Archive for March 11th, 2019

3D Printing: Native G-Code?

From a discussion on the Makergear 3D printer forums

From a new M2 user disillusioned by the learning curve:

Is there a 3D CAD software out there that natively creates .g or .gcode files It’s not just a 3D printing thing.

CAD (computer-aided design) software produces a solid model, which a CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) program then converts into the specific dialect(s) of G-Code required by whatever machine tool(s) will create the widget. You can create the solid model using many different CAD programs and convert it into G-Code with many different CAM programs, each with its own collection of features and warts.

3D printing calls the CAM program a “slicer”, but it’s a different name for the process of converting geometry into machine instructions.

Even in subtractive manufacturing using lathes and mills, you absolutely must understand how the G-Code interacts with the production hardware.

I unfortunately don’t want to learn all the nuances and parameters of the slic3r software

Then you must use a service like Shapeways: you create the model, send it to them, and get a neat widget a few days later. Their laser-sintered powder process provides much better built-in support than you’ll ever get from consumer-grade fused-filament printers, you can select from a wide variety of materials (including metals!), and, as long as you follow their straightforward design guidelines, you’ll never know how the magic happens.

If you intend to create more than a trivial number of widgets, though, the cost in both cycle time and money will begin gnawing at you. In round numbers, I’ve been designing and printing one widget a week for the last seven years, so adding a printer to my basement shop and learning how to use it has been a major win.