QUICK JUMP-TO LINKS
EMC Integrator Handbook
Learn to understand and write your own G-code
Links to G-code editors and file conversion software
CLICK HERE to go to a page showing projects built on Sherline CNC machines. Send us your project photos to add to this page.
Updates to EMC—Updates, issues, and software notes for Sherline EMC users. Includes patch to add Undo/Redo function to versions 4.18 through 4.36 of EMC and fixes to older versions of EMC.
EMC Integrator Handbook
View The Enhanced Machine Control Integrator Handbook (Information on EMC in PDF format).
Learn to understand and write your own G-code
- Read Joe Martin’s instructions on CNC and G-code
- Read what the Linux online manual has to say about G-code.
- David Hayden has written a book called 7 Steps to CNC Programming, available on Amazon, and Google Books. There are also many other books, from simple to advanced computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) and g-code, in bookstores and libraries.
- Learn what it takes to convert a drawing into a g-code program to make parts on a CNC machine.
What Is Needed to Make Parts on a CNC Lathe?
Links to G-code editors and file conversion software
Here are a few free or low-cost programs that are out there:
- AutoEditNC 3.0—A free g-code editor, back plotter, and calculator for Windows®. One site says, “AutoEditNC is a 32-bit Windows program to assist in the creation and testing of Numerical Control (NC) programs in the Fanuc/G&M-Code format. AutoEditNC is a specialized text editor with NC code creation tools. AutoEditNC will also simulate the movements of the machine tool so that the student can test his or her program for accuracy and reliability.”
- ACE Converter by DAK Engineering—An open-source (free) .dxf to g-code converter. (Many drawing programs, including AutoCad®, can save vector art in the .dxf format.) [ instructions ]
- MeshCAM—A free 30-day trial. .stl to g-code converter. (Stereolithography files have the .stl extension. It is a common 3D format.)
- Code Shark by Soft Squad Software—A fully capable CNC g-code editor with back plot and calculators. A single-seat license is $49.00. A five-seat license is currently $99.00 (12/28/11)
- DeskEngrave—A free engraving program that works in Windows® and converts text to .dxf format and can output g-code. This can then be copied into EMC and run.
- Freemill—A free post-processor program that works in Windows® and will generate tool paths using input from many 3d object formats (STL and Rhino to name a few)
CNC Machine Enclosures
IM Services offers a nice, sheet metal and plexiglass enclosure that is sized for Sherline machines. Visit their site for more information. The individual panels ship flat to take up less space and keep costs down but are easily assembled with screws and bolts provided.
CNC Add-ons by other companies
DPP Engineering Extension Box for the Sherline 8760—The following comes to us from Sherline dealer DPP Engineering. According to David Peled, “The Extended CNC box enables Sherline customers who use the 8760 CNC controller to add six limit/home switches and a Digitizing probe. There is also an input for controlling spindle speed. This extended box, in conjunction with the 8760 CNC controller, can be used for general-purpose CNC applications such as safe cut (limit switches), home positioning, and a 3D project duplication. The expected installation time of such a box takes less than 2 minutes, and it is ready to go! The box is completely isolated from the Sherline 8760 controller and merely uses the DB25 connector inputs pins (10,11,12,13,15 not used by the 8760 and, therefore, disconnected from it) with a buffered circuitry to provide valued-added functionalities.”
- Circuit Specialists Inc. in Mesa, AZ, offers a large selection of Stepper Motors that can be used in both commercial and industrial applications. Choose from a permanent magnet stepping motor, hybrid, and variable reluctance stepper motors from NEMA 14 to NEMA 35 and including the NEMA 23 size that fits Sherline mounts. Their site offers a simple and well-written explanation of how stepper motors work.
- Sherline uses high-quality stepper motors from Minebea Corp. (NMB), but there are other sources. If you are putting together your own system and are looking for motors with lots of torque (up to 260 oz in), planetary gears or even built-in drivers, take a look at LIN Engineering’s page at www.linengineering.com>products>stepper motors (NEMA 23 size).
