Chapter 6 Software Reference Guide 6-1 - plasmacam - home reference... · Chapter 6 Software Reference…

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  • i

    Contents

    Chapter 6 Software Reference Guide 6-1 Using the Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-2

    Viewing Window . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-2

    Messages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-3

    Commands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-3

    Settings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-3

    The Drawing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-4

    Selecting Paths in the Drawing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-4

    The Coordinate System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-5

    Type Coordinates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-5

    Pick Points on Screen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-6

    Pick Points on Screen with Snaps On . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-6

    Snaps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-7

    Center Snap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-7

    Quadrant Snap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-8

    Tangent Snap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-8

    Intersection Snap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-8

    Midpoint Snap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-8

    Endpoint Snap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-8

    On Path Snap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-8

    Perpendicular Snap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-8

    Torch Point Snap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-9

    Table Edge Snap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-9

    Orthogonal Snap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-9

    Grid Snap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-9

    NodePoint Snap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-10

    File Commands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-11

  • ii

    New . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-11

    Open . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-11

    Save . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-12

    Save As . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-12

    Import . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-13

    Windows Bitmap Files . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-14

    AutoCAD DXF Files . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-18

    PlasmaCAM Files . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-19

    HPGL/2 Plot Files . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-19

    Spreadsheet Text . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-19

    G-Code; All Files . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-20

    Export . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-21

    AutoCAD DXF Files . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-22

    Spreadsheet Text . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-22

    G-Code; All Files . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-22

    Print . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-24

    Print Preview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-25

    Print Setup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-25

    Recent Files . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-26

    Exit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-26

    Edit Commands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-27

    Undo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-27

    Redo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-27

    Delete . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-27

    Move . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-28

    Copy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-28

    Stretch Points . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-28

    Rotate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-28

    Scale . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-29

    Scale Height . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-29

    Slant . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-29

    Mirror . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-30

    Offset . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-30

    Link Segments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-30

    Explode . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-31

  • iii

    Edit Path . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-31

    Break . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-32

    Trim/Extend . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-32

    Smooth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-32

    View Commands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-34

    Scroll Bars/Arrow Keys . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-34

    Zoom Window . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-34

    Zoom Previous . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-34

    Zoom Selection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-35

    Zoom Extents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-35

    Zoom Table . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-35

    Zoom Out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-35

    Snaps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-35

    Measure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-35

    Select All By . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-36

    Select Shortest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-37

    Redraw Screen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-37

    Settings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-37

    Grid . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-37

    Snaps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-38

    Cutting Area . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-38

    Animate Edit Commands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-38

    Display Colors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-39

    Draw Commands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-40

    Line(s) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-40

    Rectangle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-40

    Circle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-40

    Arc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-40

    Bulge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-41

    Fillet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-41

    Chamfer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-41

    Array . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-42

    Text . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-43

    Machine Commands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-45

    Cut . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-45

  • iv

    Auto Cut Control . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-46

    Move To . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-46

    Move Home . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-46

    Initialize . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-46

    Diagnostics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-47

    Cut Preview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-47

    Convert to Cut Path . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-47

    Reorder Path(s) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-50

    Pick Order . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-50

    After Path . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-50

    Before Path . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-51

    Make Last . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-51

    Make First . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-51

    Detect Intersections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-51

    Settings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-51

    X/Y Axes Motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-52

    Time Delays and Torch Location Adjustment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-53

    Height Control Settings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-53

    Z Axis Motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-53

    Digital Height Control . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-54

    Z Axis Calibration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-54

    Advanced . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-54

    System Setup Settings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-55

    Parallel Port Setting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-55

    Controller Version . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-55

    Machine Size . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-55

    Restore All Factory Settings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-55

    Configurations Settings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-56

    Help Commands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-57

    About PlasmaCAM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-57

  • 6-1

    6 Software Reference Guide

    The PlasmaCAM software is useful for drawing new designs, transferring designs to and from other programs, editing designs in various ways, and making metal parts from the designs with the cutting table.

    This chapter provides reference information on how to use the PlasmaCAM software. If you are totally unfamiliar with this program and other CAD programs, you may want to work through the tutorial given in CHAPTER 7 first. However, you will still need to read this chapter later in order to successfully work with the PlasmaCAM cutting system.

    For convenience, this chapter is organized mostly according to the commands found on the program menus. This makes it easy to find information about a particular command for which you have questions.

    Feel free to experiment with the software and try different things as you learn (but be much more careful when actually controlling the machine). After you have familiarized yourself with the program, read over this chapter to make sure that you understand how to fully utilize all of the commands. You may then find that you can do something much more easily than you originally thought.

  • 6-2

    Using the Program In order to use the PlasmaCAM cutting system, you need to know how to communicate with the PlasmaCAM program. This is done through the programs user interface. You communicate to the program through commands and settings. The program communicates to you with the viewing window and through messages.

    Viewing Window When you run the program from your Windows menu, the following window appears on screen:

    This viewing window occupies the screen and allows you to visually work on your drawing.

    The titlebar at the top of the window shows the name of the program and the file you are currently working on. It also contains standard Windows buttons for changing the size of the program window.

    Also at the top of the window is the program menu. The menu contains all of the programs commands, grouped by subject.

    Most of the screen is occupied by the drawing area. The drawing area lets you see the drawing while you work on it. Within the drawing area is the cutting area, which represents the area over which the cutting table can move. Although your drawings can extend into the area beyond the cutting area, only shapes placed within the cutting area can be cut by the machine. You can optionally display a grid or the grate points within the cutting area. The bottom and right side of the drawing area is bordered by scroll bars. (See Settings under VIEW COMMANDS for more.)

    At the bottom of the window is the status bar. The right end of the status bar shows the current

  • 6-3

    coordinates of the machine torch and also the mouse cursor, as it moves over the drawing area. Toward the center of the status bar is an area which displays the snaps currently running.

    Messages When you execute a command, the right side of the status bar prompts you for actions. Otherwise, this region of the status bar displays how many paths within the drawing are currently selected. The status bar is an important source of messages; information communicated to you from the program. Messages can also be sent directly through dialog boxes. For example, after you execute the Measure command, a dialog box displays information about what you measured.

    Commands The program contains several commands, each of which is a useful tool. To use the program efficiently, learn how to use each command. Most of the commands can be found on the program menu. To use a command, pop open the menu on which it is located with the mouse. Then click on the command. You will be prompted by the status bar to enter the information that the program needs to execute the command.

    You will notice that most of the menu commands can be activated simply by typing a letter on the keyboard. The keyboard shortcuts are listed next to the commands on the menu. As you become more familiar with a particular command, you will find that hitting the letter is much quicker than finding the command on the menu.

    Settings Another way that you control the actions of the program is through the program settings. Settings affect how the program executes commands that you choose. For example, if you select a shape and choose Cut, the machine will cut the shape at the current speed setting. Most of the program settings can be accessed through the Settings command on the menu. However, some of the programs settings are not located in the main settings dialog box. For example, when you import and export files, you can alter program settings directly on the dialog boxes used to select the files.

  • 6-4

    The Drawing Much of the PlasmaCAM software is geared toward transferring designs from odd forms into actual cut parts. The original design may be a paper drawing, a photograph, an image stored in some exchangeable computer format, or even a design created in PlasmaCAM. All designs are stored in PlasmaCAM as paths, which are traces made up of two or more nodes. For example, a path of two nodes is a line. A rectangle is a path of 5 nodes.

    Whatever the source, the design will most likely have to be transformed and converted by the program so that it becomes suitable material for controlling the cutting table. For this reason, a PlasmaCAM drawing can contain three different types of paths, which are distinguished by their colors. These types correspond to the changing stages from original design to cutable shape. 1. Open Paths (white) The design is drawn in the program (see DRAW COMMANDS and

    EDIT COMMANDS) or imported from a computer file (see Import). The design may need to be scaled or otherwise edited. The drawing probably contains an assortment of disjointed lines and paths, possibly even closed paths. Cutting out the drawing at this stage would not be wise because among other things, each disjointed piece would be cut separately and probably not in order.

    2. Closed Paths (purple) The design is usually linked together so that it is made up of only closed paths, which form a closed loop (see Link Segments). Furthermore, all defects like small pieces and intersections are removed (see Select All By, Select Shortest, and Detect Intersections).

    3. Machine Paths (blue) Finally, the design is converted into actual paths that the machines torch will cut along. This means that kerf adjustments have been made, pierce lead-in points and end gaps have been added to each path, and the paths have been sorted so that they are cut in order (see Convert to Cut Path).

    After a design has been properly transformed and converted to machine paths, it can be cut by the machine. The design can also be saved so that cutting it next time is easy.

    Selecting Paths in the Drawing Many commands require that you have something selected before you can execute the command. Such commands are grayed-out and inaccessible on the menu when nothing is selected. For example, you will not be able to choose Delete until you select path(s) that you want erased.

    Selecting shapes in PlasmaCAM is very easy. Simply place the mouse cursor over a path and click the left mouse button to select it. Paths turn green when they are selected. If you click on a second path, youll notice that the first path returns to its original color, leaving only the new path selected. You can select additional paths by holding down the Ctrl key of the keyboard as you click. If you select multiple paths and would like to remove some from the selection, click again on the paths to remove (while holding down Ctrl).

    The easiest way to select a group of paths in one area is to drag a selection window over the paths. To select everything within a window, move the mouse cursor to one corner of the window you want to draw. Hold down the left mouse button and move the mouse to the other corner of the desired window. After you release the mouse button, every path that lies within the drawn window is selected.

    You can also select paths using Select All By and Select Shortest.

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    The Coordinate System If you have previous CAD experience you may already understand coordinate systems. However, you need to be aware of how coordinates work in PlasmaCAM. If you do not have previous CAD experience, you can learn everything necessary for efficient operation of your machine from this manual. You will be amazed at how a little learning coupled with this software will empower you to design in ways you never thought you could.

    Shapes are stored and cut by PlasmaCAM using a basic coordinate system. A coordinate system is like an imaginary grid that locates points using pairs of numbers, called coordinates. The table shown below illustrates an example of such a grid and lists coordinates of three different types that could be used to draw (or represent) the shape shown in the grid. (To experiment, choose LINE and type in the coordinates listed.)

