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Newbie In Need Of Help On Where To Start
« on: April 24, 2018, 12:17:46 PM »
Hey all,

My shop recently pre ordered a cross fire cnc plasma cutter and are looking to start getting everything ready for its arrival. The person in charge has not had much experience with plasma cutters so this will all be new to them. A few questions I have for the community...

1) Can I run mach 3 only or do I need another software to support different functions?
2) What are the best CAD programs for this set up that jive with mach 3 the best?
3) Are there any websites or any direction someone can point us in where we could learn the basics from setting up, programming and everything in the middle.

Like I said this is a new machine for us and with very little experience we are reaching out to many different places for help with anything related.

Thanks in advance!

Offline RICH

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Re: Newbie In Need Of Help On Where To Start
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2018, 07:01:16 AM »
Personaly don't use a plasma machine but  the following hobby level  info should get you started.

Note you need to have knowledge or experience  on how to set up a plasma machine to work
correctly and that in itself is half the battle to do good cutting with it.You don't need to invest a fortune
and there certainly is a difference between hobby and industrial use.

Mach 3 can be used and a simple CAD program along with a simple CAM  program will do.
A macro to touch and fire the torch is required. The macro provides probing, removes floating head travel
( if that is what is used) and sets the Z height, and acivates a output from Mach3 to fire the torch.
An axial fan which attaches to a make shift hood above the table with pull down shades can
provide for exhausting of fumes.  

You can use LazyCam to generate good gcode but to use the Plasma module you will need
a pro license. In use you import dxf and use the mill module as normal but prior to posting use
the plasma module as that has inputs for torch specifics.

If your shop uses CNC then the learning is machine specific, BUT, if you don't have any CNC
experience then get ready for a long learning curve. CNC is not plug and play.

RICH

Offline Davek0974

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Re: Newbie In Need Of Help On Where To Start
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2018, 07:50:35 AM »
What is the plasma source - I use Hypertherm which is widely regarded as one of the best plasma generators out there.

I also use SheetCam for my CAM and various apps for the design, anything which can output a DXF file is good - InkScape, Illustrator, most CAD packages, and plenty of others.

You will need spare consumables for the torch - you WILL need these as they can be damaged by something as simple as a low pierce, pierce height - the point at which the torch sits the moment before starting a cut IS VITAL, get that right and repeatable before even plugging in the plasma source and it will save you $$$$$$

You WILL need a lot of scrap or other steel to practice on - don't go too thin, if you intend cutting say 3mm then practice on 3mm from the off - different thicknesses and types of steel WILL affect all of your settings.

There are a million and one other things to learn - it's taken me about 4 years and i'm still learning but can now churn out saleable parts in no time :)

Have you got a water table or downdraught table - different ways of dealing with terrible and dangerous fumes plasma tables can make, stainlesss steel in particular is bad, also aluminium, steel will just give you a sore throat and coat the workshop in black grime in no time at all :)
Bridgeport Mill, Mach3 V062, CSMIO-IP/A controller, AC Servo Drives.
Plasma table, Mach3 V062, Step motors, C&CNC THC.
Re: Newbie In Need Of Help On Where To Start
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2018, 10:54:20 AM »
Personaly don't use a plasma machine but  the following hobby level  info should get you started.

Note you need to have knowledge or experience  on how to set up a plasma machine to work
correctly and that in itself is half the battle to do good cutting with it.You don't need to invest a fortune
and there certainly is a difference between hobby and industrial use.

Mach 3 can be used and a simple CAD program along with a simple CAM  program will do.
A macro to touch and fire the torch is required. The macro provides probing, removes floating head travel
( if that is what is used) and sets the Z height, and acivates a output from Mach3 to fire the torch.
An axial fan which attaches to a make shift hood above the table with pull down shades can
provide for exhausting of fumes. 

You can use LazyCam to generate good gcode but to use the Plasma module you will need
a pro license. In use you import dxf and use the mill module as normal but prior to posting use
the plasma module as that has inputs for torch specifics.

If your shop uses CNC then the learning is machine specific, BUT, if you don't have any CNC
experience then get ready for a long learning curve. CNC is not plug and play.

RICH

Our shop runs cnc mills and lathes, with the use of mastercam to design our parts. Would mastercam be the best route since we already use it, or is there something else you would reccommend in place of mastercam? Also if you could give me an example of a macro to use with this set up it would give me a better understanding of the overall set up I should be looking to aim towards.

Thank you for the information Rich it is much appreciated!
Re: Newbie In Need Of Help On Where To Start
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2018, 10:58:36 AM »
What is the plasma source - I use Hypertherm which is widely regarded as one of the best plasma generators out there.

I also use SheetCam for my CAM and various apps for the design, anything which can output a DXF file is good - InkScape, Illustrator, most CAD packages, and plenty of others.

You will need spare consumables for the torch - you WILL need these as they can be damaged by something as simple as a low pierce, pierce height - the point at which the torch sits the moment before starting a cut IS VITAL, get that right and repeatable before even plugging in the plasma source and it will save you $$$$$$

You WILL need a lot of scrap or other steel to practice on - don't go too thin, if you intend cutting say 3mm then practice on 3mm from the off - different thicknesses and types of steel WILL affect all of your settings.

