So, after plopping down my cash to buy a licensed version of Cut3D I promised photos after making my first part. I cut my parts on my converted 3D Mini Mill using my very basic knowledge of Mach3 and other skills as noted below. Before that I want to assure anyone reading this posting that if you have 2D cutting and machine skills you indeed can do this.
Here's the skills you need to master:
>Mach3 (if that's what you're using for your machine). You need to master skills regarding pausing, stopping the quill and jogging off the part in the event of cutter breakage (or coffee break, whatever). Additionally, you need to know how to setup the work offsets so that you can get back to your workpiece point of reference and run the cut file from where you left off.
>You need to know how to fixture your part. In this case it's a no brainer, it's held by a vice.
> You need to know how to tram your table and the fixture.
> You need to know how to use an edge finder (used in conjunction with work offsets mentioned above)
> You need common sense....
Anyone that's been cutting 2D parts for a year or more likely has these basic skills.
There was indeed a learning curve I had to go through regarding 'feeds and speeds'. I finally settled on 2 ipm, 2500 RPM (you can't get anymore from a Mini Mill) and the depth of cut was set to 0.05 inch. The actual cutter speed for a 1/4 inch Ball Nose End Mill would be 4000 RPM. For an 1/8 inch ball nose End Mill would be 8000 RPM. Both are out of range of the Mini Mill. The 1/4 inch was used for roughing and the 1/8 inch for finish.
The stock needs to be square on all sides and flat on top and bottom. There's a few video online that address how to square a piece of aluminum.
After mounting the stock and setting the work offsets, you can start the process of rough cutting. Here's where you have to be very, very patient. My cut file went for 10+ hours/side....That's not a misprint....The Finish tool path takes another 4 to 8 hours depending on the option selected in CUT3D. There's a checkbox in CUT3D for the Finish to make a second pass perpendicular (at 90^) to the default Finish pass. In my opinion this is a waste of time. I see no tangible difference that matters and you can easily remove the material using an abrasive pad in a grinder made for such purposes (3M Scotch-Brite LD-WL Convolute Silicon Carbide Medium Deburring Wheel - Fine Grade).
The part shown in the photos requires a few more 2D machining operations and so it will not be removed from the block until tose operations are completed. It makes the part easy to fixture.