Friday, November 18th, 2005 at 11:43 am - - Whipping

We moved the freesteel website to a new server. The old server was in fact a so called ‘virtual server’, where a physical computer is running several installments of Linux, each behaving as if they are real computers. The new one is a real computer, standing somewhere on a rack in London.

Friday, October 21st, 2005 at 11:17 pm - - Machining 2 Comments »

Today I spent more time on testing the milling machine. I received a set of mills yesterday and decided to try one of our toolpaths on a piece of MDF.

Here some pics:

Proxxon MF 70 in the office
Ball nosed cutter, ∅ 8mm
The clamping is a little improvised…
Feedrate of 1mm/sec, you can see the cutter clogging up with burnt MDF

I am quite pleased with the results. I think I will try a higher feed rate next, maybe thats a way to avoid the cutter clogging up with burnt MDF. While cutting, something made the programme to loose its position and I had to stop it. I assume MDF is not an ideal material, I assume resin as used in toolmaker’s workshops would be much better.
Finally here’s a little movie. Light conditions were not good and I used my digital camera, so not the greatest quality.

Friday, October 21st, 2005 at 9:29 pm - - Machining

The little milling machine I posted about a few days ago is finally working. Thanks to a friendly technician at the university I could replace the bended piece of stud that moves the x axis with a nicely machined new piece.

The original construction tried to maximize the motion limits of this axis, but we decided that the connection of the stepper motor to the machine table was too weak, and possibly the cause for the bent part. Getting a metal hack saw from the local DIY shop and cutting the axis shorter was quickly done, and soon the machine was moving nicely in all directions.

At the moment I use a DOS programme (PC-NC) to drive the machine, but I want to set it up to work under Linux using EMC. I have no idea yet if it will be easy to configure EMC to work with this particular stepper controller card and machine.

Monday, October 10th, 2005 at 9:23 pm - - Machining 6 Comments »

We had been thinking about getting one for a long time, a desktop sized 3 axis cnc mill to play with and demonstrate Freesteel and the adaptive roughing. A visit to a friend in Norfolk who owns such a machine made us more determined to get one, and his advice was very valuable.

It seems that Germans build these machines by the dozens in their garages and then auction them off on ebay. I tried to bid for numerous machines, and finally we could buy a modified Proxxon milling machine. The guy who sells them, modifies these hobby machines with stepper motors and controller card. Sadly, when the machine arrived it was damaged: one axis was bent so much that the poor motor could not turn it. Well, the machine is now in parts, and if all goes well a friendly technician at the uni here in Liverpool will manufacture the replacement part, and then we can try this little machine for real. I had some test runs on it using a DOS software called PCNC that came with the machine. Ultimately I want to use EMC, a Linux based machine controller, and I hope that all I need to do this is configure EMC for our machine, stepper motors and interface to the controller card. We’ll see.

Monday, October 10th, 2005 at 8:38 pm - - Machining

We are not alone! There are readers of this blog, who have also tried to use the online version of the software we work on. It was quite a surprise: As I was doing some work on this online interface (which is in a bad state at the moment really, apologies for that), I found traces of you in the apache access logs, as well as a present in form of an STL file. (Thanks Nick.)

I hope it works reasonably, even though the layout of the online interface is terrible, not much interactivity, and the tapefile we give you still needs a little changes to be useable.

I am overhauling those pages at the moment: Expect to be able to interact with the STL file by rotating, panning and zooming, but not using virtual worlds and a VRML plug-in. Of course this will also include images of a toolpath.

Hopefully the new version will be online soon.

Monday, September 12th, 2005 at 10:31 pm - - Machining 11 Comments »

We had it working in the past, a version of Freesteel that can be run via cgi over the web. Well, it’s working again, follow this link. It is quite fun to write web applications like this, I have certainly learned a lot about scripting and dynamic web pages. There are a lot more things that could be done to make the online version more useable, but it will do for now.
The main purpose is to point interested people to the online version to test the algorithm for themselves. It is effortless to use, and if you are prepared to install a plug-in to visualise vrml worlds, it could almost pass as a graphic, interactive demonstration version. It might be easier to ask somebody interested in our work to use a web interface than to give them a CD or ask them to download a demo version that needs installing on a computer. More advantages are: no need to write installation procedures; being independent of any operating system (all you need is a web browser and access to the internet); usage is easily traceable (a demo CD might just end up in the bin).

Tuesday, June 21st, 2005 at 11:50 am - - Machining

Things to do: link from start page to this blog

Monday, June 20th, 2005 at 6:19 pm - - Machining 1 Comment »

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