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Feature Requests / Re: Add -Z limit calibration
« on: October 11, 2011, 12:05:11 PM »
Another thing to check is it could be as simple as a slipping coupler on the motor.Tighten it up JUST in case.

(;-) TP
Thanks for the pointers. I actually have experienced a loose set screw on the Z axis before, (been awhile ago), so that's the first thing I will check. As far as the Z engineering, I originally had a 5 TPI ballscrew drive on there. But it was a used ebay purchase from China. There were balls missing from the ballnut, and it bound up. It was manufactured by Kuroda (a Japanese company), and I found a company locally to look at it and give me a quote on repairing. They said that repair of a ballnut is not possible, and offered to replace the assembly to match my specifications for only $898.00 Since I am unemployed, that just wasn't possible, so I replaced the ballscrew with the $50 lead screw and nut. And I am aware of the extra demands on the Z, since I use MeshCAM Art to create the 3D toolpaths of my carvings. MC Art has a separate feed rate setting for Plunge Feed. Which does an excellent job (most of the time) in creating the toolpaths and gcode. For the 4th axis, I then run the gcode through CNCWrapper (to wrap 3D toolpaths around a  column on the 4th axis "Lathe"). Again, thanks for the suggestions!

Feature Requests / Re: Add -Z limit calibration
« on: October 11, 2011, 02:47:37 AM »
The system I outlined above, is a safeguard which places a PHYSICAL limit on the depth of cut. I am not at all certain, that lost steps are the actual culprit which causes this problem to occur. Could be due to a temporary voltage drop, when the well pump cuts on (Since my shop is actually permitted as the pump house). But, whatever the cause, it ain't gonna move any deeper than the Limit Switch! My machine is using a Gecko G540 drive, 48 VDC power supply, 960 oz in motors on the XY and Z axis, and 1200 oz in on the A axis. And the speed is usually set to 10 inches per minute (for finishing cuts) driving 1/2" 10 TPI acme lead screws (direct drive Lovejoy couplings). And for over 2 years has operated flawlessly, for the most part.
  Every time the problem has occurred, it seems to be at random (making it very difficult to diagnose the actual problem). All drives, and axes glide smooth as silk with motor couplings un-coupled, the lead screws can be turned between your fingers. (NO physical binding, or racking on any axis). I have retuned the motors on each axis in Mach3, and can usually get 60 inches per minute feed rates for hours on end without problems. (Although the fastest I usually cut is at 30 inches per minute, the slowest is at 10 inches per minute feed rates).
   The addition of the (-) Z Limit Switch has solved the problem, since when triggered, (whether I am there watching it, or left it running and gone to bed) all that happens is a single plunge maybe 2 thousandths deeper than programmed is cut into the work piece. And the machine is there waiting to be reset, re-homed, and Start Cycle to pick up right where it left off at. I made the original request, in hopes of getting some constructive pointers in how to automate the task from some of the more experienced Mach users. I apologize if I have offended anyone here.

Feature Requests / Add -Z limit calibration
« on: October 10, 2011, 11:14:40 AM »
I have ruined many pieces, and broken many bits during multiple-hour cuts due to lost steps during program execution. I have utilized the -Z limit switch option in Mach, and installed a -Z limit switch. I do not have an automatic tool changer, so tool changes involve the follwing steps:
1-Change tool
2-jog tool down onto a sheet of paper, and reset the Z Zero
3-jog tool up high enough to clear all work
4-jog Y axis completely off edge of table
5-adjust position of -Z Limit switch until switch is triggered
6-Reset Mach3 (to clear Limit switch error)
7-Reset the digital caliper I am using on the Limit Switch assembly to Zero
8-adjust position of -Z Limit switch to match the program's maximum depth of cut on the digital caliper, and lock switch position into place
9-jog Z axis up high enough to clear all work
10-Start Cycle to continue cut
I would like to mount the -Z Limit switch onto a linear rail, and install a stepper motor screw drive to adjust the position of the switch along the linear rail - what I would like be able to do in Mach3, is to automate the task, anytime that the ZERO Z button is clicked in Mach3. (Executing the steps outlined above in a macro or other code) This system WORKS, in halting the machine, (and program execution) in the event of lost steps which would otherwise result in a ruined work piece/cut table surface/broken bit for unattended cuts that take several hours to complete.

