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Monday, September 06, 2010

HeeksCNC is starting to mature into a great CAM tool

I have been using HeeksCNC for a few months now to do CNC toolpath generation with open source code. Check out this screenshot:   

(My apologies to those of you with small monitors......)

I don't think it is bug free enough yet to be ready for a beginner to CNC, but at this point in time, it is becoming a powerful CAM tool if you are willing to save your work often. Also, the developers seem pretty dedicated with their ongoing work, so expect this program to get more robust as time goes on, just as it has for the past few months. For now, save your work often, because undo is not always reliable. The toolpath generators are taken from various open source projects. They are not really efficient as you might want for production shop work where the time - money tradeoff is critical. However, for hobby work and for some R&D applications this can be a very good fit. Linux and Windows versions are available. I don't know about OSX support, but I suspect it could be compiled together for that platform.

Check it out: HeeksCNC at Google Code 

For me, my workflow to generate has been going something like this: Create a solid model part using Alibre Design . For each mill setup, create an Alibre assembly with only that part in it, and orient the part, so that the normal to the face I want to cut with the mill is along the positive z axis. Also, align the part such that you know where its edges are relative to the origin. I then export it as an STP or IGIS file, and then import it into HeeksCNC.

HeeksCNC supports EMC2 based machines very well, which is useful to me here at home with my HF mini-nill CNC conversion. However, if I need to make a part bigger than that table will handle, I go use the larger machines at Club Workshop . I just finished coding a rough cut of a HeeksCNC postprocessor appropriate for use with the Anilam Crusader M CNC controller on the Eagle Mill at Club Workshop . The screenshot above shows a toolpath generated for the Anilam Crusader M.

I hope more people use and contribute to the HeeksCNC project.

Posted by Kurt at 2:51 PM
Categories: CAM / CNC, Maker