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This months MEW are 3 CNC features two too many

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Lawrie Alush-Jaggs31/05/2011 15:27:11
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Hullo Evry Bardy! (Hello Dr. Nick)
 
I have just been to a machine tool exhibition held here in Melbourne last week. There were precisely three manual machines on display. One Colchester Student, a turret mill and a Chinese lathe. That was it. Nothing else.
ALL of the machines were to some extent computer controlled. Several boring and refacing machines for earthmoving equipment buckets and jibs etc. were computer controlled.
The band saws, of course the lasers, turret punches, tube and bar benders, sheet metal benders and presses. The Mori Seki's, Deckel VMCs. Everything. The whole bloody lot.
 
It is lovely to have manual skills, and I take it as read that we like to have them in our sheds/workshops. But. As I wrote in a letter to Scribe a Line a couple of years ago, they are not marketable. They are not the skills required today. Granted there is some need for them but only peripherally. The skills required today are computer control. It really is just that simple.
So. Enjoy your manual skills, yes you are a dying breed just as the mill wright and the village blacksmith are dead. And the wheel wright and just about every other type of wright. Why? Because technology changed. Because of the invention of iron flour mills, the need for a highly skilled carver of mill stones just went away. Steel wheels and Goodyear tyres just killed the wheel wright stone dead.
In the Army you are rquired to know how to use a gun and drive a tank. Not swing a sword and ride a horse.
Here in Australia, horses for mustering cattle and sheep are a rarity. Today it is done with dirt bikes, ATVs and helicopters. Why? Because it is faster and cheaper that is all. A horse can do thirty miles in a day where a helicopter and an ATV can do hundreds.
I like having manual skills, love it in fact and I continue to develop them because I enjoy it so much. But only for a one off. I have to confess that I find standing there twiddling and winding handles to make thirty of something really really dull. Really dull. Boring in fact. Actually quite mind numbingly tedious.
Which is precisely why we have CNC machines. They don't get bored, don't (yet) find it tedious and really don't mind doing EXACLTY the same thing time and again day in night out.
Humans are as a rule, lousy at repetion. Machines are not.
The computer is the first real universal tool. There is NO other peice of machinery that can be configured to perform so many different functions. The computer I am writing at can do CAD, browse the Internet, monitor the humidity of my kiln, control a milling machine and a lathe, send automated messages fired off by a web cam when something on the machne it is watching goes wrong etc. etc. etc.
When I first started teching cooking many years ago, I though that there had to be a better, smarter way to manage ones class notes. It was a 286 sitting in the corner of the teachers office with a copy of DOS 3.2 and Word Perfect 4 on it. I learned as quickly as I could because it made sense to.
If I created a drawing on a peice of paper, that is it. It doesn't do anything except sit there and look all papery.
If I do it on computer, I can change it as I want and by saving to different file names have version control. I can print it out or view it on the workshop computer any time I want.
If I then fire it off at a CAM program, I can make as many of it as I want when ever I want.
And it will give me the same result (within the limits of the machine tool) as I want.
What is more it will machine shapes that are quite frankly impossible on analogue machines.
What happened to casting? Sure there is some of still being done, John Deer casts several billion dollars worth of iron a year.
Welding took over. Fabrication.
What is happening to fabrication? Machining from solid is taking over, at least at the small end. The other thing that is taking over from fabrication is injection molding.
I'm afraid manual skills just don't cut it. They aren't good enough or reliable enough. That is exactly the reason we have CNC and no other. If people with manual skills was able to control a machine tool in the way that CNC could, we would not have CNC. It would not be worth the expense to develop it.
So back to the original topic, of the three articles causing this broo haha, it alledged that they are all three about CNC. I beg to differ. Two are about CNC, the other is about building a machine which happens to be CNC controlled. The article is not about CNC but building a machine.
 
Rant over.
 
Lawrie
 
 
NJH31/05/2011 15:35:05
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Hi Lawrie
 
I take it that Ian proposes to cancel his sub to MEW - not his membership of this forum.
He would then visit his local newsagent and view the contents of the latest issue of the magazine and, subject to interest in the items covered , make up his mind on whether or not to shell out his hard earned cash. (A position with which I have some sympathy .) How does it affect the forum? - well not at all I guess but the forum only exists because of the magazine and the magazine exists as long as folk buy it. This thread started as someone considered  3 CNC articles in one issue to be excessive - again I agree, I do accept that CNC is a valid interest amongst readers and should be featured. I will continue to buy the mag. just so long as I get sufficient "value" for my £4
 
Regards
 
Norman

Edited By NJH on 31/05/2011 15:36:45

John Coates31/05/2011 21:07:21
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Well I can sympathise with Ian
 
As a recent comer to lathes and mills to accomplish some home engineering, in the second year of a subscription to MEW, the vitriol in this post has convinced me that I will not be taking out a third year (obviously to Tony's delight).
 
