SOLIDWORKS CAM Newbie Cuts Metal for the First Time

by Adam Hughes

Tormach’s accuracy and ease of use helps pave the way to success.

Right out of the gate, I have to tell you that I have never machined a part or set up a CNC machine. I am a mechanical engineer by trade. So I had to do lots of reading, make lots of phone calls, and I needed tons of patience to make this happen.

I am also here to tell you it can be done! (This project was for a local business in Redlands, California, which is known for its orange groves.)

Why go down this road?

First off, I want to cover why I decided to go down this road.

Frankly, I was tired of waiting for the “good guy price” to get my molds made. I wanted to make the tooling in the USA, but it cost way more money than I could afford, and it was just going to take too long. So my only option was to do it myself. I actually purchased a CNC machine (for less than the cost of one of the molds!) and was off to the races.  

To start, I am going to illustrate the steps of the process to machine this simple part as well as the setup involved for installing a CNC machine in your garage.

I tested my new found CAM skills on a simple part using my brand new PCNC 770. Selecting a Tormach has proven to be a great decision; accuracy is never an issue since I am holding XY tolerances better than Mitutoyo calipers can measure. And, what makes me feel the most secure about my investment is Tormach’s tech support team. They are available to help on any given aspect of the machine and controller. It’s fantastic to know that someone is in your corner and ready to help.

Here’s my Tormach setup summary which was an 8- to 10-hour install process:

  1. Unbox machine
  2. Put together subassemblies
  3. Place stand and level
  4. Connect electrical
  5. Hoist machine and install
  6. Power up and re-check level
  7. Read setup instructions
  8. Connect to WIFI
  9. Post code


The CAM thought Process

Start by defining G54 location and raw material stock size in SOLIDWORKS CAM. Stock can be defined several ways; my particular favorite is using a sketch.

SOLIDWORKS CAMEnsure the coordinate system matches how you want to machine the blank. (See picture below for location and orientation.)



SOLIDWORKS CAM 2018 has fantastic tools that allow toolpath generation inside of the SOLIDWORKS user interface so design updates automatically prompt toolpath updates.

Automatic feature recognition allows the software to find void areas/volumes and apply removal methods (pocket, slot, boss, and others). After the features accurately define the volume removed from the blank, specify the tool, step over, axial load, set rpm speeds/feeds, and lead/in-out information—now you are set!

Note: G-Wizard is an incredible tool that helps you start (rpm/speed/feed) in the right area and fine tune from there.

SOLIDWORKS CAMRough Mill 1: Bulk material removal

SOLIDWORKS CAMRough Mill 2: Smaller tool diameter mostly just material removal for tighter regions.

SOLIDWORKS CAMContour Mill 1: Avoid and keep out areas (stay in the yellow, keep out of the orange).

SOLIDWORKS CAMRough Mill 4, 5 & 6: Three different options to remove small amounts of material left over from bulk material removal operations.

SOLIDWORKS CAMRough Mill 7 and Contour Mill 3: Essentially remove material from what would be the orange in the model.

SOLIDWORKS CAMFinal Contour mill is cleaning up any possible material left from the leadin and leadout profiles.

SOLIDWORKS CAMFlip the blank over, run mill setup 2, trim parts off the blank.

SOLIDWORKS CAMOnce you get the flow of SOLIDWORKS CAM 2018, things start to move very quickly including your thought process. My advice to you is patience above all. It’s more than just a CAM package; it provides strategies and techniques—all in the SOLIDWORKS environment—to new or experienced users that point in the right direction for milling operations.

If you find yourself fatigued in the process, stop and pick it up the next day. Regularly review your programming and make sure everything makes sense.

Below are a few examples of what I have machined since getting the Tormach. Remember, I am a complete newbie at this and if I can do it you can, too.

If you would like to know more about SOLIDWORKS CAM Standard (2.5-axis machining) or Professional (5-axis machining), contact us at GoEngineer for more information.

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