Taking your CAM to the 3rd Axis

Making the jump from 2.5 to 3 axis machining in HSMWorks.

SolidWorks diagram of the piece.

My last two articles (on HSMXpress and CAM simulations) outlined a basic understanding of 2.5 axis programming and the projects that can be made with it – although the work is really only 2 dimensional. To produce more complicated projects with the HSMWorks program and the Laguna Swift Router you need to move in all three axes simultaneously.

3 axis machining is a confusing project to interpret, even for industry professionals. With all the different CAM programs out there, however, it is quite possible that there is one that will not only suit your intended purpose but your needs as well. For my Laguna Swift Router, it was HSMWorks.

During the initial test, I wanted to see if my router and program could complete a complex 3 axis surfacing job. It would be impossible to do those really nice carvings with just a 2.5 axis capable machine.

I started out by creating an irregular surface with SolidWorks. I colored it grey because I had some spare paint in the shop I wanted to use up on this piece. Let’s see if the final produce will come out looking like the SolidWorks screen capture.

CAM toolpath to produce the shape.

 It is worth noting that I was programming the toolpaths with a 30-day trial version, so they are neither perfect nor optimized. More experience with HSMWorks would have made for a more optimized run, but I have included a photo of the path anyway. Don’t worry, I laughed at it too.

The 3 axis milling of this irregular shape can begin after all the toolpaths are made within HSMWorks. The picture below (taken from a safe distance) shows the contours taking shape. The layers of plywood camouflage the contours being cut. Believe it or not by the photo, this shows the project nearly complete.

The CAM process nearing completion.

Two screws were placed in the piece before performing a contour cut around the perimeter. This cut freed the piece from the stock wood. After cutting out the piece, the two screw holes were filled in, followed by some light sanding and paint.


The sanded piece.

The finished piece should at least prove how color blind I am.

This will wind up my series on HSMWorks, HSMXpress CAM programs and simulations.  It is a great CAM program that is easy enough for beginners like me, and I can strongly recommend it.

Feature for feature on this job, it matches the SolidWorks design well thanks to the 3 axis capabilities of HSMWorks. This marks a successful test indeed.