    Absolute

    (True) Coordinates

    (inches,inches)

    1,1 3,1 3,2

    2,2.577 1,2 1,1

    Relative Coordinates

    (inches,inches)

    1,1 @2,0 @0,1

    @-1,.577 @-1,-.577

    @0,-1

    Angular Relative

    Coordinates (degrees,inches)

    1,1

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    Pick Points on Screen The fastest and easiest way to enter coordinates is to simply pick points on screen with the mouse. To aid in this, the mouse cursor becomes a pair of crosshairs when the program expects you to enter a coordinate:

    To pick a point on screen, simply move the mouse until the cursor is located at the point you want to pick. Click once with the left mouse button. (Double-clicking is not required for any command, and you do not need to hold down the left mouse button except when selecting with a window.)

    Without the aid of snaps, picking coordinates on screen is not accurate. For example, you would not be able to draw a triangle that is exactly 1 inch on each side this way. However, the freehand approach works fine when accuracy is not an issue. Furthermore, many commands like Trim and Offset are totally impractical unless you pick points on screen.

    Pick Points on Screen with Snaps On In many circumstances, snaps combine the accuracy of coordinate entry with the speed and convenience of picking points on screen. When you pick a point, active snaps can cause the mouse cursor to snap (or jump) to nearby snap points. (See the SNAPS section below for details on the available snaps.) For example, if you pick near a path while Nodepoint Snap is activated, you will effectively pick exactly on the closest node of the nearby path.

    You can turn snaps off and on during commands, and you can activate more than one snap at one time.

    Some commands allow you to type in a number as an alternative to entering coordinates. For such commands, entering the numbers is often easier and more direct than entering coordinates. For example, when drawing a circle the status bar displays the prompt, Point on circle (or type diameter): after you pick the first coordinate. To draw a 1 inch diameter circle you can simply type 1 rather than entering a coordinate like @.5,0.

    Some commands allow many possible combinations of coordinate and number entry. You will always be aware of your options from the status bar prompt. However, it is wise to familiarize yourself with what is available. For example, scaling a shape so that it becomes exactly 20 inches long is almost as easy as scaling the shape by exactly 50 percent, but the procedures for entering the scaling information are very different. See each command for details.

    Tip

    To cancel a command while it is waiting for you to pick points, press the Escape key or click the right mouse button.

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    Snaps While drawing and editing a drawing, the software often asks you to pick points. Snaps allow you to quickly and precisely pick these points on screen with the mouse. Snaps work by adjusting the approximate point you pick so that it exactly fits some geometric criteria.

    Three types of snaps can be turned on or off at your request from either the VIEW menu or Drawing View under Settings. These are Snap to Grid, Snap Orthogonal, and Snap to Nodepoints. When one of these snaps is turned on, it stays on until you turn it off again.

    While you are in the middle of drawing or editing and the software asks you to pick a point, you can temporarily

    activate (or deactivate) a wide variety of snaps using the context menu, shown at right. This menu can be opened by pressing the middle mouse button, or the key on the keyboard. (If you do not have a 3 button mouse or a keyboard with the key, Windows lets you access a context menu by pressing Shift+F10.)

    Notice that each snap on the menu has one of its letters underlined, meaning that you can choose it by just typing the letter. If you remember the letter for a particular snap that you want, you can activate the snap before picking a point simply by typing the letterwithout opening the snap menu. After you activate or deactivate one of the pop-up snaps and then pick a point (or cancel the command), all the snaps revert to their previous states. You can always tell which snaps are activated by looking at the status bar:

    The snap pane of the status bar shows the one-letter abbreviations for all of the snaps that are currently active. In the example shown above, Grid Snap, Orthogonal Snap, and Nodepoint Snap are all active.

    Tip

    All snaps that act on arcs or circles (Center Snap, Quadrant Snap, Tangent Snap, and Perpendicular Snap) are affected by the number entered at Allowable arc deviation during recognize (inch) found in Path Conversion under Settings. This is because when you use one of these snaps, the software attempts to interpret the path you pick on as an arc.

    Center Snap Center Snap adjusts the point you pick (point p) so that it lies at the center of the arc or circle on which you pick (point s).

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    Quadrant Snap Quadrant Snap adjusts the point you pick (point p) so that it lies either at the top, bottom, right or left of the arcs circle. The chosen point (point s) is the point that actually lies on the arc and is closest to where you pick. For the example shown, the 9 oclock quadrant is closer to the point picked than the 12 oclock quadrant, but the 12 oclock quadrant is chosen because the 9 oclock quadrant does not actually lie on the arc.

    Tangent Snap Tangent Snap adjusts the point you pick (point p) so that it lies tangent (point s) on the arc or circle from the last point you picked (point l). In cases where there are two possible tangent points, as in the example shown, the closer tangent point is chosen.

    Intersection Snap Intersection Snap adjusts the point you pick (point p) so that it lies at the closest intersection found between two paths.

    Midpoint Snap Midpoint Snap adjusts the point you pick (point p) so that it lies at the midpoint of the path segment (point s) on which you pick.

    Endpoint Snap Endpoint Snap adjusts the point you pick (point p) so that it lies at the closest endpoint (point s) of the path on which you pick. The closest endpoint is the endpoint that is least distance away along the path (not in a straight line).

    On Path Snap On Path Snap adjusts the point you pick (point p) so that it lies exactly on the nearby path segment (point s).

    Perpendicular Snap Perpendicular Snap adjusts the point you pick (point p) so that an imaginary line drawn from the last point picked (point l) to the actual snap point (point s) is perpendicular to the path segment or arc on which you pick. Perpendicular Snap determines whether you picked an arc or a regular line segment. If an arc was picked, the perpendicular point is placed on the arc, and the imaginary line also lines up with the

  • 6-9

    arcs center. If a regular line segment is picked, the perpendicular point is calculated according to the segment picked, even if the point ends up off the end of the segment.

    Torch Point Snap Torch Point Snap automatically picks the current location of the torch over the cutting area. You dont have to pick a point first. The coordinate of the torch is shown in the status bar and also by the yellow cursor on screen. Torch Point Snap is useful for quickly moving a shape over to where the torch is.

    Table Edge Snap Table Edge Snap adjusts the point you pick (point p) so that it lies at the nearest edge of the cutting table area (point s). Table Edge Snap is like Perpendicular Snap making a perpendicular segment from the last point picked (point l)except that it looks for the nearest edge of the cutting area. If you pick near one of the cutting area corners or outside of a corner, then the snap point will be placed at the corner rather than perpendicular at the edge.

    Running Snaps The last three snaps on the list are enabled or disabled from the VIEW menu (see VIEW COMMANDS). When enabled, these snaps remain active until disabled, and are called running snaps. You can temporarily disable or enable one of these snaps from the snap menu. All three running snaps are overridden by the other snaps.

    Orthogonal Snap Orthogonal Snap affects some commands by allowing you to pick points that are directly to the right, left, top or bottom of the last point you picked. For example, you will be able to draw only horizontal or vertical lines with Orthogonal Snap enabled. (Orthogonal Snap overrides Grid Snap.)

    Grid Snap Grid Snap allows you to pick only points that are evenly spaced on a grid that you set up. See Drawing View under Settings for information on setting up the grid and snap spacing. For the example shown, Grid spacing (inches) was set to 1 and Snap points per grid point was set to 4. A rectangle is then drawn by hand, exactly 5 inches wide by 2.75 inches high, even though the points (1 and 2) are not picked in exactly the right places.

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    NodePoint Snap NodePoint Snap allows you to pick points that lie exactly on the nodes of preexisting paths. Each time you pick a point (point p), the program looks for a nearby node. If one is found, the point you picked is adjusted so that it lies on the node (point s). Among other things, NodePoint Snap allows you to place objects on the ends of other objects when moving, scale objects to exact sizes, and fix rotations. (NodePoint Snap can override both Grid Snap and Orthogonal Snap.)

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    File Commands Among other things, the FILE commands allow you to save your drawings for later use, transfer drawings to and from other programs, bring in scanned images, and print drawings. When you click FILE at the top of the program window, a menu appears (shown at right). Each command is explained separately in a different section below. (The four items shown above Exit are not actual FILE commands but are instead recent files. See Recent Files for more information.)

    New New erases everything in the current drawing and makes a new drawing. If the current drawing contains something that has not been saved, then you will be asked if you want to save it first:

    Choose Yes if later you might need something from the current drawing. Since you cannot Undo a New, you will have no other way of recovering the drawing. Choose Cancel if you realize that you are not yet ready to make a new drawing. If you choose No, the New command will continue without saving.

    Open Open loads a PlasmaCAM drawing from file on disk (see Import for loading other types of files). Since Open loads a new drawing, the current drawing, if any, will be lost. You may be asked to verify that you do not want to save the current drawing (see New). When you choose Open, the dialog box shown below appears.

    You can look through any directory or disk drive for the file you want to open by clicking on Look in. The drive and directory that is initially selected is actually the previous one you used. Once you find the file you want to open, click on the file name as it appears in the list. Under Files of type, you may notice that the only file type you can open is PlasmaCAM drawing files (*.pcm), and that only files of this type are displayed in the list.

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    Tip

    If you want to insert a PlasmaCAM drawing file into the current drawing you are working on, use Import.

    Save Save writes the current drawing to disk in the PlasmaCAM drawing file format (*.pcm). After it has been saved, the drawings file name can be seen in the titlebar (top) of the programs main window. If no name appears in the titlebar, then the drawing does not yet have a name. Choosing Save in such a case will have the same effect as choosing Save As.

    Save As Save As writes the current drawing to disk in the PlasmaCAM drawing file format (*.pcm, see Export for writing other types of files), giving it the file name that you specify. When you choose Save As, the following dialog box appears:

    Make sure that you will save the file in the desired drive and directory as specified at Save in. Then simply type in the name that you want to give to the file. The file extension .pcm will be

  • 6-13

    added to the file whether or not you type in the file name. If you want to wipe out a file that already exists and save your new file under the same name, simply click on the file from the list. You will be asked to verify that you want to overwrite this file:

    Import Import loads a drawing from file on disk from any one of several formats. Unlike Open, Import does not create a new drawing. Instead, it adds the file it is loading to the current drawing. Therefore, you can Undo an Import. When you choose Import, the following dialog box appears:

    This is similar to what you see when you choose Open. If you want to have drawings automatically cleaned up by the Link Segments command when you import them, check the box titled Link segments while importing. If necessary, you can directly access the link settings by pressing the Link Settings button (see Link Segments). Check Import as cut paths only if you want to have the entire imported drawing changed directly into cut paths, with no alterations to the geometry. For example, you can use this feature to directly load and run a G-Code program from another system.

    If you click on the down arrow next to Files of type, you will notice that you can choose from among several drawing file formats, as shown below. If you choose the last file type, G-Code; All Files (*.*), then the list of files will show every file in the folder (not just files with a selected file extension). You will then be able to import any type of file from the list. Each type of file that you can import is explained separately in the next several sections.

