You-all have been going wild on this computerized milling
machine thread --- what do you use the thing for?
I am fortunate enough to have access to a Fadal VMC 40
($50,000) vertical machining center. It is a little bit larger
than the type of machine that is being referred to on this
thread, but it is capable of doing small intricate work. With
this machine an optional 4TH axis or rotary head was
Now to program this thing one could sit down and manual write
the G code required. This gets a little complicated, especially
if you desire simultaneous 3 axis or 4 axis moves. So, to
program the machine I use a CAD/CAM software package called
Mastercam ($10,000). Mastercam is pretty much the industry
standard in the manufacturing community. It is a powerful
of reading .BMP, TIF, IGES, .DXF and numerous other files.
I use the machine for making boat parts, gun parts, knife parts
and jewelry. With Mastercam I am capable of engraving any of
Window's fonts on any shape surface. The surface can be flat,
round, convex, concave, wavy etc. The only requirement is that
the surface must accurately be describe. For instance, if
someone brought you a locket to engrave, unless the locket is
flat one has know way of knowing the true shape of the surface.
If the mold for the locket was made on the machine than the
surface would be known. The unknown surface of the locket could
also be probed for coordinates, but the probe software is about
another $10,000 and at this point unless you worked for the
government (chuckle) the cost of engraving the locket is
I have used the machine to make complex forming dies for
bracelets, watchbands and necklaces , molds for simple casting,
stamping dies (male/female parts), knife parts (similar to a
buck knife), trigger mechanisms etc. etc.
Since my jewelry knowledge has been acquired though reading I
have limited knowledge of how jewelry manufacturing utilizes a
computerized mill, but would love to hear some suggestions on
how I can make better use of the one I have access to.
Also, if I had to recommend a machine I would only suggest
that one would consider the size requirements. A machine can
never be to big, but more often than not it is to small.