We have known about designing boxes and cabinets in Solidworks and then cut the parts out on the CNC for some time, but we hadn’t made it happen yet. I love this system because it takes the best of both softwares and helps create awesome work. Solidworks handles the Assemblies so well and Vectric Aspire handles the vectors and post-processing for CNC so well.
For this post, I am going to highlight one student’s project and how we used our software and machines.
For the Solidworks, each part was made with the thickness of the plywood we planned on using. 3/4 Birch Shop grade plywood. It has nice ply layers, so we planned on showing off the layers on the end cuts. We designed the rabbit joints and adjusted all pieces to see how each fit together. All parts were designed in Solidworks with our material in mind. All plywood would be CNC cut and the stairs would be bandsaw cut out of solid hardwood.
Here is the completed solidworks assembly. All of the flat panels are 3/4 plywood.
Now it is time to take it to the Vectric Aspire software. First select each part and export one face as .dxf files. In this case, the vectric file will include the dado cuts as well. They will export as one vector and that is fine for us, but you could separate the dado cuts.
Now in the Vectric Aspire Software, you will want to make your work size the exact size you can put on your CNC machine and makes best use of the plywood. In our case, the maximum we can do is to cut a sheet into 3 parts and have a work size or 32 inches by 48 inches.
Vectric is where we plan our parts, nest the parts and create our toolpaths. We will use the pocket toolpath to create the rabbits or dados. We will use the profile toolpath to cut the parts. I find that the 1/4 end mill creates the least sawdust and is least likely to break when upping the speeds. Lastly, Aspire is great at making tabs to keep the parts from moving around after they have been cut out. We tend to add about 0.02 inches to the depth of cut to ensure it cuts through.
Here are some videos of them getting cut out in timelapse and the parts cut out. Also a picture of her setting up the machine and the hold downs for the plywood.
Now that the parts are all cut we also used a Pazzle cutter/plotter or CNC exacto knife to cut out the profile of the stairs. This was done in the exact same manner with the .dxf file, but we had to use the Pazzle software to cut the paper.
Time for assembly and finish work. Everything Fit perfectly together.