I've been browsing the newsgroups and it looks like a large percentage
of you use SW to design parts that will be produced on CNC machines.
I'm a real newbie, but I've designed quite a few things in the past.
I'm used to using Rhino3D. Does anyone know if I can output from Rhino
to the files necessary to run the CNC machines, or do I need to invest
time and money into another software?
Not directly, if you're talking about NC code, but SolidWorks can't either
(without either SolidCAm or an external CAM software package).
Depending of course on the kind of parts you need to design, Rhino will
probably be fine for what you need - and if you know it already, no need to
learn another design software package. I machine parts created in or
imported into Rhino every day. But you will have to acquire and learn a CAM
package in any case.
There are currently plug-ins to create toolpaths and output NC code directly
inside Rhino, but they're relatively new and would need some more maturity
before I would recommend them. I'm currently testing.
[Mecsoft Corp. has ported its popular VisualMill CAM software over to the
Rhino interface, and is calling it RhinoCAM. There is a Basic and a Pro
version, the latter having all the features of the full VisualMill 5.0
product. Plugging into Rhino makes it easier to make small changes on the
fly, or define machining regions, without having to switch from one program
to another. If you have a little time but no money, you might start with
Mecsoft's Freemill, which will write simple rastering toolpaths from STL
files; it's free to download at
We have been using FeatureCam. Many simple parts (including cams and
gears!) can be done directly in FeatureCam, plus the 2006 version
finally has decent import capabilites from SolidWorks. Output code is
not always the most efficient but it does generally work. Full GUI
interface. IIRC it sells for $500 per seat license.
You can download a full version and run it in trial mode, it just won't
generate the final machine code. YMMV
Met the creator and got a little demo a few weeks ago in Barcelona. Very
nice guy, and the program does work, but it's pretty limited in its
capabilities. Visual Mill has more manpower and more commercial motivation,
their product (the pro version of RhinoCAM, which is VM5) is much more
powerful (and expensive).
Currently testing RhinoCAM Pro, It's good w/respect to it's integration
inside Rhino, which allows one to have the nice Rhino interface to create
and manipulate your geometry, way better than VM. Of course it still has
all the limitations that VM 5 does. There is much more to be done, but I
think they're very motivated to do it.
To compare MadCAM and RhinoCAM in a different way, MadCAM is sort of a
plug-in or set of scripts which use Rhino's own geometry engine and
available software tools to create toolpaths, whereas RhinoCAM is basically
Visual Mill which has external hooks that hook into the Rhino interface -
much more like a program-in-a-program, the two are still fairly independent.
Egad, I can't recall exactly, but I think it was a 3mm (or 1/8") ball end
mill with a surface tolerance (scallop height) of .003mm (which, on a flat
surface with a 3mm ball corresponds to a stepover of about .019mm)
It was getting late and I crashed but when this round benchmarks is finished
I'll send you a summary.
I decided to use metric units for this part of the benchmark and was using
.001 for a scallop heighth.
What I am especially looking at in this test part is the quality of 3D
scallop heighth calculation.