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    Tip

    If you want to use clipart images from Corel Draw, export the images as either DXF or bitmap, depending upon the image. Most of these images are best exported as DXF, because of the direct and accurate vector conversion. However, some images involve wide polylines and complex, overlapping vectors that are hard to clean up and resolve when imported as DXF. In such cases, export the image as a high resolution BMP to be imported by PlasmaCAM.

    Windows Bitmap Files (*.bmp) Scanned pictures are imported into the program as Windows bitmap files. A bitmap file stores a picture as many small dots of various colors arranged in a large grid. These dots are square in shape and are called pixels. For example, the following shows how a doughnut is converted to a black & white, 10 pixel wide by 10 pixel tall bitmap:

    If a bitmap uses a larger number of pixels to store a picture, then the resolution is higher and the bitmap more closely resembles the original picture.

    As you can imagine, a bitmap file by itself is not useful for cutting out a part. Instead, the bitmap must be converted into groups of connected lines (or vectors) that can be used as cutting paths for a machine to follow. When you choose a Windows bitmap file on Import, you are taken through a series of steps during which the program attempts to convert the bitmap file into continuous paths (or vectors) that are useful for cutting out the shapes. These steps are described in the following pages.

    Tip

    Many photographs do not have enough contrast between foreground and background colors to be converted automatically. However, you can still make parts from such images if you first open them in another graphics program and manually fix them up (such as Windows Paint or Corel PhotoPaint). Zoom in close to the edge of the bitmap and manually trace it out using an eraser or a pen. Work around the entire perimeter, carefully tracing the edge so that it is accurate. This will provide a clear boundary of colors that can be easily extracted by the PlasmaCAM software.

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    Step 1: Separate the colors into background and foreground, so the bitmap can be converted into a black & white image

    The preview window shows you what the bitmap file looks like. If the image is not square in shape, it is stretched to fit in the square window. Do not be concerned by this disproportioning, because it will not be reflected in the final result.

    If you believe that the wrong bitmap file was selected, click the Previous button to select a different file.

    Each of the colors that is used in the bitmap is shown on a button at the right side of the dialog. You can click one or more buttons to select the background colors. Alternatively, you can click Select All and then click one or more buttons to unselect the foreground colors.

    If you place the mouse cursor over the preview of the bitmap, you will notice that a color button will be highlighted showing you which color belongs to the pixel that is directly under the cursor. As you move the cursor, you will notice that the selected button will change. Clicking over the preview has the same effect as clicking on the highlighted button. You will find this useful for locating and selecting background colors.

    Once you have finished separating the background colors from the foreground colors, click the Next button. The preview will then show the image with the color separation applied. If you want to readjust the colors, click the Previous button.

    Tips

    Separating colors of black & white bitmaps is easy because you just click the white button.

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    (Click the black button only if the image is reversed.)

    You can only import 2, 16 and 256 color bitmaps. If a bitmap file has more colors, first open it with Windows Paint (a program included with Windows) and save it as a 256 color bitmap. If you are using a scanner to generate the bitmap files, save yourself time and disk space by scanning the pictures as 256 color or lower color bitmaps. Use another graphics program to convert other bitmap file types (such as TIFF) to Windows Bitmaps.

    Step 2: Remove speckles, holes and gaps; and hollow or thin the image.

    Image Type

    Under Image Type, Solid is checked automatically. (You can convert outline drawings to solid images using flood fill in other graphics programs like Windows Paint or Corel PhotoPaint.)

    Removing speckles and holes

    The program can remove unwanted speckles (black) and holes (white) from the image. If you closely examine bitmaps, you will notice that these defects are present in almost every scanned image. If they are not removed, they will eventually cause problems when you try to cut out the shapes. (To find and remove such defects after they have been converted to vectors, see Detect Intersections, Select Shortest, and Link Segments.) You must tell the program how big of defects it can remove. It will then remove all speckles and holes that are equal to or less than the widths you specifyin pixelsboth in width and in height. (The amount of time spent by the program looking for defects does not depend on the sizes you specify, unless you specify zero, in which case no time is required.)

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    Saving the current bitmap

    You can use the Save the Current Bitmap button to save a bitmap after it has been transformed by any number of the conversion steps. The new bitmap file can then either be imported by PlasmaCAM or used by other programs.

    Hollowing or Thinning the image

    After you press the Next button, solid bitmaps are automatically hollowed so they become outline bitmaps with 1 pixel wide lines. If the bitmap is already an outline type, it is automatically thinned to ensure that the lines are only 1 pixel wide.

    Step 3: Converting the cleaned up bitmap to vectors.

    Setting the resolution

    The default resolution is extracted from the bitmap file. However, many programs do not properly set this number. If you want to make sure that a scanned image stays the same size, verify that the resolution is set the same as the resolution you chose when scanning the image. Otherwise, you can resize the shape later (see Scale).

    Smoothing

    Set the smooth distance, in pixels. Although 0.7 to 3 works well in general, you will need to experiment to find what works best for you. (If you are not sure what number to use, you can skip smoothing now and use the Smooth command later, using Undo as needed.) If you enter 0, then no smoothing will be done to the vectors. This means that lines in the drawing will

  • 6-18

    connect each pixel to each adjacent pixel of the bitmap outline.

    In most cases, using Find arcs during smoothing of a bitmap image will result in a higher quality shape. Note that the program settings change if you check this box (Path Conversion page). See Smooth for information on how smoothing, including arc recognition, works.

    Converting the bitmap to vectors

    After you click the Next button, the outline bitmap is converted to lines in the drawing. The drawing is then shown on screen while smoothing takes place.

    Tips

    After scanned images have been imported, they may still contain defects. To find and remove such defects, see Detect Intersections, Select Shortest and Link Segments.

    You can correct for scanner non-squareness by using the Slant command after Import. The process of scanning an image, converting it, and cutting it out is like photocopying. In

    particular, the copy will always be of less quality than the original. If you are trying to cut large, high resolution shapes from scanned images, you must begin with very high quality artwork. Be sure to scan at a high resolution, and to carefully convert the image so as not to deteriorate it more than necessary. Keep in mind that all the defects will greatly enlarge along with the rest of the image.

    AutoCAD DXF Files (*.dxf) Files saved in the Drawing Exchange Format (DXF) can be imported from AutoCAD and many other programs. In fact, most CAD (computer-aided drafting) programs can save drawings as DXF files. Consult your softwares instruction manual to learn how to do this.

    Most CAD programs will not import DXF files that contain any unexpected data. Since each program writes slightly different DXF files, different CAD programs can find the transfer of drawings to one another through DXF difficult or impossible. However, PlasmaCAM will help you to avoid these problems. When you import a DXF file, the program will attempt to read everything useful from iteven if the file is full of trash that doesnt belong. (See Export to learn how PlasmaCAM writes DXF files that are easy for other programs to import.)

    Because PlasmaCAM focuses on cutting metal shapes from computer files, the program does not perform many of the typical CAD functions. For this reason, many of the possible geometries found in a DXF file are ignored when imported. The following table shows which DXF geometries are recognized, and which are ignored:

    DXF Geometries that are Imported DXF Features that are Ignored Lines Arcs

    Circles Blocks (Inserts)

    Traces

    Polylines Polyline Splines Polyline Bulges Wide Polylines

    Dimensions Text

    Points (solitary) Shapes (hex-coded)

    3D Lines

    3D Faces Line Styles/Colors

    Attributes other DXF entities

    When you import a file, everything is converted into paths made up of line segments. Even circles and arcs are converted into groups of line segments. You can adjust the resolution at which this conversion happens at Arc resolution (lines in a 1 inch circle) in the Settings dialog. (Settings can be accessed by either the VIEW menu, the MACHINE menu, or by pressing Tab. When the dialog box appears, click the Path Conversion tab at the top.)

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    Note that when you export a DXF file, these shapes can be automatically converted back into arcs and circles (see Export). You can adjust what will be recognized as an arc or circle at Arc recognition tolerance (inch).

    PlasmaCAM Files (*.pcm) Importing a PlasmaCAM file has the same effect as Open, except that the file is added to the current drawing. Use this feature to insert one drawing into another drawing.

    HPGL/2 Plot Files (*.plt;*.prn) The Hewlett-Packard Graphics Language (HPGL) was originally developed so that computers could tell pen plotters how to draw shapes on paper. HPGL/2 is a more recent and simplified development that is now a widely recognized vector format. Because Windows supports a wide variety of printers and plotters, you can use HPGL/2 to transfer designs into PlasmaCAM from almost any Windows program that can print.

    To set up a HPGL/2 plotter on your computer, choose Printers under Settings from the Windows START menu. Double click Add Printer and choose a HPGL/2 compatible plotter capable of plotting on a large sheet (such as HP DraftMaster II). Configure the plotter so it prints to a file, rather than to a port. You can then specify the file each time you print to this plotter from another program. After printing is complete, the file can be imported into PlasmaCAM.

    When Windows creates a print or plot file, it gives it the extension .prn. Otherwise, the standard file extension for HPGL/2 is .plt. If you want to import a file with another file extension that you believe is an HPGL/2 file, first rename the file extension to .plt or .prn.

    Of the dozens of HPGL and HPGL/2 commands that can be used in a plotter file, many do not make a useful contribution to a PlasmaCAM drawing. For this reason, some parts of a file that you import may be ignored. Also HPGL/2 draws shapes in relatively course plotter units; this sometimes causes an imported drawing to appear bristly and poor in quality. You can control these factors to some degree by varying the type of plotter another program writes to. Nevertheless, HPGL/2 is simply not as accurate of a vector format as DXF.

    Spreadsheet Text (*.csv) When you import a CSV file, the program draws multiple paths directly from the coordinates given in the file. You can manually create a CSV file with a text editor simply by typing in X and Y coordinates (each separated by a comma) for all of the vertices of the paths you want to create. Individual paths are separated by blank lines in the text file. For example, the following table shows how a CSV file is imported and converted into a drawing of a line inside of a square:

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    Imported File Contents (all text) Imported Drawing 0.000000,0.000000 0.000000,2.000000 2.000000,2.000000 2.000000,0.000000 0.000000,0.000000

    0.462644,0.099138 1.581609,1.818678

    Because CSV files can be imported and exported by spreadsheet programs (like Microsoft Excel), you can generate special mathematical curves and include them in your drawings. For example, PlasmaCAM does not directly allow you to draw a sine wave. However, you can easily generate the coordinates for a sine wave in a spreadsheet, which is then imported into PlasmaCAM. You can also use the CSV format to distort drawings in clever mathematical ways.

