Tormach Post Processor G53 Edits for Tool Change

The Tormach PCNC440 is a lovely machine and is more than big enough for my present needs.   The one problem I had encountered was when coming to a tool change on a CNC job sometimes there was not enough Z height to get the TTS collet out of the spindle.   This was particularly difficult when using larger diameter drill bits in a chuck style holder.

Once in program there did not seem to be any option to break the run and do a G30 or similar.   What I really needed was a move of the spindle upwards and outwards to get it clear of the job and allow TTS access.

Reading up in Peter Smid’s excellent CNC Programming Handbook I could see that care was going to be needed to ensure that any movement was first of all a Z action and then X and Y to avoid the danger of crashing the tool into the job or its fixtures.

I had some discussion with John Saunders at NYC CNC and John was working on a video around this subject.  He helped enormously.

The end result is to use G53 machine coordinates to first do a Z and then and X and Y to move the tool up and to the side for tool change access.

This involves edits to the post processor in three places.   The first two edits (Lines 44 and 66) are there to give an option for this movement in the drop down selection box.  (The line 24 edit is an earlier modification to allow Mill Turning – see separate post).

tormach, post processor, G53
Line 24, 44, 66 edits
g53 tool change edit to post processor
Change that appears in the Property selection box where the Custom Tool Change option now appears

The third edit gives the instructions for this as a G53 Z move than a X and Y move (Lines 543-538).   Note that I later found that I had to add a G54 after the G53 movements as some CAM actions did not include a G54 as part of a tool change.

custom tool change edit
Line 534 to 538 edits

I later on decided it would be nice to include this G53 movement at program end so this is a fourth edit (Lines 1404 – 1405) and not forgetting the change for Mill Turning edit (Line 25) there are five changes in total.

cnc g53 tool change edit
Line 1404 to 1405 edits

That concludes the changes.   I recommend that you spend time watching John’s videos on Post Processor edits on NYC CNC.

If you can’t read the edits then drop me an email and I can send you a full listing.

Note that these are changes to the Tormach standard post processor code and if you are tempted to do this you should do a ‘Save As’ on the original code and only edit the newly created and saved file so you have a fall back position.  Likewise I accept no responsibility in documenting this and putting you up to potential mischief messing with your machine and causing damage.

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Mill Turning on the Tormach PCNC440

I just dared to hit run on my first attempt at Mill Turning.  I need to qualify this in that the first run I was cutting air above the set up.   It looked OK so I put the real material in the spindle and I got a turned part as designed in Fusion 360.   I didn’t part it off and you can see the result below.

Mill Turning set up for first trial run

Mill Turning is where you place the material you want to shape (usually a rod of some kind) in the mill spindle instead of a milling tool.   The tools are mounted on the milling table (see above in the vice) and are completely stationary but move via the actions of the table in the X axis and the spindle in Z.   The software is conned into thinking the material is really a milling tool and that the tools are the material.

It has taken me the best part of a week to work out how to model this in Fusion 360 and I have been helped enormously by watching Jason Hughes on YouTube.  It involves allocating a different Work Coordinate for the location of each tool.

If I can get this more streamlined and get some better lathe tooling in place to support it, then I will be able to turn clock pillars.   This was the last stumbling block in moving to CNC assisted clockmaking.

Tonight I am a very happy bunny.  A glass or two of Merlot with dinner perhaps ?

Update – For a full write up on the process and how I got there go to my mill turning page and download the pdf.

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Tormach Tooling System and a Spanner in the Works

Tormach provide a rather nice tooling system for their milling machines.   This is known as the TTS.   There is a master collet permanently fitted in the spindle.  If you have the automatic tool changer option fitted this collet is depressed by a compressed air driven ram.   This opens its jaws to allow grabbing of individual sub collets holding the tool of choice.

The great bonus of this system is that you can have all your regular (and not so regular) tools permanently mounted in collets ready to go.  Press the button driving the ram and push the next tool home.   This also means you can populate the tool table in the PathPilot CNC driver program with all the tool length offsets without having to measure each time you do a setup.

It does mean quite an investment in the sub collets.   These are available for all manner of capacities both metric and imperial either with fixed diameter grips or standard ER ranges.  There are also custom tools such as the Super Fly and Shear Hog plus fittings to take a Haimer shank.

What was always a fiddly job was mounting a new tool in a collet and trying to contra-rotate the collet tightening nut while holding the body.   This is now no more ….. I have just taken delivery of Tormach’s simple but elegant solution to this.

It is a ball race mounted in a block but a ball race that only rotates in one direction.   You simply push the collet shank into the ball race and it is gripped tight.  To loosen the collet you simply put it in from the other side.  Magic !

Now you have probably realised I am a bit OCD and like things in their place and ordered.   Having got the tool gripping sorted I would now need two spanners to fit the collets of my most popular ER16 and ER20 nuts.  That was one too many spanners for my liking and was tying up standard shop spanners (which also have their allocated place in the shop …. oh dear how sad is that).

Now I happened to have a strip of 50mm wide Ground Flat Stock sat idle and Fusion 360 was calling.  A quick drawing on Fusion delivered a customised spanner sized to suit the two most popular sizes of collet I use.    I ran the CAM and off to the 440.

I put a piece 6mm hardboard on top of my tooling plate and put a couple of M8 holes at 75mm spacing on the centre line of the stock and fastened it down through the hardboard into the tooling plate on the 440 bed.   I made sure the Z clearance was OK for the screw heads (important !) and hit go.

It was the first time I had machined GFS and the 440 handled it well.  I now have a nice customised spanner hanging on the wall above that fancy bearing block.

Disclaimer : –  This post and many others on my website feature references to Tormach and its products.  I have no connection to Tormach Inc financially, commercially or otherwise.  I acknowledge that Tormach®, Tormach Tooling System®, TTS® and PathPilot® are all registered trade marks of Tormach Inc.

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Another Haimer tip bites the dust or at least the mill bed

When I was at NYC CNC I saw that John was selling posters as shown below.

I didn’t realise the significance until I started doing CNC …..

I had been doing OK on breakages of late then like buses, two came along at once.  One was excusable (to my conscience) but the second was a disaster always likely to happen.

I had the Haimer held in a collet in the Myford VMB manual mill.  This means you need both hands occupied to contra rotate the collet and spindle when locking and unlocking.   I just overdid the realise pressure and the Haimer dropped out onto the mill bed.  Crunch, expletives, gloom, expense.  The tips are not cheap at GBP20+ each but Amazon do sell them.

There is the same issue to a lesser extent on the Tormach when releasing the power drawbar even though you are holding the Haimer the sudden momentum of the drop from the collet can sometimes catch you out if the mill table is close.

While discussing my gloom with a friend he suggested putting some sort of protection around the tip when loading and unloading from the spindle.   The Haimer is not an ideal shape for gripping something along these lines given its curved surfaces.  However after some thought a solution was found.   I drew a simple cylinder in Fusion that was 40mm long, 38mm OD and 32mm ID and 3D printed it.  Note these dimensions are for the Haimer FH 3D Taster version.

The cylinder sits over the probe and rests on the outer rim of the tip mounting.  The 32mm ID is just tight enough to squeeze the Haimer rubber gasket and so hold the tube in place.

Not only is this useful for mounting and dismounting the Haimer but it also works as a general protect guard when not in use.

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Tormach PathPilot Version 2 Release – Issues with Shared Folder

I ordered my upgrade to newly released Version 2.x.x of PathPilot for my PCNC440 machine and to be honest the instructions for doing the upgrade were clear and straightforward.   Care is needed as this is a complete clear out of the old version so backups needed to be taken of your GCode files and your Tool Table etc.  Don’t fret however as all this is talked through quite clearly in the downloaded support document (TD10530).

The software loaded well but I then had a couple of problems.

Prior to the upgrade I had a shared folder on my desktop PC that allowed me to blob across the GCode files to the 440 machine without leaving my desk.  After the upgrade this shared folder had disappeared and try as I might, refused to return.   I could ping the Tormach so it was on my network but it was not being seen from a data point of view.

I eventually gave up and posted the problem with Tormach.  They came back quickly with a fix as follows.  This is a simple to do and assumes the ‘green light’ on the internet button (on the status PathPilot page) is lit.

  1. When in the PathPilot working screen, press CTRL+ALT+X to bring up a terminal window.  (A word of warning here …. my keyboard silicon protector overlay supplied by Tormach had legend that did not match the keys underneath …. check what you are really pressing …)
  2. Type gedit smb.conf.share and click enter on the keyboard. This should launch the file for editing.  (Note: 1 space between gedit and smb.conf.share)
  3. Change “security = share” to “security = user”
  4. Reboot the PathPilot controller
  5. Open a folder mapping dialogue on your desktop PC File Explorer and map to an unused drive letter.   Note the format is something like “\\tormachpcnc\gcode” but read the instructions from Tormach.

The other issue I had initially is that I could not load DropBox which is a new facility on PathPilot.  As by now I had solved the shared folder issue, this was less of an issue but belt and braces called and finally it loaded OK.

Note that you must reduce the number of folders seen by DropBox on the Tormach or it will flood your memory storage space.  Tormach give instructions on how to do this by listing the folders that need to be ignored.  You cannot cherry pick them from a dropdown list but instead you need to paper list them and then manually enter them.   Also note that any folders you are blocking that have more than a single word name format need to be encapsulated with ” ” when entered in the blocked folder list (unless you have underscored any spaces).   I reduced my DropBox folders ‘seen’ on the Tormach to just one which will contain my GCode files.

DANGER – do not simply delete the DropBox folders that are not of interest in the PathPilot File screen or you will delete them permanently from the DropBox cloud storage.   All your pictures of Auntie Agnes with her Sherry at Christmas will go down the tube ….

Upgrade Documents on the Tormach Site can be found here and you will need the following two documents

TD10345 Networking PathPilot

TD10530 Upgrading to PathPilot V2.x.x

I have posted this information on the NYC CNC Forum and John has also created a document in his site Library.

Good luck with the upgrade.  The resulting code isn’t dramatically different but general presentation of graphics and fonts is better and the conversational programming is slightly changed.

Finally I cannot emphasise enough how responsive Tormach Tech Support are if you have an issue.  Without their help I would probably still scratching my head regarding the above.

Disclaimer : –  This post and many others on my website feature references to Tormach and its products.  I have no connection to Tormach Inc financially, commercially or otherwise.  I acknowledge that Tormach®, Tormach Tooling System®, TTS® and PathPilot® are all registered trade marks of Tormach Inc.

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