John Wettroth's Machine

John Wettroth writes:

I've been a loyal customer of Supercam XP for 13 years.

I have a home built gantry mill/router that I use sporadically in a mostly electronics oriented shop.

Supercam has never failed me once in all these years.

It is very powerful and very stable and lets me operate my machine exactly how I want to.

I can do quick one offs with HPGL input or can generate and run G code for more complex tasks.

Its been very easy to adapt to my machine even through some hardware upgrades and is intuitive enough that I don't forget how to use it if I don't use for a few weeks.

I would recommend Supercam to anyone wanting a simple, reliable way to control a CNC machine either as a new build or as an upgrade from proprietary hardware/software.

My main use is with a low speed spindle from Sherline for electronic packaging work,- front panel cutouts, box cutouts, pocketing, engraving, etc in aluminum and plastic. I also have a trim router head that I hack around with in wood. I like the way nice plywood looks when cut with a high speed cutter. I really love Supercam- it's unique in how it works and I really haven't found anything better for the kinds of things that I do. My machine is a gantry type setup with the bones being from Techno-Isel. I bought the mechanicals at a company surplus sale for a couple of hundred bucks- it was dismantled because the proprietary Techno Hardware and Software was too old- they were going to refit but never did and bought an early Shopbot. The machine had been sitting for a few years with no electronics or motors. The working dimensions are about 20" x 20" x 6". I've always used Supercam on it after I got it running 13 years back. Originally it was a bit underpowered- I used a Dan Mauch triple L297/L298 type driver (2A chopper). This ran from a parallel port on an old Win98 machine running your original Supercam. When I upgraded to the new Supercam and got your USB pulser- I went for some larger Pacific Scientific Hybrid Steppers and Gecko drives - pretty nice setup- the winding currents are around 3 amps. Your software runs it really nicely- smooth accels and decels, good look ahead for curves, etc. Very happy overall.

What I like most about Supercam is that I can do things formally- ie generate G Code or if I'm just doing some simple, quick and dirty stuff, just develop a toolpath with offsets, etc in ACAD and run it as HPGL. I also like the fact that I can take a tool path and flip ends, generate ramps in and out etc. This is especially nice for getting a toolpath optimized. I sometimes use Supercam for CAD and to generate offsets, but my normal workflow usually begins with Autocad (old habits die hard). I use Cut 2D for CAM most often- it's very simple and also have Sheet CAM TNG That I use a bit. Both pretty good. Though I've played with 3D a little, most stuff I do is 2D with a little 2.5D and a fair amount of engraving. I've played with Supercam's special features like the Grayscale to Z depth but don't have a lot of play time in the shop. One thing that a developer might not think about much is that I don't use this machine every day- probably twice a month. Software that is simple and remembers settings, etc is very good. Supercam is very good on this front.

I have several other CNC like machines- an LPKF PCB prototyping machine- software is pretty solid but hard to remember between uses- I have to keep the books nearby. I also have an FSL Hobby laser that has OK software- one of the main reasons that I bought this machine vs. a chinese one- their model is that it installs like a printer driver- good and bad idea. I also have a Sherline CNC that runs EMC under Linux- very complicated- probably going to ditch it, seldom use it. I also have a 3d printer from Maker Gear that uses Pronterface- pretty decent- its uses Arduino based hardware with Pololu/Allegro motor drivers. The particular board for my machine is called Rambo- not bad. I have control software called Simplifiy that was about $150 but seldom use it- I find it harder to use than the open source stuff and less flexible. Finally I have a pretty good sized (12x12x12 envelope) Light Machines VMC5000 Mill with a tool changer, fancy Kollmorgen spindle, etc and an Acramatic 2100 control- real commercial stuff- terrible software. Proprietary, runs under a special version of Windows NT 3.5 on proprietary PC like hardware (Dual 486 board).

The Gantry Mill with Supercam is used most- the simplicity and flexibility of Supercam is a big reason.

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Published 7/6/2017 4:26:45 PM
Copyright 2016 Dennis Bohlke