View Full Version : Cutting Aluminum with 3d Software?

04-17-2014, 10:51 PM
Well I got my Shopbot desktop a couple weeks ago. It's all set up and I've made a few successful cuts into wax and modeling board. But I want to take things to the next step and start milling some aluminum.

I've read through all the advice on milling aluminum (feeds, speeds, etc...) and I think I can handle that, but I'm having a little software issue. I want to do some 3d milling (all my files are .stl) but the 3d CAM software I've tried doesn't have any ramping options. I know most 2.5d programs that take .dxf and other drawing files support ramping. But my parts simply won't work as a drawing.

So does anyone here do any 3d work in aluminum? What program do you use? (I've been using meshCAM). Any other possible fixes like using a drill mill, or just careful g-code editing?

04-18-2014, 10:09 PM
James, Maybe somebody else will chime in to tell me why you can't do it, but you should have gotten Partworks3D with your Desktop(Congratulations by the way). You can open your .stl in there and then depth of pass can be adjusted by your tool database bit selection parameters. Didn't see ramping anywhere in selections and not settable in VCP7.5. Don't trust me though---Wait for the big boys:) Thought this might help if you don't already have it.

04-19-2014, 03:32 AM
Yea I went through Partworks 3d a couple times, didn't see any ramping options. Not a fan of the program, I found MeshCAM easier to use than the seven step process. I guess it's just personal preference.

04-19-2014, 07:52 AM
Yeah, It's kind of clunky, but at least it's there and comes with all the machines which I appreciate. When it becomes too much of a pain we'll bite the bullet and go Aspire. Aspire Guys, I uninstalled Aspire demo---Can you ramp into 3D's?

04-23-2014, 08:42 AM
So I asked over on the MeshCAM forums how they use it for milling aluminum. They just plunge in with a center cutting end mill. So I'm going to give that a try, I'll just ease up on the plunge rate.

04-23-2014, 09:50 AM
I have not tried this but , if you make your tool path partworks 3D and then import it into Vcarve pro , there is a option for ramp in the tool path section .

you could also read about ramping search " Brady Watson & ramping "on the Shopbot web site .

this is within the Shopbot software type VR

04-23-2014, 01:53 PM
Hi Bob,

You are showing the ramping options on a profile toolpath. It is not available for an imported Cut3D toolpath, nor from a rough or finish toolpath in Aspire.

The ramping from Brady's blog post refers to the way the control software handles the way the machine deals with speed changes for things like corners - not ramping into the material for the cut.

04-23-2014, 02:50 PM
Ron First let me say I have not used the Vectric software yet as I just got it with the desktop , Just pointing out that there was a option to import files from PW3D , and that there was a ramping option , as I said I did not try it . Sorry if that misled anybody

As for Bradys blog , I know its the ramping for the machine software ,But If he is going to be doing 3D in aluminum , it might save a router bit or two , Its good reading

He may have to up grade to a different software , Artcam Pro does ramp into 3D as pictured

04-23-2014, 04:41 PM
Hi Bob,

I wasn't trying to adversarial about it - sorry if I came off that way.
And you are absolutely correct about Brady's article - great read!

04-24-2014, 09:56 PM
So I had a successful test tonight. I posted the same question over on the MeshCAM forums, was told a straight plunge with a center cutting endmill should be fine. Gave it a shot tonight and milled a little 0.5" x 0.5" pocket, about 0.04" deep. Zipped right through it. No walking on the plunge, no shaking, no chattering, no melting chips, just clean cutting.

My settings:
Endmill: 1/8", 2 flute, 45 degree helix, Center cutting, from Harvey Tool.
RPM: 18,000
IPM (X & Y): 54
IPM (Z): 12
G-Code: Created with MeshCAM

A good start. I'll be doing some more testing on bigger cuts. If I get any interesting results I'll report back here. Thanks for the help so far.

12-06-2015, 09:25 AM
Can meshcam output .sbp or are you using the gcode emulator?

Brady Watson
12-06-2015, 04:48 PM
If you are talking about 3D relief carving in AL, yes, it can be done, no you aren't going to do it very well with PW3D. I don't have experience with MeshCAM, but my understanding is that it is geared towards metal milling, so there should be some toolpath strategies there to help you.

The main point to understand is that you are working with a router & not a heavy milling machine. The router/spindle is not designed for heavy shock loads, so you'll want to adjust your VR and your toolpath strategy & speeds to avoid smacking the tool around. You may have more success with HSS than carbide since it is both sharper and tougher in terms of snapping.

You may need to do several roughing toolpaths to leave only a little bit of material for your ball end tool to shave off. I would advise removing any ambient/scrap material from the perimeter which can be carved into by mistake depending on your machining boundary.

Again...it's a CNC router, not a milling machine. Too many of the hipsters today call these light machines mills in error. My mill weighs 4000 lbs. My DT only about 125 lbs. Light machine = light cuts. The lead nuts are plastic, BTW...

Good luck - Post pics.

Here's a nickel that Ryan Patterson made a few years back on the DT: http://www.talkshopbot.com/forum/showthread.php?14701-Indian-Head-Buffalo-Nickel-Bank&p=124865#post124865