CAD Software

OK I’ve used Fusion360 because it was free for those of us in a hobby. Basically its just way to complex for someone who just wants to make a simple laptop stand one weekend. Oh there are plenty of what they call “How to” videos on Youtube, I can show you tons of ‘How to’ videos that are nothing more than the jerk showing off, the person doesn’t remember that the viewer doesn’t do this for a living, and the speed they’re blowing through the tutorial … i mean it’s just frustrating.

Easel – For what it is, it is pretty awesome, but I want to do more than just make signs, and to make matters worse it doesn’t work with my X-Carve setup because it HAS to detect that your computer is connected via USB. Well. I don’t want my computer down in my garage. So I’ve connected it to a Raspberry PI to which if I have the G-Code, CNC.js does a great job of carving. Others have come up with ways to use easel to a networked system, but changes to easel have blown those tools away. Why the hell you can’t have an Easel driver for Linux is beyond me. The Easel driver is written in NODE JS – NODE JS runs on a LINUX, porting the Mac driver would be simple, and yeah I did get the Mac version to work for a while on Linux, but changes to Easel blew that away.

So what out there is 1) Inexpensive, 2) easy to use – I mean I am not designing the engine for a Lamborghini, I just want to make simple things out of wood. 3) Runs on a Mac.

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I guess it really depends on what you consider inexpensive. I have have been told by many people that I can squeeze a penny till it screams and I really agonized over spending money on a CAD/CAM program. But it did not take me long to figure out that I was never going to be a Fusion 360 expert (nor did I want to be). And as good as Easel is, it is still missing a lot of features that I really needed.

I downloaded the free trial version of Vcarve Desktop and after about 2 hours playing with it I really wanted to purchase it, but the $350 price tag seemed like way too much money. Then I used the trial version to make the lid to the paradise box with a Vbit. After watching my X-carve do things I never suspected it could do I immediately bought the Desktop version.

Trust me, just having the ability to control a Vbit the way it is supposed to be used is worth the $350. Add to that the ability to make 3D carvings *Bas Relief) and the amazing easy and powerful user interface and you will never look back.

When I was just using Easel I was having a difficult time figuring out new projects to make, with Vcarve my todo list is so long I will never see the end of it.

The best news is that is is almost impossible not to make back the cost of the program in a few months. I never thought I would sell anything, The X-Carve was just a great hobby machine that I could use to make things for friends and family. WIth Vcarve I was making things that friends would insist I sell them.

Download Vcarve and see if you feel the same way about it. Make the Paradise lid and then carve the 3D eagle in a piece of nice pine. You will be sold,

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I use GIMP to make artistic bas-relief for CNC. All the stuff on my web site is made in GIMP.

YouTube link of me making a height map in gimp.

GIMP is free open source software. I also use MR-Soft bmp2cnc to make the raster images into g-code.

You can also make svg files in gimp which works good with the other MR-soft CAM software. You can make a raster g-code and then make a path g-code to cut it out as long as you make both the same size. The svg should have a rectangle around it to keep consistent size.

Have you seen this thread about Easel on Linux?

My linux box in the shop is not on wifi (yet), so I haven’t used it yet, but folks there seem to have it working.

My apologies to those I called ‘Jerks’, I am out of line on that one. I guess I was venting as I’ve been working on the same project for a simple laptop stand for a few months. I followed the directions in a Youtube video. The length was a 20 min video but it took me a good 2 hours putting the guy on pause, and trying, and retrying the steps. This is the link for what I tried to cut tonight. What came out was not good at all, and the mistakes that are in the resulting carve are not in the design. They’re also not in the GCode as I loaded that into both bCNC and CNC.js and I don’t see why it did what it did. <-- Laptop Stand.

In the picture I uploaded I marked the erorrs like where you see on the top example a weird edge that is only in the middle, it’s not on the left or the right side. Then you can see the boxes in the legs are not square, the top is about a 1/8 inch short, there is a notch cut in the top that isn’t in the design, and one of the supports, the notch is twice the size it should be as it fits into the part at the top.

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I didn’t know about this!! I searched Github for Easel too and this didn’t come up. Yeah, there’s an Arm version. Now I can justify the purchase of a better ARM based single board computer that can run Easel in a web browser.

@Allan I love GIMP! Been using it for – jeez – 15 years? I’ll give that a shot.

On other thing about Fusion 360, they’ve got this very powerful CAD combined with an equally powerful CAM, but getting your design flattened on to one plane where all the parts are at the same height is a pain in the backside. I followed tutorial after tutorial on how to flatten – even downloaded an extension to flatten and nothing seemed to work out well. You’d think that in a program like F360, you could go into the CAM, click a button and have it flatten your parts out for you. Sure you’d have to move them around some, but it was a ROYAL pain getting the GCode to this. (By flatten, I mean put all the parts on one plane.