    G-Code; All Files (*.*) G-Code is perhaps the most standard and common format for storing CNC programs. PlasmaCAM can import G-Code that was originally written for the purpose of controlling another CNC machine. The G-Code program is imported as a drawing just like any other format. This means you can manipulate the shapes in many possible ways. If you just want to load a G-Code program and run on the PlasmaCAM table, check Import as Cut Paths. The shapes are then ready to cut.

    Although G-Code is used for controlling many types of automated machines, you will find that programs from basic 2-axis cutting tables are easiest to import and use. The following list gives some example CNC machines that you may be able to import from and export to with G-Code:

    Router Tables Waterjet Cutters Laser Cutters High Definition Plasma Cutters Flame Cutters

    Only four G commands (and no M commands) are considered useful and are recognized by PlasmaCAM during the importing of a G-Code file:

    G Command Meaning to PlasmaCAM values to specify G00 G01 G02 G03

    Rapid Feed Linear Cut Circular Cut, Clockwise Circular Cut, Counter-Clockwise

    X and Y of destination X and Y of destination X and Y of destination; I and J of arc center X and Y of destination; I and J of arc center

    When you export to G-Code, you can have other commands included in your files (see Export).

    Because no standard file extension exists for G-Code files, you can find and import G-Code files regardless of their extensions. When Files of type is set to G-Code; All Files (*.*), you can find and select other types of files. If you attempt to import a file that is not recognized as either a .bmp, .dxf, .pcm, .plt, .prn or .csv, then PlasmaCAM will attempt to interpret the file as G-Code.

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    Export Export writes the current drawing to disk in one of several possible formats. The exported files can then be opened by other programs. When you choose Export, the following dialog box appears:

    This is similar to what you see when you choose Save As. If you click on the down arrow next to Files of type, you will notice that you can choose from among a few drawing file formats:

    If you choose the last file type, G-Code; All Files (*.*), then the list of files will show every file in the folder (not just files with a selected file extension).

    Although PlasmaCAM drawings are composed entirely of paths made up of line segments, other programs may be able to handle the drawings more efficiently and accurately if they denote shapes differently. For this reason, exported drawings can be made to contain different combinations of the following entities (under Recognize the following entities):

    1. Lines (always checked) 2. Arcs/Circles (DXF or G-Code) 3. Polylines (DXF only)

    If you are exporting a DXF file to a CAD program that does not recognize polylines, make sure Polylines remains unchecked. This will convert all exported paths to individual line segments (like Explode), unless arcs or circles are extracted. To create the most compact and mathematically regular DXF (or G-Code) file, check both Arcs/Circles and Polylines. If you want to ensure that the exported file is geometrically identical to the current drawing, check Polylines only. Each type of file that you can export is explained separately in the next few sections (see Import

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    for more information on these file types):

    AutoCAD DXF Files (*.dxf) When PlasmaCAM exports a DXF file, only a minimal amount of information is stored in addition to the actual drawing entities. This helps keep file sizes small, and even large drawings can usually be transferred by normal floppy disks. Furthermore, other CAD programs are much more likely to import PlasmaCAM DXF files without problems than typical DXF files. Depending upon what you check under Recognize the following entities, exported DXF files can contain any of the following entities:

    Lines Arcs Circles

    Polylines Polyline Bulges

    You can control how the software recognizes arcs and circles from Settings (see Import).

    Spreadsheet Text (*.csv) Choose this file type to export an entire drawing as a text file. The file simply contains the coordinates of all the shapes in the drawing. Separate paths are separated in the file by blank lines. Since the CSV format simply contains numbers separated by commas, these files can be imported by common spreadsheet programs. Among other things, you can use the CSV format to distort drawings in clever mathematical ways.

    G-Code; All Files (*.*) When you select G-Code files, all files will be shown in the current folder. This is because no standard file extension exists for G-Code files. If you choose to overwrite an existing file by selecting it, be careful not to choose a file of a different type. When typing in a file name, be sure to also type the file extension. Otherwise, none will be added.

    PlasmaCAM is so powerful for getting designs into manufacturing, many companies are using the software for programming other types of CNC machines. If you have an older CNC machine with only primitive software, you may be able to avoid a lot of problems by directly creating G-Code programs from PlasmaCAM. Before you export to G-Code, make sure your drawing meets the following criteria:

    Everything in the drawing should be converted to cut paths (see Convert to Cut Path and Select All By).

    The shapes you are going to cut should be properly positioned, according to the coordinate system of the machine you are exporting to (see Move).

    All of the paths should be arranged in the correct order. The drawing should be free of defects. When you export to G-Code, PlasmaCAM only generates up to 4 types of G commands (no M commands). These are:

  • 6-23

    G Command Meaning to PlasmaCAM Values Specified after G Command G00 G01 *G02 *G03

    Rapid Feed Linear Cut Circular Cut, Clockwise Circular Cut, Counter-Clockwise

    X and Y of destination X and Y of destination X and Y of destination; I and J of arc center X and Y of destination; I and J of arc center

    *only generated if you check Arcs/Circles under Recognize the following entities. Many CNC machines require additional commands in various places of the program in order to be able to properly cut out the shapes. After you click the Save button, the following dialog box appears:

    The lines of code that you enter into the various boxes will be added to the G-Code programs that you export. The following example shows what part of a G-Code program might look like after you export using the above settings:

    G01X1.2200Y6.5000 G01X1.2300Y7.9000 G01X1.2400Y9.8000 M61 G0 G00X3.0000Y36.0000 M98P0100 G1B20F10.S1500T100 G1B65F80.S1500T1000 G01X4.0000Y36.0000 G02X6.0000Y36.0000I5.0000Y36.0000 G01X6.0000Y37.0000

    Notice that extra lines of G-Code are added before and after each G00 command generated by PlasmaCAM. Likewise, program lines will be added to the start and end of the file. Dont check Use line numbers unless you have to. The best way to set up this information is to open a G-Code file that you already know works in

  • 6-24

    your CNC machine (use Microsoft Notepad that comes with Windows). To place a section of the G-Code program into the PlasmaCAM dialog box, highlight it and copy it to the Clipboard (Ctrl + C). Switch to PlasmaCAM and place the mouse cursor where you want the information inserted in the dialog box. Then simply paste the information (Ctrl + V). If you press OK, the G-Code configuration will be saved and used in the future (otherwise, press Cancel). To verify that PlasmaCAM can export valid G-Code programs, first import the file that you already know works in your CNC machine. Then export the file with a new file name. You can then carefully compare the two files to make sure that they are identical. If you find a mistake, you can fix it in the PlasmaCAM dialog box and try again.

    Print Print is used to print the current drawing. If you plan to do much printing with the same computer that is used to control the machine, make sure that the computer has two parallel ports installed (see CHAPTER 4). When you choose Print, the following dialog box appears:

    You can choose from among any printer installed on your computer under Name. (Consult your printer manual for setting up your printer on your computer.) Click the Properties button to configure the selected printer; this has the same effect as choosing Print Setup from the FILE menu. Click the Preview button to see what the printout will look like before you make it; this has the same effect as choosing Print Preview from the FILE menu. (To return to the Print dialog after choosing Preview, you must click the Print button in the preview window.) If you want to print the current drawing on paper in the same way that it appears on screen, check Scale to fit window. To print the entire drawing or a selected part of the drawing, choose Zoom Extents or Zoom Selection before you print.

    If you dont want the drawing sized to fit the page but instead want it scaled by a certain amount, uncheck Scale to fit window and enter the scale factor, as a percentage, at Scaling (%). Regardless of the scaling, PlasmaCAM prints drawings such that the center of the window on screen prints at the center of the page.

    For most printers, you can adjust how heavily the lines print by adjusting Line width (pixels).

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    Print Preview Print Preview shows you what the drawing will look like on paper if you print it using the currently selected print setup. When you choose Print Preview, the following window appears (showing whatever is in your drawing):

    If you click the Close button, no printing will take place. To continue with the print process, click the Print button; this has the same effect as choosing Print from the FILE menu. To adjust the placement of the drawing on paper, click the Close button and use the scroll bars to adjust the placement of the drawing on the screen. You can make the printed image smaller or larger either by rezooming the image on screen (see Zoom Window), or by adjusting the scaling in the print dialog box (see Print).

    Print Setup Print Setup can be used to select which printer you want to print to (if you have more than one), or to adjust settings that are specific to your printer. After you choose Print Setup, a dialog box like the following will appear. (The example shown below is for a Hewlett Packard LaserJet 5L.)

    Although the Landscape orientation is normally used, you can also print a drawing in the Portrait orientation.

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    Recent Files Between Print Setup and Exit on the FILE menu, up to four recent files may appear. These are the last four PlasmaCAM files (*.pcm) that you opened or saved on the computer. The following shows an example:

    If you want to open a file that you have used recently, you dont have to search for it in the directory structure. Instead, simply choose the recent file from the menu. This will have the same effect as choosing Open, then finding and selecting the same file. If one of the recent files has been moved, renamed or deleted since it was last open in PlasmaCAM, then you will not be able to open it using the recent file list (see Open).

    Exit To quit the program, choose Exit. You can also click on the X at the top right corner of the window to close the program. If the program is busy and wont respond, you can close it immediately and later restart it if you really want to. (Keep in mind that your drawing will be lost and also any settings that you changed since starting the program.) To force a program to close immediately, press Ctrl + Alt + Delete. This will bring up a list of running programs, with PlasmaCAM selected. You can then click End Task and Shut Down to force the program to close.

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    Edit Commands EDIT commands allow you to modify parts of the drawing you are working on. You can remove objects that you dont want, make copies of objects that you want more of, and change the sizes and shapes of other objects in many possible ways. When you click EDIT at the top of the program window, a menu appears (shown at right). Each command is explained separately in a different section below.

    When you are using the program, you will sometimes notice that many of the commands are grayed outmeaning that you cannot use them. Many of the EDIT commands cannot be executed until you select something (see THE DRAWING in this chapter).

    Undo Undo takes back the last change that you made to the drawing. You can undo up to 10 of the last changes. Everything that is undone can also be redone (see Redo).

    Undo only works for commands that actually modify the current drawing (change or erase current paths, or add new paths). For example, Undo does not take back VIEW commands (use Zoom Previous instead) or changes to Settings. You cannot undo New, Open or any commands occurring before them, because these commands abandon the current drawing and make a new one. Before doing this, both New and Open ask you to verify that you do not want to save the current drawingif you have not already. Undos and Redos are not saved with drawings, so you cannot open a drawing and Undo changes made before it was saved.