I have come across many factions in my time in many forums, mainly motorcycle and computer OS related, and I guess I should not be surprised to find one here. Up until now my questions have been answered with the utmost help and fullness and I believed this forum to be somewhere I could enjoy for many years to come.
 
But I do not have CNC, CAM etc due to being in my mid-40's and raising a young family (2 and 6). It was a stretch to my budget to acquire both a second hand lathe and mill and all the accompanying tooling and accessories (still not complete as I learn more about what I should have and I never realised that it would cost more than the machines!). My first task is to acquire the manual skills to achieve what I want. And I find immense pleasure in turning those handwheels back and forth, watching the swarf, wondering whether the outcome will be fit for purpose or end up in the scrap box.
 
I will continue to learn what I need to do to with the help of some on here and I am sure another web forum will be found where the membership is more welcoming to those who do not own the most expensive equipment.
 
I am lucky that having found MEW I began to collect the back issues and there are loads of articles relevant to me and my skill level and the little job that I want to do. In fact they are replicated in a lot of the Workshop Practice Series which I have found worth collecting as well. And I must admit there were more articles per issue then together with lots of useful little helpful hints in the side bars, kind of like the asides a good teacher or lecturer passes on to their pupils.
 
Thankyou for the helpful replies I have received to date and I will restrict my activity to the Beginners section and keep from straying into these elitist areas where I do not feel welcome and I believe are very off putting to newbies.
 
I am sure points have been scored but as I do not know the rules I do not care a jot for the outcome. It has come across as very bitter and unwelcoming.
Gray6231/05/2011 22:08:32
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I think the possibilities of CNC is of interest to all model engineers but realistically out of the reach of most.
For many many years models of extremely high quality have been produced by dedicated model engineers with manual machines, and that will continue for many years to come. CNC machines are of limited appeal to themajority of the ME community and whilt we all may deam of owning such equipment, the reality is that much of our mchining activities preclude the use of such automation. We are not in general, producing repeat parts of exacting dimensions, but one off parts that require individual setups fo each item produced.
 
CNC is an exciting part of our hobby but, in my opinion has limited appeal for the general model engineer and should therefore be given similar exposure in the magazines. 3 articles in one magazine is definitely overkill.
John Stevenson31/05/2011 22:20:28
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Well well what a bunch of cry babies, talk about toys out of prams.
 
We get words like Vitriol, luddites etc and if anyone wants to go back to the original post it was something like " I think 3 articles on CNC in one issue is too much "
 
Now where did anyone argue with that, many, including me said yes it was going too far. the last article could have been held over until one of the other had finished.
 
I would love to go back and look thru the article list from issue #1 until present day and list them against what they cover, like toolpost, chucks, bed stops, T&C grinders, CNC etc and come up with a total list. I'll bet it's an eye opener.
 
In fact I was going to do it but only just got in from loading the truck for some machine deliveries tomorrow so now pushed for time.
 
I admit I do have a vested interest in CNC but I for one don't want to see a magazine full of CNC articles, I want a good cross section of articles. Unlike some I am of the view you don't stop learning until the day you die and it amazing what you read and suddenly twig on that it could be used for something totally unrelated.
 
Things do move on and not just with CNC, we have access now to more equipment and tooling at affordable prices than we have ever had before. Gears have been cut in home workshops for years but now we have the change to hob gears, something that 0 years ago would have been unheard off. We have access to laser cutting which opens a whole new world up.
 
You don't have to just read what interests you because unless you read how do you know it won't ?? the closed mind approach isn't going to further your knowledge.
 
Quite a few issues ago I read an article in metal etching for small railway layouts, I don't have a small railway and not really interested but I read it and to be honest I found it better than the Workshop Practice series in depth of knowledge. I have not done anything with this knowledge but it's filed away for future reference.
 
I can also understand some people wanting to learn the time served basic skills but there is enough in the mag taken over an average number of issues to satisfy them and that's fine, their choice.
 
Where it comes to confrontation is the few, and they are few, who insist that they are not going to embrace any new technology over their dead bodies but instead of keeping this opinion to themselves they want to foster it on all. Do these hypocrites still drive round in 1955 Morris Oxfords because they don't like new technology? - No chance they have the latest all singing , all dancing car and how come they can manage to foster their views on this forum without a computer.
 
We are talking about a very few here but they like to try to spread their views onto others however all is not lost because these people are in the minority you don't have much fear of being hit by a wayward teddy.
 
