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CAD/CAM on the cheap?


OK. Let’s say I wanted to stick my toe in the turbulent, hot for
some, cold for others, cad/cam waters to see what it was like. Could
I do so with only the computer I’m writing this message with, and
nothing else? Could I just go to a site somewhere to sample? Do I
have to have umpteen gigamathingies worth of power, and $90,000 worth
of hardware and software? I checked out the orchid archives to find
some facts, but got intimidated by the volume, and with no idea of
how to further refine my inquiry, I decided to cut to the chase, and
ask you guys and gals. In light of the "future of my craft " posts, I
thought it necessary to become enlightened. I’ve recenlty left the
jewelry industry where I was a benchworking repairman/ waxcarver for
no less than 10 years, for the dental industry(everyone needs teeth)
where I can carve wax( by hand )and cast and finish metal, and stil
get paid. Anyway, any and all info greatly appreciated.


Hello Don,

NO you don’t need a gigamathingies, go to Rhino’s web site, you can
down load a free temp version and play with it. They also have
tutorials, work with them it helps puts things in perspective.
Remember you don’t have to make jewelry to learn, you’re learning how
to use the software, hopefully you already know how to make jewelry.


You can go to and download an evaluation
copy of rhino. Even though it is “Old-school” modeling software, many
people like it, partly because it’s cheap to buy. There is a built
in support group, much like Orchid, because of that, too. I have a
2.4 ghz Pentium with a good graphics card and 1.5g of memory, and I
run huge, intensive programs all the time. I do my own IT, though, so
my system is lean and mean. No doubt you’ll get plenty of advise
here. Mine would be that if you are new to CAD, and even more if
you’re not very experienced at computer graphics in general, it’s
going to take you 6 months to get proficient with the software - OK,
maybe 2 weeks if you spend 12 hours a day with it. There’s no need to
invest in anything until you know you like it, are good at it, and
can make it work for you. You can play with the programs, and if you
get something you want to turn into reality, you can farm it out, in
the beginning. I know someone who leapt into CAD - invested in the
whole Matrix system, went to school, etc., and it’s worked out very
well for him. But - he wasn’t especially good at making jewelry by
hand - his computer lets him make pieces he doesn’t know how to make



Chances are that your present computer will let you get your feet wet
assuming that it runs windows (win98 or better). I did a lot of work
on a 233 with only 64 meg of memory, but it did tend to get really
slow on any model complicated enough to require paging memory. A 400
with 256 megs was a great improvement. But even the current 3 gig XP
with 3 gig of memory sometimes slows down and needs a re-boot :slight_smile:

Rhino has a full function demo, but its only good for 25 saves. Turn
off the autosave, they count too! Once you start to feel comfortable
with the modelling there are a few CAM demos available, I really like
MeshCam, it is good for 60 days.

For a mill you could (in order of increasing $ and decreasing work):

  1. Build one ( sells plans and has some very good
    ideas about minimal budgets)

  2. Convert a Harborfreight micro mill

  3. get a cnc ready Taig or Sherline and add motors and either
    assemble or buy a controller

  4. Buy a turn key system

Try the Rhino demo, it’s only a time investment. All the rest
depends on you being comfortable with the modelling. And do some
Googling about cnc, there is a lot of out there; some
even accurate.

Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing


Yes you can. I wrote a step by step article in Lapidary Journal
April 03 instructing the very thing. You can make a ring with only
the cost of having the wax made. It would be between 100-150.

Sue Ann Dorman



Could I do so with only the computer I'm writing this message
with, and nothing else? Could I just go to a site somewhere to
sample? Do I have to have umpteen gigamathingies worth of power 

It really depends on what program you plan to use and whether or not
you intend to run a mill or RP machine with your computer and what
your computer’s spec’s are before you can decide on whether or not
you need more power than what you have.

For the record, I am running Rhino on the machine I’m typing this
note with. It is a custom built computer of 1999 vintage running on a
Pentium 3 processor, with a 19 gigabyte hard drive running at 250
megahertz ( very slow processor and not much memory by today’s
standards) and my RAM is only 128K. I also have an ATI All-In-Wonder
graphics card with 128K on board RAM. This slow machine runs Rhino as
well as most new laptop computers I’ve used Rhino on.

Rendering with Flamingo (the Rhino plug-in for ray tracing) is
slower than I’d like, especially if I am rendering a ring with
multiple side stones or complex highly polished surfaces; but it
works. Keeping simple backgrounds and as few add in lights as
possible helps speed up the rebdering on my dinosaur.

I am going to be upgrading to a better computer, myself, as soon as
I get the time to install it. But what I have has suited me well to
this point.

Rhino itself is inexpensive at $1295.00 for the Rhino/Flamingo
package or just $895.00 for Rhino alone. Flamingo really helps to
create more realistic images than the renderer that comes inside
Rhino. A Rhino trial version can be downloaded for free from there
web site; the only limiting factors in it are the number of saves you
can do (25) and the fact that you can’t use the copy/clip functions.

Hope this helps!