    Redo Redo takes back the last Undo. You can redo as many of the previous Undos as you want. However, you cannot take back an Undo that occurred before a command that changed the drawing. For example suppose that you move a line, then undo the fact that it was moved. If you then Delete the line, you will not be able to choose Redo in an attempt to repeat the Move command. This is because the line is no longer in the drawing, so how could it be moved? Therefore be sure not to modify the drawing if you just Undo to take back complex operations which you are planning to reinstate with Redo.

    Delete Delete removes all of the selected paths from the drawing.

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    Move Move transports all of the selected paths from one point in the drawing to another. First pick the point you want to move from (point 1), then pick the point you want to move to (point 2). The result is the same whether the points are on or off of paths in the drawing.

    Copy Copy makes duplicates of the selected paths and transfers them from one point to others. Copy is very similar to Move. First, pick the point you want to move the duplicates from (point 1), then pick the point(s) you want to place the new duplicates (points 2,3, etc). You can place an unlimited number of copies throughout the drawing, so you will need to cancel the function (right mouse button or Escape key) when you are done. Note that the Undo command takes back copies that are made one at a time.

    Stretch Points Stretch Points is like Move, except that it moves a selection of nodes instead of a selection of paths. For this reason, the Stretch Points command ignores what you currently have selected. After choosing Stretch Points, draw a window around the nodes you want to stretch (points 1 and 2). Then pick where you want to move the selected nodes from (point 3) and where you want to move the nodes to (point 4).

    Rotate Rotate turns all of the selected paths around a base point that you must pick. First select the base point of rotation (point 1). Then select the point you want to rotate from (point 2) and the point you want to rotate to (point 3). These three points can be anywhere in the drawing.

    Note that you can type in angles instead of picking points for either step 2 or 3. For example, you can rotate an object counter-clockwise 45 degrees simply by typing 45 after you pick point 1 (type negative angles for clockwise rotation). Or suppose you wanted to rotate the example drawing so that

    point 3 is directly above point 1. You could simply type 90 after picking point 2 (see THE COORDINATE SYSTEM in this chapter for more information on angles).

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    Scale Scale reduces or enlarges all of the selected paths about a base point that you must pick. First select the base point (point 1). Then, select the point you want to scale from (point 2) and the point you want to scale to (point 3). These three points can be anywhere in the drawing.

    Note that you can type in numbers instead of picking points for either step 2 or 3. For example, you can reduce an object to 65% its size simply by typing .65 after you pick point 1 (use numbers larger than 1.0 to enlarge the

    size). Or suppose you wanted to scale the example drawing so that the distance from point 3 to point 1 is exactly 12 inches. You would simply type 12 after picking point 2.

    Scale Height Scale Height is identical to Scale, except that it affects only the height of objects (or Y coordinates). Use Scale Height in conjunction with Scale to make your designs taller, shorter, wider or narrower. You will find this command particularly useful when working with text. First select the base point (point 1). Then, select the point you want to scale from (point 2) and the point you want to scale to (point 3). These three points can be anywhere in the drawing, and the Scale Height command ignores how far right or left these points are when calculating the new shape.

    Note that you can type in numbers instead of picking points for either step 2 or 3. For example, you can make an object 65% of its original height simply by typing .65 after you pick point 1 (use numbers larger than 1.0 to increase the height). Or suppose you wanted to size the example drawing so that the height of point 3 above point 1 is exactly 12 inches. You would simply type 12 after picking point 2.

    Slant Slant leans all of the selected paths to the right or left. First pick the base point (point 1), which is the point that will remain unmoved during slanting. Then pick where you want to slant from (point 2) and where you want to slant to (point 3).

    Note that you can type in angles instead of picking points for either step 2 or 3. For example, you can slant a design 30

    degrees to the left by typing 30 after you pick point 1 (type negative angles to slant to the right). Or suppose that the segment from point 1 to 2 in the example had not been vertical, but you wanted it to be angled 20 degrees to the right after slanting. You would simply type -20 after picking points 1 and 2.

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    Mirror Mirror reverses all of the selected paths by flipping them across a mirror line. During a mirror the path nodes remain the same distance from the mirror line, but they move to the opposite side of the line. This results in a reversed image with placement and rotation controlled by the mirror line you draw. When you Mirror an object, simply pick points 1 and 2 of the mirror line.

    Offset Offset shifts a path inward or outward by a specified distance. Offset is particularly useful for compensating for torch kerf when you are converting a drawing to cut paths, and can be done automatically (see Path Conversion under Settings). To offset paths, first type in the offset distance. You can also pick points 1 and 2, and the offset distance becomes the distance between these two points. Next pick on a path you

    want to offset (point 3). You must pick slightly to one side of the path, so the path will be offset in that direction. You can continue offsetting paths the same distance by clicking on them, so you will need to cancel the function (right mouse button or Escape key) when you are done. Note that the Undo command takes back offsets one at a time.

    Link Segments Link Segments joins together individual line segments and paths that are near each other in the drawing. Link Segments works to prepare imperfect drawings for cutting on the machine. (Imported files can be linked automatically; see Import.) Simply select paths that you want joined to nearby paths. You can link multiple paths at once. For each path that is selected, Link Segments will find and connect all nearby paths. For paths that can be knitted together to form

    complete closed loops, the paths will be changed to purple (see THE DRAWING in this chapter for more information on the three different types of paths). You will find two numbers in the Settings dialog under Automatic Linking of Path Segments which control how Link Segments operates. (Settings can be accessed by either the VIEW menu, the MACHINE menu, or by pressing Tab. When the dialog box appears, click the Path Conversion tab at the top.)

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    Separate line and arc segments in a drawing often appear to connect to each other at their endpoints, but on a microscopic scale they do not. In order to join together these pieces and form a continuous path that the machine can cut along, the small gaps between them must be ignored. You can adjust the Gap distance to jump (inch). Separate segments that are farther apart than this distance will remain separate during the linking process. Segments that are nearer to each other will be linked together.

    Sometimes a drawing contains segments that overlap other segments. Although these glitches can be removed manually, removing them automatically with Link Segments is often much more convenient. To do this, adjust the Delete overlapping segments within (inch). During linking, segments that are found to lie within this distance of segments being linked are considered overlapping and are erased from the drawing. Disable this function when not needed by setting to zero.

    Tip

    During normal use, keep the gap distance to ignore small. This will help keep your drawings from being distorted in unexpected ways. You can always increase the gap distance and relink if necessary. Also, disable the option to destroy overlapping segments during normal use by entering zero for the setting. The Link Segments command takes much less time if it does not have to also find and destroy overlapping segments. Also, your drawing will less likely be distorted in unexpected ways if you keep this feature disabled. If you later suspect that a drawing contains overlapping segments (see Detect Intersections and Select Shortest), then relink the questionable areas with the option to destroy overlapping segments enabled. If the problem segments are not removed, try exploding (see Explode) the paths and relinking them.

    Explode Explode is the opposite of Link Segments. Explode breaks all selected paths into several individual line segments. For example, a rectangle explodes into four individual line segments. A circle will explode into a large number of line segments.

    Edit Path Edit Path is useful both for shifting around individual nodes of a path and for finding out information about a path. If you want to edit a path beginning at its first node, then select the path before doing Edit Path. If you want to edit a path beginning at some other node on the path, make sure nothing is selected before doing Edit Path. Then pick where on the path you want to begin editing (point 1). You can move this node by picking at a new location (point 2). Use Ctrl + the

    Right Arrow key to move down the path by one node. Use Ctrl + the Left Arrow key to move up the path by one node. You can insert an extra node into the path during editing if you press the Insert key. Use the Delete key to remove the current node. You can edit an unlimited number of nodes along a path, so you will need to cancel the function (right mouse button or Escape key) when you are done.

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    Tips

    You can walk your way down a path to check its integrity and look for hidden defects by holding down the Right Arrow or Left Arrow key while editing a path.

    You can find out where a path begins by selecting it and editing it. You can then find out where it ends by pressing the left arrow key once.

    Type in relative coordinates to move a node by a certain amount (see THE COORDINATE SYSTEM in this chapter). For example, type @1,0 to move the current node 1 inch to the right.

    Break Break converts one path into two separate paths. Pick where you want to break the path; this point becomes the junction between the two new individual paths. Keep in mind that snaps may affect where a path is broken (see SNAPS in this chapter). You will often find it useful to run Snap to Nodepoints during Break. This causes the path to be broken right at the node that is closest to where you pick. Otherwise

    the path will be broken between nodes, resulting in the creation of new nodes at the break point. You can break an unlimited number of paths, so you will need to cancel the function (right mouse button or Escape key) when you are done.

    Trim/Extend Use Trim to erase the part of a path that intersects other paths. Use Extend to lengthen the end of a path until it intersects another path. Pick on a path to Trim it, or pick just off the end of a path to Extend it. You can Trim or Extend an unlimited number of paths, so you will need to cancel the function (right mouse button or Escape key) when you are done. Remember that each Undo will take back only one Trim/Extend at a time.

    Tip

    The Trim/Extend command may take a long time to trim away a large section of a very complex path. You can avoid this by first breaking (see Break) the path you want to trim, near the other path(s) that it will be trimmed to. You can then delete the unwanted section of the broken path and quickly trim what is left.

    Smooth Smooth removes unnecessary and stray nodes from the selected paths. To smooth out paths, first type in the smooth distance. You can also pick points 1 and 2, and the smooth distance becomes the distance between these two points. During smoothing, all extra nodes that

    are within the smooth distance of the final smoothed shape are removed.

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    Smooth can also recognize arcs in a shape while it is being transformed. You will find a check box in the Settings dialog under Arc Conversion which controls whether or not Smooth recognizes arcs. (Settings can be accessed by either the VIEW menu, the MACHINE menu, or by pressing Tab. When the dialog box appears, click the Path Conversion tab at the top.)

    With this feature enabled, Smooth will replace a choppy shape with arc segments as well as line segments, depending upon what is appropriate. In either case, the new shape always lies within the smooth distance of the original shape. Arc recognition works especially well when importing a bitmap, because the image reclaims a well-contoured shape. Note that when you import a bitmap image, Smooth is automatically used to clean up the shape (see Import).

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    View Commands View commands allow you to change your viewpoint as you work on the current drawing. Since the maximum size and complexity of a drawing seems almost unlimited, you need to be able to work on drawings without being limited by the computer screen. The Zoom commands allow you to quickly look at any part of the drawing at almost any magnification.

