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The Software

Last update: 31/07/2015

In an hobbystic environment the process to obtain a manufact using a milling procedure is quite simple. The shape of the manufact is drawn by a computer using a cad software. The file of the manufact is exported in a common format (dxf, hpgl) and it is converted to Gcode (a programming language for numerical control).Using a dedicated software  all instructions are sent to the the machine to start the realization of the manufact. 

Naturally the gcode could be written from scratch but nowadays such a procedure is unproposable and can be considered only for basic, really simple, manufacts.

We are talking about computing, this means that we have, at first, to choose the O.S. and after the software to realize the whole process of a milling procedure.

At the moment, in a non professional environment, we can consider three different possibilities:

  • the old MSDOS
  • Windows
  • Linux.

OS per cnc

The milling procedure always requires a real time operative system. The concept should be clear: to mill a circle, for instance, a perfect syncronization of the movements is absolutely necessary, therefore the real time o.s. provides the exact timing for any single movement of the machine.

This is not a problem because the old MSDOS and the old Windows versions (95-98) are naturally real time o.s.; particular drivers have been created for modern versions of windows (2000, XP, Vista and 7); special real time patches have been created for Linux. 

Linux (public domain) is always on the top of our wishes (linux is the server where this web site is  located, linux is the o.s. we normally use to write this web site and always linux is the o.s. we use for almost all the milling procedures). Honestly speaking we are not here to suggest one program or another, nowadays there are hundreds of programs for the whole procedure of the creation of a manufact. Many of them are free, many others are quite cheap, others really expensive; we are here only to present a simple  landscape of the always changing universe of the software available.

 MSDOS TurboCNC 4/5 As far as we know is the only program created for the msdos world. Naturally it requires a computer with really poor characteristics and it is the only software we know that can drive stepping motors with step/dir signals and direct phases. TurboCNC 5.0 is in a test phase now. It works under windows.

 LINUX

UBUNTU (RTAI) - EMC2

Debian 7 - EMC2

BDI4 - EMC

PuppyLinux RTAI - EMC

Linux (patched Real Time) is widely used. It is public domain software and there are programs to cover all aspects of milling procedure (cad, converters, pcb cads ...). Ubuntu and Debian distro are available.

BDI4 and particularly PuppyLinux R.T (see section) are suggested for computers with low characteristics regarding memory and speed. Even a 10years old pc can be brougth to a new life using such a o.s.

 

 WINDOWS 

MACH3

KCAM4

GALAAD

WINpcNC CNCPlaye

Mach3 and Kcam4 are probably the most used in an simple/semipro inveronment. Are enough cheap and can execute the job very well.

Galaad is more expensive but can be considered a modular integrated cad/cam and cnc software covering all aspetcs of the procedures to realize a manufact.

 

While the choice of the O.S. and the choice of the CNC software to control a cnc machine is a real simple matter (according to our pockets, ofcouse) different is the world of the CAD/CAM software necessary to draw the manufact we desire to realize. The price of a CAD/CAM 3D is normally quite high but it is possible always to start using demo versions and afterchoose the right one.

Unfortunately while linux is really plenty of CAD programs but it is still suffering the lack of some good CAM that can convert a 2D/3D shape in paths to be milled under windows the situation is totally different.

ArtCAM,  BobCADCAMDeskPROTODolphin PartMasterRhino 3DSolidWorks are really fantastic programs that allow the user to pass from an idea to a real object. Even specialized CAM software, particularly indicated to PCB realization and modelers, is available: have a look at CopperCAM and CamBam or Profili2 ... you will be surprised.

 



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