Behold my Creation
Yesterday was a big day, tool-wise. I used CAD to design a part, and I managed to make my CNC lathe cut something using the design.
Notice I did not say I got a proper part; just that I got the lathe to use the design I made.
Here is the design; I’m not sure why I used a cell phone instead of a screen grab, but anyway:
That’s a tool handle. I don’t need a tool handle, but I figured it was the sort of thing I might want to make in the future, so I designed one.
Here is the part I actually cut:
As you can see, it’s a wee bit off.
Here is how CNC works, at least in my mind. You draw a part in a CAD program. You open the file in a CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) program, and it tells the computer how to write a Gcode file that goes to your controller. The controller–in my case a board–tells the machine motors what to do.
Essentially, the CAM program turns a picture into a path a tool follows as it cuts.
Last night, I learned that it gets even more annoying. I use Fusion 360, Autodesk’s free CAD/CAM program. In Fusion 360, you have to create something called a “setup” before you make your Gcode, and you also have to come up with a file called a “post processor.” I found this definition online: “The software that converts CL-file CAD/CAM data to specific machine tool commands is called a Post Processor.>
I don’t know what “CL” means, but I’ll let that pass.
The post processor communicates with the machine control program, which is the software that tells the control hardware what to do.
I guess this is not easy to follow. I’ll make a list.
1. CAD file
3. Post processor
4. CAM program ==> Gcode file
5. Control program
7. Motor amplifier
8. Machine motors
I think that’s about right.
Numbers 6 and 7 are pieces of hardware. My controller is a KFlop board, and my amplifier is a KStep board. The amplifier takes control signals from the controller and turns them into current that drives the motors.
LinuxCNC and Mach3 are control programs.
It’s a mess, isn’t it?
Fusion 360, like just about everything else in the CNC world, does not like lathes. At least it doesn’t like hobby lathes put together in garages. As a result, the creators made no effort–none–to make it work with Mach3’s turning software. That means it lacks a Mach3 lathe post processor file. I had to go dig one up. Other people had the same problem, predictably, so they came up with files that seemed to work. “Seemed.”
Installing a new post processor file in Fusion 360 is not fun. The program hides the location of its processor files. The trick is to open an existing file in Fusion 360’s editor, and it will display the path to all of the post processor files. Then you can move your file to that folder manually. Which I did.
There were problems.
First of all, the setup utility in Fusion 360 is not easy to work with. You have to set it for turning, and then you have to describe the uncut stock to it. You have to program a coordinate system into it, so it doesn’t run backward. You have to describe the tool you’re using. All the while, Fusion 360 will try to reset things after you’ve set them yourself. I have to get some help with that.
It uses language I don’t understand. I know about things like clearance and depth of cut, but Fusion 360 gets into “overlap” and “smoothing” and so on. It defines terms for you…sometimes. The way you bring up the definitions is to hover over stuff you don’t understand. If you’re lucky, an explanatory popup appears. But sometimes you’re not lucky.
I did the best I could, and I sent the Gcode to Mach3. I had three major issues.
First, the x-coordinates don’t work. I kept telling the machinery where the tip of the lathe was supposed to start, but it kept deciding the +x side of the work was an inch closer to me than it really was. This meant that if I ran the program on a 3/4″ piece of Delrin, it missed the work entirely.
I wanted to see something happen, even if it was wrong, so I lied to the machine about the x location, and my lying wild guess was about 0.100″ off. As a result, the part is a lot skinnier than it should be. Not a catastrophe. I’m happy it exists at all.
Second, the cuts are way too deep. In Delrin, which is plastic, a mini-lathe can do a 0.100″ cut without crashing. Try that in steel. No way.
Third, the Gcode crashed my controller. I think it died when it hit a G0 command. I looked G0 up, and all I found was “rapid positioning.” Whatever it means, the lathe stopped moving, and the control board locked up and had to be restarted. The part was not finished.
Now I have to know: did the code kill the controller, and if so, is it a controller problem or a Mach3 problem? If it’s a controller problem, then the post processor I found is no good, and I have to find out how to fix it. I already know Mach3 and the controller get along. So basically, I need to go to MIT for three or four years and then come back and solve the problem.
I’m happy, regardless. I designed something. I turned it into a part. That’s progress.
