This release is mostly about updates to our new G-Wizard Conversational CNC Programming product. I mentioned it briefly as a sneak preview in an earlier blog post, but now I want to talk about it a little more in-depth.
What is CNC Conversational Programming and Why Would You Want Some?
Here’s our spokes-machinist from the GW Conversational CNC page…
CNC Conversational Programming is an approach to creating g-code that doesn’t require CAM software. Let’s be really clear up front–it doesn’t replace CAM either. I find it is easiest to explain by mentioning a dilemma common among manual machinists when they think about CNC. From their perspective, all they see is having to create a bunch of CAD drawings and run them through a CAM program to get g-code before they can accomplish even the simplest tasks. Sure you can do things they can’t accomplish at all (try turning those handwheels just right to interpolate a hole), but they’re thinking in terms of jobs they do every day quickly and easily.
The goal of CNC Conversational Programming (and that is a truly awkward phrase, but it is what the world uses at the moment) is to make it easy to walk up to the machine, answer a few simple questions through a point-and-shoot UI, get back g-code immediately, and start running. No need to go through the CAD/CAM process at all. The simple questions are presented by means of what I will call “Wizards” because that’s what the PC world calls them. You’ve all seen software with Wizards to help you through some complex operation or another. Same thing here. In fact, when I first started out CNCCookbook, I chose the name “G-Wizard” as a shortened form of “G-Code Wizard”.
BTW, we chose to do this product next because we did a survey of you, our gentlereaders, and this was your #1 request in terms of what our next product should be.
Sounds Great. Now How Do I Get My Hands on GWCC?
That’s easy–GW Conversational CNC (which we will call “GWCC” for short) is an add-on module for G-Wizard Editor. While we’re still in Beta test for GWCC, it comes already installed for free in GWE. Just press the “Wizards” button on the GWE tool bar to bring it up. When it is finished, it will be a separately priced product, our 3rd CNC Software Product here at CNCCookbook. If you don’t see a “Wizards” button in GWE, you’re probably not on the latest release.
Okay, Now How Do I Use GWCC?
Nothing could be simpler. Press the “Wizards” button, choose which Wizard you want, answer the questions, and press the “Insert” button on the Wizard. G-Code that does what you asked for will be inserted into your program right where the cursor is. Send that along to your CNC Machine and you’re ready to go.
Let’s take a look at making holes with GWCC:
That’s the Hole Wizard. You can see an array of different Wizards along the top row of tabs. In the current version, only the Hole Wizard is working. Like all our software, you simply go through and make your choices left to right, top to bottom. When you’re done, press the Insert button at the bottom and the g-code will be inserted at the current cursor position in GW Editor. The choices to be made go like this:
– Choose a Wizard, let’s say you pick the Hole Wizard.
– Choose how you will position the holes. You can drop one at the current position, a list of arbitrary positions, in a bolt circle, along an arc, in a rectangular evenly spaced grid, or along a line.
– Tell us the basics about your holes. Diameter, Safe Z height (go anywhere you like at rapids without hitting anything), Rapid to Z (rapid from Safe Z to Rapid to Z, slow to feedrates below Rapid to Z), Material Top Z, and Hole Depth.
– Tell us the Type of hole to make. We can use canned cycles, custom deep hole cycles, or we can Interpolate the holes (the option is grayed in the screen shot because it only works with specified circle centers, so the “Curr Position” option is out).
That’s all there is to it.
Let’s say you want to interpolate a series of 6 holes, 2″ in diameter, with a 1/2″ endmill in aluminum, around a bolt circle that is 12″ in diameter. Just a few clicks with GWCC and we have our program:
At 450 lines, that would be a pretty complex program to do entirely by hand, yet it is very easy with GWCC.
GWCC As a Training Aid
Not only is GWCC good for quick and dirty tasks at the machine, it also makes a good training aid. Once you have mastered MDI, you might try going through the code generated by GWCC to try and understand what it’s doing and why. It’s pretty simple, and we stuck a bunch of comments in there to try to make it easy to understand. You can also use it to augment your manual programmer chores. For example, you might interpolate a hole of a certain depth to open up a place for your endmill to begin pocketing. Think of these Wizards as simply more powerful canned cycles that are available to your g-code programming toolbox. If you want help learning the g-code, try our G-Code Tutorial Course. It’s really pretty easy to learn g-code, there are relatively few concepts, and it sure is useful to have some knowledge of it on the Shop Floor.
GWCC Going Forward
As mentioned, we only have the Hole Wizard so far. It does some very cool stuff, like custom deep hole cycles, but there is more to machining than making holes. Over time, we will fill out the rest of the Wizards. Our #1 priority right now is finishing GW Editor, so expect to see progress happening faster on GWE than GWCC, but there will be GWCC progress as well.
Along the way, I will be writing blog posts to explain new GWCC features as they arrive. For this release, I will write a post on the interpolated holes as well as on the custom deep hole cycles. Be sure you’re on our blog email newsletter so you don’t miss any of the posts.
Meanwhile, it is early days yet for GWCC. It is still “alpha test” rather than “beta test”. Expect a lot of bugs. Look over the g-code simulation carefully to be sure it is going to do what you would expect. Let us know if you find any problems or have suggestions for how to make GWCC better–we’re all ears.
Having Trouble Installing the New Version?
Note that if you have an older version of GWE installed, you may see this message pop up:
If so, don’t fret. It just means you need to go to your control panel and uninstall GWE before trying to install the new version. The message is needlessly cryptic (and out of our control), but it is triggered because we updated our digital security certificate to a much more secure version with this release. We’re going to see the same when I update GW Calculator too, so I wanted to start getting the word out.
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