tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:/posts BuildsByGideon 2020-09-18T22:21:07Z Gideon Harris tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1595526 2020-09-18T22:21:07Z 2020-09-18T22:21:07Z Machinist Apprentice | Excelent Surface Finishes | Day 70

Running the second and third operations on these skateboard parts today!

I had some weird sound issues right out of the gate when roughing out the pocket on the second operation. Had a high pitch hollow sound each time it took a pass; as it turns out, one of the teeth broke off and was dragging along, pushing the aluminum instead of cutting it. 

For the finishing passes, I copied over the same toolpath settings I used for the first op and got an excellent surface finish on the bottom and side faces; however, the corners weren't all that great; you could visibly see each stepover the tool took. I've never used the pencil toolpath before, but it seemed to look pretty good in the simulation and was precisely what I was looking for. The pencil follows along the corner intersection of the vertical and horizontal walls cleaning those edges up with a single flowing motion. I am honestly shocked by how good it turned out after I tried it. In the past, I would try and use the trace toolpath and manually draw geometry to have the tool follow along, but this one makes it so much easier. 

I also had some difficulties when I put the part on the 4th axis fixture plate. There are two holes on this piece at weird angles, and instead of trying to make some elaborate fixture plates for them on the 3-axis mill, I decided to do it on the 4th axis. For some reason, the tool heights are weirdly and consistently off; I've got each of the tools set right (four inches from the top of the table, in centerline with the a-axis), but they all cut too high. I did deck the surface of the fixture plate to ensure it was at the right height, and I'm almost wondering if maybe I didn't set the endmill correctly on that, and so the plane I cut is lower than it should be. 

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1595223 2020-09-17T22:05:58Z 2020-09-17T22:05:58Z Machinist Apprentice | Skateboard Parts Second Operation Setup | Day 69

Working on the second operation for these skateboard parts and getting it all set up to run. 

For the second op, I had an interesting setup with how I held the part in the vice because I only had access to thin parallels of the right height, I had to space them out from the walls of the jaws. If I had them flush up against them, the part wouldn't sit perfectly flat due to the slight radius on the edge of the flat. 

Another issue I ran into was setting the tool height on the second set operation. Because the part is on parallels, I hand no "known" height in my CAM software because the face was uncut and so had an undefined distance between it and the flat of the part. The solution was first to deck the top surface of the part upsidedown, then measure the thickness of the remaining stock and offsetting the origin in Fusion360 to match the same height. 

The last thing I need to do is find the origin, which is as simple as putting a gauge pin in the existing hole and sweeping it with a dial indicator. With the known height and origin, I set up a hard stop on one end of the part to allow for repeatability without having to sweep the pin on each swap out of parts. 

I love how easy it is to set the work origin in fusion360, and using sketch geometry makes it easy to create quick boundaries and location points. 

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1594938 2020-09-16T21:40:59Z 2020-09-16T21:41:00Z Machinist Apprentice | Part Finishes | Day 68

Working on the skateboard parts again, and decided to switch up the toolpaths a bit to get a better surface finish.

The primary issue I was dealing with yesterday was tool vibrations (see the previous post), which left small marks all over the part. The cause of this consisted of two factors that played nicely together. 

The first was the tool stick out; due to the height of the piece, I had to have the ball endmill stick out over an inch from the edge of the collet; this makes the endmill not as stable, and change in axis (x&y) could cause the tool to deflect (jumping side to side). 

The second is how much material I was cutting with the ball endmill; I had the part roughed out with a 1/2" square endmill and ten thou (0.01") stepdowns leaving eight thou on all sides to be removed at the final finishing passes; because of the amount of material that needed removing coupled with the long stick out caused a lot of vibrating and small marks on the part. 

I decided to come in first with a 1/4" ball to clean up the steps from the 1/2" endmill and leave two thou (0.002") to clean up with the smaller ball cutter. For the tool stick out @tuesdayandthursday suggested I try a tapered ball endmill; this would give it much more rigidity when reaching down the tall walls on the sides of the part. Thankfully I found a ball endmill roughly the same size as the one I was using previously (so I could make a fair comparison) and tried it out. I got a significantly better finish, and I didn't hear any tool vibrations throughout the whole operation. 

The only thing I am not super pleased with is where the tool changed directions on the machine, and the endmill dwelt for a fraction of a second, just enough to leave a slight mark. I haven't looked into it too much, but I'm pretty sure there is a feature to allow the tool to glide around corners instead of doing a hard turn. I tried playing around with the tolerance and smoothing tolerance settings in the passes tab but couldn't see any significant changes (used 0.00021" tolerance for both).

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1594641 2020-09-15T21:40:51Z 2020-09-15T21:40:51Z Machinist Apprentice | Skateboard Parts | Day 67

I am working on a set of skateboard parts today on the Haas VF2.

One of the difficulties I ran into pretty quick on the first part was how long I had to stick out a couple of the endmills I'm using. There is a large bump/cup shape on the top of the part that has a very organic body to it, which requires a slow spiral toolpath with a ball endmill to ensure it all flowed nicely together. Because of this, I had to use a smaller endmill then I usually would to get into all the crevices and would have to have it stick out over an inch to get all the shallow features. Unfortunately, this meant the tool would vibrate while cutting the aluminum and left some weird surface finishes. Thankfully these parts will be tumbled afterward, and that will remove all the marks left by the vibrations but isn't my best work, and I may switch the toolpath up for a morphed spiral to see if I can get a better finish. 