    The Snap commands help you to control the points where you pick on screen (see also SNAPS).

    When you click View at the top of the program window, a menu appears (shown at right). Each command is explained separately in a different section below.

    Scroll Bars/Arrow Keys Not appearing on any menu is the ability to easily scroll (or pan) around the drawing. You can drag the sliders of the scroll bars to manually pan around the drawing. If you click on the arrow at an end of either scroll bar, the drawing will pan by about 1/10th the screen width (or height). You can also click just to the inside of an arrow to pan the drawing by about the screen width (or height). The following shows the horizontal scroll bar (see USING THE PROGRAM in this chapter for an illustration of both scroll bars).

    Slider - drag to panArrow - click to pan 1/10th a screen Click here to pan about a screen

    A much faster (but not as controllable) way to pan around the drawing is to press any of the four arrow keys on the keyboard. This will move the drawing across the screen by the screen width (or height).

    Zoom Window Zoom Window is probably the most frequently used command in the program. It is a quick and effective way to magnify part of the drawing. For this reason, Zoom Window is conveniently placed at the top of the menu and at the F1 key. After you choose Zoom Window, you are asked to pick two points on screen (corners of the window). You draw a zoom window in the same manner as you would draw a rectangle (see Rectangle). After the box is drawn around the part of the drawing you want to magnify, the screen is redrawn with the area inside of the box magnified to fill the screen.

    Zoom Previous Zoom Previous is like an Undo for zoom commands. When you select Zoom Previous, the screen is redrawn with the same viewpoint as you had before the last zoom command. You Zoom Previous through up to 10 of the previous consecutive viewpoints. Note that Zoom Previous ignores any scrolling that takes place.

  • 6-35

    Zoom Selection Zoom Selection adjusts the viewpoint and redraws the screen so that selected paths in the drawing are magnified to fill the screen. You must first select path(s) in the drawing, otherwise you will not be able to choose Zoom Selection. Zoom Selection is just like Zoom Extents, except that it focuses only on what is selected, not the entire drawing.

    Zoom Extents Zoom Extents adjusts the viewpoint and redraws the screen so that the entire drawing fits just within the screen. Zoom Extents is the second most commonly used command, and is conveniently placed at the F4 key.

    Zoom Table Zoom Table adjusts the viewpoint and redraws the screen so that the 4ft by 4ft cutting area fits just within the screen. If you have a larger total cutting area set under Cutting area (see Drawing View under Settings), you will be asked to pick inside of one of the 4ft by 4ft cutting areas, choosing which cutting area will be shown on screen.

    Zoom Out Zoom Out decreases the current magnification by a factor of two, showing you a larger area of the drawing.

    Snaps Snaps are drawing aids that allow you to pick exact points with the mouse while drawing or editing, rather than picking approximate points on screen by eye. You can enable or disable three types of running snaps while you are drawing. These snaps remain on until you turn them off again, either from the menu, or from Drawing View under Settings. To temporarily activate or deactivate snaps while drawing, pop up the context menu. (See SNAPS in this chapter for more complete information on these and other types of snaps.)

    Snap Orthogonal affects some commands by allowing you to pick points that are directly to the right, left, top or bottom of the last point you picked.

    Snap to Grid allows you to pick only points that are evenly spaced on a grid that you set up.

    Snap to NodePoints allows you to pick points that lie exactly on the nodes of preexisting paths.

    Measure Measure does one of two possible actions, depending on whether or not you have anything selected when you choose Measure. If you select paths before choosing Measure, then the program tells you information about the paths you selected. For example, suppose we select the objects shown at right, then choose Measure. The dialog box shown below appears. If you select only cut paths before cutting, then you

    can interpret the number of paths shown as the number of pierces required during cutting, and the total path length as the net cutting distance. You can even approximate cutting time by dividing the total path length by the cut speed.

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    If you have nothing selected when you choose Measure, the program allows you to measure from one point to another in the drawing. For the example shown at right, the dialog box shown below appears. You are shown the exact coordinates of the two points you picked, as well as the angle and distance between them (see THE COORDINATE SYSTEM in this chapter for more information on coordinates).

    Select All By Select All By allows you to select every path in the drawing. You can also control what types of paths you select. For example, you can just select all machine paths in the drawing. When you choose Select All By, the following dialog box appears:

    You can check any combination of the three types of paths to select. For example, suppose you have a drawing made up of closed and open paths that you want to cut. You can save the drawing, then convert all of the paths to cut paths, offsetting some as appropriate. If you then want to compare the cut paths to the original drawing, you can insert the original drawing (with Import). After adjusting the cut paths somewhat, you need to delete everything from the original drawing. You can use Select All By, checking every type except machine paths, followed by Delete.

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    Select Shortest Select Shortest is used mostly for finding and removing tiny residual defects from a drawing. You must first select a group of paths that you want to extract the shortest paths from. (Make a selection window around a group of paths or use Select All By). When you choose Select Shortest, the following dialog box appears:

    The list contains up to 100 of the shortest paths from the selection. (All selected paths will appear on the list if the selection contains less than 100.) The list is sorted so that the shortest paths appear first on the list. The two numbers appearing at each row are the total path length (inches) and the number of nodes the path contains. You can scroll down the list and choose the paths that you want selected in the drawing, selecting as many at one time as you need to. Each time you select an item from the list, that path is selected in the drawing (and you can see it turn green on screen). Often the short paths you select will be too small to see. After you click OK, you can magnify and find a selected short path using Zoom Selection.

    Redraw Screen Redraw Screen erases everything on screen and repaints it, without changing the viewpoint. When you are doing heavy amounts of editing, you may notice residual pixels appearing on screen that are not actually part of the drawing. Also, parts of the drawing or grid may be temporarily obstructed and appear to begin disappearing. Every time you choose a zoom command, these anomalies are cleared off the screen. However, you will periodically want to redraw the screen without rezooming.

    Settings When you choose Settings from the VIEW menu, the following dialog box appears. (You can also access Machine Control, Height Control, System Setup, and Configurations settings by clicking these tabs at the top of the window. For an explanation of these, see Settings under MACHINE commands.) For an explanation of the Path Conversion settings, see Import, Link Segments and Convert to Cut Path.

    Grid Displaying a drawing grid on screen can help you to draw and place shapes with geometric precision. If you check Show grid, a regular grid of small dots will be displayed over the cutting area. Each dot is spaced apart by the distance you set at Grid point spacing (inches). Set Snap points per grid point to control how many increments between each grid point will be possible snap points. When you check Snap to grid, you will be able to pick points on screen that are exact snap points within the grid (see Grid Snap).

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    If you check Show grate points a grid of dots will be shown on screen, with each dot corresponding to a grate contact point in the cutting table. Before cutting parts, you may want to place them (see Move and Rotate) so that their cutting does not remove any points from the machines grate.

    Snaps You can enable or disable Snap to node points or Orthogonal snap (see Endpoint Snap and Orthogonal Snap).

    Cutting Area If you want to cut shapes out of a sheet that is larger than 4ft by 4ft, including one-piece shapes that are larger than this size, you can increase the cutting area by 4ft increments, up to 32ft. Although the machine will only cut 4ft by 4ft subareas at a time, the software can automatically manage multiple cut subareas for working with large sheets (see Convert to Cut Path and Cut).

    Animate Edit Commands If you check Always, then you will be able to see shapes continuously change as you move the mouse during most editing commands. Checking Never completely disables this feature. If you check Simple only, then the program will only animate paths during editing if the paths contain less nodes than what you set at Node count limit. This setting is most handy because it causes shapes that are quick to draw to be animated, while complex shapes that would take too long are not animated.

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    Display Colors If you click Colors, the a settings window appears that allows you to customize the programs colors. For best results and training purposes, check Use standard PlasmaCAM colors. (Customized colors can produce unexpected results and are not covered by technical support.)

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    Draw Commands Drawing commands allow you to draw new shapes on screen. Although you will often want to bring drawings into the program from other sources like pictures and other computer programs, you will often need to draw your own shapes directly in PlasmaCAM.

    When you click DRAW at the top of the program window, a menu appears (shown at right). Each command is explained separately in a different section below.

    Line(s) Choose Line(s) to draw by hand a new path made up of one or more line segments. First pick the starting point of the line (point 1), then the next point of the line (point 2). The function will continue to ask you for the next point, allowing you to draw multiple connected line segments. After you pick the last point you want drawn, you must cancel the function (right mouse button or Escape key).

    Rectangle Choose Rectangle to draw a box by hand. First pick one corner of the box (point 1), then pick the opposite corner (point 2). The first point you pick can be any of the four points on the rectangle. Rectangle always draws boxes with horizontal and vertical sides. If you want an angled rectangle, use Rotate after using Rectangle.

    Circle Choose Circle to draw a new circle by hand. First pick the center of the circle (point 1), then pick a point that lies on the circle (point 2). Note that instead of picking point 2, you can type in the diameter of the circle. If you already know what the diameter should be, you can even type in the diameter before you pick point 1. This may help you to properly place the center of the circle.

    If you want only part of a circle, draw an Arc or Bulge, or use Trim or Break after drawing a circle.

    Arc Choose Arc to draw a new arc by hand if you know where to place the center point (otherwise use Bulge or Fillet). First pick the center of the arc (point 1). Next pick the point on the arc where the arc is to start (point 2), keeping in mind that arcs are drawn in the counter-clockwise direction. Finally, pick a

  • 6-41

    point that is used to determine the end angle of the arc (point 3).

    Note that you can also type in the arcs radius before or after picking point 1. This makes it easier to draw an arc of a known radius, because you just have to pick the start and end angles. Note that you can also type in either the start or end angle, instead of picking points 2 or 3. Using this alternative method to draw the rest of the example arc shown, you could type 10 and Enter, -130 and Enter, 125 and Enter.

    Bulge Choose Bulge to draw a new arc by hand if you know where to place the two end points of the arc (otherwise use Arc or Fillet). First pick one end point of the arc (point 1); then pick the other end point (point 2). To complete the arc, you can then pick a point somewhere on the arc (3).

    Note that you can also type in the radius of the arc before you pick point 3. This allows you to draw the arc with an exact radius.

    Fillet Choose Fillet to have an arc drawn which rounds the corner of a path or at the intersection of two paths. To Fillet paths, first type in the fillet radius. You can also pick points 1 and 2, and the fillet radius becomes the distance between these two points. Next, pick the corner(s)

    you want filleted (points 3, 4 and 5). When you fillet two paths together, you should pick points just inside of both paths, so the fillet is drawn in the right direction.