John S.
 

John Stevenson31/05/2011 22:35:00
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Coal burner,
May I take you up on a couple of points ?
 
Firstly and I'm getting a bit fed up of agreeing with people, I also feel that 3 articles was a bit OTT and the last one should have waited until the others had finished.
 
You are putting the emphasis on Model Engineer and I know the mag is called Model Engineers Workshop but is it confined to ONLY Model Engineers ? I read it, so do many of my friends and none build models.
Now to go back to your first comment about being out of the reach of most. There was an article a while ago about a CNC router, mainly built of MDF, now I have seen these built out of cannibalised printers, drawer slides and lengths of studding and plastic nuts. Some of these turn out decent work and many under £100 machines go on to build the MKII.
In fact for some CNC has now become their hobby. At the moment there is no mag to collect all these budding engineers together.
 
I know a few of these who are doing track side furniture for themselves and others, don't scorn a router as being for wood, all Polly Models tinware on their Polly kits is produced on a wood working router as being the most cost effective way.
 
It may have limited appeal to the average Model Engineer but what about the Engineers who regard the machines and machining just as a tool to get something else done.
 
For some it's the journey, for others it's the reward.
 
John S.
Jim Nolan01/06/2011 07:41:48
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Well I have steered clear of this topic till I woke up this morning at 4am. So I thought I would fill some time in till the alarm went off. I find the posts about the “I don’t like the articles in this months X” to be boring reflections of the writers prejudices and what is the point reading about that unless your filling in time like me.
 

So let’s look at this from a different angle I don’t get MEW I do get ME. When I think about it there are loads of articles that are of no interest to me in every issue. Sometimes I think I only get it for the adverts. But I have an easy way of dealing with the stuff I have no interest in I don’t read it … simples!
 

As to new technology I love it, its here its getting more affordable by the minute. It reduces build time increases accuracy at least for me, opens avenues of manufacturing once closed to the average model engineer and without it I know I would never have been able to get where I am today with my own project.
 

Here’s a typical example of how technology helps. In a recent ME there was an article on making a Dixon tool post rack it ran to two or three pages. I made nearly the same thing but my article would have been
 

Draw plate with slots in it; draw L shaped arms to fit in slots send DXF file to laser cutter. Drop arms in slots > weld> job done. Did I really want to spend an eternity making a Dixon tool post rack for me no but you pays your money.
 

TerryD

Looking at your picture I am guessing you’re the guy responsible for filling my loft with patterns?
 

Jim

Edited By Jim Nolan on 01/06/2011 07:46:23

Edited By Jim Nolan on 01/06/2011 07:47:57

NJH01/06/2011 08:32:41
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That's all very well Jim but where did you get your laser cutter?

EtheAv8r01/06/2011 09:58:08
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Posted by Brian on 30/05/2011 16:46:58:
Thank You David, can we all asume that CNC is now excluded from MEW in the future?
 
regards
Brian

I sincerely hope not. I have no current interest in CNC from the aquisition perspective, but I still want to know about it, understand a bit about it, and who knows what the future holds? Programming/coding is a 'dark art' to me - I just don't get it, but to be able to easily draw a part on a PC and then have it made by a machine directly from that would be very cool - if it is affordable. I want to make stuff in my hobby workshop (all sorts of stuff for all sorts of purposes in all sorts of materials) - I am not too fussed or proscriptive about how I achieve it.
 
Yes, maybe 3 in 1 issues at the moment is too many but we get peaks and troughs (like buses...) and a single instance is not a trend.
 
Bring articles on technology in the hobby workshop. Bring on articles on tried and 'old fashioned' manual tips and processes, bring on variety - there is lots of stuff I amy not want to do or follow up on, but am still interested in knowing some thing about it - and I have the choice not to read it fully, or evenat all.
 
We cannot expect every item in every (or even any) issue of MEW to be riviting and of direct interest to each of us.
 

Edited By EtheAv8r on 01/06/2011 10:03:39

Tony Jeffree01/06/2011 10:13:04
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Posted by EtheAv8r on 01/06/2011 09:58:08:
Posted by Brian on 30/05/2011 16:46:58:
Thank You David, can we all asume that CNC is now excluded from MEW in the future?
regards
Brian

I sincerely hope not. I have no current interest in CNC from the aquisition perspective, but I still want to know about it, understand a bit about it, and who knows what the future holds? Programming/coding is a 'dark art' to me - I just don't get it, but to be able to easily draw a part on a PC and then have it made by a machine directly from that would be very cool - if it is affordable. I want to make stuff in my hobby workshop (all sorts of stuff for all sorts of purposes in all sorts of materials) - I am not too fussed or proscriptive about how I achieve it.
 