LazyCam (Beta) / Importing Text from CorelDRAW for engraving
« on: September 30, 2011, 05:34:55 PM »
I have made an amazing discovery, which I wanted to share with everyone who is using CorelDRAW. I recently upgraded to version X4 of CorelDRAW, and was using it to create artwork for engraving with my CNC Router. If you have ever tried to import files containing text into LazyCAM, I am sure that you have experienced the problem this poses: the font used will invariably come in as an Outline of the actual font. This poses a problem, because the lines used to construct the font are so close together, that instead of a delicately detailed engraving, you end up with a largely unrecognizable hole being carved into the wood!
While composing a CDR file to send to Corel's Jeff Harrison about macros for use in CorelDRAW, I came across a work-around for this problem. The Trace utility available in X4 features a Centerline, Technical drawing option. The steps I used, are as follows:
1-Using the Text tool in CorelDRAW, I typed in the desired text
2-I selected the text, and changed the Font to Edwardian Script (any font you desire which is installed on your system works here).
3-I then selected the text, and converted to Artistic Text format, and Grouped it together.
4-I selected Convert to Bitmap from the Bitmaps menu
5-I selected the Trace option, Centerline Trace, Technical drawing
6-I exported the selected result as a HPGL PLT file
7-I opened the file from LazyCAM's Open Vector File option, and selected HPGL PLT as the format

I then selected the layer, and the tool of choice (engraving bit) and set the depth , and then Posted the file to Mach3! The engravings are beautiful!

LazyCam (Beta) / Re: Unlock aspect ratio in Scale
« on: August 21, 2011, 08:15:45 PM »
The DRO scales in Mach3 would scale EVERYTHING. If you are working with a Pocket, then this would include the toolpath generated by LazyCAM on the scaled DRO axis. I.E. instead of a 50% overlap of the toolpath on say the Y axis, adjusting the scale on the Y axis DRO in Mach3 would result in a toolpath which would instead be spaced by (whatever scale ratio you enter into the DRO). NOT what one would want to do, in a surface plane operation. For example:
Original Rectangle DXF dimension X=10, Y=5. Imported into LazyCAM, select the Rectangle, and Click on the Pocket option to create a pocket toolpath. LazyCAM generates the toolpath, then select the Post option to output the G code to Mach3. Works fine.
 However, say I wanted to instead create a pocket toolpath of a different sized rectangle. (Say X=10, Y=10) if it were possible to UNCHECK the Maintain Aspect Ratio check box in LazyCAM's Scale menu, I could simply change the Y directly within LazyCAM. INSTEAD of having to exit LazyCAM, and Mach3, launching a CAD program, and entering the drawing commands to create a Rectangle with X=10, Y=10 dimensions, save the new DXF file. Exit the CAD program, re-launch Mach3, re-launch LazyCAM, and then create the pocket toolpath. A lot of steps which could be completely eliminated if it were possible to simply "Uncheck the Maintain Aspect Ratio box in LazyCAM's Scale Menu".