    Tip

    If the gap between two paths that you want filleted together is too big for the Fillet command to recognize, you can use Zoom Out to make the gap appear smaller on the screen so that Fillet will connect the paths.

    Chamfer Chamfer is identical to Fillet, except that it rounds the corner of a path (or the intersection of two paths) with a single line segment instead of an arc. To chamfer paths, first type in the chamfer distance. You can also pick points 1 and

    2, and the chamfer distance becomes the distance between these two points. (Chamfer distance is defined as the distance from the intersection of the two segments to be chamfered and an endpoint of the chamfer segment.) Next, pick the corner(s) you want chamfered (points 3, 4 and 5). When you chamfer two paths together, you should pick points just inside of both paths, so the chamfer is drawn in the right direction.

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    Tip

    If the gap between two paths that you want chamfered together is too big for the Chamfer command to recognize, you can use Zoom Out to make the gap appear smaller on the screen so that Chamfer will connect the paths.

    Array Use Array to draw an even pattern of multiple copies using the selected paths. When you choose Array, the dialog box shown below appears. You must choose whether you want a Rectangular or Polar array.

    Rectangular Enter the number of columns you want at Number of horizontal copies. Enter the number of rows you want at Number of vertical copies. The minimum number for either is 1. After you click OK, you will be asked to pick the base point of the array (point 1). Next pick the point of the copy on the next row and column (point 2). Array rectangular works much like Copy, except that multiple copies are produced based on the numbers you specify.

    Tip

    Type a relative coordinate for point 2 to specify numeric spacing for the array (see THE COORDINATE SYSTEM in this chapter). For example, typing @2,3 will space the columns 2 inches and the rows 3 inches.

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    Polar

    Enter the number of spokes you want at Number of rotated copies. If you check Adjust rotation to fill 360 degrees, these copies will be evenly spaced around a 360 circle (as in the example shown). After you click OK, you will be asked to pick the center point of the arraythe base point around which the copies are rotated.

    If you did not check Adjust rotation to fill 360 degrees, you must also let the program know what angle to rotate the first copy. This works just like the Rotate command; you can pick points to rotate from and to, or type in the rotation angle (or the angle to rotate to after picking the point to rotate from).

    Text Use Text to draw letters from any True Type Font (*.TTF) set up in Windows on your computer. First pick the starting point of the text (point 1), and the height of the text (point 2). Note that you can simply type in the height of the text instead of picking point 2. Next, the dialog box shown below appears.

    Type in the text that you want drawn, next to Text. Then, you can scroll through the list of fonts available. (To set up

    other fonts on your computer, see your Windows documentation.) When you select a font from the list, you can see a preview of what your text will look like under Preview. After you have determined which font you want to use, click OK. The text is then added to your drawing, placed and sized according to your specifications.

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    Tips

    When you create text, it becomes drawing paths just like anything else you draw. This means that you can modify it using edit commands. For example, you can give text an italicized look using Slant or a tall, skinny look using Scale Height. Use Offset to make text more bold or thin.

    Sometimes when you incorporate text into your designs, you end up with holes within holes, or floating islands of material. You can avoid this by using certain fonts designed for such purposes, or by drawing little braces to support the islands of material within the letters (see CHAPTER 7 for an example).

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    Machine Commands Machine commands allow you to prepare a drawing for cutting, cut the drawing, and otherwise control the PlasmaCAM cutting table. When you click MACHINE at the top of the program window, a menu appears (shown at right). Each command is explained separately in a different section below. The first six commands on the menu actually control the machine. (You can also control machine motion from the control panel, see CHAPTER 5.) Note that you cannot choose these commands (or Jog or Shuttle, from the control panel) until you reset the machine with Initialize.

    The next four commands are for preparing paths for cutting. Note that Reorder Path(s) has a popup menu with multiple options, each of which is explained below.

    When the machine is in motion, the dialog box shown at right appears. This dialog box indicates that the computer program is busy controlling the machine. During this time, you do not want to interrupt the computer by trying to use other programs. If you want to stop what the machine is doing, press the Stop button in the dialog. (This has the same effect as pressing Stop on the control panel.)

    Cut Choose Cut to have the machine cut all of the selected cut paths. Cut paths are one of the three types of shapes a drawing can contain; they are the only shapes that can be cut out. (See THE DRAWING in this chapter for more information on the three types of paths. To change other types of paths to cut paths, see Convert to Cut Path.) Be sure to select the right paths before you choose Cut. If you select multiple paths, the paths will be cut in the order that they appear in the drawing (see Cut Preview). See Settings to adjust cut speed, rapid travel speed, and time delays that are used during cutting.

    When you choose Cut, the program first makes sure that each of the selected paths lie within a valid cutting area of the machine. If they do not, you are warned with the following message, and Cut is aborted:

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    If you are trying to cut shapes that fit within the 4ft by 4ft cut subarea, simply move the shapes into the area as shown on screen. If you are trying to cut larger shapes, see Convert to Cut Path for more information on how to set up the shapes for cutting. Note that when you cut shapes in multiple cut subareas, the machine will automatically pause before moving to the next cut subarea, so you can move the sheet (see CHAPTER 5).

    Note that if you must terminate cutting before all the selected shapes are cut, you can tell which paths remain to be partially or fully cut because they remain the only paths selected on screen.

    Auto Cut Control Choosing this item from the menu has the same effect as pressing the Cutting on/off button on the control panel. When checked (the auto indicator is lit), the machine will trigger the torch to turn on and off for cutting and will wait for the requested precut and postcut delays. When unchecked (the auto indicator is not lit), the machine does not trigger the torch or wait when cutting but simply performs a dry run.

    Move To Choose Move To if you want to move the machines torch carriage to a new location. When you choose Move To, you are asked to pick the point of destination on screen. Next, the machine will rapid travel from its original location to the point you picked. (See Machine Control under Settings to adjust the rapid travel speed and acceleration.) Note that the point you pick must be within the cutting area, or the machine will not move at all.

    If you wanted to move the torch to the edge of the table, type in a coordinate or use Table Edge Snap. Move To is especially useful for cases when you want to cut a shape out of a small scrap of metal. You can first place the metal on the table. By using Move To several timespicking points on the outer edge of the shape you want to cutyou can verify that the shape will be cut within the scrap of metal.

    Move Home Choose Move Home to move the machine to the corner of initialization (where the limit switches are). Move Home also raises the Z axis to the top of its travel. This command is useful for quickly getting the gantry, carriage and torch out of the way of the material for inspecting a cut area or for loading material into the machine. Note that you can have the machine automatically move home after cutting (see Settings below).

    Initialize Choose Initialize to reset the machine and prepare the machine for operation. If the machine is not initialized, it cannot be controlled in any way. Initialize simply moves the torch carriage slowly to the back left corner, where it detects limit switches to find its position.

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    Diagnostics Please see CHAPTER 8 for an explanation of this command.

    Cut Preview Choose Cut Preview to see the order in which the selected paths will be cut out. This is useful for making sure that holes will be cut before perimeters, and that multiple cuts will be made in a sensible order. Although Convert to Cut Path can automatically order holes and perimeters in such a sorted arrangement, you will occasionally need to reorder cut paths and verify the new order. When you choose Cut Preview, the dialog box shown at right appears.

    Set the Preview Cut Speed (in/min). You can have the display pause for a certain amount of time between cuts. Otherwise choose Pause for spacebar between cuts, and the program will pause until you click the spacebar before it shows each cut path being cut out.

    Convert to Cut Path Choose Convert to Cut Path to change paths of other types to cut paths. You must convert a shape to cut paths before you can cut it out. (See THE DRAWING in this chapter for more information on the three types of paths.)

    In the unlikely event that you want to convert an entire drawing to cut paths without changing the geometry of anything, use Import and check Import as cut paths (see Import).

    After you choose Convert to Cut Path, you are asked to pick the desired lead-in point near the path you want to convert. Be sure to pick slightly off of the path, in the direction that you want the lead-in point drawn. In the example shown above, the square is offset a small distance and a pierce point is generated near the point picked. (The pierce point is the point at which the torch begins to cut a path.) The hole inside the square is automatically offset toward the inside and given a pierce point as well.

    If the shape you are converting extends beyond the current cut area, you will be asked to verify that you want to convert it at this time:

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    If you choose Yes, you will not be able to cut the shape unless you move it into the cut subarea. If you want to convert a large shape into broken cut paths that each fit within the 4ft by 4ft range of the machine, you can break up the shape manually after converting it (see CHAPTER 5 and CHAPTER 7). However, Convert to Cut Path can automatically break up large shapes for you. First set the Cutting area size so that it is big enough to contain the shape (see Settings under VIEW COMMANDS). Then position the shape where you want it cut within this cut area. When you use Convert to Cut Path, the program will ask:

    If you choose Yes, the paths that cross cut subareas are broken at the junctions and given pierce points, and everything is reordered so that paths are cut together in their respective cut subareas.

    If an edge of the path you are converting lies along the edge of the cut area, you probably do not want the machine to cut along this edge. Instead, you probably want to use the edge of the sheet as the edge of the part. When you convert such a shape (after correctly placing it beforehand) the program will ask:

    You can choose Yes to have the redundant edges trimmed out automatically. Make sure you have correctly adjusted the torch location (see CHAPTER 5) before cutting parts in this manner.

    The section shown below from Path Conversion under Settings is used to control the behavior of Convert to Cut Path. Adjust Offset distance (1/2 torch kerf width) if you want the program to automatically adjust the shapes during conversion to correct for the kerf width of the torch. This allows the machine to cut a part accurate to the drawing even though the torch removes a wide slot of material during cutting. To determine the kerf width, use the machine to make a straight cut at a reasonable speed in a piece of metal. Then measure the width of the slot with vernier calipers. Enter this number divided by 2 into the program.

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    You can adjust the Pierce point lead-in length. This distance controls how far away from a path the program will place its pierce point. You can have the machine leave a gap at the end of a cut by adjusting the size of Gap at end of loop. For example, a moderate gap like 0.05 can be used to prevent cut holes and parts from falling out (and possibly getting lost or hanging up the machine). You could later break the pieces out by hand. If you are using PlasmaCAM to export G-Code or DXF files to other machines or software, you may find that such platforms require drawings that contain no intersecting lines (see Detect Intersections) and a maximum of two segments terminating at any given endpoint. In such cases, you will want all converted cut paths to be given a very small end gap that keeps them from self-intersecting.

