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Thread: Learning CNC
12-05-2013, 06:26 PM #1
I currently only operate manual machines. I do a lot of one-offs, repairs and prototype stuff. We don't have any cnc machines. I've been trying to talk the boss into getting some cnc machines as we outsource all of our production. He's definately considering it. I think that he would bite if I knew how to code. Also, this day in age I should be able to code anyway. I'm kind of worthless in the real world right now. So, here's my question. What is the best way to learn programming on my own without access to a machine? I work two jobs and going to school is not really an option because I just don't have time. I know there is a plethora of information on the internet and I am certainly willing to invest in online schooling, but I would like some opinions on my best options. Also, are there any good books out there that I should be looking at? I was also considering paying a local machinist for lessons at an hourly rate. Not sure if anyone would be willing to do that, but if I did find someone how much would you guys charge for that? Any other ideas on how to get me up to speed with the rest of the world?? Also, how did you guys learn? Thanks a lot.
12-05-2013, 06:30 PM #2
If you know and have great CAD/CAM software,you can machine without knowing G-Code.Computer is faster than hand coding.Of course knowing G-Code makes you even better.
12-05-2013, 06:49 PM #3
Is it more lathe or mill work? If it were lathe work you could probably pick it up fairly easily. We hand coded our lathes until we made the switch to all Mazaks (now programing with mazatrol). A mill on the other hand is still doable, just harder to learn and a lot more to it.
12-05-2013, 06:58 PM #4
Well I want to learn g-code regardless. It's kind of split down the middle as far as lathe vs. mill although we would probably get a lathe first. I guess I should have also asked about learning programs such as mastercam and such. I should clarify that learning those programs (or at least one) is entailed in my conception of cnc. I already draw with inventor so it only makes sense to get a program. I'm actually only familiar with mastercam, what other ones are there, and how easy are they to learn?? What's the most commonly used? I know I can do all of this on my own, but without access to anything, I'm not sure of the best route to take. Thanks.
12-05-2013, 07:54 PM #5
I was sent on a course when my first employer bought a CNC VMC - not an option for you unless you can sell the 'chicken/egg' scenario. After that, every time a new control 'appeared', I did what Billy Connolly suggested "RTFM"!.
Seriously though, if you get buy some time on a machine with a good operator/programmer I'd suggest that's the way to go to learn manual programming.
As far as Mastercam etc goes, I think they're all great but unless you know what the software is spitting out you'll get into all kinds of grief. Just my two bob's worth. Good luck!
12-05-2013, 08:11 PM #6
I was in the same boat has you. 2 year ago ive talk with the boss and he bought a cnc lathe with a fagor 8055 control. No need to know g code its a comversationnal control. Is it has fast has a production lathe ? No its not but if you are like us where the biggest production go from 50 to 100 piece they are realy usufull to keep job in house.
We just boight a vmc 2 week ago with the same control fast and easy to program and learn. I personally think for small job shop/repair the best way to makw a step on cnc world without going all out on production.
12-05-2013, 08:19 PM #7
" unless you know what the software is spitting out you'll get into all kinds of grief."
Simply not true.Get software with simulation and a good g-code back plotter.Knowing G-Code will make you better but it is not absolutely necessary.Now if you are in production of thousands of parts and every second counts,that is entirely different.
Not picking no fights,just making statements that I know to be true.Because I have no problems CNCing and still am not proficient in g-code(I simply have not spent the time).My CAD/CAM is where I spent my time learning.Maybe some day g-code learning will happen.I mean I have picked up bits and pieces,but in know way do you have to know g-code to make shit.
Might add I had many years manual machining before the CNC thing.That helps a lot I believe.Especially if you are going to self-teach,as I did.
12-05-2013, 08:54 PM #8
Well what the cam program puts out depends on what one you have some are better then others, some spend a fair amount of time cutting air.
But will generally get the job done.
For lathe it should be better only working in 2d not 3 or 4 axis.
12-05-2013, 09:18 PM #9
I am in the same boat as you. I built a cnc router a few years back using a china kit. I crashed that thing so many times learning it was not funny.
If you or your boss can afford it get a copy of bob cad and start learning the software. I messed up and bought mach III for camming but lennox has a free version running around I should have nutted up and learned, still might.
I can draw up pretty much anything you can dream up, but would be apprehensive of plugging my code into a real cnc like an okuma or hass and hitting the go button.
12-05-2013, 09:24 PM #10
I recently started using CNC and it has been a steep learning curve. I leaned basic G code 20 years ago during my apprenticeship. As I have not used it since then I forgot 90 percent of it. That being said with many of my jobs being 200,000+ lines for code I don't know how I could ever manually check programs and get any work done.
