Since we first launched our Kickstarter almost 4 years ago, Pocket NC’s goal has been to bring 5-axis milling within reach of all makers. We successfully released a 5-axis milling machine that is a fraction of the cost of the next cheapest 5-axis machine capable of milling aluminum and it only takes up about as much space as a laptop on your workbench. We learned a lot from our first machines and in December of 2017, we launched the Pocket NC V2-10. The V2-10 has a number of improvements over the original including increased rigidity, better mounting options, a web-based user interface and more, which makes it one of the most versatile desktop milling machines on the market. We’re happy to announce that we’ll be releasing our V2-50 this May with an upgraded 50,000 RPM spindle allowing it to mill materials as hard as grade 5 titanium. (Read more about the upcoming V2-50 on the Pocket NC website.)

The V2-50, our latest desktop 5-axis mill with a max spindle speed of 50,000 RPM, capable of milling materials as hard as grade-5 titanium.

What we’ve discovered over the last 4 years, is that one of the biggest barriers to entry with 5-axis machining is learning how to do it. We’ve made it possible for makers to get their hands on an affordable, high quality, 5-axis milling machine, whether it’s at a university, community college, vocational college, makerspace, or even in their own workshop, but there’s still the task of learning how to make things with it. To help teach people about our machine and 5-axis machining in general, we’ve been developing a web-based simulator and have released it for free to everyone. The Simulator provides a risk-free way to preview G Code programs in a 3D environment, which is a great way to verify your work, to teach users who are new to 5-axis milling and to experiment with 5-axis milling in general.

The Simulator plots your tool path on the Pocket NC itself, where you can visually inspect the movements before running them on a real machine.

Every machinist knows that the first time running a new program is always stressful because of the threat of unexpected behaviors within a program. The Simulator reveals the most common mistakes users encounter on the Pocket NC and virtually demonstrates how the machine will behave in 3D, allowing you to learn a great deal without risking damage to tools, materials or the machine itself.

Tool paths can be inspected from any angle with the camera parented to different parts of the Pocket NC. The view cube in the top right can quickly switch to top, front, left, and other views.

We see an opportunity for schools to adopt the Simulator in their curriculum to teach 5-axis machining, whether it is paired with a physical Pocket NC machine or not. We have been contacted by many passionate educators who are excited to introduce their students to new technology but the barrier to entry in learning how to use a machine combined with the potential risks of damaging the machine and tooling can be too much of an investment alongside the demands they already face. The Simulator gives a free option to begin teaching 5-axis machining. It opens up the opportunity to have a high student to machine ratio as students will spend the majority of their time debugging their programs in the Simulator rather than on a physical machine.

We have also been contacted by many makers who are interested in expanding their horizons by adding our machine to their current manufacturing techniques (commonly 3D printing). We always try to be honest about how big the leap is between 3D printing and 5-axis machining because it’s not for everyone. Typically we advise makers to go through CAM tutorials, but with the addition of the Simulator they will be able to get a good a taste for nearly the full machining process at no cost.

A 3D model can also be loaded with the simulator to preview the tool paths overlaid on top of it.

All in all, we’ve strived to make a powerful tool for those interested in 5-axis machining and hope that the simulator simplifies learning more about it. We’ll be using the Simulator in future tutorials about machining, G Code, and the Pocket NC so stay tuned! For now be sure to check out all the current features of the simulator in the video below:

Also, check out how to debug some of the most common issues with the Pocket NC, using the simulator: