Introduction

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StlWork-The answer to low cost 3D machining.

Stlwork is a CAM program (CAM-Computer Aided Manufacturing).  An input STL model file is all that is required to operate.

It processes 3D models of parts and generates instructions for CNC milling and routing machines.  These instructions are what are required to produce a copy of the electronic model on a CNC mill or CNC router.  StlWork can produce both a female and a male cutter path from the same 3D model

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Typical uses of StlWork are:

  1. To make 3D lettering for signs, awards and other recognition products
  2. New product development and rapid prototype manufacture
  3. Creation of 3D scenes from solid materials, such as contoured terrain maps for parks and housing developments
  4. Development of swoopy surfaced products like boat hulls, airplane wings and propellers.  Some for scale model making, some for full size projects.
  5. Creation of custom jewelry and jewelry pattern masters
  6. Production of one-off, life like components for the recreation and entertainment industry, such as full sized dinosaur models, large and small fish, mice, and ducks, etc
  7. Creation of molds for casting, die-casting, or injection molding of parts.

The models that StlWork processes are in a file format called STL.  STL stands for STereo Lithography.  This is a process in which prototype parts are rapidly created from liquids, using lasers or other energy delivery systems to solidify a liquid into a solid, one layer at a time.  The STL files describe the 3D part as a skin of interconnected triangles in 3D.  Most 3D cad systems can generate STL files.

StlWork evaluates this 3D description of the skin of a solid part and produces a series of rasterized tool paths, back and forth across the surface of the model.  These tool paths are carefully developed to make sure that depending on the size and shape of the planned cutter, that the resulting cut part will look as much like the original model as possible.  It continually checks to make sure that the tool does not accidentally gouge one side of the contour while it is cutting on  another side.

StlWork can also create waterline ring cuts.  These resemble the contact point if the model were submerged under water and then precisely raised a pre-set amount.  They also resemble the lines on a contour map.

Stlwork can properly process tool paths for Ball, Bull, Flat, and Angle tipped cutters or end mills.  It calculates the theoretical roughness or scallop height for the Ball and Angled cutters, as an aid in selecting tool sizes and step over per pass.

The manufacturing process developed by StlWork can include any number of roughing , finishing, and waterline passes.  These different passes can be with different tools, and can occur in any combination.  There are provisions for multiple cuts to work the tool into deep places (Z-level roughing), and the tool path can automatically be processed such that it will jump over already roughed out sections as the roughing proceeds to deeper levels (avoid cutting air).

The instructions developed by StlWork can be used on a wide variety of machines, and the output can be customized to accommodate different CNC programming language requirements.

Even though StlWork does not actually modify the original STL model file, it can flip, rotate, scale and translate the geometry within it's own workspace very freely.  The user can simultaneously view the model, the defined stock shape, the roughing pass,  finish pass, and any additional cutting passes.  The StlWork viewing capabilities include 2D and 3D, with dynamic pan, zoom, and rotation.  The various toolpaths and the wire frame model can be hidden to enable closer inspection of the calculated tool paths.  There is also a 3D rendered view of the model and the tool paths.

The stock shape defaults to the extents of the model, but it can be modified to leave a margin around the X and Y perimeters of the model, and portions of the model may be defined outside the cutting area to produce slices or portions of the model, rather than the entire shape.  An adjustable baseline grid system keeps things in perspective as the model is rotated and viewed from different angles.

Waterline cuts are ordered to finish one peak before proceeding to the next.

A "slabbing" routine is included to automatically create multiple parts to assemble into a large model that would normally exceed either tooling or axis reach.

Models can be sliced along the Z axis using the Totem Pole function.  The resulting slices can be exported to Vector Cam for processing on a rotary 4th axis system.

Model extents or global design coordinates can be used.

Stlwork includes capability for reusable tool and cutting strategy libraries.

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