There are also two slots at the bottom of the part I needed to mill out on the part which I tried to do on the first operation with a 1/8" endmill and 1.25" tool stick out, but the vibrations were so bad it left a horrible finish. 

Since this is a skateboard part, the tolerance doesn't need to be super high, and the looks matter more than accuracy. It still is an exciting challenge to machine out all the small features and getting good finishes in a relatively short period. There are a few small pockets that require a 0.04" endmill to clean up, which requires quite a bit of the machining time. 

This first part will consist of three operations, first and second will get the majority complete on the 3-axis mill, then it will be finished up on the 4th-axis to get a couple of small features that I'm not able to reach on the previous setups. 

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1594225 2020-09-14T21:35:32Z 2020-09-14T21:35:32Z Machinist Apprentice | Tool Breakdown & Setup Station | Day 66

Designed the new tool setup and breakdown workstation today! I'm super excited to start using this and getting everything organized neatly, which will make finding tools much easier!

We've got over a hundred slots for tool holders to sit on the top allowing all the machines to be completely broken down and all the tools put away at any given time. In the past, we would have issues of not enough places to put all the holders and would have to leave the VF2 with the unused.

It's going to sit on three rolling toolboxes with a big butcher block to use as the tabletop. Underneath the tools I left big open areas for tooldrawers to sit which will hold all the drill bits and reamers. Then on either end, there will be the tool-holder holders to take apart and set up the endmills for the machines. In the past, they would be set up on the mills themselves, which is handy for quick changes but doesn't make sense to go back and forth through the shop to pick up endmills and drill bits. 

After the design was all finished I took advantage of the drawing section of Fusion360 and drew up some quick plans for the workstation, then printed it out and my boss sent it off to the shop next door to get it built. 

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1593255 2020-09-11T21:38:50Z 2020-09-11T21:38:50Z Machinist Apprentice | Shop Cleaning | Day 65

No contract work today, so I got to spend the whole day cleaning the shop from top to bottom!

Still working the design for the re-organization of the shop tool holder station and setup/breakdown area. Also, talking with my boss a bit about possibly taking on more small-time production work for the shop and hiring on a new guy. He went over some of the areas he's faced in the past and doesn't especially like production work due to how hard you have to push to get enough work to pay for everything. It's a big game, with big wins and significant losses if contracts don't come through like expected. One of the ways to shield yourself from this is to diversify into different industries/companies instead of going with one major contract from a specific business, where if they fall through, you're up a creek. 

The shop isn't set up for any kind of production work as-is and would require some changes to the way we do things now to get to that level. My boss is specifically thinking of small-time production, with 20-100 parts maximum per run, not trying to compete with China or shops set up for thousands/millions in production. 

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1593085 2020-09-11T03:55:39Z 2020-09-11T03:55:39Z What Does a High Level Machinist Look Like?

What Does a High-Level Machinist Look Like? 

Lately, I've been asking myself a lot of questions on what I want to be doing long term, what brings me joy and passion in my work, and what are the steps I need to take to be a high performer in that field?

I've really enjoyed Brendan Buchard's book High-Performance Habits, where he outlines what the top performers look like and how to get to that level. One of the things he talks about is finding your PFI or preferred field of interest, and I've been struggling to see what that is for me. 

The stumbling block I keep encountering is that I'm getting caught up in; if I make this decision now, I can't change it later down the line, and I'll be "stuck" in whatever avenue I chose to pursue. I'm not thinking big picture, thinking what interests me now and what I can do right now, not looking for the super long term but the 3-5 years from now and that journey. I enjoy machining and have an excellent job prototyping and learning one on one with a high-level machinist. I'm not sure if this is "my thing" or not, and I'm scared to get in too deep and feel like I've wasted my time (which I know I won't). 

I decided to make a decision and find out a bit more about the industry and what top performers look like in it, or more accurately, what does it take to become one of the best in the field and what steps did those people take? 

Through some research on google, I found an excellent article on what machinist material looks like by Leading Edge Industrial. They outlined the major five areas that all good machinist has in common. Those are Precision - 1) Detail-oriented, drive for perfection, and quality. 2) Analytical, collecting information quickly, and making decisions. 3) Creative Problem Solving, thinking outside the box, able to understand new and unique ways to solve problems. 4) Patience, making mistakes but not getting caught up in the minutia of the problem, but taking it in stride. 5) Pride, to be proud of one's work and the job completed, having satisfaction in the craft, and enjoying the process.  

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1593011 2020-09-10T21:22:29Z 2020-09-10T21:22:29Z Machinist Apprentice | Parabolic Mirror Drilling | Day 64

Today was probably the most nervous I've ever been to complete the final operation on the parabolic mirror part.

There are three holes on this piece, one meets down to another side pocket that I milled out on the 4th axis, and the other two break through the bottom of the triangular piece; they are all over five inches long. The sketchy part about this was how long each of the drills had to stick out to remove all the material. One of the drill bits was only gripping about a quarter of an inch in the collet and would ring when I put it in the VF2. 

Since each of the tools was so long, I took the advice of my boss and put together some shorter drills to remove about half of the material, allowing the more extended drills not to work as hard. Before coming in with the longer tools, I used a center drill and set the path to prevent any deflection from the first peck.

