I use Rhino to do the CAD work for the Knew Concepts saws, before we
convert them over to talk to our machining center. There’s a whole
lot of hand coding involved in that, unfortunately. (Our CAM package
spits out spaghetti code. Since we’re doing many of the same parts,
it’s worth my while to go through and optimize the code by hand. A
few seconds per part may not matter much if you’re only making two.
If you’re doing thousands, it matters a lot.)
I looked at the MicroMill, or what I think you mean by “MicroMill”.
Were you talking about the Taig micromill?
Depending on the size of what you’re doing, and your intent, the
Taig might not be enough of a machine. The websites I found showed
some pretty serious people, with serious measuring tools, setting
theirs up by hand in ways that made it look more like a kit of parts
than a turnkey system.
Are you thinking of machining wax for casting, or metal directly? If
metal, than you need a much more serious tool than you would for
I was demoing the KC saws in the Otto Frei booth at JCK in Vegas a
couple of months ago, and I’m friends with the guy they had demoing
the Roland system. If you’d like, contact me directly, and I can put
you in touch. (I didn’t pay much attention to it: it was on the other
side of the booth, and I was demoing our stuff.)
If you need really “high resolution” you’re talking a ballscrew
machine, which immediately puts you in the $10K+ range.
As far as writing toolpaths by hand, it’s not…horribly hard,
provided you know the basics of running a milling machine by hand to
start with. (I sometimes describe it as like trying to run a
Bridgeport with mittens on.) The kinky part is that while GCode may
be more-or-less universal, every controller has their own
implementations of it, so you’ll have to learn to speak with
whatever accent your controller requires, and the smaller machines
tend to have weird controllers.
Writing 3 axis code by hand isn’t all that hard. I’ve never tried 4
or 5 axis code, but for anything beyond simple "rotate and drill"
sorts of things, I think that’s where I’d really want to have a
CAD package talking to a CAM package, spitting out code for the mill,
before I started hand tweaking it.
The biggest issue with writing code by hand (or trusting the CAM
package not to foul it up) is to make sure you don’t crash the head
into anything at any great rate of speed. You can do shockingly
large amounts of damage in terrifyingly little time if you slip a
If you’re talking about direct machining of the metal, try hard to
find a machine with a tool changer (and magazine). Of course, that
immediately puts you into the “costs much more than a car” world,
but for production work, there simply isn’t another choice.
For whatever that’s worth.