Author: cyborgcnc

Fusion 360 Machining of a ’62 Stratocaster

Fusion 360 Machining of a '62 Stratocaster

Here is a short video of my CNC machine cutting out the neck, fretboard, and body of a ’62 strat I am in the process of building.  As can been seen, the entire guitar was modeled in Fusion 360, and then the machine tool paths were also created in Fusion 360.  The G-code was then exported into Mach3, and the CNC machine did the rest.  Please let me know if I can answer any questions.

I used one of my all-time favorite songs as the background to this video, and I hope you enjoy it, especially in these crazy times we are all living in now.

Fusion 360 Cutting Curved Bottom Fret Slots

Fusion 360 Curved Bottom Fret Slots

As I have been getting questions from folks, I decided to do a short video on how I approach the task of cutting curved bottom Fret Slots.  Have a look, and please let me know if I can clarify anything further.

Fusion 360 Edit In Place

Fusion 360 New Edit In Place Feature!

A very new and exciting feature of Fusion 360, is the ability to now be able to “Edit In Place” when it comes to assemblies.  Other modelers (like Solidoworks) have had this feature for years.  It was a very pleasant surprise to see that now Fusion has it also!  To use it, you will need the latest update.  Take a look at the video below, where we will use this new feature, to perfectly conform the Archtop Neck Extension to the top!  Video also describes the feature, how to enable it, and obviously how to use it.  Hope you find this helpful!

Fusion 360 Guitar Modeling

Fusion 360 Guitar Modeling

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been playing around with Fusion 360 from Autodesk. One of the main reasons for this, is that it will make it a lot easier for folks to get started down the modeling path, simply because it is FREE software for hobbyists.  There are a lot of things to like about this package, and yet again, there are a lot of things NOT to like, but is it not this way with life in general?

One of the things that I found to be a bit more difficult in this software (as compared to Solidworks) is that it does need to do a bit more “growing up” in its parametric model creation.  Particularly, I am talking about the creation of sketches, as used in parametric modeling.  Solidworks has a lot more and in my opinion, a lot easier, tools.  Non the less, one can still achieve good results with Fusion 360, albeit a bit of frustration.  Can’t beat the price right?  So willing to put up with a little harder workflow, if the results are good.  Anyway, not going to go into too much of a debate here, or the details of my comments.  So why am I writing this?  Well good news!  I am considering a NEW series of instructional videos on Fusion 360!  As such, I am considering the building of my Archtop Guitar, using the same Benedetto plans I used in creating it in Solidworks.  Since I am aiming for a complete build, the construction of the neck will also be done, and detailed.

Fusion 360 also, has Integrated a CAM module.  What this means, is that there is NO need for another software package for CAM machining.  If it can all be done in one, and we can achieve good results, this is certainly win-win for all.  Quite compelling for what it offers, I am sure that you will agree.  Heck, one would also think that as newer versions get released, it will also get better and better.  NO, as you might be wondering, I am not giving up Solidworks or Mastercam anytime soon.  In fact, as previously mentioned, I probably never will.  Fusion however is intriguing, and will do more work on it, especially in the making of this new series of instructional videos.

So, not sure if there will be any interest in this, but again, be it that the software can be had for free to begin with, I think this might be a good way for someone to get started down the path of 3D modeling.  Here is a short animation/Rendering I did in Fusion, with the top of my Archtop done.  I think that it not only looks good, but it stays true to the Benedetto plans.  More to come in the coming months, and as always, let me know if you have any questions I can answer.

How do I get Started?

How do I get Started?

How do I get started?  What are my up-front costs? I am a newbie to CNC.

This is a question that I get from a lot of folks that want to go down the path of CNC machining.  As such I decided to put this short post together, to highlight some of the steps I took to get going, and also answer these questions.  Like anything, a lot of it really comes down to “it depends” and let me explain to you why, read on.

First, the path to being able to get a CNC machine going is all about the model, the drawing, and the design you have, and you want the CNC machine to cut.  No model, the machine will cut nothing!  As such, any step into this world, really has to start with choosing software packages that will allow you to Model, create tool paths, and then control the CNC machine to do something.  I wanted to get this out of the way first, since many folks that first stumble on this, really have to answer this question first.  In fact, I would recommend that even before you spent a single penny on a CNC machine, you get the software part out of the way first!

As you can see on my site, I chose Solidworks for the modeling part, and I have chosen MasterCAM for the machining part.  As detailed, the process for cutting anything goes like this:

  • -Design a part or model in a 3D CAD software package (like Solidworks). CAD is Computer-Aided Design.
  • -Bring this part into a CAM software package-Computer-Aided Manufacturing (for this I chose MasterCAM).
  • -Create toolpaths in your CAM software and export those into G-Code (this is what the CNC machine will follow).
  • -Load the G-code into your CNC machine controller, and let the CNC machine cut the part.

That is at a high level what the process is.  Again, it all starts with a model in a CAD software, then you create machine paths in your CAM software for the machine to follow.  I know I might be repeating things, and some of this is basic, but again, this is a post for folks that really want to start from scratch, and want a high level overview of the process.