Thankfully everything went smoothly, and I slowed everything down quite a bit to let everything take its time. This was the only part I had, and I didn't have enough time to make another one if this failed, so everything was slow and steady. After the drilling was finished, I used a tapered threadmill and hand tapped the holes that needed it, then deburred everything and packaged it all up. Definitely a unique part and had its challenges, but I'm delighted with the outcome. 

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1592683 2020-09-09T21:36:20Z 2020-09-09T21:36:20Z Machinist Apprentice | Parabolic Mirror Part Soft Jaws | Day 63

Working on the soft jaws for the parabolic mirror part today turned out to be much more complicated than I initially thought it would be.

Because of the triangular shape, I wasn't able to machine the soft jaws with the part centered in them but had to use the flat of one angle to meet up with the back flat of the other jaw. This would allow one side to brace it up, while the other would have full clamping pressure against it. 

I also had to hold the part very deep in the jaws to ensure it was stable enough to drill through the rod from one end, due to the cavity in the top of the piece. Because of this, I had to use very long tooling to get down into the 2" soft jaws; my boss instructed me to have three setups of the same tool, each at a different length to get the finish as clean as possible. Then at the very least, use the longest tool to take very small and slow stepdowns along the face of the wall to give it a consistent and clean finish. 

Really sketchy part to make and came close to a machine crash a few times, and the final operation I'll be doing tomorrow will be with a six-inch drill and taking everything real slow. 

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1592235 2020-09-08T20:47:32Z 2020-09-08T20:47:33Z Machinist Apprentice | Parabolic Mirror Part | Day 62

Very excited to get back to work after the long labor day weekend. 

Today I was working on a part for a parabolic mirror, which will be one small piece apart of a large, very powerful flashlight/laser. The issue I had last time with this piece is a small inner groove where the 1/16" endmill would leave a mark where it retracted out of the part. What would happen is the tool would dwell for a split second, then retract straight up; this was just long enough for the endmill to leave a circular mark on the surface finish (it was only visible, and when you run your finger across it, you can't feel any difference).

I was able to fix the surface finish issue by going into the linking tab in fusion360, where you set the lead in's and out's and programmed it to do a slow arc at a 15-degree angle upward as it fed out. I was able to try it out and got some pretty decent results; I am still able to see where the tool exited, but it's nothing I can't clean up with a little scotch bright. 

The roughing on this part did take longer than I would have liked (at about 55 minutes with a 1/4" tool), but even that made the machine sound like it was pushing pretty hard, even though I've pushed this particular endmill through much more and had excellent results. My guess is that since I am using the 4th axis, the stability isn't as great as the vice, and so vibrations play a much more significant part.

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1590493 2020-09-03T21:30:15Z 2020-09-03T21:30:15Z Machinist Apprentice | Range Rover Vent Cover Shipping Out | Day 61

Fixed the program this morning and got the Haas VF2 up and running again on these vent covers!

I tried something different this time around; when removing the material from the center pocket above the vent grooves, I decided to use the slot clearing method with the 2D pocket toolpath. I haven't used this specific programming method very much in Fusion because of the stress it could cause on the stock and or tool. Slot clearing puts your endmill at 100% tool engagement, which could cause chip clearing issues or too much strain on the material, causing it to vibrate or come out of the vice. To my surprise, it worked out exceptionally well and had the settings just right where I got little vibrations and maximum material removal. 

Learned a tip from my boss for when bolting anything on an already finished surface, you can use soft metal washers (such as copper) to place under the steel screw. It allows you to put quite a bit of pressure on the bolt without worrying about marks on your part.

I also got to use the manual programming section in Fusion360 CAM, where you can add special code to your program. I didn't get too deep into it but used a basic machine stop for when I needed to add the bolts to the part. The downside to the programmed stop is that unless you have it positioned in between a tool change the spindle doesn't turn back on after starting the machine up again. I haven't looked into it further and may be a simple explanation for this but I thought it was interesting. 

The final deburring and clean up I was able to do with an India stone which works really well with small burrs and perfect for flattening surfaces. 

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1590061 2020-09-02T21:29:06Z 2020-09-02T21:29:06Z Machinist Apprentice | Range Rover Vent Cover | Day 60

Finished up the first of the Range Rover vent covers I've been working on today. 

This piece was a two-side operation, the first consisting of machining the front vent slots, rounded edges, and drilling location holes to locate the part when flipped over. To find the position in the machine, I had to make a fixture plate that would allow me to use pins and bolts to hold the part on the bed securely. Since the piece was quite large, I used the same size stock when making the part of building the fixture plate. The programming for it only took a few minutes and consisted of facing it to ensure the face was perfectly flat, then drilling holes for threading and location pins. 

Initially, I used a 2D adaptive clearing method to machine out the pockets in part on the second op, but the machine time was over twenty minutes to do it all. After discussing it with my boss, I came up with a new strategy to remove all the material in just a few minutes; the 2D pocket clearing allowed me to ramp down to the bottom of the cavity, then slot out the aluminum. I'm always a little nervous about using slotting techniques to remove the material as I've had bad experiences with it in the past on hobby machines. 

I did notice that I made a few mistakes when tracing the part and forgot to account for an edge that went out farther than my selection, I was able to fix this by manually drawing in the geometry to go farther than it had before. I also forgot to add another contour toolpath to finish off part of the rounded part in the front of the peice. 

Overall I'm very pleased with how it all turned out and am super happy to be able to show what I'm working on without having to conceal certain aspects of it!

