A little while back Elliot, the person that started this thread,
asked for some about milling machines and computer
programs that would help him with making jewelry.
I would like to point out that some of the presented as
a reply to Elliot’s post by Mr. Ruffenach needs to be brought up to
date. I don’t want to criticize Mr. Ruffenach, but since there is an
increasing body of jewelers that are curious about using computers
and computerized machinery to design and manufacture jewelry, I
think it is important that some basic is clarified. The
following excerpts from Mr. Ruffenach’s post are in quotes…
The programs that are written for milling machines are written in
ASCII. This is a universal language that all computers will
understand. It is a command based language and is operated by a
person typing commands on their computer.
I believe what Mr. Ruffenach is referring to is G-code, the
"language" that most mill controls use to control the motors that
move the mill table and spindle. It is no longer necessary for a
person to know G-code to produce jewelry (or other objects) on a
mill due to the existence of programs that write the G-code
automatically by analyzing the file produced by a CAD (design)
program. These programs are usually referred to as CAM programs.
Some examples of inexpensive CAM programs that produce this
essential code are MillWizard by DelCAM, and STLWork by IMService. I
have tried the MillWizard demo and found that it was very easy to
generate simple toolpaths for milling.
People who are dependent on a GUI programs will experience a
significant learning curve and some frustration.
I have to agree that there is a big learning curve. However, the
frustration will not be caused by a lack of a Graphical User
Interface. Any new technology requires a person to dedicate a good
portion of time and thought in order to become comfortable and
competent with it. However, using a CAD/CAM system does not mean
that you will have to learn a special computer language and a lot of
arcane knowledge. You must be able to visualize objects in 3D space
and be able to organize in your mind the operations your mill needs
to perform in order to go from a raw block of material to a finished
jewelry model. Kind of like learning how to make jewelry, right?
...if you must have a windows based program your selection will be
This is a misconception that really needs to be cleared up. There
really aren’t a lot of DOS based CAD programs around anymore. There
are dozens of Windows based CAD programs available, and quite a few
CAM programs, also. I use Rhino, which is an incredibly rich Windows
based CAD/Surface Modeler, and is very affordable. I also use
ArtCAM, which is a complete relief modeler/CAM package. It is very
easy to use; creating complex toolpaths (G-code) is a snap. I know
of people using StudioMax, Amapi or a free program called
Pro/DESKTOP Express to create models, in tandem with MillWizard or
STLWork to create toolpaths.
Milling machines are designed for engineers."
I am not by the broadest stretch of the imagination an engineer.
Despite this deficiency, I use our mill successfully on a daily
Before you take the step to purchase your milling machine do your
I couldn’t agree more! Ask questions! Search the Web! Join the
CAD_CAM_EDM_DRO group at http://groups.yahoo.com/. This group is
very friendly to newcomers to CAD/CAM and machining and they can
steer you in the right direction.
I am sorry to take up all this space about this topic. I know using
computers to design and manufacture jewelry doesn’t interest
everyone on this list and that it can be a controversial topic. I do
want to ensure those that are interested that there has never been a
better time to get involved in this field. Keep learning!