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beanbag
10-07-2009, 04:41 AM
Saw a few threads on CAD, but not CAM.

I already know how to use Solidworks, so for now the CAD part is ok.
I recently got access to a Tormach CNC and wanted to try making some parts. However, that facility only has Cut3D on their computers. I tried a practice piece, which is nothing more than a square block, except that the top half is a cylinder. The stupid software wanted to rasterize the cylinder. WTF, can't it decide to use some kind of a helix to cut it out?

So I'm looking for a FREE CAM program that has these features:
Supports helical paths for both OD's and ID's (pockets). (OK, it doesn't have to be smart enough to figure one out, but to at least let me program it in)
Can do something like troichoidal slotting.
Can control a 4th axis so I can do something stupid like my "cylinder with equally spaced radial holes"
Preferably has a user base that writes plug-ins, such that somebody is bound to write in some spiffy feature
Lets me view and tweak the tool paths
(Whatever other features would be neat. I'm a newb at CAM, so I don't know what I want yet)

Thanks for the suggestions. In the meantime, I'm going to be doing some more searching.

P.S. Most of the machining I do is making functional parts, or parts that hold parts onto other parts. Therefore most of the shapes are pretty geometrical, e.g. rectangles, cylinders, etc. I don't do a lot of engraving or mold making or artsy pansy stuff.

Evan
10-07-2009, 09:10 AM
I use CamBam for most of my work. I will declare my interest here first. I beta test CamBam for Andy and so receive a free copy of the pro version.

It doesn't do helical threading, at least not yet but it does do quite a few nice things. It has a number of plugins available including one, ahem.. by myself that allows for a large variety of special functions to be implemented.

My plugin is especially useful for periodic shapes of revolution. Examples of what it can produce:

http://metalshopborealis.ca/pics4/spg1.jpg

vincemulhollon
10-07-2009, 10:36 AM
So I'm looking for a FREE CAM program that has these features:

...

P.S. Most of the machining I do is making functional parts, or parts that hold parts onto other parts. Therefore most of the shapes are pretty geometrical, e.g. rectangles, cylinders, etc. I don't do a lot of engraving or mold making or artsy pansy stuff.

Maybe Mecsoft's freemill would meet your NEEDS? I don't think it meets all your WANTS. I didn't see in your post, are you trying to make something, in which case you may not need all the features, or trying to do something, in which case experimenting with the features is the whole point? That's a pretty important decision...

The business model seems to be to lure you in with freemill, then if you like it, you will probably pay to upgrade to the much fancier visualMILL product (which at first glance does seem to meet most of your WANTS, other than being free...)

URL:

http://www.mecsoft.com/Mec/Products/FreeMill.shtml

I have no connection with them, in fact I don't even use it, I just thought you might find this interesting, and if there are no better suggestions, its probably your best bet.

Evan
10-07-2009, 11:02 AM
Freemill has been around for quite a few years. It's very basic. It has no higher functions such as editing the toolpath or other basic CAD functions. The biggest drawback is that it doesn't read DXF format.

philbur
10-07-2009, 12:26 PM
I'd like GBP 10,000 out of the till, but that's not possible either.;)

Phil:)




So I'm looking for a FREE CAM program that has these features:
Supports helical paths for both OD's and ID's (pockets). (OK, it doesn't have to be smart enough to figure one out, but to at least let me program it in)
Can do something like troichoidal slotting.
Can control a 4th axis so I can do something stupid like my "cylinder with equally spaced radial holes"
Preferably has a user base that writes plug-ins, such that somebody is bound to write in some spiffy feature
Lets me view and tweak the tool paths
(Whatever other features would be neat. I'm a newb at CAM, so I don't know what I want yet)

Thanks for the suggestions. In the meantime, I'm going to be doing some more searching.

P.S. Most of the machining I do is making functional parts, or parts that hold parts onto other parts. Therefore most of the shapes are pretty geometrical, e.g. rectangles, cylinders, etc. I don't do a lot of engraving or mold making or artsy pansy stuff.

macona
10-07-2009, 02:07 PM
BobCAD is not terrible. The guy who owns the CNC mill down here at TechShop has a copy and he is pretty happy. He uses it when he cant do what he needs in conversational. Their sales staff is a pain though. You can get the package from 200-300, not the $2k they advertise. If you do download the demo do NOT put down your real phone number.

The mill in question:

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2440/3914075525_94640236e1.jpg

S_J_H
10-07-2009, 02:32 PM
No offense to vincemulhollon, But I would not bother with freemill, it's very basic and very limited.

When it comes to free cam that will do any sort of 4 axis work you are really asking a lot, so the pickings are mighty slim.
I don't think you can find much better than the "cnc toolkit" for free.
http://www.cnc-toolkit.com/

It will work with "gmax" which is also free.
http://www.turbosquid.com/gmax
It's not the easiest software combo to learn but there are tutorials to get you going.
Steve

DR
10-07-2009, 03:38 PM
bean',

Apparently you aren't familiar with CAM software.

What you're asking for might easily be in $5K plus range. CAM just never has had the developer following willing to write good stuff and give it away. Probably because the audience that "needs" it is relatively small (and in most cases affluent enough to buy).


Macona,

Over the years I've been given three copies of BobCAD. These were bundled with customer's new machines.

The customers were throwing them out so I said I'd like to try them. These were current versions at the time going back as far as 10 years. They were terrible, almost totally unusable, bad code, crashed the computer, functions didn't work, etc, etc. BobCAD got a very bad reputation over these earlier versions, plus their sales tactics sucked.

madman
10-07-2009, 04:29 PM
It is nice usually can find one lurking around??

MickeyD
10-07-2009, 09:23 PM
I don't think that there is anything free that will fit your requirements (I have looked). Since this is to use on a Tormach, you can order a copy of Sprutcam from them for about $1000 that will do what you want. It is a very capable program but it does have a steep learning curve and marches to it's own drummer. For fancy 3D stuff it is really hard to beat for the price. If you want a good 2.5/limited 3D program, look at VisualMill 6 standard. It produces nice code, excellent support, and took me about 3 hours from loading it to actually cutting parts. I am very happy with it for the majority of the work that I do.