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1589657 2020-09-01T21:36:54Z 2020-09-01T21:36:55Z Machinist Apprentice | Fusion Pattern Issues | Day 59

I am working on the part I've been setting up the 4th axis for today and ran into some interesting issues.

The part consists of a round shaft at one end and a triangle shape to hold mirror parts. It's one part of a larger component and had a unique shape. I programmed the part up no problem and was about to copy and paste the toolpaths over manually to the other side when I remembered the pattern tool in Fusion360, which allows you to mirror the same setup to different geometry. I used the rotational path and selected the center of rotation where it would rotate in the a-axis.

I ran through the whole program for the first side and noticed the finish inside one of the grooves left a mark where the endmill left the cavity. The part required it to have an excellent finish in that area, so I had to reprogram that toolpath to have a slow ramp out rather than a direct vertical climb. I specifically made sure only to select the one finishing toolpath for the first operation and not the whole pattern. However, when I ran the machine, it did the first toolpath no problem, but then it rotated the part and started doing the finishing operation on the sides I hadn't yet machined, thus causing a crash. For a few moments, I was baffled as to what happened, but then I reviewed the CAM file in Fusion and found that when I only selected the one toolpath, it read it with the pattern and translated it to the other sides. The concerning thing is that it didn't show me that it would only show my selection of the one side and not all three like it was in the g-code. I thought the pattern toolpaths would only be activated when you selected the pattern itself, and posting individual toolpaths would be independent of that. 

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1589198 2020-08-31T21:47:50Z 2020-08-31T21:47:51Z Machinist Apprentice | Land Rover Plate Cover Setup & 4th Axis Chuck | Day 58

Not a whole lot of exciting work today, mostly getting things ready for upcoming jobs and finishing up last week's contract. 

Got the Land Rover parts up and running again this morning and ended up adding a chamfer toolpath to clean up the burrs on the top edges of the vent grooves. Since I had the program all run through, I was able to set up the new piece of stock and hit cycle start and take it out two hours later. 

I also got to put a chuck on the 4th axis in the Haas minimill; the chuck is a larger version of the collet where you can hold more significant stock in the vice. The downside to using it on the 4th axis is that the runout is quite bad and requires tuning to get it appropriately aligned using four set screws. 

My boss also got me my own Mitutoyo dial indicator for general use around the shop! He is also thinking about getting an injection molding machine to expand the services the shop offers and even get into small production runs with it.

Kind of in an interesting situation where I feel like I can be doing much more and am a little frustrated that I am not farther ahead than I am. In many ways, I have learned and gained much more experience than I could have wanted to, but in others, I feel stuck or just going through the motions. Many people say I am farther ahead than most people my age, and don't worry so much about going forward faster, but I feel like I can and enjoy the challenges it brings up. I've attempted to do more learning on my own with the Pocket NC, but even that doesn't bring as much enjoyment as it once did, and feels like I could be doing something different that would help me go further. I'm not unhappy with the work I am doing at the shop and have and am learning a lot from each day working there; I feel like there is something I need to be doing differently than I am now. 

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1588242 2020-08-29T15:30:53Z 2020-08-29T15:30:53Z Machinist Apprentice | Land Rover Plate Cover | Day 57

Today I worked on a Land Rover Dust Cover Plate for one of the local high-end auto shops. I can show this part because it's a stock feature on some of the older Land Rover models that were discontinued and difficult to find. 

For this part, I had to set up two vices in the Haas VF2 and 12" soft jaws in both to hold the 24" aluminum bar. The first op consisted of tracing the part out, cutting all the vent grooves, then finishing the curved faces with a ball endmill. Then I'll make a fixture plate with one the spare bars of aluminum using location pins and bolts to hold it in place and finish the rest of the features from the other side and cut it out. 

The vent cutouts were relatively easy to cut out, I used a slightly smaller endmill than the size of the cutouts ramping down past the bottom, then used a contour toolpath to come in and clean up the walls removing the few thou I left behind. I started from the center and moved my way out so each cut would have the most rigidity and leave a more excellent finish. 

For the contour of the whole part, I only went down a few thou past the bottom of the curved features; this allows me to have enough stock around the base to get removed in the second op. I then went to a 1/8" square end mill and roughed out the curved sections of the part, leaving eight thou for the ball endmill to clean up. In the final finishing toolpath, I used a 1/8" ball with a four thou stepover, which left an excellent surface finish. Unfortunately, I had some difficulties trying to get the scallop toolpath to work due to some of the features on the part itself. 

For some reason, the manufacturing addition was available to me for a week or two a while back but now is restricted again, my boss didn't upgrade so I'm not sure why I was able to use some of the features before. I did end up using a few of the credits that you start with to get it for the day and used the trim feature to avoid certain areas in the model. 

I also had to clean the surface of the part after the rest of the operations were finished due to a mistake on my part. Unfortuantely this pushed burrs down inside each of the grooves of the vent slots and so will probably come in again and re-contour the inside faces to remove those instead of trying to do it by hand.

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1588230 2020-08-29T14:35:46Z 2020-08-29T14:35:46Z Machinist Apprentice | Shop Cleanup | Day 56

Short day today, waiting on a new motor for the pump on the Haas VF3 before I can start working on the next part.

Going through some of the drawers and cleaning out old junk and organizing the tools inside. The one pictured above is the collet and Allen wrench drawer, put together sets of Allen keys and placed one at each machine, then organized the rest in size order.