- Stepper motors—Unipolar or Bipolar…what does it mean? See www.eio.com for a good explanation of the difference.
CNC Software, Books, 3D clipart, and Accessories
A number of companies offer CNC (Computer Numeric Controlled) Lathes and Mills based on Sherline equipment. For a complete listing of the companies and links, click on the CNC Dealers section of this site.
- The CNC Expert—Do you have a part that is either too complex or too big for your Sherline machines? Do you have CNC questions beyond our MASSO or LinuxCNC controllers? You can use the services of The CNC Expert to manufacture your complex components. This group, based in Seattle, Washington, will turn your CAD drawings into real usable parts. Their in-house workshop includes two CNC lathes, two CNC mills, a waterjet cutter, and a laser cutter.
They also offer technical assistance, advice, and reviews of small and large CNC machines, and for metal and wood projects. Some of their services are fee-based, while others are free of charge. Contact them for details about your project. Contact Details
Phone: (206) 763-0890
- CNC book for beginners—Easy CNC by David Benson is directed toward the home shop machinist just getting started in CNC. It will help a user find simple, inexpensive drawing programs, create a tool path and translate it into the g-code needed to tell the CNC machine how to make the part. It covers things like bitmap drawing programs, engraving, carving, computer-aided drafting (CAD), and machining parts. Purchase directly from the publisher, Square 1 Electronics at www.cncintro.com or call (208) 664-4115.
- Make your own automatic tool changer! Joe Vicars displayed the prototype of his automatic tool changer for the Sherline mill at the 2003 NAMES show. There is also a photo of it on page 71 of the August 2003 issue of The Home Shop Machinist magazine. Though CNC is not necessary to make it, because some parts are repeated up to 12 times, it would be handy. It can also be used on a manual machine but would be a really cool addition to a CNC machine. Joe now has plans available so you can make this tool changer. See his website at www.homeshopaccessories.com for more details on the changer and for how to order the plans.
- www.linuxcnc.org—This is the website for the people who volunteer their time to improve and maintain the Enhanced Machine Controller (EMC) software that Sherline uses with its CNC systems. To learn more about the Linux operating system itself, go to www.linux.org.
- Cutting Helical Gears—A 4th axis on your CNC machine makes it possible to cut helical gears. Joe Martin has developed a simple Microsoft Excel® program to help with the calculations when cutting helical gears. Entering your known data in the pink cells will automatically recalculate the results of the orange cells to give you the other data you need for your particular gear. To view and use this program, you will need to have Microsoft Excel installed on your computer. CLICK HERE to download the program. If you are just learning about helical gears, it can be helpful to click on the cells and read the formulas involved to understand what he is doing and why. Understanding the formulas will require some knowledge of how Excel formulas are written. To view the formulas, you will first need to “unprotect” the worksheet by going to the menu bar at the top and selecting “Tools>Protection>Unprotect.” Then, when you click on an orange cell, you can view the formula Joe developed to make the calculation in the window above the worksheet. When you are done, be sure to protect the worksheet again so the formulas can’t be accidentally changed. To see the actual physical setup for cutting a helical gear, see Project #5 on the CNC PROJECTS page.
Bill Krobetzcy and his son-in-law, Jeremy, have taken Joe’s program one step further. Their version, which you can download if you CLICK HERE, allows you to enter the known data like Joe’s program but adds a button you can click on that will actually write the G-code to produce the gear too. Very slick! Again, it will require that you have Microsoft Excel, and it may ask you to set your macro security level to “Medium” or lower if you now have it set on “High.” (To do so, go to Tools>Options>Security>and click on the “Macro Security” box.) The G-code file will be saved as a .txt file in a separate Notepad window. Bill says he will be working on a Visual Basic version of the program for those who don’t have Excel.
