Courtesy of Bantam Tools
Whether you're designing a miniature coffee pot to be milled out of brass for a diorama or an aluminum gear for a custom mechanism, understanding the programs and processes in the 3D workflow is essential. Bantam Tools offers a library of support guides for 3D workflow. Each is listed below with a quick synopsis. Click the headers to check out each guide in detail. We can't wait to see what you mill!
CAD and CAM
CAD (computer-aided design) programs provide the design tools necessary to create two- and three-dimensional (2D and 3D) renderings of the object you will eventually cut (the “model”) on the milling machine. CAM (computer-aided manufacturing/machining) programs allow you to select tools, materials, and other variables for your milling job. Learn about CAD, CAM, toolpaths, using CAD and CAM together, and suggested software for circuit boards, 2D designs, and 3D designs in this guide.
Fusion 360 is a cloud-connected CAD/CAM application made by Autodesk. It’s supported on Mac OS X and Windows and is free for students, hobbyists, enthusiasts, and startups. It’s both a powerful design app for 3D objects and a CAM app that can create 3D toolpaths. We’ve partnered with Autodesk to ensure a seamless experience when using Fusion 360 and the Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine together. An Othermill CAM post-processor is included by default with Fusion 360, and a tool library is available for download from our website. The Othermill CAM post-processor also works for the Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine. This guide covers the basics of Fusion 360, with a particular focus on CAM.
SolidWorks and Inventor
SolidWorks and Inventor are favorite tools of engineering professionals, but because they are only design applications, an additional CAM application or plugin is required to generate toolpaths and G-code that the milling machine can follow to mill the design. Option 1 is to model your part in SolidWorks/Inventor, generate toolpaths and G-code from within SolidWorks/Inventor using an integrated CAM plugin such as HSMWorks, Inventor HSM, or MasterCAM, and then load the G-code file into the software. Option 2 is to model your part in SolidWorks/Inventor, export it as a STEP file, generate toolpaths and G-code from that file in a separate CAM application such as Fusion 360, and then load the G-code file into the software. The SolidWorks guide and the Inventor guide walk you through both options.
VCarve is a powerful software program for 2.5D milling. In machining, 2.5D refers to an object that is a projection of a 2D plane into the third dimension. Although the object itself is three-dimensional, it cannot have 3D contours, which are smooth transitions between different heights of the material. An example of a contour would be a smooth, upside-down bowl shape. A 2.5D shape also can’t have undercuts, which are areas below the material surface that would need to be machined from underneath. VCarve is ideal for projects such as flat cut-out shapes; engravings in wood, metal, and wax; signs and stencils; and press-fit projects like dovetail boxes and inlay. This guide gives you an overview.
G-code Introduction and Reference
At the heart of the Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine is the TinyG motion controller, and the commands that Bantam Tools Desktop Milling Machine Software sends to it are called G-code. Regardless of what kind of file you import into the software, it all gets turned into G-code under the hood. These commands make the spindle turn on and off, control the X, Y, and Z axes inside the milling machine, and various other functions. This guide is an introduction to G-code, containing a list of common commands and information about what they do. We have a full reference list for experienced users, which also includes a list of commands that are not supported.
Converting STL Files to G-code
While we recommend using only solid models in your Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine design workflow, sometimes your only option is an .stl file. Maybe you found the perfect object on Thingiverse or you used a 3D scanner, and there’s no reasonable way to begin with a solid model. This guide shows you the basics of converting an .stl file to a solid STEP (.stp, .step) file and then importing that into Fusion 360.
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