LazyCam (Beta) / Re: Soft Limits and Z axis relative position
« on: August 21, 2011, 07:51:16 PM »
It sounds like you are getting confused between Machine Z Zero, and workpiece Z Zero. If you have limit switches installed, then Homing the machine should be set up to reset to Zero (Machine Zero) during the Home All Axis operation. Everything in Mach is relative to this, because this is what tells Mach3 where each axis is physically located. Then, what I do is manually Jog the machine on each axis until the bit is located directly about the lower-left corner of the actual workpiece, and (on the Z axis in particular) jog the bit down over a piece of paper, stopping just shy of contact. Switch Mach3 to the MDI screen, and begin entering in the MDI input line: Z-0.002, then checking the piece of paper like a feeler guage, until the bit is "just touching" the paper. I then switch Mach3 back to the main screen, and click on X Zero, Y Zero, and Z Zero. This tells Mach3 where to find the actual surface of the workpiece. It sounds like you are NOT performing this all-important step, if you are getting Soft Limit errors. Because you have not yet set up the Work Offsets, Mach3 thinks that the Machine Zero coordinates are where you are attempting to begin your program from. Which are ALREADY WITHIN THE SOFT LIMITS RANGE, before you even begin! Hope this helps!

LazyCam (Beta) / Unlock aspect ratio in Scale
« on: August 21, 2011, 07:12:39 PM »
I am aware that LazyCAM is a permanent Beta version, but it would be really convenient if an update could be developed which would allow LazyCAM's Scale function to be used with the ability to Unlock Aspect Ratio. The specific reason I personally would like to see this feature added, is the ability to simply create a simple DXF file of a Rectangle. Then, using LazyCAM's scale function, it could be easily altered to any size needed. I find myself frequently creating DXF files of various sized Rectangles to be opened into LazyCAM, and a pocket created (to plane the surface of a piece of stock flat, in preparation of an engraving operation).
   If it were possible to Unlock the Aspect Ratio for Scaling, a single DXF of a Rectangle could be used for ALL!

General Mach Discussion / Re: 4 axis in inches
« on: July 27, 2011, 01:38:42 AM »
You have to "do the math", but CNC Wrapper does a good job. What I mean by doing the math, is to first create a toolpath for your given project, such as a MeshCAM 3D carving, and open it into Mach3. Navigate to the toolpath window, and READ the Y Extents of the open G code. Next, close the G code file, and import it into CNC Wrapper. The surface circumference of the desired stock must be equal to the Y Extents you just read in Mach3's toolpath window. Follow the instructions in CNC Wrapper on how to do this, but the G code file it outputs can the be loaded into Mach3 and (once you have everything set up in Mach3 for a 4th axis machine) will carve the file onto a cylinder loaded into the 4th axis chuck. Works for me, but I am still learning....

General Mach Discussion / Re: Mach 3 and CorelDRAW.
« on: July 27, 2011, 01:23:41 AM »
I have been using Corel Draw X3 for creating all drawings. And like others here, discovered that Corel's DXF export is pretty much useless. However, I have discovered that exporting the drawing as a HPGL *.PLT file will preserve the proper scale, and makes it possible to load the file into LazyCAM for toolpath creation. Just use LazyCAM's Open Vector File, and scroll down to choose the HPGL.PLT format. I too tried the trial DXF tool software, but after discovering that Corel Draw already had the capability I needed, opted to just export as *.PLT files. The important thing to pay attention to, when creating your drawings is to use the Snap feature, and some experimentation is needed in LazyCAM's tolerance settings to join lines into a single entity when cutting pockets, or profiles. All of this "Work-Around" has made my decision to purchase a dedicated CAD/CAM (BobCAD/CAM v24) and the related learning curve involved as soon as I could afford the price. Am just now starting to learn BobCAD/CAM, but I have already come to realize, that it all depends on what you are trying to do. So the future looks as though it will continually involve the use of multiple programs to achieve a given project. I built a 4-axis CNC Router table, and (depending on the job), create toolpaths by using Corel DRAW, WoodGears, CNC Wrapper, and now BobCAD/CAM. Vectric's Aspire software looks promising as a single program to do it all, but is simply not within my means (yet). -Just my 2 cents worth

Tangent Corner / Re: Disabling single axis on G540
« on: January 23, 2011, 12:40:09 PM »
Why not just uncheck the box under Ports and Pins for the axis in question? If there is no communication to that particular axis, won't that also kill any output from the Gecko driver to the motor? (To enable the free-wheeling mode you are after)?

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