- Need three-dimensional artwork to cut on your CNC system? You can buy files from www.artcam.com or www.vectorart3d.com in multiple formats, including .stl. By running them through a free .stl-to-g-code utility like FreeMill, which is provided on the CD that comes with your system, you can create the g-code to run these files. There are hundreds of files, and the library is growing all the time.
- 7 Easy Steps to CNC Programming is a book by David Hayden for anyone interested in learning about CNC machining. You can find out more about the book by clicking on the underlined title to visit Mr. Hayden’s website. Mr. Hayden taught himself NC machining over 20 years ago while working as a lathe operator. Since that time, he has attended hundreds of hours of training courses and has also developed his own course in CNC programming.
- The CNC Programming Handbook, 3rd Ed. by Peter Smidis, is another book that comes highly recommended. It can be purchased from a number of sources, including Travers Tool and Industrial Press to name a few. At 600 pages, it’s pretty detailed, but that works out to less than 12 cents a page, so how can you lose?
- This link to CNC information comes from Robert Adams. He offers a tutorial on using a CAD program to help create a tool path at stcnc.tripod.com. There are also links to software for the home shop machinist to convert a .dxf CAD drawing to a G-Code program. You can contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Here’s an interesting site with lots of handy software for the shop that has one major attraction…IT’S ALL FREE! Marvin Klotz has put up a page called Software for People Who Build Things that includes a wealth of programs at http://www.geocities.com/mklotz.geo for your use. It’s worth looking over the list to see if there is anything that could help you solve a problem. I’ll bet you find something you’ll download. It’s cool stuff, and the price is right.
- Frederik Rombach has come up with a neat little program that will help you calculate spindle speed/FPM for a number of materials and cutter size combinations for the lathe, mill, and drill press. CLICK HERE to download his small (348 kb) .exe program. Select the material from the top menu and enter the known values of cutter size and so on in the boxes. It’s as easy as that. This program will run on any Windows-based computer with a Windows 98 or newer OS.
- The Machinist’s Calculator is a valuable utility program for Machine Shop Owners, Machinists, CNC Programmers, Metalworkers, Students, Engineers, or anyone else who needs to solve Trigonometry calculations. Also a great utility tool for cad or cad-cam users. It’s available for purchase, but also is offered as a 30-day demo, and it is available on multiple platforms like PC, iOS, Android, and Blackberry!
- Need a quick way to do trig calculations? See Page Tutor and just fill in the sides or angles you know and it does the rest.
Learning to use any CAD/CAM program from scratch can be a daunting learning curve, as most of them are highly capable, multi-featured programs. However, for complicated 2D, 2.5D and 3D projects, they can make it possible to produce parts that could not be made any other way as effectively. Once your projects become too complicated for you to be able to write the G-code for them directly in text mode, you will need to think about how you will take your work to the next level. These programs can help take the idea in your head to a drawing on the screen to the G-code needed to create the part with CNC. Most of the professional-level programs are too expensive to be practical to consider for use with a small CNC system, but some people buying the machines may already have the programs available to them where they work. If you use a program not mentioned here and are happy with it, send information on it to email@example.com and we will list it.
- ArtCam Jewelsmith®—Designed primarily for jewelers, this is a professional-level program that can output G-code to various posts. At $7500, it is not inexpensive, but it depends on what your time is worth and how much business you intend to generate as a jeweler using CNC. Perhaps this program might be worth a look.
- AutoCad®—by AutoDesk is the industry standard for professional shop drawings. AutoCAD drawings can be saved in .dxf format, which can be translated to G-code using various free utilities available above on this page for download. Again, a full version of AutoCAD is not cheap, but the Lite version will probably work just fine for home users and is less expensive than the full version.
- BobCad/Cam®—A consumer-priced software that now includes a post-processor for EMC, this is a popular and well-thought-out alternative to expensive shop-level CAD/CAM programs. A number of Sherline users are already using BobCAD and getting good results. Their website offers free demo versions for download if you want to try them out.