Working on a work setup design for tool organization, primarily endmills and tool holders, that will set on top off several moving tool drawers. It's going to sit on top of the endmill drawers I organized a few weeks ago as the first stage in the process.

It's going to be a tool setup and breakdown station with everything you need to get the machines prepped for each job; this will make everything consolidated into one section of the shop and will make putting things away much more effortless. The goal is it have each machine broken down at any given time except when it's running or in a job.

I was also thinking about having preset tools for the most used endmills, like square 1/2", 1/8", and 1/16" endmills for steel and aluminum parts ready to go.

Having all the tool holders out of the machines also makes it easier to have the same style holders in the same machine and not to have to miss match different styles.

I am also getting a key to the shop pretty soon, so I'll be able to open everything up if my boss isn't there. Or if I need to grab something during the day, I'll have access!


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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1588223 2020-08-29T14:30:18Z 2020-08-29T14:30:27Z Machinist Apprentice | Aluminum Showpiece Part 3 | Day 55

I finished up these parts today and was able to get them shipped out!

For the final op, I used a 1/16" ball endmill with a two thou stepover (0.002") and came out from the center to clean that whole face and curves off. Took a little over an hour per part which isn't ideal but if I tried using a flat endmill to finish that face-off, I would have had a more challenging time trying to get the two tools perfectly aligned (manually have to set the tool height) that it would have ended up being the same run time.

I used soft jaws to hold the part in place and set all the tools off the top of them for my g54 (work zero), so I wouldn't have to change anything when I loaded up the part. I did notice that the piece did move slightly and so the finish wasn't perfectly aligned, I was able to fix it manually with a small file and scotch bright. The only thing I can think of that would change it so much is when I had to contour the inside of the soft jaws out - 0.002" to allow the part to fit in there and may have shifted to the side. I cut the extra two thou even though it technically fitted inside the soft-jaws, but it was very tight and so I gave it a bit more room.

After all the cleanup, I tossed them in the tumbler, and my boss packed them up and shipped it out. 


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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1587098 2020-08-25T21:41:11Z 2020-08-25T21:41:12Z Machinist Apprentice | Aluminum Showpiece Part 2 | Day 54

I made some more progress on the aluminum showpiece I'm working on and got the somewhat difficult areas complete. 

I was able to flip the bar of parts over and faced it all down till each of the parts where separated, I released the vice a little and tapped each one down to ensure everything was perfectly flat to the bed of the minimill. From there I was able to set up a mini hard stop that attached to the top of the hard-jaws and placed a parallel down to raise the part from the bottom and used an edge finder to find the back right corner of the 2" square block and used that as my work zero for each of the sides. 

I ended up using a piece of ABS plastic to clamp against the domed face (see the previous post) to prevent the steel hard-jaws from ruining the finish. 

For the actual side milling operations, I ran into an issue where the blending of the finish from the first operation wouldn't quite match up and so I had to shave it down to blend it all in manually with a small file. All the marks will be cleaned up and hidden after they get tumbled. I was using a twenty thou ball endmill (0.02") with a one thou stepover to finish all the small features. I had to use such a small endmill to get as much of the detail on the part as I could due to the way it was designed. 

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1586782 2020-08-25T02:46:36Z 2020-08-25T02:46:37Z Machinist Apprentice | Aluminum Showpiece | Day 53


Working on another part today that requires a gorgeous finish, this time as a showpiece in aluminum, so the dimensional accuracy isn't as critical. 

The part has features on five sides, and all the finishes need to flow perfectly from one to another. It took me a while to understand how to program it after my boss explained, due to the unique shape that couldn't be held on the end that well. The basic idea on how to do it is to mill out the first side in a piece of bar stock, cutting each about half the depth of the part, leaving a small square block toward the bottom that you would use to reference off of when holding it upright. Since I would be holding it in steel hard-jaws, I couldn't cut it out, so I would have to cut it most of the way, then flip it over and remove the back material. 

On that same first operation, you would finish that side but leave stock on each of the walls to clean up on the final op. The area I took longest getting my head around was holding the part upright in the vice. On the front face of the piece has a dome shape and I thought it would get ruined by the clamping force of the soft-jaws; what I didn't take into account was how little pressure would be applied from each of the milling operations and so wouldn't require as much to hold them in place. 

Using the square base of the part from the first operation, you can set the work zero at the same corner and set each tool off the top face, giving you the same reference when rotating it 90 degrees.

I was able to finish up the first operation and programmed most of the rest of the part before I left. I'm not entirely pleased with the surface finish as it left a square-shaped mark where the bed of the minimill moved at a sharp angle instead of flowing from the center (see image) 

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1586781 2020-08-25T02:24:40Z 2020-08-25T02:24:40Z Machinist Apprentice | Stainless Steel Finishing | Day 52

Forgot to post for last Friday, so catching up on it today.

The part I'm working on requires an excellent finish for a reflection dome as apart of a flashlight. I used a spiral toolpath with a 1/8" ball endmill and two thou stepover to finish the surface, took an hour per part (approx an inch square), and came out quite lovely! One of the features of the piece I was a little nervous about was where the dome shape met the opposite face of the part at a sharp angle. I wasn't sure what exactly would happen when it cut past that area and was afraid it would either push the material out of the way or leave an imperfect finish. For this reason, I started from the center and moved my way out. Cutting it like this would push the material inward and force it to be cut rather than just moved. 

