Category:CNC Shop

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Zone Information
Zone Name CNC Shop
Status Active
Zone Slogan "I'm a lame zone with no slogan"
Zone Coordinator(s) Thad Johnson
Zone Slack #cnc-zone
Zone E-mail

Zone Color SlateGray
Paypal Button Pay money to CNC Shop

Table of Equipment

Equipment Authorization Owner(s) Status
CNC Surface Laptop No i3Detroit Running
CNC light No i3Detroit Running
CNC vent No i3Detroit Running
Haas VF-3 CNC Mill Yes i3Detroit Running
LR Mate 200iC Industrial Robot No i3Detroit Running

Beginner's Corner: How do I make a 3D part with the Haas? (Terry W)

First there are 3 types of parts: 2D, 2.5D and 3D.

2D is what you could cut on the laser cutter. Just a sheet of something with cutouts controlled by computer. 2.5D does all of 2D but allows pockets, i.e. flat areas of the sheet are partially cut to a different depth than a surface. 3D is a part with curves in 3 dimensions (x,y,z), like a hemisphere boss on a plate.

3D parts always, and 2.5D parts almost always have to be modeled in software in the design stage. 2D parts can be software modeled or not modeled.

You must be modeled to use MasterCam to create GCode. It is possible to create simple 2D shapes via handcoding a GCode file.

I will describe the methods I know work because I have done them. This is for a 3D part:

  • Acquire a Modelling program. (I use Autocad Inventor 2013)
  • Use modelling program to model the part and create a design file.
  • Acquire a CAM program. (I use MasterCam. It is installed on the CNC Shop workstation)
  • Get the design file into your CAM program. (I can open .ipt files in MasterCam)
  • Define your toolpaths and produce a GCode file for the Haas.
  • Run a simulation to make sure everything looks AOK. (MasterCAM has 2 simulators).
  • Buy your tooling. Buy your material (steel, aluminum, or machining wax).
  • Design and build your holding fixtures.
  • Get a Certified Operator to help you mill when coding is done. (You don't need a Certified Operator until you have a clean GCode file).
  • File Transfer GCode file to the Haas. (about 1 Meg max file size). (I use Teraterm from the CNC workstation.)
  • Set up your fixture, tooling and material then mill it.

When do I use the Haas instead of a manual mill?

  • You want to do many of one part.
  • You want to do many similar parts with small changes, possibly over time.
  • You want to do a 2D part with a curved edge of a longer radius that capable with a Manual Mill and rotary table.
  • You want to do a 2D part with a curved edge which is not circular. e.g. Bezier, BSpline, FreeHand, etc.
  • You want to do a 3D part in metal or machining wax.

The CNC machines, the 3d printer, and the lathes are the only devices we have that can make a single 3D part, with the lathes being a special case.

How is the Haas useful to an i3 Member if they don't want to learn to be a CNC Operator

The Haas is really meant for doing 3D parts or multiples of a part. If you have a simple 2D part, use the machine shop. It is easier to do a simple 2d part on the manual mills than learn to CNC. There are a lot more people who can help you run the manual mills.

If you want a metal 3D part, you HAVE to learn to model it in software. Select a modelling package which you have checked will transfer successfully to MasterCam (talk to a MasterCam operator). Or if that is too much for you, ask a Modelling Software Operator to do it with you. If it is simple, once you have it modeled in a software package which produces a design file, then ask a MasterCam operator to GCODE it with your participation. You will then need to figure out how to hold the material in the Haas (i.e. design the "fixture"), buy your tooling and materials, and then ask a Haas operator to mill it WITH you.

Operators List

Useful Sites

Virtual Machine Shop

Information on a wide variety of machining operations.

G-Code Generators

CNC Halftone Wizard

Creates the g-code for creating a halftone interpretation of a PNG, JPG or GIF.


Written in python by Neil Gershenfeld of the MIT Center for Bits and Atoms. CAM.PY generates g-code tool paths for milling 2D and 3D objects. Useful in creating g-code for cutting PCB's.


F-Engrave is a text to g-code program that is written in python.

Information on Gears

Timing Belts, Pulleys and Metric Gears

Info from Stock Drive Products/ Sterling Instrument (SDP/SI)


  • Please don't throw sheet metal, copper, or aluminum away. We recycle these.