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Computer Interface Q?

Discussion in 'General Phlatprinter 3 Chat' started by NeilBlanchard, Jun 13, 2011.

  1. NeilBlanchard

    NeilBlanchard Member

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    Greetings,

    I have a few questions about how I get to the right way of getting the results I need from the Phlatprinter 3. I plan on building a full size (~14 feet long x 5.4 feet high x 5.3 feet wide) electric car I've designed, called CarBEN EV. It is an open source design:

    http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/2011/03/carben-ev-open-source-project-part-4.html

    I have a SketchUp model, and I have that model XRef'd into my favorite CAD program, DataCAD X3. DataCAD can make PDF, and DWG and PLT -- and I'm fairly sure I can get the output in STL files, too. What is the best way to interface with the Phlatprinter 3 driver program?

    I have the model sectioned into 85 cross sections that are nominally 2" thick, and I am using 23 longitudinal sections at the front and back of the car, where the profiles warrant it. I'm realizing now that I can go 3D -- the tapers on the edges of the sections can be machined smooth; and this is terribly exciting! I was facing the need to offset the profiles so that the material would be stepped to leave an excess of material -- which I would then smooth by hand...

    So, I need to rethink my modeling/CAD process -- what file format does the 3D output files need to be to get the edges tapered?

    The foam I am planning on using is Dow EPS (the powder blue ones) which is slightly under 2" thick, in reality. Will the Phlatprinter 3 be able to cut all the way through this? Or is there a way to register the sheets accurately so the sheets can be flipped over and cut through?

    The foam will be both structural as part of a composite sandwich, and it will provide thermal insulation to stabilize the temperatures inside the car. I am going for ultimate efficiency! :)

    I am really looking forward to your answers, and I will be ordering this tool, very soon. I am very exciting to get going of building this electric car -- that should easily be getting 300-400 miles per charge.
     
  2. NeilBlanchard

    NeilBlanchard Member

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    I am hoping to hear how the computer works with the Phlatprinter 3 is it directly from SketchUp?

    Here's a couple of views of my DataCAD drawing that uses the SketchUp model as an XRef:

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    These sections are what I am hoping to produce in the Phlatprinter 3.
     
  3. TigerPilot

    TigerPilot Well-Known Member

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    Neil, welcome to the forum!

    The PP doesn't work directly from SU. In SU we produce the g-code with the help of the SketchUCam plugin. This g-code file is than imported into a program like Mach3, that translate the g-code into machine movements. If you buy the PP with the cnc usb board you will not need the Mach3, or similar, program since part of that board's setup is a program that makes the translation.

    To answer your question form the first post. Any file that can be imported into the Mach3 program, or any program similar to it, can be used with the PP since it is not the PP that translate the g-code, it's the program that does the translation and it drives the PP. So if the program can handle the code so can the PP.
     
  4. dugd1013

    dugd1013 Member

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    Here is a link to some earlier discussion on maximum cutting depth.

    viewtopic.php?f=147&t=2697&p=27970&hilit=maximum+cut+depth#p27970
     
  5. thunder hawk

    thunder hawk Member

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    To answer your question.

    You'll need to make sure that each slice imported is parallel to the drive rollers on one side.
    The maximum material size you can put in to the machine is: Y-Axis 27" x Z-Axis 2".
    The X-Axis length can be the length of your part plus 3" on each end to safely hold the material under the pressure rollers. Also make sure you center the part in the material ( x,y) such that it allows a clear path all the way around the part, plus the cutter plus an 1/8".
    This will keep you inside the safe x,y travel for SketchUCam.

    If the part has to be flipped over for machining, then be sure to setup a registration pin hole on your drawing so that it can be cut into a scrap area of the material by the cutter.
    Set the pp up with index pins to locate the part on the machine. Check symmetry.

    Be sure you do all of the above in your 3D CAD program before exporting the DWG file.
    It will save you a lot of time.

    Import your DWG file in to SketchUp. Make sure you have the SketchUCam plugin installed.
    Go to the SketchUCam parameters settings and set up your properties for your part
    (i.e safe X, Y, Z).

    BTY, there are some good tutorial files and people here to help you with SketchUCam. I am not an expert.

    Once you've got your part setup with SketchUCam. Press the green arrow (generate Phlatboyz GCode). If all goes well, you did a proper setup, SketchUCam will output a CNC file.

    Once you have the CNC file. You can run the file on whatever machine or controller software you like.
    I use the USB-CNC software and hardware interface. It works good for what I do on the pp.

    Hope this helps.
    GHB :D
     
  6. NeilBlanchard

    NeilBlanchard Member

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    Thanks folks -- if I am understanding things, I need a DWG or a DXF file, and if I have the USB input board (which is part of the kit, I'm sure) then it converts to a CNC file that the printer works with.

    I will look into how I can cut through the 2" foam, though if I can reliably flip over the sheet to shape the edges that are overhung from the other side, then that would cut the pieces from the scrap.

    Just to go over the process I will be doing to build the full size shell for the CarBEN EV electric car (about 14 feet long x 5 feet tall x 5.3 feet wide) it will be 85 layers that are nominally 2" thick. The two sections I showed in my second post are the first two I would cut. The sections have to be made in smaller pieces that fit within the 24" x 96" sheets -- I think a male and female 'V' joint between the pieces will help them line up.

    All 85 layers will be glued together to form the core of the chassis of the entire car. If I can use the 3D function of the Phlatprinter to smooth off the edges, then great. Otherwise, the stepped edges will need to be smoothed by hand.

    Here's the 1/4 scale model of CarBEN EV that I made by hand with this same method.

    Before smoothing:
    [​IMG]

    After initial smoothing:
    [​IMG]

    Uploaded with ImageShack.us

    The 1/12th and 1/24th scale models are also in this picture. The 1/24th is basswood and it is actually the first thing I did on this project. The 1/12th scale model is an "eggcrate" model made with card stock, as a test for the concept of making plywood formers. The 3D foam method that I will be doing with the Phlatprinter 3 is going to be MUCH easier and much better.

    The lessons I learned on the 1/4 scale model are that the foam is a NOMINAL thickness -- the so-called 1/2" foam is really over 9/16" thick; and that is why there is a gap at the front bumper. The length of the model "grew" because of this.

    I think I will end up using the 3D function of Phlatprinter 3 to smooth the outside surface when possible; but I think that flipping the sheets will be more complicated than necessary. I will not be modeling the wheels on the full size shell -- but a few other parts will need to be smoothed, including much of the inside of the car.
     
  7. TigerPilot

    TigerPilot Well-Known Member

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    Neil, many plan-build kit-planes use a plywood skeleton on which a foam skin is than attached. The foam then gets covered with fiberglass from the outside. Once the outside layer is finished the skeleton is removed and the foam is covered from the inside. This produce a very strong sandwich construction that holds up excellently at more than 250mph. The formers for the skeleton will be made on the PP of course, for optimal accuracy and ease of manufacturing. Just a thought.
     
  8. NeilBlanchard

    NeilBlanchard Member

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    I've mailed in my order, with a check via snail mail -- whatever works, right? :)

    I'll be looking around for the tricks and mods for cutting through ~2" foam, and I be starting in on building my CarBEN EV.

    I can hardly wait!
     

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