    Finally, you can have the program Automatically convert holes that are found within the bounding shapes that you pick. The holes are offset toward the inside, instead of the outside. If a hole is too small for the program to generate a lead-in segment of the specified length, the program will just try to place the pierce point near the center of the hole.

    Note that only closed paths (purple) are converted automatically with offsets, pierce points, gaps and holes as described above. Generally, it is desirable to get a shape into the form of only closed paths (see Link Segments) before you convert it for cutting. However, sometimes you will want to cut an open shape within another shape. For example, suppose you wanted to cut a swirl within a shape that is only as wide as the kerf of the torch. Convert the swirl before the perimeter so that it is cut first. Make sure that the swirl has been linked together and is made up of only one path, then choose Convert to Cut Path. The open path has two ends, so pick near the end at which you want the cut to start. The path is then converted to a cut path, without any offset, lead-in, or end gap being applied.

    Ordering of Cut Paths How you convert paths into cut paths will affect the order in which they are cut out. This is important for several reasons. First, you always want the holes of a shape to cut out before the perimeter. Also, accuracy is usually better if the perimeter of a shape is cut right after its holes have been cut, and not after the holes of other shapes are cut. Finally, you want cutting to occur in an order that minimizes the amount of travel required between cuts.

    When you convert a path to a cut path, the path becomes the last path listed in the drawing. If holes were converted along with the path, the holes are listed before the perimeter. If a large shape is automatically broken to be cut in multiple cut areas, all of the pieces are sorted so they can be cut sequentially, in successive cut areas.

    Also, Convert to Cut Path attempts to sort the holes so that they are cut from left to right. When you cut a selection of paths, the paths are cut in the order in which they are listed. This means that they will be cut in the order in which they were converted to cut paths. If you want to relocate the order of cut paths, see Reorder Path(s).

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    Tips

    Save a drawing both before and after you convert it to cut paths, using two different file names. You can open the cut path drawing in the future to cut another shape exactly like the original, or to finish cutting the shape if you have a computer failure of some sort during cutting. You can open the non-cut path drawing in the future and easily scale the size or edit the shape before converting and cutting it.

    Visually check over a drawing on screen before you attempt to cut it. Look for small defects that may be present before you waste time and material. You can use Detect Intersections and Select Shortest to help find defects. Suppose you are going to cut a complex shape that has been offset during the conversion process. If you saved the drawing before you converted it, you can then insert the saved drawing into the converted one (see Import) and check to make sure that cutting along the cut paths will result in the original shape. Use Edit to relocate or remove nodes that are in the wrong places. When you are done, you can use Undo or Select All By and Delete to remove everything except the cut paths.

    Reorder Path(s) Choose Reorder Path(s) to change the order in which the selected paths will be cut out. (Although all types of paths can be reordered, the effect is only significant for cut paths.) Although Reorder Path(s) can be used for many things, it is probably most useful for placing a hole that is later added to a part so that it cuts before the part perimeter. If you select multiple paths before choosing Reorder Path(s), the relative order between the selected paths will remain the same during reordering.

    When you choose Reorder Path(s), the popup menu shown at the beginning of this section appears. You must choose the type of reordering you want to do. The example pictures shown below represent a drawing made of five cut paths that is reordered in various ways. The dashed line paths represent the selected paths, and the arrows show not that they are moved, but how they are reordered in the sequence.

    (When you choose Convert to Cut Path, all of the newly converted paths are placed last in the cut order; keep this in mind to avoid changing the cutting order in unexpected ways.)

    Pick Order Pick Order reorders all of the paths you pick in a sequence, depending on the order in which you click them. The first path you pick becomes the first path in the drawing (other paths are reordered to occur after the paths you pick). Right click (or press Esc) to finish picking the order of paths.

    After Path After Path reorders all of the selected paths so that they are cut immediately after a path you pick. After you choose After Path, pick path you want to place the selected paths after (point a).

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    Before Path Before Path reorders all of the selected paths so that they are cut immediately before a path you pick. After you choose Before Path, pick the path you want to place the selected paths before (point a).

    Make Last Choose Make Last to reorder all of the selected paths so that they are the very last to cut.

    Make First Choose Make First to reorder all of the selected paths so that they are the very first to cut.

    Detect Intersections Choose Detect Intersections to look for intersections between any of the selected paths. Detect Intersections helps to rid a drawing of possible defects before it is cut or exported to another program or machine. In the example shown, the circle intersects the rectangle. Attempting to cut these shapes out in their current state would result in problems. Not only would one of the final shapes

    not be either a circle or a rectangle, but also the torch will have problems when it tries to cut in open air. An ideal drawing that is ready for cutting should not contain intersections between any of its paths (unless the end of loop gap is disabled during conversionin which case one intersection will be present at the end of each path; see Convert to Cut Path). You may be able

    to tolerate intersections between very small parts that have resulted from conversion offsetting, but intersections are clues that can lead you to potentially serious problems in the geometry before you cut out shapes and waste material. Detect Intersections tells you the number of intersections found and draws a small red X at each one; you can use zoom commands to have a closer look.

    Settings When you choose Settings from the MACHINE menu, the following dialog box appears. (You can also access Drawing View and Path Conversion settings by clicking these tabs at the top of the window; see Settings under VIEW COMMANDS, Import for DXF, Link Segments and Convert to Cut Path.) The remaining settings are explained below.

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    X/Y Axes Motion You can adjust the acceleration and speed occurring during rapid travel. The rapid travel settings apply not only to the machine when it is moving toward the start point of the next cut, but also during Move To, Move Home and Jog. The rapid travel speed can be adjusted during motion using either the speed dial on the Control Panel or the slider on the computer screen.

    The cutting speed and acceleration can also be adjusted and applies only to when the machine is moving during cutting. Cutting acceleration affects how much the machine slows down when going around corners. The cutting speed can be adjusted during cutting using either the speed dial on the Control Panel or the slider on the computer screen.

    Sometimes it is desirable to further slow down when cutting holes and tight curves. You can set Slower on circles under to a number larger than zero to accomplish this. The machine will cut at the cutting speed on circles that equal or larger than the size you specify, but it will cut slower on smaller circles. The smaller the circle, the slower it will cut it.

    Check Pause before rapid travel/cutting to have the machine enter pause mode before making a rapid move or beginning a cut. This allows you to very carefully check your work as you cut. (See CHAPTER 5 for more information on cut speeds and pausing the machine.)

    Check Rapid to home after cutting to have the machine move to the initialization corner after it finishes cutting. It will also raise the Z axis to the top of its travel. This setting is useful for moving the gantry, carriage and torch out of the way so you can inspect the cutting or load material into the machine.

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    Time Delays and Torch Location Adjustment Please see CHAPTER 5 for more information on setting these.

    Height Control Settings Click the Height Control tab at the top to access these settings (shown below):

    Z Axis Motion You can change the speed of the Z axis as it raises and lowers during cutting and jogs by adjusting Z axis speed. (For best performance, use a medium speed like 40 inch/min.) The Z axis speed can be adjusted during motion using either the speed dial on the Control Panel or the slider on the computer screen.

    If you check Raise and lower between cuts, the machine will move the Z axis between cutting. Before beginning each cut, the machine will lower the torch to the Height for pierce. After each cut is done, the torch will be raised before moving to the next hole by the amount specified at Height for rapid travel. In some cases, checking Stall on material to set height will help the torch to locate exactly at the pierce height over uneven material. This only works if the material is not too flexible, however. Overtravel for stall controls how far the Z axis tries to move into the material in its attempt to reset its position. (A larger setting causes the motor to stall for a longer period of time.)

    Always set the current Material thickness for the material you have loaded into the machine. You can enter this number as a decimal, a gauge (except aluminum or brass), or a fraction.

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    Digital Height Control If you check Use torch height control, the height of the torch will be maintained during cutting so that it stays a fixed distance above the material, even when the height of the material varies somewhat. Note that to use the height control (or to use the cutting signal under Time Delays), you must use a torch that is properly wired with the torch control cord.

    The cutting height can be adjusted during cutting using either the Z jog buttons or the slider on the computer screen. Please see CHAPTER 5 for more information on setting the height control.

    Z Axis Calibration Arc voltage shift must always be calibrated to your torch. With the plasma torch connected to the machine, you can drag it across a piece of material to cut it for a few seconds while you press the Zero button. Alternatively, you can adjust the shift to move the torch up or down until the actual cut height matches the setting youve entered.

    Advanced When you click Advanced, the following settings window appears.

    You may need to adjust the Arc voltage scale if the scale of the cutting height is not correct. For example, suppose the Arc voltage shift has been calibrated so the torch actually cuts at a height of 0.05 inch when the Cutting height is set to 0.05 inch. Now suppose you set the Cutting height to 0.25 inch, but the machine actually cuts at a height of 0.15 inch. To correct this problem, you would increase the Arc voltage scale and recalibrate the Arc voltage shift. Please see CHAPTER 5 for more information on Arc Voltage Calibration.

    You can set the machine to disable the height control when the cutting speed drops below a percentage of full speed. This is particularly useful when the machine cuts slower on circles and arcs, because the height control may otherwise lower the torch into the material when the machine slows down.

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    System Setup Settings Click the System Setup tab at the top to access these settings:

    Parallel Port Setting You can usually autodetect a parallel port and all the settings will be set correctly. Refer to CHAPTER 4 for instructions on how to autodetect the port and use the parallel port settings.

    Controller Version This should be set to DHC for this machine.

    Machine Size Only change the settings under Advanced if you are instructed to do so by a PlasmaCAM technical support agent. Otherwise, operate the machine with Standard 4ft x 4ft size checked.

    Restore All Factory Settings. You can click this to reset all the settings back to the factory defaults. This is useful if your settings become messed up and you dont know how or why the machine isnt working the way you expect. Make sure you have the correct Controller Version and Machine Size checked first. Note that this button does not erase your custom configurations.

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    Configurations Settings Click the Configurations tab at the top to access this window:

    This window allows you to save and reload different groups of custom machine settings. (The settings saved in Configurations are listed above. Most are height control settings and calibrations.)

    Once you have fine-tuned all the ideal settings for a particular material, you can save these settings in the Configurations tab by typing in a new descriptive name and clicking Save. If you want to save changes made later to a configuration, select it and click Save again. To load a saved configuration, select it and click Apply. This copies the stored settings of the configuration into the current settings boxes.

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    Help

    About PlasmaCAM About gives you information about the program, copyright, and PlasmaCAM Inc.

    The number shown above the address tells you how many seconds the machine has been run under the control of the software, since the software was last installed. (The timer is reset when the software is reinstalled.)

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