Yes, maybe 3 in 1 issues at the moment is too many but we get peaks and troughs (like buses...) and a single instance is not a trend.
 
Bring articles on technology in the hobby workshop. Bring on articles on tried and 'old fashioned' manual tips and processes, bring on variety - there is lots of stuff I amy not want to do or follow up on, but am still interested in knowing some thing about it - and I have the choice not to read it fully, or evenat all.
 
We cannot expect every item in every (or even any) issue of MEW to be riviting and of direct interest to each of us.
 

Edited By EtheAv8r on 01/06/2011 10:03:39

Very well put - thanks.
 
Regards,
Tony
Tony Jeffree01/06/2011 11:07:23
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Posted by John Coates on 31/05/2011 21:07:21:
Well I can sympathise with Ian
 
As a recent comer to lathes and mills to accomplish some home engineering, in the second year of a subscription to MEW, the vitriol in this post has convinced me that I will not be taking out a third year (obviously to Tony's delight).
 
I have come across many factions in my time in many forums, mainly motorcycle and computer OS related, and I guess I should not be surprised to find one here. Up until now my questions have been answered with the utmost help and fullness and I believed this forum to be somewhere I could enjoy for many years to come.
 
But I do not have CNC, CAM etc due to being in my mid-40's and raising a young family (2 and 6). It was a stretch to my budget to acquire both a second hand lathe and mill and all the accompanying tooling and accessories (still not complete as I learn more about what I should have and I never realised that it would cost more than the machines!). My first task is to acquire the manual skills to achieve what I want. And I find immense pleasure in turning those handwheels back and forth, watching the swarf, wondering whether the outcome will be fit for purpose or end up in the scrap box.
 
I will continue to learn what I need to do to with the help of some on here and I am sure another web forum will be found where the membership is more welcoming to those who do not own the most expensive equipment.
 
I am lucky that having found MEW I began to collect the back issues and there are loads of articles relevant to me and my skill level and the little job that I want to do. In fact they are replicated in a lot of the Workshop Practice Series which I have found worth collecting as well. And I must admit there were more articles per issue then together with lots of useful little helpful hints in the side bars, kind of like the asides a good teacher or lecturer passes on to their pupils.
 
Thankyou for the helpful replies I have received to date and I will restrict my activity to the Beginners section and keep from straying into these elitist areas where I do not feel welcome and I believe are very off putting to newbies.
 
I am sure points have been scored but as I do not know the rules I do not care a jot for the outcome. It has come across as very bitter and unwelcoming.
 
On the contrary, John, I take absolutely no delight in *anyone at all* deciding to unsubscribe from the magazine, so please do me the courtesy of not putting words into my mouth.
 
I came to engineering as a newbie, like yourself, with no former knowledge of metalworking to spak of; my present state of knowledge and skill, such as it is, is the result of lots of reading - books, magazines such as MEW, on-line forums - lots of trial-and-error, and lots of help freely given by people that know more about the subject than I do. Over the years I have written a good many articles for MEW; my primary and overriding motivation in writing for the magazine is to give something back, in appreciation of the help and support I have been given in the past and that I continue to receive. Inevitably, what I write about is what I do in my workshop; increasingly, that includes a fair amount of CNC-related "stuff", and will continue to do so. I have found CNC invaluable in my workshop activities (and almost exclusively for one-off pieces, not for repetition work, by the way; the idea that CNC is only useful for repetition work is often trotted out, but it is simply not true) and I know, frothe feedback that I have received, that what I write about CNChas been of help to others that want to go a similar path. I am not arrogant enough to believe that all model engineers should be using CNC; whether they do or not is a personal choice. However, for it to BE a personal choice, it has to be available and accessible to them; hence, while I believe that the one issue of MEW in question was wrong in its balance of CNC vs other stuff, I do not want to see the Editor browbeaten into removing CNC (or other relevant new technology for that matter) from the pages of the magazine just because of the personal prejudice of a small number of voiciferous but blinkered individuals.
 
Contrary to some comments that have been made in this thread, CNC is increasingly accessible to even the most modest buget; as John S has pointed out, building a small CNC router can be achived for as little as £100 if you are prepared to apply some skill and imagination, and once built, you have a tool that you can use to machine components for something better. A while back, I converted my Myford ML-7 to CNC (and wrote up the conversion for MEW); my lathe had formerly been fitted with a Myford quick change gearbox, and following the conversion, I sold off the gearbox and various other bits (the banjos and gears and the topslide) that were now surplus to requirements, and ended up with a CNC lathe plus a decent amount of surplus ££ in my pocket for other things. The point? Many of our readership would consider it perfectly reasonable to lay out the £400 or so that a QC gearbox would cost on the used market, or the £ lots more that Myford would charge for a new one, but somehow, laying out the ~£300 it cost me to do a CNC conversion is out of reach of their pockets. That makes no sense to me at all.
 ...continued in next post...