There are a million and one other things to learn - it's taken me about 4 years and i'm still learning but can now churn out saleable parts in no time :)

Have you got a water table or downdraught table - different ways of dealing with terrible and dangerous fumes plasma tables can make, stainlesss steel in particular is bad, also aluminium, steel will just give you a sore throat and coat the workshop in black grime in no time at all :)

DaveK,

We are still looking into plasma sources, hypertherm caught our eye the most so we are likely to go with them.
What type of spare consumables would for the torch would be recommended to stock up on in the beginning?
You seem like you have a good grasp on these things, is there any tutorials or places online that have helped you when you were in the process of learning your table?

Thanks for the information!

Offline Davek0974

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Re: Newbie In Need Of Help On Where To Start
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2018, 02:46:55 PM »

DaveK,

We are still looking into plasma sources, hypertherm caught our eye the most so we are likely to go with them.
What type of spare consumables would for the torch would be recommended to stock up on in the beginning?
You seem like you have a good grasp on these things, is there any tutorials or places online that have helped you when you were in the process of learning your table?

Thanks for the information!

Hi

I would certainly go with Hypertherm if at all possible, I have the PM45 unit.

You would do well to have a good supply of electrode/Nozzle kits, a spare shield plus a spare swirl ring, all common parts but specific to each torch so make sure to get right parts. I would get a couple of kits plus a shield and ring, that should cover most things until you get going.

It will seem like you are eating nozzles at first, don't panic - it gets better :) But they are very easy to blow - that is why i  stress pierce height being bang on as that is a prime offender of blown nozzles.

Without going into detail now, many will quote "book specs" for cut height,pierce heght etc, as you read up, you will see that term over and over. Forget it :) The books are only correct in the lab, in the real world things are not so black and white. What you CAN take from the book are pierce height, cut height and pierce dwell - the missing data is cut speed and this is really best found by doing what are called straight-cut-tests on your material and machine.

It is a steep curve but once you see how it works it gets easier.

I got a lot of help from here and also here- http://www.plasmaspider.com/index.php?sid=6e4f2e280e6e93d9d1a5ba9fb4582aa2
« Last Edit: April 30, 2018, 02:48:37 PM by Davek0974 »
Bridgeport Mill, Mach3 V062, CSMIO-IP/A controller, AC Servo Drives.
Plasma table, Mach3 V062, Step motors, C&CNC THC.
Re: Newbie In Need Of Help On Where To Start
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2018, 03:06:15 PM »
Hi,
if you have three phase go to the PMX65 or bigger. The 65 and bigger have a real smart air pressure control system not just a manual regulator
as in the 45.

Absolutely dry air is required for maximum consumable life. In industrial situations in moist tropical climates they fit proper air dryers/dehumidifiers all in an
effort to reduce consumable wear. Plan on spending some bucks on an air drying filter at least. Electrodes and nozzles aren't expensive but they mount up,
you need to be smart with them.

If you are the type that likes to economise by NOT changing an electrode when its worn (1mm recess in the Hafnium button) then you'll blow your plasma up....don't
do it. I service Hypertherm machines for a living and what few blow ups we get and EVERY time its because some tosser decided not to change the electrode when
required.

Craig
My wife left with my best friend...
     and I miss him!

Offline Davek0974

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Re: Newbie In Need Of Help On Where To Start
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2018, 03:18:32 PM »
I second that - invest in a refrigerated air dryer, not sure where in the world you are but I got an ABAC unit and it was around £450, air filter type driers are useful BUT they can also slow the air flow which is bad and can cause pressure drop at the torch = blown nozzle etc.

Plasma needs respect in setting up for maximum economy or it can bite you in the bank ;)
Bridgeport Mill, Mach3 V062, CSMIO-IP/A controller, AC Servo Drives.
Plasma table, Mach3 V062, Step motors, C&CNC THC.
Re: Newbie In Need Of Help On Where To Start
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2018, 03:21:43 AM »
Hi,
have you had a play with a 65 or bigger?

They have an electronic pressure regulator. It has an electro-pneumatic pressure reduction valve. Its really smart and can accommodate moderate line pressure drop. As I say really
smart.

Hypertherm have invested  tens if not hundreds of millions in research into the plasma torch and consumables, indeed its that excellence that cause it be the sought after brand, and to get the best you
need good air pressure, rock steady, clean and dry. Anything less you might as well take your dollars and use them for lighting fires.

Craig
My wife left with my best friend...
     and I miss him!

Offline Davek0974

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Re: Newbie In Need Of Help On Where To Start
« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2018, 03:23:49 AM »
No, but it does sound good.

I started on the 30XP and then got the PM45, can't go any further due to power constraints.
Bridgeport Mill, Mach3 V062, CSMIO-IP/A controller, AC Servo Drives.
Plasma table, Mach3 V062, Step motors, C&CNC THC.