This class generally feels like a tour through my favorite toy store, but I have to hand it to the 4 Axis: working with her was like Christmas morning. I literally thought of something, took 30 minutes to design a 3D solid, and 18 minutes after kicking off my job the 4 Axis had produced exactly what I had in mind. Well not exactly, but that’s not the 4 Axis’s fault.
Let me explain…
I thought a good test of this machine’s capabilities would be two sides of a container. My eventual plan is to make it out of aluminum (because I like really like the brushed aluminum look), but for this first run, I just went with whatever material I had on hand. Frankly there wasn’t much, but then my classmate gave me a 7″x3.5″x.7″ block of pine. In reality it was more like 5″Lx3.5″Wx.7″D with 2″ of “legs” from a round cut.
Great! I had my material, now time to make my model. After spending so much time on our CNC joinery and midterm projects, I was feeling pretty comfortable with Vectorworks, but had not yet experimented with 3D. The transition was surprisingly simple. First, I drew six circles for the base, a ridge (for closing), and interior of each piece of the container.
I then layered each shape and extruded each section to get the 3D shape I wanted.
I then added the combined shapes as solids.
Nice. I exported that to my thumb drive and took it over to the CAM machine.
My model initially came in askew from the center line, so I used the green head you see above to change the orientation and align my two parts.
I opted for supports per Ben’s recommendation to ensure my parts didn’t fall off during the process.
I ran into trouble when I put in the size of my workpiece. With supports, the program called for a 5.8 inches in length (I was fine with the other dimensions).
Because my piece was less than 5 inches long after cutting off the legs, I had to resize my model to make it fit with my material length. Thankfully, I could do this from the CAM, so I didn’t have to return to Vectorworks for this.
Once my CAM was ready, I secured my work piece to the machine and hit go.
The machine took it from there.
At one point I became worried that I had reduced the size of my piece so significantly that the 1/4″ bit I was using would destroy it, but I let it run its course and reserved myself to accept whatever was the result of this run (this assignment a skill builder after all).
The CNC made short work of one side of my work piece, taking only 9 minutes to mill out the top portion. When complete, it paused and then rotated my work piece so that the bit was now making contact with the bottom of the piece.
I thought some of the CNC’s movements were funny. For example, it at times seemed to wiggle it’s way into my work piece.
When the milling was all finished, I vacuumed up the wood chips and took at look at what the CNC produced. It was incredible! Exactly what I wanted, if not a bit small.
I cut the two parts of my piece out with the bandsaw and aggressively sanded the edges of each part to remove any indication of the supports.
After only 18 minutes of milling and another 30 of sanding and trimming, I had my object: A super tiny (1/2 inch in diameter) container that can be tightly closed.
Now that I know how the machine works, how to design in 3D in Vectorworks, and how to use the 4 Axis’s CAM, I can move onto aluminum as initially planned 🙂