I was also able to cut that small pocket I mentioned in my previous post by using a paralel toolpath with small stepovers, it wasn't the best finish (see picture above) but worked for it's purpose. 

Another aspect of this part that I found interesting was the material removal, in the center of the part there is a large hole which would take forever to bore out with a 1/2" endmill (anything bigger would create too much heat). My boss recommended just drilling the center, and only part way from the first op, then flip it over and face the top down to its final height.

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1585232 2020-08-20T22:24:11Z 2020-08-20T22:24:11Z Machinist Apprentice | Aluminum Part Start to Finish | Day 51 (pt 2)

I also got this part to make before working on the stainless project—nothing too special about it, basic one and a half operation part.

The unique part about it was that there was a circular channel near the center of the piece that would hold an o-ring and required an excellent finish to get a proper seal. The size of the hole was approx 0.095" (not actual size) and didn't have any cutters that would fit it all that well, so I had to use a 1/16" endmill (0.062") and used the slot toolpath for the first time. The idea was to slot out a groove in the center of the channel, then use a contour toolpath and ramp that down at a pretty steep angle on either side, widening it to a few thou under its final width. And finally, take another contour starting from the bottom face instead of ramping to finish it off. It worked surprisingly well and got an excellent surface finish on it, the only area I'm not very pleased with is the lead-out/in of the cutter where it dwelt for a fraction of a second, just enough to leave a mark. 

I'm continually finding these dwelling marks from the tool to be quite annoying and leave some indecent surface finishes, I need to do some more research, but I believe there is some setting I can play around with to allow a smooth arc raise off the surface. 

Since there were only features on one side of the part, I was able to flip it over in the hard-jaws and cut off the base plate manually (thus 1.5 operations). From start to finish with programming, the whole part took about two hours, then tossed in the tumbler to remove any burrs. 

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1585230 2020-08-20T22:06:58Z 2020-08-20T22:06:58Z Machinist Apprentice | Stainless Steel Tricks and Problem | Day 51

Going to try out a slightly different style of post to make things a bit more interesting, I'll be focusing more on the new or different aspects of what I'm working on rather than by the project since I'm not able to share as much information. 

I got another stainless steel project of a couple of lighting parts, each about two inches square. The parts are small enough that I'm able to set them all in a piece of bar stock, getting them all done in one shot. Since it's stainless I'm using the flip flop technique my boss showed me where you face one side of the bar stock, flip it over, and face it again; this allows for the stress built up in the material to get released, and you don't have to worry about the material warping. 

With the set of parts sitting side by side in the 2" stainless, I'm able to run around the outside with a 1/2" endmill removing the bulk of the material then finishing it with a contour toolpath. I'm then able to take a five flute 1/8" and trace the line in between each of the parts taking ten thou stepdowns at each pass. I'm leaving a bunch of material below the piece to have a secure workholding while in the first operation, then flipping it over and removing it on the other side. For the part location, there is a hole in the design, so I'm able to boar that out, then take the dial indicator and sweep the inside edge, thus finding my work zero. Using this method, I don't even need to use soft jaws unless I'm doing multiple runs of the same part. 

I'm running into a slight issue while trying to program the finishing toolpath on a small pocket feature with radius corners, but the radius isn't the size on each of the corners. I was initially attempting to use the trace toolpath to follow along the bottom edge of the radius, but since there are two different sizes, I'm not able to have it blend very well. The other alternative I'm looking at is a parallel toolpath along the face of the wall and having it cross naturally into the groove. Thankfully this portion isn't critical, and so I can be pretty liberal with size. 

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1585020 2020-08-19T22:40:25Z 2020-08-19T22:40:25Z Machinist Apprentice | Cleaning and Shipping Parts | Day 50

Finished up all the parts today and got them shipped out!

Nothing too exciting or unique today finished milling out the final set of parts without any issues, then moved from there over to deburring and tapping the holes. I use an Exacto knife for most of the smaller burrs and a file for the larger ones, I'm sure there are better tools out there for quickly removing burrs, but I'll have to do some more research into it. 

For the final cleanup, my boss instructed me to remove only the larger burrs and throw them in the tumbler to finish them off. The tumbling leaves a hazy look to the part, almost as if it was lightly sanded, they turned out quite lovely and only need a quick rinse in soapy water and drying before they were ready to ship out!

I've also got two more jobs lined up, so I'm glad I was able to get this finished up today so that I can focus on those the next couple of days. Getting a bunch more hours at the shop and still enjoying it very much, each day seems like an hour each time I work and am always surprised to find my shift over so fast!

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1584667 2020-08-18T21:04:54Z 2020-08-18T21:08:55Z Machinist Apprentice | Final Operation Programming and Milling | Day 49

Today I got the rest of the parts all programmed and started running them one by one.

Unfortunately, due to the time-consuming stepdowns at the very end, the whole operation takes about sixteen minutes per piece, and there isn't a whole lot I can do to speed it up. Also, I do I run the risk of breaking a tool or the part itself. I also used a little playdough like clay to reduce the vibrations of the slitting saw when cutting the small side features. I'm honestly shocked how everything lines up so perfectly with the CAM programming, and I'm having almost no tolerance issues.

