Yes, you can run the gcode off of the SD card. When you insert an SD card, there will be a “Print from SD card” option at the bottom of the menu. It’s basically doing a 3D print job, but there is no heater and no extruder motor. Just travel moves.
I highly recommend starting with the vicious1 tutorials, especially the EstlCAM basics one.
Thanks, I will look at that again. I am brand new at this CNC stuff and need a step-by-step from drawing to running the file on the machine. If anyone has a good link/tutorial on the full Monty, it would be appreciated.
That would be about 100 steps. I’ll give you the overview:
CAD. Drawing up the thing you want to cut/engrave. Popular programs are OnShape, Fusion 360, OpenSCAD, LibreCAD, Inkscape. The output of this step is a .dxf file or .svg file for 2D or a .stl for 2.5D.
CAM. This takes that drawing and lets you describe which edges are for what kinds of cuts. You have to set it up for you machine, your bits, etc. EstlCAM is 10x easier than any alternative, and the Vicious1 guides are the way to start with this. The EstlCAM Basics tutorial is where to go for this. The output is a .gcode file.
Machine Setup. You have to clamp the workpiece, move the bit to the origin, set the home offsets, start the vac and start the router.
Sending the gcode to the machine.
You can use a program on your computer to send the gcode over USB. Software like repetier host (meant for 3D printing, but works fine for CNC) will connect to the machine, open the gcode file, give you a preview, and let you start the job.
You can alternatively use the LCD to start the gcode. You'd copy the .gcode file to the SD card, install the sd card, power up the CNC and after doing step 3, "print from sd card"
You'll have to build these skills independently. There is a ton of (well curated) info here:
Start with the EstlCAM Basics tutorial though, if you have specific questions or places you’re getting stuck, you can ask here in the forums. If you follow this tutorial to the letter first, then make your deviations, you’ll be less frustrated. Also, since you are a beginner, don’t start with spinning bits and wood. Do a drawing first, then move on to spinning bits in foam, then try wood. If you’re seeing machine problems in the interim, investigate and diagnose those before moving on.
Step 1. (That’s right, confusion on step 1 already ) I am looking to do 3D CNC routing in wood and foam. Foam is for RC model aircraft and will be forming half-shell fuselage sides, etc. But you only mention 2.5D Am I missing something here or will 3D file be exported as .stl also?
Step 2. Very clear except that I thought Fusion 360 had a CAM output already from what I read after you posted it in Step 1. Is EstlCAM still needed?
Step 3. Very clear again.
Step 4. Running from the SD card is what I want so as not tie up my workshop laptop unless you think buying another laptop would be a better way to run the machine.
Thank you again for a very well laid-out procedure.
I’m not sure where the terms come from, but when you see 2.5D that’s what you’re talking about doing. Since the bit can only get to the workpiece from one direction, it can’t really do 3D milling. If the bit is always coming into the workpiece from the top, it can’t get around a corner and cut material underneath material that you want to keep. That’s 2.5D. So the output of your aircraft modeling will be an STL file, which you will CAM only the top surface of.
Using fusion 360 for CAM is fine. But I would recommend getting a simpler, 2D project done first in EstlCAM. Even if all you do is make a coaster with your name on it. It’s a very simple program, and there aren’t any extra features. The tutorials here on vicious1 and on youtube take you step by step, and you can figure out what milling will look like. It’s free, but it has an annoying wait box until you pay for it. I think you should test it out, learn it a little, and then when you get to fusion 360 and it’s asking for the value of a setting, you’ll have a simpler reference to understand what it’s doing. Or, if you get into fusion 360’s CAM stuff and it’s not working, you have a backup procedure. If you open the STL into EstlCAM, it will change to 2.5D CAM. I still suggest starting with something in 2D first. If nothing else, following the EstlCAM basics tutorial will let you check out your machine, and troubleshoot anything weird that happened during setup.
Either way is fine. Just know you have both options available, in case you get stuck with one or the other. The software is nice because it gives you some visual feedback before you cut. The LCD is nice because it’s fewer parts to figure out. I’m often in the garage with my laptop anyway, because I never let it run on its own, and I need something to do.
Hmm, correct me if I am wrong but that is not 2.5D milling. That is 3D milling because in those cuts, all axis are moving simultaneously. 2.5D is where XY can move but then Z must retract and drill down to get varying depths. 3D milling requires tougher gcode but fusion360 has something for that, not so sure about estlcam.
Edit: Upon looking, the human face cut is 2.5D but it uses a ballnose style endmill to finish the edges and make them smooth.
Semantics. Of course we can cut on all 3 axis at the same time. This is commonly referred to as 2.5D, I think once you make some cuts you will realized why we don’t say 3D. On any 3 axis mill you are extremely limited on what your Z axis can do, if it was 3D you could mill a pair of dice without 6 flips or a mushroom without a rotary axis.
That came out wrong. We have a 3D machine, not 2.5D cause we can move all axis at once at any rates. Though our actual milling processes are 2.5D of course cause we can’t make true 3D featured parts unless you reorientation the work piece. Ok i’ll stop talking now.