Edited By Tony Jeffree on 01/06/2011 11:08:44

Tony Jeffree01/06/2011 11:09:11
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...continued from previous post...
 
I applaud your decision to develop your manual skills first; getting a feel for what your machines are capable of, and how to work with different materials, is essential. But please don't "restrict (your) activity to the Beginners section"; that way all you will ever be is a beginner. And please don't dismiss and ignore more advanced techniques just because you feel you can't afford them right now; as John S has observed, there is still value in learning about new techniques even if you may not want to use them right now. Think of it as the mental equivalent of the scrap box; it may not look useful right now, but someday it might be exactly the thing that you need to solve a particular problem.
 
Regards,
Tony
DMR02/06/2011 01:43:05
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My last MEW on subscription was issue 164 and I have not regretted that decision - keeping my eye on what is in each issue on this site, and in Smiths, and picking up outdated issues for a quid or 50p. I do not normally participate in these discussions , but I have to add to what is being said. I am prompted to post by the posting from some chap mentioning that it was his decision to stop subscribing that was the one mentioned in issue 165 Page 61 "Reasons not to Subscribe 1", And I thought that was me! Unfortunately I cannot locate that posting in this thread - it may have been deleted as being a touch embarrassing!

It amazes me that the Editor has not terminated this thread long ago - he would have done if he had been around at the start of it instead of at Harrogate. He must hate it and hope it goes away with the next issue. I have met him on his two visits to the (most recent) spring Myford open days. I told him (by e-mail at the time) by way of explanation as to why I was not renewing my subscription - not least because I could get no responses to my offer of articles or (mainly) Scribe a Line. Ironically he used my Scribe a Line offering from my same mailing telling him why I was terminating my subscription in issue 169 (I think) "Light short circuit", which I thought a real stab in the back.

I seem to have deleted my e-mail to DC ending my subscription; otherwise I would just attach it here, but I generate a similar version as follows: I should add that a secondary reason was the endless Linton Wedlock thing on that drawing program, which ran to at least a full edition and was totally OTT.

I have been in automation all my life, working first at the North Staffs Tech (now a pseudo university), then at Harwell for a few years and all the rest with various versions of GEC which ended up in french hands. In later years it has all been on-site automation on power stations/substations and steel works: central data loggers, sequence and remote terminal controls. anything from humble pumps to Olympus Engines, main boilers and turbines - the lot. I knew/know many programming codes, both complex source codes and basic machine codes. They are good for things you need to do more than once or you are otherwise into manufacturing. They are useless for one-off production as in building a model unless (my example to DC) I wanted to make lots of spokes for Traction Engine wheels. As a fact, I know that it would take me far longer to set up a lathe or mill for one -off's using CNC than just do the job manually, a unique application being the cutting of spokes in a wheel from solid which is why ArcEuro use it by way of example on their show demo's. It looks impressive and is a sort of 3D item cutting in two dimensions, needing no datum start point as such beyond the middle of the uncut lump. Some of the postings on this thread infer or state that individuals have gone down the CNC path, "I modified my S7 but am disappointed with my progress", and are now realising their error.

I am not against CAD/CAM/CNC articles as such, but since the normal mortal making one-off models has to be the main reader of ME/MEW, then it should be restricted. I suspect DC was given the Editorial job as he offered to take MEW forward on a CAD/CAM path, and I suspect Dave Fenner (come back Dave) gave up the job because he could not see enough meaningful content to support more issues per year. I made the following observations to DC, most likely in a different order:

1) If he has insufficient meaningful content, he should not have (agreed to go to) gone to more issues. ME is not like MEW. There is always a different model to serialise in ME - infinitely more variatons on a theme. With MEW a lathe is still a lathe in a literal sense and all we get is variations on a theme and there is a lot less meaningful content per month than there used to be, as others have poined out.

2) He has insufficient content for Scribe a Line because it is all appearing on the web site. Instead of appealing for content he or his assistants should be routing articles to Scribe a Line with permission of the writers at the start of a thread. I always read all the scribes therein.

3) Being Editor of both magazines is clearly one too many and many aspects are suffering. As an added bit not said at the time he claims that the Eds Bench (such as it is these days) is the last thing he writes yet he manages to advertise the Myford open days a month late. Subscribers may just have got it in time.

4) If he dares to, run a questionaire on how many people have gone down the CNC path and given up on it and why.

