gone for 500mm/min Feed Rate (the current MicroMill maximum) and 40mm/min for the Plunge Rate. Feed Rate is how quickly the X and Z move around, Plunge Rate is how quickly the Z moves down into the material. We're moving 1mm at a time, so this value is almost arbitrary as it doesn't make masses of difference - only to the time it takes. This value you'll definitely want to play around with and increase in the future. The Foamex is 5mm thick, we've set it to cut all the way through on the outline only - so it will take 5 passes to cut through. This won't take long.





    • Now we need to export the g-code for GRBLpanel to interpret. Click the MACHINE tab again and change the Spindle Control from Manual to Automatic. The RPM value really doesn't matter as its controlled with the twisty dial on the Proxxon anyway. Set it to 12,000rpm on both and leave it for this job. Setting the spindle to Automatic means the G-Code will know to turn it on/off at the start and end - so its one less thing for us to forget!
    • Once thats done, click the Advanced button at the bottom of the drop down.





    • These are the advanced options. It gives us the ability to generate and export the g-code so we can do what we want with it - in our case, give it to GRBLpanel to control the MicroMill. The Safety Height and StepOver values can be changed here too. Safety Height refers to how high above the workpiece the Z will be lifted to for it to move to a different location and begin cutting again. The default value I feel is too high as it just takes forever between each pass. 2mm is enough for the cutter to be pulled clear of the top of the Foamex. Step Over is essentially cutting overlap and has a lot to do with surface finish quality vs machining time. We're cutting all the way through so for us this doesn't matter. Leave it at the default 40% and read up more on it later!
    • Generate the G-Code, Export the G-Code.
    • Easel can now be closed as and we want to go back to GRBLpanel.


    Back in GRBLpanel

    This part you can do with the machine connected using the Z+ and Z- buttons, or do it by hand. If you do it by hand, turn the screw slowly as you don't the motor to generate any current and send it back into the board as this won't do it any good!

    The very last thing to do is to bring the bottom of the cutter into contact with the top of the foamex workpiece. If you've levelled a 3d printer, we're going to follow a very similar process. GRBL does support touch probes, so this is something you can add or play with in the future. For now, grab a piece of the double sided tape backing to get started.


    1. Lower the Z axis down until the cutter is nearly touching the foamex.
    2. Put the piece of paper/tape backing in between the foamex and the cutter.
    3. Keep lowering the cutter until it just about pinches the paper between itself and the foamex. This shows the cutter will be level to the top of the foamex. You want it to pinch just enough you feel some resistance (ie. if you blew on it the tape wouldn't fly away), but you don't want to pinch so much the paper rips.




    When your MicroMill looks like this - with the spindle levelled in the bottom left corner of the bed plate - press the ZERO XYZ button to set this as the new home place.

    Thats the machine setup all done. Close the door, press the green button on the MicroMill (to take the status back to IDLE).



    With the material in place, the cutter in the spindle and the machine all homed and ready to go - all thats left is to load the Moustache export file and press start.

    1. Press the Load File icon (shown in red box below)
    2. Press the Start icon (shown in green below) to get the party started!


    Its worth bearing in mind that the pause/stop functions are pretty much useless as it only pauses at the end of a command line - so you can be waiting a while. If you want to pause the machine quickly, just open the door. If you want to stop everything instantly, you can also press the red button. The red abort button wipes the log, so the MicroMill will forget where it was. This is a kill-operation and you'll have to re-home it all using Jogging to start again!

  3. #3

    Re: My First Project (MicroMill)

    If everything went well, this is what you'll be left with!

    (minus the Hog)



    Post your experiences and thoughts below!

  4. #4
    Registered
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Posts
    3

    Re: My First Project

    As a first test Easel is quite nice and easy, here is a test of mine (red foamex is very nice, it covers the blood trail of me trying to fit in the window panels *ouch*). The MicroMill works great!

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