So, start with choosing a software 3D package.  Do a little research here, look into forums and the internet (google is your buddy), and see what these are, and the costs associated with them.  There are many software CAD packages out there, and for me to list them here would be a daunting task.  However, I will hit some of them to give you a feel as to what is out there.  In addition, the approach to modeling these packages take can vary.  Some appeal more to engineers, while other appeal more to artists, and yet some, more to folks the work with models for Movies, Film and TV.  As you can see, the array of software CAD packages is vast.  For me, it was Solidworks.  I am an engineer by background, and the Solidworks approach works for me.  A couple of other popular packages are Rhino 3D, Fusion 360, and Vectric Aspire.  Start with these, google their name, and go read some of their approaches to modeling on their site.  Once you have gotten a feel as to the direction you want to head, then move on to CAM software.  Again, for me, my choice has been Solidworks for many years, and at this point, I doubt I would move on to another package.  Quite frankly, I just want to cut parts, and not spent more time learning another software package.  Another note here is that Fusion 360 comes with it’s OWN machining/CAM functionality.  On top of that, this software is FREE for the hobbyist, so it does present quite a value.  So much, that I decided to offer a series of modeling videos for it.  You can take a look at these on my videos page.  At a later date, I will probably also do a series on the machining aspects as well.

Same thing with CAM software.  MasterCAM is what I use, but again, the choices here are many.  To complicate this a bit, some CAD packages now, are INTEGRATING the CAM portion in the same package!  So for example, if you are working with Solidworks, MasterCAM can integrate with the software, as well as many others.  Same thing with fusion 360 etc.  So when you are exploring costs, please make sure you ask and bring this up, since you might save in the long run, if you can pay a little more upfront, to get the CAM software in one package! Here are again some names for you to go look up, and please feel free to doing your own search for many more.  MasterCAM (my choice), HyperMill, PowerMill, GibbsCAM, Fusion 360, EdgeCAM, Esprit, HSM Works and BobCAD/CAM are some of the most popular ones.  Their costs can very, so this is again where you have to do your research depending on how much you want to spend.

So how much will all this cost you must be asking.  Well, it is not cheap!  MasterCAM can cost 10-12K, and the same for Solidworks!  However, do NOT despair!  Many offer SIGNIFICANT discounts to smaller shops, and if you happen to have a student in the family (or know of one) you can for example have Solidworks for like 500 bucks! (What I did).  You can probably also find older versions of MasterCAM, again for a FRACTION of the cost of the latest version (again what I did).  Ask around, find a local machine shop in your area, go on a forum, and you will be rewarded.

So now you might have done all this, and the next step is the CNC machine.  Here is again where the task can be overwhelming to say the least!  As you can see from my site, I decided to build my own, but this is not for everyone for sure.  However, there are a number of folks out there that offer kits, along with everything you need to get one up and running.  One such example is Avid CNC.  You can see one of their kits here.  I am in no way affiliated with them, but if I was building a machine today, I would probably start with one of their kits. 4-5K, and you would be up and running with a very good machine, that will even be able to cut light metals etc.  In addition, they provide a turnkey controller/software bundle.  One of the most popular CNC control software packages is called Mach3 and most recently Mach4.  Again, this is the software that will take what your CAM software spits out (in the form of G-code) and command the CNC machine to cut the part.  It would sure be nice to have this done for you, so all you need is to turn on the controller, insert G-code and start cutting.  Buying a kit like this, will allow you to do just that.  By the way, I am not affiliated with their company or products in any way.  I just happened to think they offer a good product for a very decent price!

So in conclusion, the path is not that hard, but a lot of research needs to be done upfront, along with the budget you have. Costs can be upwards of 20K or more, but can be less depending on what you can find out there. As stated, start with a CAD package, and dive right in designing parts and models! Once you get confident in that, the rest will follow. This can be the MOST frustrating part of all, in my opinion! Folks here also try to follow an “easy” path, quite simply by finding models already made, but TRUST ME, this will lead to frustration! You want to be able to modify your designs, and create new ones! Learn the modeling process, you will be glad you did! As it is often the case, corner cutting does not lead to a good place.

The possibilities after this are endless! I have used my CNC machine to cut guitars, guitar parts, machine PCB boards for electronics, create parts for Drones, cut aluminum for fixtures, cut jigs for wood working, engrave plexi-glass, and engrave metal to name just a few of the uses. It will open up a world to you that will be vast, and exciting at the same time! And then there is the accuracy! Whether you cut one part, or one thousand, they will all come out the same!

I hope you will choose to go down the journey, and I sure wish you the best of luck! If I can help answer any more of your questions, please drop me a note. Hoping you found this helpful. All the best!

New CNC Guitar Website

New CNC Guitar Website is Here!

Welcome to the NEW CNC Guitar Website!  After quite sometime, I finally had the time to put into creating this new site.  It has been a long time coming for sure.  I am also in the process of reworking many of the Instructional videos here, to make them compatible with all recent versions of browsers.  Many browsers in the very near future, will be disabling Flash.  As such, I had to rework all videos to .mp4 format, and recreate the interface to that of a simple browser.  These should make the videos compatible for many years to come! I will also be posting more information on my CNC machine, as a lot of folks have asked to get more details on the build, and some of the parts I used to put it together.  Thank you for visiting, and hoping to hear from you!