One strange thing I am encountering is when trying to get off the part from the block of aluminum in the center, in the corners wouldn't quite match up, and I would have to work pretty hard at it to cut it out completely. My boss checked it out himself and also isn't quite sure what's going on; its a brand new 1/16" endmill and is cutting two thou per side under what it should. It's pretty consistent in how much it's leaving, but I'm too afraid to program it with the negative stock to leave to compensate for it. One of the only things it could be is if the cutter is wearing out from some of the other toolpaths it's doing, but there aren't any signs of similar error elsewhere. The quick and dirty solution to this issue is to have it cut down five thou deeper than it did before, so instead of cutting the corner with an Exacto knife, I only need to cut the side of the block.

While working on the parts, the Haas VF2ss started to leak coolant all over the floor (turns out I forgot to clear the chips from the coolant conveyor) and had to pause to mop it all up. 

Unfortunately, I ran out of time for the day, so I had to leave the last set of parts for tomorrow. My goal is to get these shipped out by the end of my shift tomorrow, which will require me to debut everything, throw them in the tumbler, wash and dry them, and package it all up.

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1584415 2020-08-17T22:44:15Z 2020-08-18T21:05:33Z Machinist Apprentice | Third and Final Operations | Day 48

Today I got to make another fixture plate and started programming the final operation for the parts I've been working on the past few days. 

For the fixture plate, I took a piece of scrap aluminum and faced the top, then drilled the three holes to match the three on the block of the part to locate it. The whole operation took about seven minutes to program and two and a half to run. F

From there, I started working on the 3rd operation for all the parts and had some difficulties at first when trying to clean off the flat surfaces. After looking at some of the other toolpaths, I noticed that the manufacturing extension was now available. My boss bought the whole Fusion360 package when it first came out, and up until this point, it was all locked, and I didn't have access to any of it. Because of this, I was able to use the deep and shallow finishing toolpath to clean up quite a bit of the part.

There was also a small slit in the part that met up with a hole I drilled on the 4th axis, so I had to cut it with a slitting saw and a contour toolpath. I've never used one of these before, so I was a bit cautious and took it slow at ten inches a minute and three times the width in its sidecut. 

When I went running the program, I quickly ran into an issue where the bottom of the saw blade would collide with the steel hard-jaws if I let it run as it should. My boss suggested I move the fixture to the edge of the jaws and relocate the work origin on one of the holes using a gauge pin and dial indicator, which is what I needed up doing. From there, I was able to go through the rest of the toolpath without issue until I got to the cutting out sequence. 

The way I machined the part was to leave a block of material in the center to locate off of and have a secure fixturing spot in which I could cut all the features. The piece is a pyramid-like shape with a thin band lining the parameter with nothing in the center. The way I would get it off the block was to cut from the underside and cut away at it from the opposite side until it would just fall. It's tough to explain how it works, but the long and short of it is that you cut away small amounts of material and finish it at the same time, taking tiny steps down until it comes loose. For the longest time, I couldn't understand why it wasn't coming loose; I had the tool cut past the bottom of the flap where it should have just fallen off. I finally figured out that the endmill I was using was a 0.06" endmill and not a 1/16" (0.0625"), which made a surprising amount of difference in the rigidity of the part, being held up by just four thou. 

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1584378 2020-08-17T21:53:29Z 2020-08-17T21:59:44Z Machinist Apprentice | 4th Axis Operation Complete | Day 47
Finally got all the parts finished up on the 4th axis! After getting all the toolpaths down on yesterday's part I was able to copy them over to each set.

Each part was 10-15 minutes and I got the coolant aligned perfectly to get each of the tools working so I could walk away and program the rest.

The final operation for these is to place them face down on a new fixture plate and cut them out of the holding block which I'll do on Monday.

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1583481 2020-08-13T22:14:24Z 2020-08-13T22:14:24Z Machinist Apprentice | 4th Axis Troubles | Day 46

Today has been probably the most frustrating day I've worked in the shop yet, I broke three semi-expensive endmills and had some weird luck.

There weren't very many features on the part, but the ones that they do have are tiny, going all the way down to a 0.008" groove to cut out. I programmed the part around those features and didn't worry about trying to clean up any of the larger faces (I'd get those when I send it through the final operation. So I would take the 1/2" endmill and clean up the areas around the features, then with the smaller tools come through and mill them out. 

My troubles started when I ran a 1/32" (0.03125") square endmill to pocket out a small cavity and snapped the endmill. I didn't think my speeds and feeds were breakneck, and I was shocked that it caught so quickly, I used an adaptive cleaning operation and had its ramp down to its final height, then spiral out from the center. I asked my boss about it, and he pointed out that the height of the pocket was over 100% of the tool diameter, which I didn't realize until then that it was. I was trying to get the endmill to cut about 120% depth of cut with an 18% sideload at 12 inches a minute. The hole itself was about 0.023" deep (80% tool dia) and should easily be able to handle that; however, I forgot to take into account that I had stock to leave on the top face above it (10 thou) and so couldn't take that kind of stress. I ended up just leaving five thou on that top face (I would clean it up on the final operation) and receive ten thou step-downs. 

After cleaning out that small pocket, I then used a trace toolpath to get the 1/32" endmill to follow a specific path around this button like feature. Unfortunately, I thought I could take the endmill deeper than it could go and snapped the second one of the day, at this point I was got frustrated and had to take things way down, I was very caught up in getting these parts done that I took things too fast to get lower run time, but what I didn't think about was the amount of time I was spending trying to save those few seconds and ended up wasting over an hour if I had just let it take its time. Thankfully everything went much smoother after this and got the rest of the toolpaths done without much hassle, except for breaking yet another 1/32" endmill when I forgot to adjust the speed on a different pocket (it didn't break the first time because I manually lowered the feedrate on the machine). 

