Buying guide for CNC machine for stone fabrication (part 6)
Most CAD/CAM software for stone CNC work center is crap
The CAD/CAM software is driving your CNC machine. Without software your CNC machine is basically worthless.
CAD software is to accurately draw your kitchen countertops, vanity or staircase or what ever else you're producing. The CAM software is using your CAD drawing or parts of it to make a CNC program. The CNC program contains all information the CNC machine needs to do the work on your stone as you want. It tells the CNC machine which tool to pickup, what RPM to run the tool, where to start, where to finish, when to start the water, when to stop the water and so on. That is is just a very simplified explanation. What really is going on behind the scenes is a bit more complicated and I won't go into detail here also it is not that important for the CNC programmer or operator.
So the basic routine goes like this:
- digitize/measure template
- draw in CAD
- export to a DXF(data exchange file)
- import DXF to CAM and make CNC program
- send CNC program to machine
- setup machine
- run (hey hey not you I meant run the machine)
It probably would take a whole book for each of the points above to give you a basic idea. I'm planing to go into a bit more detail in future posts.
The points 2 and 4 are the most critical ones. If you're already using CAD software in your stone business then there is no reason to learn another CAD software unless you are not happy with the one you already have. What I'm trying to say is that you can probably ignore the CAD software which ships with the CNC machine because your existing one is most likely more advanced.
That is different for the CAM software which includes a post-processor which is just another piece of software. That post-processor is programmed for that particular CNC machine. More advanced user may say ....hey you can get any CAM software and write your own post-processor.... yes I know you can but for most it is too time consuming and you just want to run the CNC and not play with it.
There is plenty of CAM software out there which one way or another you could try to adapt it to your CNC machine but most CAM software is made for the metal or timber industry and lacks important features necessary for Granite and Marble processing.
Most prospective first time buyers of CNC machines for stone don't know or don't realize how important the CAD/CAM software package is to efficiently produce CAD drawings and CNC programs.
Unfortunately the CAD/CAM software which comes with every CNC machine is produced only in very small quantities for a very small audience compared to professional CAD or other software packages which you can find on almost every computer. Proper beta testing is to expensive and to time consuming, that's the reason why this software has so many bugs and hardly ever leaves Alpha or Beta state. We as end users are the guinea pigs testing the software in real live environment.
CNC machine accidents and crashes due to bugs in the software are too common. Often the CNC programmer is getting wrongfully blamed because he does not have enough knowledge to see that the software should have warned him that he is about to crash the machine.
As I said before in another post this here is a new blog and I will not mention any company names. But you are welcome to leave me a comment and I'm more than happy to answer your questions in private.
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