5) It takes time to master any programming language and even longer to get good at it, and stay abreast of updates and debugs. And you have to be using it all the time or you go rusty! I never make the same item twice, but I do remake bits when I get it wrong. If I went CNC now I would have more failed bits due to my CNC errors. Yes you can cut air and wood first (thus taking even longer) and save all the segments of code for use again, but that is like saving every bit of scrap metal in the hope that it will be handy some day, and how many of us have an ever growing scraps pile.

6) If he wants to go down a CNC path, then he should go off and start a new mag just for CNC.

7) I have no idea how many bullet points I made and this getting a bit long......

By way of example of superfluous content apart from CNC, I considered the recent Tony Jeffree run on the basic Worden tool and cutter grinder quite naff and scraping the barrel for articles. Tony being an "in" person gets listened to of course, and I have admired his submissions for stepper motor articles. He claims to have read all the MEW's, and yet is unaware of Jim Whetrens efforts to improve the machine and he makes the basic Hemingway kit - as is. He failed to grasp th
DMR02/06/2011 01:54:13
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It cut me off. Last bit of post should read:

He failed to grasp the intention of the "adaptor piece" on the basic holder which is the pre-Whetren adaptor/fitment piece. Kirk at Hemingway would have agreed to it of course because it may sell a few kits although the article did not praise the kit presentation, which I consider unfair.

Thats it

Dennis Rushton

Tony Jeffree02/06/2011 07:07:44
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Dennis -
 
Given that you are someone that has spend their career in automation, and has read my (and presumably others') articles on CNC in MEW, your post indicates a level of ignorance of what is available to today's CNC constructor/user that is frankly alarming.
 
I completely agree withyour aversion to programming one-offs using programming languages of any kind. I have also served my time as a programmer, and am familiar with enough low- and high-level programming languages to last me several lifetimes. Fortunately for me, and for most others that want to go down the CNC route, you don't need to learn G-code or any other programming language for that matter, to run a CNC machine; in fact, although I have owned and used CNC machines for a fair number of years now, I have yet to write a single line of G-code, and sincerely hope that that situation will continue.
 
The very first CNC system that I used was a Taig CNC mill; the CNC software provided with it was Dos-based, a program called SuperCam that provided both CAM functions and the "CNC control" functions needed to translate a toolpath into step-and-direction signals for the stepper drive hardware. While SuperCam could be programmed using a very, very limited subset of G-code, the program was primarily designed so that the toolpath would be specified in the form of a CAD drawing; you provided SuperCam with (for example) a DXF file that contained the output from your favourite CAD package. Absolutely no need for programming expertise in the sense that you are talking about, and it positively encouraged the user into the good habit of making an accurate drawing before cutting metal. The one serious drawback with SuperCam was that it assumed that the CAD drawing directly represented the path that the cutter would take, so you had to draw the tolpath 1/2 a cutter diameter smaller than the finished part to allow for the width of cut, and there was no easy way of defining an "area clear" operation other than by filling the area to be cleared with equally spaced lines 1/2 a cutter diameter or so apart.
 
The next system that I used, Desk CNC, again on a mill, is in some ways similar in approach to SuperCam in that it is an integrated CAM/control package, but rather more cleanly presented (Windows-based) and capable of allowing for cutter diameters, doing area clear, etc. etc. very simply. DeskCNC is much easier to use than SuperCam, because you draw the part actual size, and the same drawing can be used with different diameters of cutter if appropriate - for example using one type/size of cutter for roughing out and another for a final cleanup pass. Desk CNC also implements a much more complete subset of the G-code language if you really want to use it. I don't.
 
The third system that I use is Mach 3, this time for my ML-7. Mach 3 is as good an implementation of a G-code interpreter as you will find on the hobby market; however, again I haven't needed to use G-code with it so far, because Mach 3's "wizards" provide a very simple way of setting up the usual kinds of operation that you do on a lathe - plain turning to a shoulder, taper turning, threading, filleting, ...whatever, on a screen where you fill in dimensions in boxes, press a button, and Mach 3 generates the equivalent G-code program . So no need to program G-code for the vast majority of everyday uses.
 
There are also a good number of CAM packages available at prices that shouldn't upset the hobby user too much; in essence these take a CAD drawing, usually in DXF format, and generate G-code output that can then be fed into DeskCNC or Mach 3 (or whatever) to define the toolpath.
 
Yes, if you really want to, you can do the macho thing and program the G-code directly, but why would you do that, with the CAM tools that are readily available to do the job for you?
 
