Boost Robot Machining With RhinoCAM and the RoboDK Plugin

Robot Milling at Ball State University

The impressive flexibility of Rhino.

Plus, the power of a good CAM package.

Plus, the robot-programming skill of RoboDK.

You can now combine them all with the new RoboDK plugin for RhinoCAM.

We already have an impressive (and growing) set of plugins for some of the most popular CAD/CAM packages in the business.

But, our newest plugin is quite an interesting one…

It’s a plugin for another plugin!

Let’s have a look at the new RoboDK plugin for RhinoCAM

What is RhinoCAM?

RhinoCAM is itself a plugin for the very popular freeform modeling tool Rhino (aka Rhinoceros or Rhino3D). We already have a plugin that communicates directly with Rhino itself.

RhinoCAM adds additional CAD/CAM capability to Rhino. It is based on VisualCAM, a popular stand-alone CAM package by MecSoft. It runs seamlessly within Rhino, allowing you to easily generate CNC programs from your freeform generated models.

What is RhinoCAM Good For?

One of the key features of RhinoCAM (and VisualCAM itself) is its 5 core modules dedicated to specific CNC manufacturing processes.

These 5 modules are:

  1. RhinoCAM-MILL — The MILL module is designed for processes like molding, die and tooling, woodworking, rapid prototyping, and general machining. It is compatible with 2.5, 3, 4, and 5-axis machining, which is perfect when used in collaboration with RoboDK.
  2. RhinoCAM-TURN — The TURN module is a powerful 2-axis turning center for processes like turn roughing, finishing, threading, parting, and hole machining. It is used with CNC lathes.
  3. RhinoCAM-NEST — The NEST module is an optional add-on module that helps users optimally arrange and fit geometric shapes onto sheets of stock material. It provides two nesting capabilities: rectangular nesting and true nest shaping.
  4. RhinoCAM-ART — The ART module turns artwork into geometries suitable for machining. It can take raster bitmap images as an input. It also has a set of modeling techniques specific to jewelry design, sign making, and model making. This is perfect when used for robotic drawing or engraving projects.
  5. RhinoCAM-MESH — The MESH module is a completely separate module that includes tools for automatically processing 3D mesh data. It can clean up, reduce, refine, and otherwise prepare 3D meshes for applications like NC machining and 3D printing.

These modules form the basis of RhinoCAM’s capabilities and provide a very focused capability for these particular CAM tasks.

Why You Might Want to Use RhinoCAM and RoboDK Together

As you might know, RoboDK is a software that allows you to easily and effectively program your robot for a huge variety of different tasks.

One such task is robot machining which involves using the robot to operate a machining tool. This is like CNC machining but with much more flexibility. There are several benefits to using a robot over a CNC machine as we discussed in our article Can a Robot Outperform a CNC Machine for Robot Machining?

Just as is the case with normal CNC machining, the process starts with a good 3D model produced in a CAD program. Then, you use a CAM program to turn this into a G-Code path that can be machined on a robot or a CNC machine.

RhinoCAM has the capability to generate the G-Code, whilst also performing other functions to optimize the machining process.

RoboDK can then take that G-Code as an input and automatically creates a robot program for your particular robot model.

Together, you can quickly and easily generate machining programs for your robot machining setup.

Introducing… the New RoboDK Plugin for RhinoCAM

As with our other plugins (for Rhino itself, Mastercam, SolidWorks, and Inventor) the main functionality of the plugin is controlled by a standard set of buttons.

It includes the 5 standard buttons for CAD operations (plus an “About” button):

  1. Auto Setup — This creates a new project within RoboDK, along with your 3D from within RhinoCAM and the machining path.
  2. Load Part — Sends the 3D model directly from RhinoCAM to RoboDK.
  3. Load NC Program — This loads the machining program from RhinoCAM into RoboDK. If you are using multiple machining tools, it will create a new program for each tool.
  4. Generate Robot Program — This allows you to generate the robot programs within RoboDK without ever needing to leave RhinoCAM, which will speed up your workflow.
  5. Settings — Customize the plugin by changing tolerances, scales and the exported file type for 3D models. You can also define the names that objects will have when they appear in RoboDK.

Is the Plugin Right for You?

If you’re already using RhinoCAM then I can’t see any reason why you shouldn’t try the new RoboDK plugin! If you haven’t tried RoboDK yet, you can get a free demo version on the downloads page.

If you haven’t tried RhinoCAM yet, but you’re using RoboDK and/or Rhino, check out the RhinoCAM website to see if it might be a good match for your machining needs.

How to Get Started Using the New RhinoCAM Plugin

The best way to test the new plugin’s capabilities is to try it out for yourself!

Download the latest version of RoboDK (if you haven’t already) and check out the documentation page, which explains all the functionality of the plugin in detail.

What are your opinions of RhinoCAM? Tell us in the comments below or join the discussion on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or in the RoboDK Forum.

Alex Owen-Hill

About Alex Owen-Hill

Alex Owen-Hill is a freelance writer and public speaker who blogs about a large range of topics, including science, presentation skills at CreateClarifyArticulate.com, storytelling and (of course) robotics. He completed a PhD in Telerobotics from Universidad Politecnica de Madrid as part of the PURESAFE project, in collaboration with CERN. As a recovering academic, he maintains a firm foot in the robotics world by blogging about industrial robotics.

View all posts by Alex Owen-Hill

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