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  1. #21
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    I dont think that swellwelder should try to build an optical trace machine from scratch- But I do have to step in and defend Jack Cain- and his engineering abilities. (by the way, I never met him or knew of his existance before this thread- I just shopped the market, and his machine was the best match for my needs and budget.)

    My optical trace machine is not " almost impossible to maintain" and it works very well.

    Of course, as I said, I bought it new for 10 grand. At a time when an equivalent CNC machine was about 25 grand new.
    It is professionally built- a custom designed and built circuit board, a real, brand new westinghouse electric eye, high quality motors, and sturdy steel parts. I have run it thousands of hours, cutting out sometimes hundreds of parts, and it has been very reliable.

    You have to compare apples to apples- I would not expect a homemade, $200 machine to work the way mine does, but you probably would not need it to- I have trained probably 2 dozen kids over the years to run it in an hour or so, and it has endured all their heavy handed inexperienced cludging, and still made me literally hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    For me, an optical trace machine is better than a CNC machine- first, because I need a machine that will reliably cut material all day long, without ME fussing with it and kicking it in just the right spot, and second, because for the complicated shapes I cut, I have yet to see a computer program that follows thru on its promises. I have some work waterjet cut, usually thicker stainless which needs very precise lines, and my waterjet cutter has tens of thousands of dollars of state of the art software running hundreds of thousands of dollars of cutting machine- and you know what- there are always kinks in the curves. Every commercial program that every waterjet and laser cutting company I have used runs cannot accurately deal with changing radius curves- they do a funky point to point thing, and I have to go in afterwards and sand and grind the curves- now admitedly, to most people this would be too subtle to matter, but my work is all about how it looks.
    Here is a piece that I cut on the machine- at one point I was making hundreds of chairs like this, and I was very satisfied with the speed and accuracy of the cuts, and frankly, paper can store a lot of information- I am not sure how big a computer file this would be, but my guess is pretty big.

  2. #22
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    I dont think that swellwelder should try to build an optical trace machine from scratch- But I do have to step in and defend Jack Cain- and his engineering abilities. (by the way, I never met him or knew of his existance before this thread- I just shopped the market, and his machine was the best match for my needs and budget.)

    My optical trace machine is not " almost impossible to maintain" and it works very well.

    Of course, as I said, I bought it new for 10 grand. At a time when an equivalent CNC machine was about 25 grand new.
    It is professionally built- a custom designed and built circuit board, a real, brand new westinghouse electric eye, high quality motors, and sturdy steel parts. I have run it thousands of hours, cutting out sometimes hundreds of parts, and it has been very reliable.

    You have to compare apples to apples- I would not expect a homemade, $200 machine to work the way mine does, but you probably would not need it to- I have trained probably 2 dozen kids over the years to run it in an hour or so, and it has endured all their heavy handed inexperienced cludging, and still made me literally hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    For me, an optical trace machine is better than a CNC machine- first, because I need a machine that will reliably cut material all day long, without ME fussing with it and kicking it in just the right spot, and second, because for the complicated shapes I cut, I have yet to see a computer program that follows thru on its promises. I have some work waterjet cut, usually thicker stainless which needs very precise lines, and my waterjet cutter has tens of thousands of dollars of state of the art software running hundreds of thousands of dollars of cutting machine- and you know what- there are always kinks in the curves. Every commercial program that every waterjet and laser cutting company I have used runs cannot accurately deal with changing radius curves- they do a funky point to point thing, and I have to go in afterwards and sand and grind the curves- now admitedly, to most people this would be too subtle to matter, but my work is all about how it looks.
    Here is a piece that I cut on the machine- at one point I was making hundreds of chairs like this, and I was very satisfied with the speed and accuracy of the cuts, and frankly, paper can store a lot of information- I am not sure how big a computer file this would be, but my guess is pretty big.

  3. #23
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    Ries -

    Didn't mean to disparage the engineering abilities of somebody who could get one of those machines to work - just the opposite; I think that it requires considerable talent to do.

    >> almost impossible to maintain

    It would be if you had built it from scrounged parts. But, that's what throwing a pile of $$$ at the problem will do for you... often, you get what you pay for.

    >> and it works very well

    But less then half as well as a $25K CNC machine - especially one built with today's modular components. See above responses for all the cool stuff a CNC can do that the optical ones don't.

    >> I would not expect a homemade, $200 machine to work the way mine does

    That $200 figure is for the control only; if you factor in the cost of the rest of the parts if bought new, it's significantly more $$$.