Life is not all peaches and honey, however. I got some news about my sister. She left a homeless shelter at some point this year, and no one knows where she is. Yesterday a letter arrived, at an address she left long ago. Someone showed it to me. I can’t say what it was about, but it was bad news for her financially and in other ways. It will catch up with her eventually.
I used to be concerned because she had been disinherited. I used to pray for her inheritance to be restored. Now I know that was not a good idea, and I understand why God didn’t agree with my prayers.
It made me think, and it helped me understand some general truths about wealth.
I’m not sure people think clearly when they make their wills. They work hard all their lives, and they store up wealth that can be a tremendous help to their descendants. What happens when you leave that kind of gift to a person who has immense debt, or who spends profusely? It’s as if you put it in a pile and set fire to it. It vanishes.
Think about it. What if you have two kids; one has zero debt, and the other owes someone $500,000? Say you leave $250,000 to each kid; what happens? Immediately, half of your wealth is gone. It’s as if you never had it. The creditor takes it, and then the broke kid goes to the other kid and tries to get the rest of it, bit by bit.
If you have more than one child, and you cut off the children who have debt, their creditors can’t do a thing. You never owed them, and neither did the other children. The wealth is insulated from attack. It’s common sense, but people don’t seem to think about it. They leave money to children who are essentially bags with no bottoms. It goes right through them and into the hands of other people.
People sometimes favor their irresponsible children, saying they “need” the money. That’s like saying Charlie Sheen needs more coke. If you want to be Santa Claus, give money to people who have nothing. If you want to conserve wealth and bless your kids, give it to people who look after what they have.
Children who have debts feel they’re more entitled to inherit. That’s just denial.
The conviction that you have to give handouts to people indiscriminately is also denial. It can make their problems worse and add to yours, especially if the people you give money to are abusers you used to pray to be freed from. It’s like inviting a vampire into your house.
It’s a bad idea to grab a tar baby once you’ve gotten loose. You’re asking for whatever misery ensues. Who will you blame? Will you go to God and ask him to free you again?
Some people have to keep repeating mistakes, and often, helping them is so costly, it doesn’t make sense. It’s not even help. It’s even worse when the people you try to help are folks who spend their time insulting you, lying to others about you, and scheming to take things from you. Generosity and compassion are extremely important, but you have to be very careful. You wouldn’t want to lend the bum on the corner money for bolt-cutters to rob your house.
I remember a time when I considered marrying someone who had debt. I didn’t know about the debt; I didn’t ask. Love conquers all! Thinking about money is tasteless and coarse!
That was stupid. Man, I was an idiot. I should have asked. If you marry someone who is debt-free, the cost of the wedding and honeymoon is your only immediate expense. If you marry someone who owes $100,000, you are immediately on the hook for the marriage, the honeymoon, and…$100,000. No one with any sense would spend a hundred grand on a wedding, but people do it every day without knowing it.
Instant cost of marrying debt-free spouse: $5000, if you’re sane. Okay, I didn’t include the ring.
Instant cost of marrying big spender: $105,000.
Also, the debt a wastrel has at the time of marriage is just the beginning. It’s a tiny tumor that hasn’t blossomed yet. It will get much bigger eventually. No irresponsible woman ever decided that marriage was her cue to stop spending.
Marriage isn’t about money, but debt is slavery. It’s hell. Marry a slave; become a slave.
Jesus said those who had a lot would receive more, while those who had little would lose what they had. It’s true. People build or destroy, in every area of their lives.
I’m grateful for the people I can help. The rest just make me shake my head. I certainly hope I can be helped.
Blessings only go to people who can be blessed.
The Bible talks a lot about the fatherless. That’s me. You can have a father and be fatherless. If no one passes wisdom on to you when you’re young, you are fatherless. It’s disgraceful to be my age and to be surprised by wisdom other people accept at the age of ten.
God is a good father. He doesn’t just give you stuff you crave; that’s what pimps do to hookers. He teaches you. He improves you. He changes you so you have productive habits and thoughts. I wish I had known him decades ago, but, of course, fatherless people don’t have the wisdom to understand that they’re fatherless. I wasn’t interested.
I hope I still have enough time left to benefit from the things God shows me. If not, at least I get to relate them to younger people.