MakerCAM - a web based CAM program

Hi All, this is Edward. I have a little story to tell you. 

Years ago, maybe 7-8 at this point, I finished building my very first CNC machine. It was not named Shapeoko, you could not build it for anywhere near $300, and it was not assemble-able by nearly everyone. It was in fact, the exact opposite of Shapeoko. 

But, needless to say, I finished assembling the machine, and wired all of the electronics. After that I installed EMC2 (now linuxCNC). I tuned the motors and ran the test job. Success! I was in business. Right away, I wanted to cut my own part. I had already drawn it to scale in CAD and saved the file. Problem was... I kept trying to open it with EMC2 and for the life of me, I couldn't get it to open. 

Ends up, there is a *vital* step between the CAD part and the cutting part. It's called CAM.  I didn't know that. So off to the internet I went, scouring any sort of information I could on this so called "CAM".

I'll give you a run-down on the jist of CAM:  CAM is the process where you (or the software) define your toolpaths. The toolpaths are what turn into g-code. And the g-code is the language your machine understands. The overall workflow goes like this:

Draw Something -> CAM Something -> Stream Something -> Cut Something 

 Pretty easy right? It actually is surprisingly easy once you find a program for each of those steps that you are comfortable with. The problem for most beginners is they don't really know what software to use for steps 1 and 2. 

Here are my suggestions: 

DRAW SOMETHING: Start with inkscape for your CAD program. it's free, it's open source, it's cross platform, there are plenty of tutorials, and it's pretty easy to use once you get the hang of it. Yes, you are not going to design the space shuttle with inkskape, but it's a no-risk way of getting started drawing.

CAM SOMETHING: I've looked high and low for a nice open source, entry level CAM program. As luck would have it, after YEARS of searching, I found one mentioned in another forum, and tracked it down to find out it had been abandoned but the source was released before said abandonment. It was created by a guy named Jack, and I'm planning to do an entire other blog post explaining how this came to be. For now, just know that the source for Jack's creation (which he called PartKam), is now available on my github page. You can find a working example here: www.makercam.com. You will find a basic 'help' and 'tutorial' link at the top of the page.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so we'll assume that a video is worth a million. So, instead of rambling on more about this, here are two videos representing steps 1 and 2 of the process.     Please feel free to join in on the forum discussion regarding makercam, and if you're interested in helping improve the code base, drop me a line. There you have it. Enjoy!

(this is a cross post from shapeoko.com, you can find the original here)

NEW PRODUCTS! - Shapeoko Dual Drive Kit

Inventables started selling the Shapeoko CNC Mill in April 2012.  The response from customers has been humbling.  The Shapeoko CNC Mill is part of an open source hardware project by Edward Ford hosted at www.shapeoko.com.

In October of 2012 Inventables hired Edward.  This is giving him more time to spend working on the project, advancing the Shapeoko, and also helping us add materials, components, and tools to our inventory.  Our goal is to stock every material, component, and tool that you might need to build a product.  That's a tall task but we believe if we accomplish it we will dramatically reduce the complexity of designing and building new products.

You'll hear more about this later in the year.  We have some very interesting things going on behind the scenes.

Today we are launching something special for Shapeoko owners - the dual drive kit.  The kit makes it easy to add a fourth motor on the Y axis of your Shapeoko so you can cut hardwoods and aluminum.

Edward has added all the components needed for the upgrade to our inventory and our software engineering team built a simple page that allows you with the click of 1 button to add it to your cart.  We've also made it flexible so if you already have a component like the motor or the wire you can simply uncheck the box next to that item and it will automatically remove it from your shopping cart.

Below the bill of materials Edward has created some instructions and short videos that demonstrate the process of how to modify your machine.  You can order the complete kit for $58.42.  In addition to improving your ability to cut hardwoods and aluminum it will also increase the precision of the machine.

Instructions from the page


Mamut Fruit Bowl by OMELETTE-ED

The Mamut Fruit Bowl by OMELETTE-ED is great example of combining cnc milled objects. Mamut is made from cnc milled beechwood and polypropylene, there is an amazing video of how it works here.

I would love to see a project combing our wood and plastic selections!

See more of  OMELETTE-ED awesome designs at their website.

Espirale Lamp by Guillermo Cameron Mac Lean

Espirale Lamp by Guillermo Cameron Mac Lean are prototypes that explore the different possibilities of MDF for lamps using a single continuous spiral cut with a CNC machine.

NEW PRODUCTS! 1/4" & 1/2" Fluorescent Acrylic Sheets

We have started adding additional thicknesses to our acrylic sheet category.  Today we announced the launch of 1/4" and 1/2" fluorescent green and fluorescent blue acrylic sheets.

One cool part about these sheets is when they are engraved or cut with a laser you get a cool effect on the edges and engrave marks.