At last a 4th axis drive for the Tormach PCNC440 !
I have waited 4 years for this to be available and did not hesitate to put in my order to Tormach for one of the new MicroArc drives. Probably the best way to get a good idea of this product is to watch John Saunders’ video.
The MicroArc wasn’t a low cost buy and because 4th axis was not around when my 440 was originally shipped, I needed a fitting upgrade kit as part of the order. Having placed my order with Tormach it took exactly 7 days for DHL to arrive on my doorstep with the shipment. Quite amazing considering the difficult times we are experiencing at the moment.
It took me about one hour to fit the new stepper driver and additional wiring. As ever there were good clear instructions from Tormach. I switched on the 440, enabled the 4th axis in PathPilot and I could control the A axis from the PathPilot screen. Very impressed.
I watched John Saunders video on the MicroArc and how to do 4th axis programming in Fusion 360. I drew up a simple model in Fusion but could not get it to produce working GCode. I had some comms with John and he gave me some pointers. The model had a rotational repeat pattern but while I could run a single op code, if I tried to run the rotational pattern the post processor came up with an error message and would not output any code.
I thought at first it was because I was only using a Fusion hobbyist licence and that 4th axis maybe was not possible. A really helpful dialogue with Shannon McGarry at Fusion cleared up that issue so it must be something else.
After some experimenting I discovered that you have to set the axis of rotation in the post processor dialogue options list. All then worked fine.
It has been a quiet period leading up to Christmas and it has lead to some low level activity catching up on items on the ‘Things to Do’ list.
One of these was to make a graphical representation of what the Fusion 360 Feeds and Speeds dialogue box means and the calculations behind it. To be honest this tab in the Fusion CAM section used to frighten me but I have become more confident with it. The problem is I can’t remember what each box affects so here is a visual representation which might help others. Note that the dialogue changes between a ramp into the stock (such as when cutting a pocket) and a plunge into the stock (such as when drilling).
I hope that makes sense and I have got it right. It certainly helps me to understand what is going on and the calculations going on in the background.
We have a couple of rigid golf caddy cases that take a full golf bag plus whatever else you can squeeze in when going on a holiday trip. Last trip to Hawaii this included lots of shoes, snorkels, flippers etc. These have or at least had two cabinet style locks on them but not anymore. Customs / security at Seattle decided they wanted to have a look inside and took the easy option and smashed the locks off, had a look inside and then Gaffa taped the case back up. Lovely.
Everything arrived home safely with nothing missing but now the debate on how to replace the locks. Clearly the idea of locking them does not go down well with baggage security teams. I have knocked up a design in Fusion that only needs a single cable tie to make it secure. I have 3D printed a concept model from the Fusion design and I have now run the finished items in aluminium using the Tormach CNC. I used a combination of CNC and manual milling to get the results and this highlighted once again that the combination of a CNC and manual is incredibly useful.
I first of all edit the centre clearance hole in the boss in Fusion in preparation for printing. I then 3D print the power supply box and lid and while putting this together I get the boss print underway. The boss takes around 7 hours to print on standard quality. . Given the amount of interest being shown I think a formal write up would be useful for others with perhaps the Fusion file as a download. Working on it and more to follow.
Update – the ring lights are available on Amazon at around GBP14 per pair and you can select diameter (and colour). Buy the largest diameter you can so that there is reduced shadowing around the tool point in the mill or drill press. They are cheaper to buy on EBay from China but there is a longer delivery time.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Some time ago I made a rough and ready wall mounting rack for my parallels so they would sit to hand adjacent to the Myford manual milling machine. I used double sided printed circuit board for the construction and while not elegant it worked OK …. until after I had finished it when I found two of the set lurking in a box with a half finished job. I had not allowed for them in the construction and being OCD me, it annoyed me to have two lose ones that did not fit in the grand order of things.
An idle half day lead to a Fusion design to replace the tired old PCB disaster. This lead to some thinking on how to design it. I wanted a rack that sat on the tooling board with the parallels stacked on it with a slight upward angle to keep them in place. I chose therefore to draw it slightly strangely with the ‘back’ at an angle and extruded it accordingly. See below.
All well and good you might say. Less messing with angles etc.
I squirted the job into the Sindoh 3D driver software and then tried to be clever and print it with the backside down on the printer bed …. or at least what I thought was the backside down. You will no doubt spot that that this is not a simple rotation of 90 degrees but I didn’t.
The printer began producing spaghetti that was not bonding to the printer bed. After three re-tries I took a closer look at my design and realised that the only part of the job that was in contact with the bed was the leading edge (red arrow below). The rest was airborne at an angle all due to the way I had chosen to draw the object and rotate it.
Reset brain and reset printing so it would be now vertical. All was good and my nice new rack sits on the tooling board.
A little bit more brain engagement next time perhaps ?