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@Phil I have a Raspberry pi connected to a Protoneer board with 4 TB6560 drivers. (two drive the Y axis.) So it’s got plenty of power, and they don’t get overheated. It did the wierd edge on more than once piece, and it did it on two different tries to cut this design. I am only showing one.

Post processor. I used the grbl post processor that must have come with one of the upgrades… Maybe thats the issue? I should try the XCarve one.

Yes I did calibrate my system. I spent a few hours going through and making sure that when I moved a millimeter in each direction it actually went a millimeter. Then I would do 100mm and ensure that hit hit 100mm on each axis exactly. When I upgraded to GRBL1.1 I had to do it again as it wiped my settings back to stock.

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@Phil, Yeah I did watch this one. I think I tried how he flattened and arranged the parts, but for some reason it didn’t work for me. This is one that I tried to follow, and basically it said to use the Modify -> Align. So what I did was a new sketch, I drew a rectangle, made it the thickness of my material, then did the Modify -> Align and it didn’t work on all the pieces. What is a pain is that they wind up at different heights, and because some are linked to be a certain distance apart, you can’t flatten them. Getting the parts all laid out right probably took me more time than it did to go through the design in the first place. It shouldn’t be that hard. When you go into Cam, there should be a layout or flatten tool that arranges your parts for CAM operations.

There should be another tool that allows you to center or align with X, Y, and Z zero. In the above piece, 0 was somewhere in the middle, not on the bottom left where I set it in CAM. Nearly wrecked my spindle because it wanted to start the part three inches below where I specified to start, or another time the machine just danced 3 inches above the wood – again because the X, Y and Z axis were set to be at the bottom left, but the resulting GCode didn’t turn out that way. (Those times I used the XCarve generator)

@Phil, I was going to get the TB6600, but the motors are only 2.8 amp, thought it was overkill. The protoneer board has an Arduino built in, and is designed for smaller drivers like the GShield, but Protoneer also makes a board that allows you to directly connect to external drivers.

Not sure if you are still interested in learning Fusion 360, but if you are, this guy is good.

Yeah I have that same basic setup, (but I don’t have mine in a box yet very nice btw) and in my opinion going with 4 separate drivers is the way to go. If one blows it’s $15. With the XController, or GShield if one driver blows, you have to buy them all over again for $300+.

The Protoneer board integrates the Arduino and the Raspberry pi. What I run on the Raspberry pi is CNC.js which allows you to design in your office, CNC.js runs as a web server on the Raspberry pi to which you can upload the GCode to and works like a web based gcode sender. Has a nice graphical display to show you what the spindle is doing etc. The key is I can setup the wood on the machine, then start it and monitor the progress without my main computer getting sawdust all over it. The Protoneer has connections for the spindle, probe, homing switches etc.

Under the Protoneer is the Raspberry pi.


@Joe – Thanks for the tip, I’ll look into it.

Here’s a web app that turns height map into stl file.

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No it’s an embedded arduino compatible ATMEGA328. On the Raspberry Pi it shows up as a serial device. To be honest I’ve hooked up the limit switches but they’re not working. I asked about them in the protoneer forum and the report is that I probably am doing something wrong and I don’t think they’re hooked up right. I’d probably troubleshoot it further but I don’t find it difficult to zero the machine to the material manually. Many times I’ll put a small dot or some kind of marker on the wood that represents 0 so that if I have to start over, I can go back to that point. If the power is off on the Raspberry / Arduino when I start them up, that becomes the machine 0. Another method is to just manually move the machine to physical 0. Then I can use my iPad connected to CNC.js to move the spindle to the starting point on my piece.

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Yeah OK. According to the Protoneer description one of the features of the board is: “Added circuitry for End-Stop and Probe signal filtering. This eliminates false triggers and makes it possible use non-shielded cable for end-stops/probes.”

Anyway I’d be interested in what you’ve learned on that.

Interesting that you have a problem starting a homing cycle too close to your switches. Is this a problem maybe with UGS? I have run a homing cycle with everything nearly in the home position already and never had any problems. Some of them were already touching the switch. Makes me think its a problem with UGS. I’ve thought about switching over and this would be good to know before I do.

Homing is “black box” to any Gcode sender as all it does is send a “$H” command and then GRBL takes over.

I’ve also been able to home when right next to the stops (run a $H, then once done, run another $H) and it was successful, but I also use the Xcontroller.

Maybe thats what it is. I also have the X Controller :thinking: