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The CarveWright is a three axis CNC milling machine. It can carve 3D relief or cut out shapes from various woods and plastics in widths up to 14.5" and ill-specified lengths. It can operate from a raster image (for relief carving) or from a vector image (for cutting) - but the software we have for the tool does not allow import of vector data from elsewhere - so you have to use their CAD package for drawing vector data.
I believe that our machine is the Mk I version (I believe it is) and not the much improved 'C' model.
State of the Machine
According to Martin B, in late December 2011:
- Current issues with the machine are:
- Tractor sandpaper belt has a rip in it. It works, but is getting worse.
- Tool holder is very, very, very beat up. In theory it's replaceable, but it's quite literally glued in place and jammed there.
- Sending it to Houston to get rebuilt would cost quite a bit, and may not be worth it.
- Sometimes it drops the tool.
- Sometimes it jams and holds on to a tool so hard it can't be removed.
- I recently fixed the motor encoder and driveshaft spindle cable.
- The software, and card reader, are attached to the Design machine upstairs in the Mezzanine room. The card is either in the card reader, or in the Carvewright machine.
- It does work, and I have updated the carvewright's firmware.
The meaty bit of the documentation from the CarveWright web site is buried in Support/FAQ here: http://www.carvewright.com/2010CWweb/support/cwsupport.php
Here is my quick summary (please correct me if I misread something):
- Workpiece: Max Size : 14.5" wide x 5" tall x 12' long. Max Weight: 20lbs. Min Size : 1.5" wide x 0.5" thick x 7" long.
- Precision: .00025" on the Y and Z-axes and .0015" on the X-axis. The accuracy of any single raster carving line is on the order of .005" - .010" in the Y and Z and the step width is between .005" and .010" depending on the quality setting. For long pieces, the precision gets worse.
- Wood or plastic only, no metals. Materials with glue (plywood, MDF, etc) wear out the bits much faster - dense hardwoods may have to be cut in more passes.
- You can only use all of that maximum twelve foot length if you don't mind supplying rollers to support the wood and if you don't mind wearing out the machine prematurely! (Eeeekkk!) So the practical maximum workpiece length is really 3'.
- Cut depth is 1" with the 1/8" cutting bit and 0.8" with the 1/16" carving bit. So, while the wood can be up to 5" thick, you can only cut down an inch or so into it - and because the cutting bit is quite large (1/8th"), you won't get sharp-cornered cutouts.
- It can also do routing using shaped bits (that you have to buy from CarveWright) with vector cut paths.
The only software available for the CarveWright is the "CarveWright Project Designer" - which costs $200. That software cannot import any vector or polygonal formats (DXF, STL) without further add-ons, which cost $200 per additional file format. ATX Hackerspace owns a copy of the Project Designer - but none of the plugins. Raster data can be imported into the basic package in several image file formats.
- You can download a 30 day free trial of the Product Designer package from http://carvewright.com - but you can't drive the machine with that trial version.
- If your computer doesn't have a decent graphics chip, you'll find that the 3D rendering in the main window will be screwed up. If that happens then you'll need to use the Edit/Preferences.../3D Graphics dialog and check the "Off" button under Hardware Acceleration. The "Auto" selection doesn't seem to work.
- To import a raster image, use File/Import/Import Image File to choose the file and adjust the clipping and 'depth' of cutting. You'll then be invited to save the image into a "Favorites" folder. Once you've done that, you can use the blue seashell icon (the "Pattern" tool) and browse down into Favorites to find the image that you saved. Click on the image file you want and drag it into the main window. You can then drag the image around, resize it, etc.
- The raster format is (annoyingly) the opposite of the laser cutter - the CarveWright treats Black as "no cutting" and White as "cut 0.8 inches deep" with intermediate grey shades as proportionately less cutting. (Our laser cutter treats black as "maximum laser power" and white as "no laser power").
- You have to write the design onto a memory card (which is DRM'ed so you have to buy it from CarveWright) and stick it into the machine for cutting.
Without the additional DXF or STL import software (which I guess we don't have), you have to use non-free software to generate the design as vector and raster data. The ONLY import mechanism is for image files (PNG would be best) - and that only allows for carving - not cutting.
So bottom line is that if you want to do cutting/routing, you'll have to sit at whatever computer has the software installed on it to design the vector stuff - but for shallow (0.8") carving, you can work on your own machine with GIMP/Photoshop/whatever and then just import the image into their software and write to the memory card.