- Carbide Create—CAD/CAM Software for CNC Routers. Combine the power of 2D sketching and machining with 3D simulation to see your designs come to life on your CNC router!
- DeskART and DeskKAM—There are programs that will translate the dark/light scale of a photo into assumed heights (darker is deeper) and create a 3D g-code program to reproduce the contours. One called DeskART will import a BMP, GIF, JPEG, WMF, or TIFF image and convert it into a DXF Surface Mesh of 3D faces or write it directly into machinable G-code. They offer a free 30-day trial version of this software. DeskKAM also offers several other types of programs for engraving.
- Dolphin CAD/CAM—Dolphin CAD/CAM is a recognized world leader in CAD creation as well as CNC machining. It is used around the world, ranging from simple hobbyist users to some of the world’s largest manufacturers. Hobbyist packages start at only $195.00, and the larger packages range all the way up, including the most complex 3D machining. We are proud to offer the EMC post-processor for your Sherline CNC Machine. Feel free to visit the website, and download a free demo at www.dolphincadcamusa.com. Also, you may contact at 717-505-8638. (Copy provided by Rodney Hill at Dolphin)
- MasterCam®—by CNC Software Inc. is professional shop-level software. Though costly, it quickly pays for itself in time saved in the professional machine shop environment. GibbsCam, SurfCam, and a number of other software packages fall in this category but typically cost many times more than an entire Sherline mill CNC system. If you already have software like this available to you in your shop, you are way ahead of the game when it comes to running a Sherline system. If you have a full, authorized version of MasterCam, they do now offer a post-processor for EMC.
- RhinoCAM—RhinoCAM by MecSoft is a popular program among home users and professionals alike. A post-processor for EMC is available. Now also available is a program called RhinoArt that can convert bitmap raster images into g-code. It would be useful to modelers, sign makers, and jewelers, to name just a few. It retails for an introductory price of about $499.00 at this time.
- SolidWorks® and SolidEdge®—Two competing 3D solid modeling programs, these seem to set the standards for the industry when it comes to three-dimensional design. Both can save 3D work as an .IGES or .STEP file that can be converted to a G-code program using several of the Cad/Cam programs that are listed.
- Synergy—A full trial version of this 3D solid modeling CAD/CAM software is included on each computer and Linux/EMC backup CD, now distributed by Sherline. It runs under Linux right on your Sherline computer, so no file transfers are necessary from computer to computer. A Windows® version is also available, and files can be transferred cross-platform. Contact the manufacturer, www.webersys.com, for a key to unlock the software for a free 30-day trial. The 2D CAD portion is yours to keep for free. Prices on the other modules are competitive with VectorXT and similar consumer-level CAD/CAM programs at about $1200 for the full 3D solid modeling version and less for wireframe or 2D versions.
- VCarve Pro 4—Several carving and routing programs for cutting and engraving 3D relief are offered relief by www.vectric.com, and a customer testimonial we received says VCarve Pro 4 is very intuitive and easy to learn.
- Vector XT— For information on a Windows-based CAD/CAM system that is reasonably priced and easy to learn yet offers far more sophistication than the free CAM programs without the high cost of the big names, check out VECTORCAM. Check to see if there are any discounts available for Sherline machine owners. See their site at www.imsrv.com or call 248/486-3600, Fax: 248/486-3698 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. They also offer a very reasonably priced 3D modeling software called StlWork.
- VisualMill and VisualTurn—CAM software by Mecsoft Corporation for mill and lathe. Both programs now have a post-processor specifically for EMC. Both VisualMill Demo and VisualTurn Demo tryout editions can be downloaded and tried out with tutorials for as long as someone needs to learn how to use them.
Download Demo versions of their software CLICK HERE.
For pricing information, CLICK HERE.