Given the above, using CNC for one-off part machining can be quick and easy, even for simple parts that would be straightforward to machine by hand on a mill or a lathe. However, there is one aspect of all this that hasn't been mentioned so far; even making a one-off part usually involves repeated operations, unless the part can be machined to size in a single pass. Sometimes that repetition can be tedious in the extreme - for example, taking repeated cuts to reduce a large diameter workpiece to size. Put your CNC system on the job and all of that handle cranking goes away. Obviously, if cranking is what floats your boat, then CNC isn't for you. Personally, I think it is much over-rated. Each to their own.
 
So yes, I completely agree with your comment that "It takes time to master any programming language and even longer to get good at it, and stay abreast of updates and debugs." Can't argue with that at all. But it is utterly irrelevant to this discussion unless you *need* to master the programming language. For the vast majority of uses of CNC in the amateur workshop, you don't.
 
<...continued in next post...>

Edited By Tony Jeffree on 02/06/2011 07:09:07

Tony Jeffree02/06/2011 07:09:48
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<...continued from previous post...>
 
Oh, and by the way, yes, I was indeed aware of the Whetren articles on improvements to the Worden, and had read them; however, the point still remains that there isn't a good reason for the "adaptor piece" because all it is doing is compensating for failure to standardise on a single diameter hole in the back end of the various different work slides, a choice that would ultimately make construction of additional accessories simpler. And while I didn't praise the layout of the Worden kit, I absolutely did praise Kirk and Hemmingway for their customer service, and did state that I thought that building the machine had been pleasurable and worthwhile. If I didn't use exactly the set of words that would have satisfied your sence of fairness, then I apologise most sincerely for my lack of ability to read your mind. And just to put the record straight, as a courtesy, I provided Kirk with a copy of my article at the same time that I sent it to MEW; I didn't receive any feedback at all from Kirk, or even any acknowledgement that he had read it, so to my knowledge, there was no sense in which Kirk "...agreed to it..." in any way. Do you consider your insinuation that Kirk would agree to anything "...because it may sell a few kits..." to be fair? I don't.
 
Regards,
Tony
David Clark 102/06/2011 08:27:20
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Hi There
Found the email.
regards david


Dear David,
I have contemplated this e-mail for some days and sent it to magicalia .com by outdated mistake as well. Since the arrival of MEW 162 I have eventually decided to write it. I wrote you some e-mails early on in your tenure of the MEW hot-seat, half expecting some sort of reply, but never had one, and this communication is not inviting one. From what I gather about you, you will choose to ignore this completely as it does not fit your agenda for MEW. So be it, but it needs saying. As soon as I saw use of that battery drill plug/socket on page 42, I knew you were in for it from the "vulture brigade" and so the web-site proved, but that is not my subject here.
I am complaining about a different magazine article, Linton Wedlock's 3D Design Series, including anything like it in the future. I do not denigrate anyone who writes a meaningful subject article and I can say that Mr Wedlock's efforts seem to be in that category such as they are. A current thread on the website says there is some support for this type of article, but it personally leaves me cold and it needs a lot of words to tell you why. Even that website thread suggests the content went too deep and rambled on too long. I know that you support CAD/CAM/CNC with automation in general and the ease of such machining once set up and mastered, but that is the whole point for me. I am producing one-offs or at best batches of traction engine wheel spokes (and I have not had cause to do that - yet) for one engine. I can manually machine two or three unique parts (average) in the time it would take me to set up an automated machine for one piece. Yes I know I could save the code for future use or adaptation, but that is like keeping every off-cut one has ever generated and watch it from on-high heading for the scrap heap after you have gone to your grave, still not re-used.
To emphasise what I am trying to say; throughout a lot of my working life I have programmed in all sorts of languages at assembly code, machine code, and every level in-between, until I accepted an office job late in my working life and took up estimating and site support instead . I was an engineer that automated and commissioned all the monitoring and control systems going into steel works, power stations, substations and the odd factory. In my early days we could even fault find the hardware of the microprogram in a controller down to component level. I have been in charge of systems installed in main control rooms, sequencing logic, remote monitoring, etc in all kinds of sites world wide, including much of the instrumentation with local and master programming involved. I do not need to stress to you that it not only takes time to get proficient in the use of a programming language, but needs one to be constantly using it, and staying with improvements/updates and bug fixes (and all programmes have that last item). Otherwise the interest and hence the edge to keep it all together just melts away. I cannot see me, with my inside knowledge of software/firmware in all its guises, and my one-offs ever going CNC. It would be a waste of my time. Note that I am not saying that if a nice ORAC, etc fell my way I could ever resist spending weeks worth of time resurrecting and playing with it, (NOT by purchasing replacement lumps, I stress) but I would not make much actual use of it, if any, if ever. I even accept that that is all some people want to do, but I do not believe that there are so many people out there that want to do just that, and I would argue that Mr Wedlock's article (in particular - being as it seems just some modern form of theorising on paper - I readily admit I have not really read it) has no bearing on model engineering or the vast bulk of modellers or their machine tooling.
You are (still) operating in a world where there are many (older) people unfamiliar with computers. There is a risk that some younger people with no knowledge of CNC or any form of automation are going to get sucked in and quickly loose all interest in the hobby because they cannot run off complex shapes "just like that". There is one on the website right now who suggests he has no mill or lathe but wants to join the CNC club. He suggests he cannot grasp the basics because the help files/manuals do not start at the beginning. You would say that is precisely why we need basic starter kits in the magazine. I say put your experienced hat on and ask yourself that if such a person is so backward (for want of a better phrase) should he not be advised to get some basic manual machine experience first, do a college course or whatever to see if this is really what he wants to do. How many people end up interested in learning a musical instrument once they have had a strum or a blow and realised that it involves a lot of effort to get anywhere? In summary, if you wish to run a CAD/CAM/CNC, automation and/or programming offshoot; then go somewhere else and do it. I object to so many pages of the magazine - in fact one whole edition put end to end - being devoted to such guff, with no insult intended to Mr Wedlock's efforts.
A few separate rants and then I am gone, likely permanently (some of
David Clark 102/06/2011 08:29:09
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Continued from above.