I also had a very small 0.008" feature to slot out so I used a 10 thou endmill (oversized is acceptable) and took 1 thou step-downs (4 in total) till I reached the bottom. 

My boss noticed that something about the part was out of line and wanted me to check with a dial indicator along one of the flats of the parts to see if it was true. Something I didn't realize was that the locating pins didn't actually stick out far enough and the chamfers on both the holes and locating pins shifted the part ever so slightly; the weird thing was that by some stroke of luck, the fixture plate in the A-axis was perfectly level (within 0.0001"). So I somehow messed up getting it level, but since the part wasn't perfectly straight, it worked out to be almost dead accurate. Another stroke of luck (if you can call it that) was that most of the features on the part where about thou or two undersized, this confused and concerned me. Still, after going it over with Wayne, he explained that due to the runout on the machine, tool holder, and endmill, most manufacturing companies would make their endmills undersized to compensate for that. Still, he said that if everything were in perfect alignment, you would get the tool perfectly aligned and get a small part, which was the case for this.

Overall it took a stupid amount of time, and I ended up staying an extra hour to get the first batch of parts done on the 4th axis operation. Since I got most of the kinks out, the rest should be pretty much smooth sailing as I only need to copy and paste the toolpaths over and program the final operation.

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1583361 2020-08-13T03:44:13Z 2020-08-13T03:44:13Z Home Workspace | 5 Axis Troubles | Pocket NC


Working on the Pocket NC again, programming the final features that I've been putting off since the beginning. 

The part that I'm working on has a flowy feature that connects two pocket holes (as seen in the image above). The difficulty is getting the ball endmill to finish up that face leaving a decent surface finish.

I started by just trying out a couple of the multi-axis toolpaths in Fusion360 without much success. I'm relatively new to 5-axis programming and have only done simple exterior features; I have not done anything like this, so I am not even sure really where to begin. I ended up just googling how to do it and found a helpful thread on the Autodesk forums talking about this specific issue; they even had a download for it. 

I copied over the preset of the multi-axis program into my CAM setup and modified a few of the settings and generated it; I immediately got a very complicated jumble of toolpath going every direction possible. I simulated it, and just as expected, the tool crashed multiple times in the stock it was supposed to avoid and barely got any of the surfaces I selected. I ended up just restricting the endmill to a specific orientation and limited it to a maximum of 10deg tilt to prevent it from going on the other side. It turned out pretty decent, and the simulation shows it gets most of the material I wanted removing, there is one section toward the end where the side of the tool rubs up against the wall where I'm not super pleased with, but I'm sure I can figure that out. 

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1583280 2020-08-12T21:02:26Z 2020-08-12T21:02:26Z Machinist Apprentice | 4th Axis Setup on the Haas Minimill | Day 45

Today I worked on getting the 4th axis set up and dialed in on the Haas Minimill.

My boss showed me how to load the collets and dial in the position using a gauge pin and indicator. Using a 5/8" round gauge, I swept the dial indicator along the six inches of stick out and taping the base with a rubber mallet until it was within one-tenth (0.0001") from end to end. It took a stupid amount of time to get the 4th axis base locked in and still am a little frustrated.

From there, I used an edge finder on both sides of the rod, then divided the values by 2 to get the Y-axis origin, then did it again to ensure I didn't make a mistake the first time and got the same result as before. After that, I was able to load the mini fixture plate in the collet and tried facing it with an endmill to ensure I had a flat workpiece aligned with the machine but didn't get a perfect surface finish. My boss ended up tossing it on the lathe and cleaning the face it manually. 

After loading it back onto the minimill, I retook the edge finder and touched off the outside face for the X-axis origin. After that, I loaded one of the parts onto the fixture plate and secured it down; I then took the dial indicator and swept one of the flat faces to set the A-axis rotation origin. 

The final thing that I need to do is setting up the tools and setting the heights off the centerline of the X-axis line. I'm able to do this by using a 4" gauge block off the minimill table, the height of the 4th axis machine is precisely four inches above the face of the table so I can use that as a reference height. 

I also made sure to mark the top of the fixture plate and set up the CAM to have the engraving side always facing me; this ensures I don't make mistakes when loading the parts on the machine. 

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Harris Family
tag:buildsbygideon.com,2013:Post/1583122 2020-08-12T04:20:08Z 2020-08-12T04:20:24Z Home Workspace | Finishing Passes | Pocket NC

I started running the finishing toolpaths on the Pocket NC today.

I'm disappointed with how the flow toolpaths turned out when cleaning up those chamfered edges, the machine had this weird pausing as if it was stalling (it wasn't) and left some pretty lousy finish marks. Maybe I programmed it wrong, and there is some smoothing I forgot to enable but very unhappy with that toolpath, I may try it again with swarf as I got great results when finishing the inside pockets. 

The swarf toolpaths for the side pockets turned out surprisingly well, and I got a very decent surface finish on all of them. I used a 1/8" endmill but should have gone with the 1/16" as it can't quite reach those corners, meaning it left some material there and looks a bit off if you study it.

I also cut out three of the final features using a 1/16" square endmill and a contour toolpath ramping down. Still not sure how to get that last feature at the top where it slopes into the top pocket (see picture above), and any suggestions would be much appreciated!


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Harris Family