12-05-2013, 09:45 PM #11
Prototrak makes a nice little nc machine and the programming is easy to learn
If your going to go with a full on cnc mill I would suggest a CAM package that best suits your needs and wallet
You should and will need to learn M and G code for sure...its really not too bad. Get a list of codes watch some programs run and youll learn the format. Each controller is different but they all go about things in the same manner.
12-05-2013, 09:56 PM #12
"You should and will need to learn M and G code for sure.."
It is beneficial but is not absolutely necessary,especially at first.JMO
12-05-2013, 09:56 PM #13
Depending on how complex your parts are a conversational type control may be an option. The Milltronics we have does well for most 2.5 axis work. The downside to conversational is similar to cad/cam, you don't learn any code. The upside is that it's made for the machine so it's easy to use. More complicated parts can be programmed with cam, and AFAIK the other conversational controls let you do this too.
Maybe use conversational to get some of your simpler parts running on a new machine so it's paying for itself, and then you have it available to learn code and setup your cam package.
12-05-2013, 09:58 PM #14
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12-05-2013, 10:01 PM #15
Same here, manual for 30 plus years. We have 4 CNC,s now they all take Gcode, parametric, or the easiest - Conversational as stated above. Conv. is actually quite easy and once written is as good for production as G code, g code can be inserted anywhere in the program. We do mostly ones and twos no production. I can write a "basic" program with threading - grooving-arcs in a matter of minutes.
Its way faster to chuck the piece, write the program - set the tools, and machine the piece than to do it on a manual!!!
Once you have one you will wonder why you didnt buy one years ago.
I went to Milltronics for a week of training, all conversational, the rest was sitting in front of the machine and writing programs- trial and error. most machines have a good verify option. You can visually see the program unfold on the screen and the machine detects some errors.
But as anything hands on training is always the best, you can read all you want but its never the same as actually doing it. If I can learn it -god knows 99% of the population can!
12-05-2013, 10:17 PM #16
+1 for the simulator. You can play with g-code all you want without any iron at all.
12-05-2013, 10:22 PM #17
I would start out with a list of G-codes and M codes. Should be easy to find those on the net. Then find some sample programs which I would be willing to share. Countless books on CNC programming. CNC programming is probably the easiest form of
programming you will find. If you are already a student finding books on CNC should be easy.
Buy a book, read it, then show your boss the book. Take your boss to a local trade school and have someone demonstrate a CNC machine. It is rather ridiculous for your boss to send production work out of his shop to another shop that has CNC.
After you get a CNC machine running you should then learn CAD. Cad is nothing more than mechanical drawing on a computer. Believe it or not, once you have a CAD drawing it can be converted directly to G-code!!!! That is done with CAM software. I'm using CAM software I purchased for $200. It can write hundreds of lines of G-code in seconds and it does not make mistakes.
Here is a link to a very old thread I made on CAM software:
The Home Machinist! ? View topic - CAD converted to Gcode
Hope this helps,
12-05-2013, 10:23 PM #18
'Simply not true.Get software with simulation and a good g-code back plotter.Knowing G-Code will make you better but it is not absolutely necessary.Now if you are in production of thousands of parts and every second counts,that is entirely different.'
Depends how flexible and marketable the OP wants to be and I've yet to see a 'good g-code' backplotter that can handle the numerous MTB's choices of M codes.
Showing my age now but way back I was sat in front of an HP9836 with Arcam software that spat out 'everything we'd ever need'. All good until cutter comp. errors, fixture changes etc arose and then it was great fun attempting to decipher the text in front of me, so yes I agree that you don't have to know g-code to make shit, I can tell you!
12-06-2013, 05:17 AM #19
Centroid has a milldemo program, I believe it's a free download from their site, or you might have to call them to get it. It can be programmed in Gcode or their version of conversational. Graphic simulation of programs, DXF file input, help functions, a code editor to see exactly what the Gcode looks like, ability to modify the generated code to see how the mods effect the program, etc. It does have a program length limitation.
Over the years in my shop it's been interesting how various ages catch onto CNC programming. The best was a part timer who just liked machines, retired PHD microbiologist who would have worked for nothing. Within a couple of hours I trusted him to do basic Gcoding on the mill. Next best were 18+ year olds, actually they catch on the fastest, but are a little too fearless of the machines to trust without close supervision. By far the worst are long term manual machinists who grew up in the pre-digital age.
Reading about shop owners allowing guys to use CAM to generate programs and running them when they don't know Gcode is something I can't imagine ever doing.
12-06-2013, 05:43 AM #20