CNC Plasma Cutter Authorization
Authorization will take place in two parts, much like the Shopbot. Part 1 will be the software (explained in mind-numbing detail below), and Part 2 will be the actual care and feeding of the machine itself.
For folks who want to get authorized, here's some info:
- The wiki has a lot of good info about the machine. I recommend reading all of it: https://wiki.pumpingstationone.org/CNC_Plasma_Cutter
- We use SheetCam (https://www.sheetcam.com/index) for generating gcode. I recommend downloading the program; the demo version is limited to generating something like 100 lines of gcode, but that's the only restriction I've found. The company has a lot of good videos on youtube and knowing how to use this program is pretty critical.
- Note that you do not design your part in SheetCam, but import it as either a DXF or SVG file; I've done all my stuff in Illustrator and then exported it as DXF and imported into SheetCam with good results.
- Seriously, spend the time to get familiar with SheetCam.
- Mach3 is the program that actually runs the machine, and it has its own interface and quirks; on a good day you shouldn't have to do much more than import the SheetCam-generated file and run. On a bad day it's a good idea to know how to move around in this program as well to troubleshoot WTF is going on.
- You are responsible for bringing your own metal sheet, something like: https://www.homedepot.com/p/Everbilt-24-in-x-24-in-16-Gauge-Plain-Sheet-Metal-800657/204604786. If you're done with your sheet take the remains with you or throw it away (preferably out in the alley so the scrap metal guys can take it).
- Any material without parking tickets will be summarily thrown away with no warning; writing your name on the metal is not sufficient and will not be honored. Seriously, just find a parking ticket slip and tape it onto your piece if you really want to keep using it. Place your ticketed work in the project holding area and do not throw it under the machine.
- This is a homemade machine; there is no manual and there is no company website to go to. My only request, and I make this in the strongest, gentlest way, is to document what you do on the Talk page of the machine on the wiki, preferably with pics. This will help you remember what you did, and help others to know what can be done. We need a lot of knowledge for this machine and we need to know both successes and failures so that the rising tide will lift all boats.
- I recommend, but do not require, you get authorized on the Miller handheld plasma cutter too. Why? Because knowing how plasma cutting works and why it might stop working can help in troubleshooting the CNC machine; the only difference between the the handheld plasma cutter and the CNC one is that you are the computer.