    >> reliably cut material all day long, without ME fussing with it and kicking it in just the right spot

    I have never had a problem with a home-brew control; once it's hooked up and working, it just works - all of my difficulties have been with the mechanical aspects of the machinery; but do keep in mind that I'm working on chip-making machines (lathe and mill) and need tolerances measured in the thousandths of an inch - a flame cutter, by the nature of the process, is only good to perhaps a 32nd of an inch; perhaps a 64th if it's thin stock.

    >>because for the complicated shapes I cut, I have yet to see a computer program that follows thru on its promises.

    I know the feeling - that's why I roll my own.

    >> there are always kinks in the curves.
    >> cannot accurately deal with changing radius curves- they do a funky point to point thing,

    Funky not it a good way, either...

    That's a limitation of the EIA274 standard (a.k.a., G-Code)... and why for my control software I'm doing something completely different (it resembles a cross between C and PostScript more than anything else, with a dash of 68000 assembler flavor thrown in for good measure). My control has native support for math-based curves (hermite/beziers, nurbs, involutes, epitrochoids, as well as the more common arcs and helixes) at full machine resolution - without having to send the coordinates of each point to the control, like is done today with EIA274 based machines.

    There should be an adjustment in your software for the number of subdivisions for a curve - try doubling or tripling that, and see if the results look better.

    >> Here is a piece that I cut on the machine- at one point I was making hundreds of chairs like this,

    So you're the guy responsible!

    >>and I was very satisfied with the speed and accuracy of the cuts, and frankly, paper can store a lot of information- I am not sure how big a computer file this would be, but my guess is pretty big.

    For EIA274, it depends on the subdivision level used to approximate the curve path - a meg or two wouldn't be unreasonable, considering that you don't want to be messing with it after it's cut. This is well within the capabilities of TurboCNC - a typical setup would have 32MB RAM, and several GB of hard drive space available on the control PC.

  4. #24
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    Ries -

    Didn't mean to disparage the engineering abilities of somebody who could get one of those machines to work - just the opposite; I think that it requires considerable talent to do.

    >> almost impossible to maintain

    It would be if you had built it from scrounged parts. But, that's what throwing a pile of $$$ at the problem will do for you... often, you get what you pay for.

    >> and it works very well

    But less then half as well as a $25K CNC machine - especially one built with today's modular components. See above responses for all the cool stuff a CNC can do that the optical ones don't.

    >> I would not expect a homemade, $200 machine to work the way mine does

    That $200 figure is for the control only; if you factor in the cost of the rest of the parts if bought new, it's significantly more $$$.

    >> reliably cut material all day long, without ME fussing with it and kicking it in just the right spot

    I have never had a problem with a home-brew control; once it's hooked up and working, it just works - all of my difficulties have been with the mechanical aspects of the machinery; but do keep in mind that I'm working on chip-making machines (lathe and mill) and need tolerances measured in the thousandths of an inch - a flame cutter, by the nature of the process, is only good to perhaps a 32nd of an inch; perhaps a 64th if it's thin stock.

    >>because for the complicated shapes I cut, I have yet to see a computer program that follows thru on its promises.

    I know the feeling - that's why I roll my own.

    >> there are always kinks in the curves.
    >> cannot accurately deal with changing radius curves- they do a funky point to point thing,

    Funky not it a good way, either...

    That's a limitation of the EIA274 standard (a.k.a., G-Code)... and why for my control software I'm doing something completely different (it resembles a cross between C and PostScript more than anything else, with a dash of 68000 assembler flavor thrown in for good measure). My control has native support for math-based curves (hermite/beziers, nurbs, involutes, epitrochoids, as well as the more common arcs and helixes) at full machine resolution - without having to send the coordinates of each point to the control, like is done today with EIA274 based machines.

    There should be an adjustment in your software for the number of subdivisions for a curve - try doubling or tripling that, and see if the results look better.

    >> Here is a piece that I cut on the machine- at one point I was making hundreds of chairs like this,

    So you're the guy responsible!

    >>and I was very satisfied with the speed and accuracy of the cuts, and frankly, paper can store a lot of information- I am not sure how big a computer file this would be, but my guess is pretty big.

    For EIA274, it depends on the subdivision level used to approximate the curve path - a meg or two wouldn't be unreasonable, considering that you don't want to be messing with it after it's cut. This is well within the capabilities of TurboCNC - a typical setup would have 32MB RAM, and several GB of hard drive space available on the control PC.

