Part One-Set Up
When your STEM students are ready to begin utilizing the power of advanced manufacturing techniques after optimizing their designs with a CAD program, its time to consider the intermediary between modeling and making: CAM software.
SprutCAM is a powerful, state of the art piece of software that allows your students to take the models they have created and turn them into reality by creating the computer controlled toolpaths that remove stock material and reveal the shape of student creations. SprutCAM America has made its software available at low or no cost to secondary schools, and is capable of interfacing with just about any CNC machine.
To introduce students to SprutCAM, you can follow this simple guide to get them started. It makes use of the many video tutorials available through the SprutCAM America website, with some more class room specific strategies to help engage all students and help them become comfortable with the power of advanced manufacturing techniques that allow them to learn science and engineering by doing them.
One of the many features of SprutCAM that students really love is the animated simulation of the machining operations in real time(the speed of which is adjustable). The simulations are not only fun to watch, but they are essential to predict the outcome of the machining operation based on the toolpaths generated. Carefully observing the animations allow students to optimize the code to ensure that what they see is indeed what they get when it comes time to hit the ‘go’ button on the machine.
Once you have downloaded and installed SprutCAM, you will need to get into the machine parameters and find your CNC machine on the list. Select it and double check that the icon for that machine is on the menu. If you haven’t been prompted already, be sure and select the correct units for your application. Its a pain to mix and match, especially for students so try to keep them consistent.
We are going to start this lesson with a very simple project: machining a cube. This cube project is related the Machining Mass Standards STEM lesson, but can be used as a stand alone project as well.
Three things should be set up in your student SC software before beginning.
Units-Be sure and set the units of measurement appropriate for your situation.
In the Model tab, go to System Setup and choose Measurement Units.
Machine Parameters-Choose your particular CNC machine from the machine parameters tab, then to the machines library.
This is a list of your milling tools that the machine software will access to calculate the cutting toolpath. It should include the endmills that you will actually use, and the height of these tools must be measured accurately. Here is an inexpensive tool you can use for this purpose. This is an excellent tutorial on how to input a set of tools into the tool table, along with how to create a custom representation of a tool holder you might use. If you do not want to go through this process at the moment, you can either use the default tool library or add in a couple of 2 or 4 flute endmills of 1/2 and 1/4 inch diameter and length 3 inches to get you through this set of lessons.
In Part Two, we will how student can import models into the SC desktop and set it up for machining operations.