Workflow: Design to CNC

Discussion/questions about software used with your CNC Shark and programming issues

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Workflow: Design to CNC

Postby CanisLupus » Fri Apr 05, 2019 11:44 am

Good morning,

I'm new to CNC but have an extensive background in design, engineering, CAD and 3D modeling. I'm planning to purchasing a CNC and I'm researching the various models. At the moment, the CNC Shark HD4 seems like a good balance between features and price.

I started looking at VCarve Pro 9.5 Pro. It appears that VCarve's intended use is generating toolpaths from a 2D design. It appears to lack tools for making a true 3D model from scratch. Is that correct or am I missing something?

I know VCarve offers tools to apply various bits and assign cut depths to the geometry. What if I only have an idea and want to start by building a 3D digital model? I found a few blog posts that indicate the model should be created in a CAD package and imported into VCarve. Some posts mentioned thinking of VCarve as the link between the digital model and the CNC.

Can I / should I use VCarve Desktop, or Pro, be used for design and modeling tasks? What is the recommended workflow going from design to CNC? Should I perform design work in a CAD package like SketchUp, import the SketchUp model into VCarve, and use VCarve to drive the CNC? I'm curious what are other people doing?
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Re: Workflow: Design to CNC

Postby SteveM » Fri Apr 05, 2019 12:02 pm

Aspire would probably be your software choice if you want to design your own projects.
In VCarve Pro, you can import 3d models, but not create them.

As for the machine you choose, there are many available to choose from. Some even have the ability to hook up a 4th axis for turning.
Laser is another option that can be hooked up to your machine.
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Re: Workflow: Design to CNC

Postby CanisLupus » Fri Apr 05, 2019 12:42 pm

Thanks for the quick reply, SteveM!

It's okay if I need to design and model in a different application. I'm okay with a "best of breed" approach.I wanted some kind of confirmation that I didn't overlook something obvious.

Aspire seems a little pricey but I haven't explored all its capabilities. I can design in CAD, probably SketchUp, and use VCarve for CNC operations. I left the Autodesk world (AutoCAD, Inventor, etc.), have access to Dassault Systems stuff (SolidWorks, DraftSight, Catia, etc), and a few other CAD tools but for personal stuff, I like SketchUp.
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Re: Workflow: Design to CNC

Postby bill z » Fri Apr 05, 2019 5:53 pm

CanisLupus,

There is an alternative to V-Carve and several here have been using it. It is called AutoDesk Fusion 360. Here is a link to one of the forum's discussions about it. viewtopic.php?f=10&t=5196

There is also a post processor that will output G code that works well with the sharks.

Welcome to the community.
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Re: Workflow: Design to CNC

Postby sharkcutup » Sat Apr 06, 2019 7:18 am

If you are a Savvy saver like myself and you design your own projects. Alibre Atom3D is an inexpensive alternative to Vectric's Aspire for creating your own 3D models which can be imported into Vectric's V-Care Pro Software. Not only is Alibre Atom3D simple to learn and use but you can also create 2D Drawings and BOM (Bill of materials) lists of your 3D models in Alibre Atom 3D.

Just another thought!

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Re: Workflow: Design to CNC

Postby wallace9958 » Sun Apr 07, 2019 3:49 pm

The Shark is generally a good CNC but you'll notice a few hiccups compared to alternatives (DIY, Axiom, etc):

1) The unit employs a fair amount of HDPE (plastic) which causes some amount of instability in the machine due to a lack of rigidity. Folks on here, self included, have modified their Sharks to accommodate this shortcoming. Failing modification, you'll find yourself slowing feeds / speeds down well beyond what you may consider to be reasonable.

2) The unit lacks homing / limit switches which can really be somewhat vexing. You can work around it, for sure, but I find it somewhat grating to work around the issues it can cause. The time that I spend working around limitations is time that I spend working on things that the machine could very easily be doing for me. The current machines also really rely on their little pendant to function properly. I wouldn't recommend PC control as they don't implement any kind of off-load for step control (e.g., Ethernet Smoothstepper) nor does their machine function with Mach 3/4 without modification anymore (I believe older models used to).

3) If you go the way of the Shark, I would strongly consider purchasing a water-cooled spindle from one of the Chinese manufacturers rather than the one that NWA provides. I've found the 1.5KW to be insufficient compared to the 2.2KW I now employ and was able to purchase the latter at less expense than the, in my opinion, inferior unit from NWA. The new one also has an ER20 collet for 1/2" bits whereas NWA's is an ER12 which is limited to 1/4" bits and has honestly improved the performance of my machine more than I had even anticipated.

4) Skip on the laser promotions and save the money if you can. Perhaps the 7W one works better but the 2W that I have is noticeably under-powered. I do use it but it just takes forever to burn off the coating of laserable aluminum and brass.

5) The 4th axis is pretty cool. I added mine recently and am getting good use out of it; although, you will note that Vectric's software is fairly underwhelming in terms of how it can make use of it. They essentially can only run 3 axis at a time and so they disable either X or Y which limits it's ability to genuinely angle the tool at the appropriate angle as in true 4 axis milling. Either way, you can work around that but they only deliberately support wrapped indexing.

6) I'll be the second to highly recommend Fusion 360. Aspire is fine but I found it to be generally underwhelming for the price. You won't be using any of Vectric's software it to create complex CAD models; however, Aspire will have the best support for machining it or for natively making simple 3D shapes (think simple extrusions, etc). Fusion is also often available for free for a term depending on your use case.

7) Give serious consideration to the work envelope that you are going to machine. I outgrew the 2'x2' machinable area very quickly. I ended up extending to 2'x4' on my own. My next project will be to rebuild the gantry and Z-axis in order to increase machine stability. Hopefully, this won't put too much strain on the motors but, if it does, the electronics will be the next phase at which point I'll be doing a complete DIY build and just selling the Shark.

I think the biggest takeaway that I can provide is just to say that I really enjoyed my Shark for about a year and a half. Around about that time, I really outgrew it and started looking into moving beyond its limitations. It's a good machine that has been profitable to own - but one that I outgrew pretty quickly. It would have worked out better for me had I invested more up front in the 2x4 model and, honestly, probably even more into a different price-point / class of machine. But there you go. :)
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Re: Workflow: Design to CNC

Postby sharkcutup » Sun Apr 07, 2019 6:02 pm

If I might add to my previous post.

Design to CNC --- It really all depends on what you are really wanting to do with a CNC machine. If you are a Wood Hobbyist the Sharks may be sufficient. If you are a Wood Craftsman you may want to find something that is more rigid than the Shark. But of course you can always start with the Shark and then over time beef it up as previously noted being done in other posts. But I am sure that you now get my drift, it all comes down to what you really want to do, (hobbyist, Craftsman, Cabinetmaker, Business Venture, Wood, Acrylics, Plastics, Aluminum, or to go PRO) It all amounts to what you can afford and what you are really wanting the CNC machine to do for you!!!

Just an additional Thought!

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Re: Workflow: Design to CNC

Postby t3446jt » Thu Apr 18, 2019 3:55 pm

[quote="bill z"]
"There is also a post processor that will output G code that works well with the sharks. "

Bill Z mentioned above that there is a post processor for Fusion 360 that works well with the sharks. I have found two different Post Processors, one "custom_Shark_cncpost - Copy" and one called "DDCSV11". I have been having problems with both. When I run a simple part designed in the latest Fusion 360 with both of these I get a large number of "lines ignored" by the Shark pendant. Is there a different Post Processor out there that people are using that works well?
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