  5. #25
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    Hammeread- you are way over my head when it comes to electronics and software. I have no doubt you know what you are talking about, but I dont wanna spend the time to learn all that stuff.
    My machine has an on/off switch, a speed pot, and a torch height override, and thats about it. And thats just fine with me.
    A meg of memory- Well, those 25K CNC machines I was considering buying in 92- they came standard with Burny controllers, with a whopping 128k of memory.
    Many of the used CNC machines on the market nowadays have similar memory capability.
    For someone who has the time and skills and inclination to build and troubleshoot their own machine, your way sounds good. But for someone like me, who has plenty to do already, and just wants a working, turnkey tool, I have found the nice simple, cheap, optical trace machine to be quite satisfactory.
    Its all about expectations, and cash flow.

  6. #26
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    Hammeread- you are way over my head when it comes to electronics and software. I have no doubt you know what you are talking about, but I dont wanna spend the time to learn all that stuff.
    My machine has an on/off switch, a speed pot, and a torch height override, and thats about it. And thats just fine with me.
    A meg of memory- Well, those 25K CNC machines I was considering buying in 92- they came standard with Burny controllers, with a whopping 128k of memory.
    Many of the used CNC machines on the market nowadays have similar memory capability.
    For someone who has the time and skills and inclination to build and troubleshoot their own machine, your way sounds good. But for someone like me, who has plenty to do already, and just wants a working, turnkey tool, I have found the nice simple, cheap, optical trace machine to be quite satisfactory.
    Its all about expectations, and cash flow.

  7. #27
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    >> but I dont wanna spend the time to learn all that stuff

    It's actually not that hard - the engineering has all been done for you by the folks at DAK, Xylotex, ArtSoft, etc... when it comes down to actually doing it, all you have to do is hook up the parts, and stick 'em in a box to keep the chips & slag off. It's about as hard as putting together your own PC from off-the-shelf parts (motherboard, hard drive, RAM, case, etc). Designing - from scratch with scrounged parts - an electric eye based system is much harder.

    >> My machine has an on/off switch, a speed pot, and a torch height override, and thats about it. And thats just fine with me.

    Yeah - and thats almost all the user interface that it needs... To that I would add a kerf width setting, and some means to select a file off of the network. KISS principle operator interface design. Oh, and I almost forgot - an E-Stop switch!

    >> with a whopping 128k of memory

    Yeah... the Haas that I briefly used was a 1991 model, and I think it had 128K also - I do know that we were always deleting programs from it to make room for what we were doing at the time. Annoying as heck... :rolleyes:

    >> Many of the used CNC machines on the market nowadays have similar memory capability

    Great canidates for a new control! Small stepper based machine = $200 big servo machine with VFD for the spindle = $2500 or so...

    >> and just wants a working, turnkey tool

    That's the trouble with used machines... they are often not turnkey...

    >> Its all about expectations, and cash flow

    Yup!

  8. #28
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    >> but I dont wanna spend the time to learn all that stuff

    It's actually not that hard - the engineering has all been done for you by the folks at DAK, Xylotex, ArtSoft, etc... when it comes down to actually doing it, all you have to do is hook up the parts, and stick 'em in a box to keep the chips & slag off. It's about as hard as putting together your own PC from off-the-shelf parts (motherboard, hard drive, RAM, case, etc). Designing - from scratch with scrounged parts - an electric eye based system is much harder.

    >> My machine has an on/off switch, a speed pot, and a torch height override, and thats about it. And thats just fine with me.

    Yeah - and thats almost all the user interface that it needs... To that I would add a kerf width setting, and some means to select a file off of the network. KISS principle operator interface design. Oh, and I almost forgot - an E-Stop switch!

    >> with a whopping 128k of memory

    Yeah... the Haas that I briefly used was a 1991 model, and I think it had 128K also - I do know that we were always deleting programs from it to make room for what we were doing at the time. Annoying as heck... :rolleyes:

    >> Many of the used CNC machines on the market nowadays have similar memory capability

    Great canidates for a new control! Small stepper based machine = $200 big servo machine with VFD for the spindle = $2500 or so...

    >> and just wants a working, turnkey tool

    That's the trouble with used machines... they are often not turnkey...

    >> Its all about expectations, and cash flow

    Yup!

  9. #29
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    Sorry guys this may not be appropriate Dale text me at 1-336-682-1112 i have an idea, i have worked on these machines, parts are outrageous, they are right about cnc with linuxcnc

  10. #30
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    whatsnextbw, that was 14 years ago! Those guys are possibly dead of old age by now!


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