A few separate rants and then I am gone, likely permanently (some of which you must be aware of);
1. If you do not have enough copy to fill the magazine with meaningful "workshop" articles, you should not have gone to 13 issues. It does not make more money ultimately as your readership evaporates.
2. You do not have enough copy for Scribe-a-Line because it is all on the website. Just block them from the website (telling the new-threaders of course that you want to do so) and use them in Scribe-a-Line. I for one do not consult the website hourly like some. I might look twice a week for 10 minutes. That is I prefer the workshop to the computer screen, winters permitting I admit.
3. You are editing and/or sub-editing far too many magazines. Errors are creeping in that rarely happened before. I am sure the vulture brigade are telling you about them quite eagerly.
4. If there is never going to be a meaningful "On The Ed's Bench" any more, then the editorial section should be renamed. Editors Notes perhaps, because since you came on the scene, that is all it has been. The next Myford sell-off (sorry - show) has now had two consecutive mentions, I suspect just to fill column inches (oops - centimetres).
5. There are others, but they do not spring to mind and I never follow any independent rant sites to list any such.
Finally, if you have bothered reading this far, a bit for Scribe A Line if you choose, as I have not seen a mention before and I consider it warrants it:
It bothers me to see the use of the type of low voltage light used in photo 13, page 58 of MEW 162. This is the kind where the telescopic metal tubes or sometimes jointed rods carry the LV power to the bulb. Several instances have been pictured recently, there is even one in the Summer 2009 Special edition of Readers Workshops. It should be obvious that it only needs one flying curl of swarf to short out the "wires" and its lights out! Sods law says this would happen at the worst possible moment with the potential to cause ruined work and/or injury via the resultant physical jump that could be expected. Such fittings today have a thermal overload device embedded in the primary transformer windings and if you are really unlucky this thing will "blow" instead of the (2A) fuse which should be in the secondary transformer winding. Said thermal overload is a miniature device that does not recover, it is a once-open always-open device. I would urge everyone to avoid or replace such a light fitting or at least insulate the "wires" somehow.
That's it. I might see you at Myford again this year, and not let you get off so lightly.
Best Regards,
Dennis Rushton.
David Clark 102/06/2011 08:39:50
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1. I have enough copy.
 
2. Copy for Scribe a line will not be taken from the website.
Readers without internet access can not follow up on the thread.
 
3. I only edit 2 magazines, MEW and ME. We will never avoid all errors but we try to keep them to a minimum.
 
4. Eds Bench is the worst page of the lot. What should I put on it? Myford is an advertiser and as such are entitled to be promoted in Ed's Bench as is any other advertiser who chooses to give me a press release.
 
5. If this type of light bothers you, don't use one.
I have never had a problem with them.
 
This thread does not bother me.
What does annoy me is the attitude of people that say "don't put CNC in MEW."
There is a demand for it.
The Digital Machinist Magazine sells about 13,000 copies. This is a market that if I ignore I am not doing my job properly.
 
13 issues a year has not reduced profits, it has obviousley increased them.
When I stop making money for the company they will get rid of me.
Until then, I decide the conent of Model Engineer and Model Engineers' Workshop
not you.
 
Also what would be the point of stopping this thread?
Someone would just open it up again.
However, I will stop it know and see what happens.
 
 
regards David

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