CNC Machine Operation Steps

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This is a brain dump from a workshop, it has yet to be massaged into something sensible!

For organized information on using the CNC Machine at All Hands Active, please [see this document]


AHA Login password/username or guest account.


  • End Mills can Snap
  • Spindles will pull your hair in
  • Safety goggles are a must
  • Toolpath - Test your paths before running live.
  • Do not leave it alone when running.

Mounting your Material

Use the shorter studs go into nuts mounted in spoil board and ensure they do not go below the bottom of the nut or they can collide with the gantry.

If you plan to cut through or around your material, your material will move. You can use double sided table or the create tabs option in the VCarve software to prevent the work piece from moving after it is detached.


Mach 3

Fireball V90! Reset button is flashing Ready to run, hit reset You can move it, load code, etc. Move it around (its in jog mode) with the arrow keys, and page up page down Page up goes up Page down goes down You can only move one axis at a time Wherever you start, and where you have the start bit If you set start in the top right, that is going to be 0,0,0

Make sure to set Zero on all of these once you are in position 0x 0y 0z 04 (that's if you have a fourth axis, which we don't)

If you are moving and you have to estop Write down all the coordinates it is at Then move it out of the way Then move it back to the spot if you ESTOP and reset: It things the spindle is still moving, you will have to mnaully start the spindle up Hit the Spindle Button to turn on / off

Feed rate controls If the machine sounds like it is straining while cutting, you can reduce the feed rate by hitting + or - You can go beyond 100%, but that might not be safe When starting Set feed rate at 50% and see how it sounds. It will sound horrible if it is straining. It does NOT take long before the end mill snaps.


Cycle Start Starts G Code Cycle Stop Stops it

Load GCODE loads your gcode

Load GCODE Shows an example of what it will do in the top right You can rotate, zoom in / out Red lines are where there is motion but NOT cutting Blue lines are where it will cut

GCODE Yellow line is where it is at If you stop, it stops immediately at that spot If you start, it will start immediately at that spot If you want to restart, you haveto tell it to rewind

When first starting, it will raise the tool head, start the tool head, it will come up to speed Then it will lower and start cutting

VCarve Pro = 2D Software

File, New Size of job: Inches or Millimeters? Ideally stick with Millimeters. Vcarve will translate to mm if needed We're doing 2" x 2" for example Setting the Z or Zero, Setting it at the top, And center of workpiece When we start the end mill will be at the center of our design You can draw your tool path You can create it in inkscape or illustrator Export from inkscape as a DXF File: Import -> Vectors DO NOT ASSUME THAT DIMENSIONS IN INKSCAPE WILL MATCH DIMENSIONS IN VCarve! You can also import a bitmap, it won't cut, but you can trace the bitmap It has a tool to create vectors of the bitmap, it does an okay job

Vectors must be CLOSED If you have individual lines showing a circle, and you highlight that as one tool path, it won't like that

View controls Edit objects Moving, selecting, Group, ungroup, measure,

***Measure twice*** 3D View, lets you view work piece Nothing has been carved into it Tool Path bar on side (right) Setup Material(done when you first start) Toolpaths Profile cuts around the shape (can be set as outside, inside, on the line) Pocket will hollow out a shape Drilling (you would need a drill bit) Quick Engraving (letters, circuit boards) Fluting allows you to create a pocket that something fits into Inlay toolpath allows you Texturing toolpath: Runs the end mill into the wood to give a distressed look

Click a vector Choose a Toolpath: Profile, Select tool: AHA Section has our tools: Using hardwood soft media, 2 flute 1/8th" Okay it says we can do this in one path Edit Passes: Set pass thickness Setting it to do 2 passes Right on the line If you wanted to cut all the way out and wanted to add tabs, here you can do that You can select whre you want tabs on the shape IT DOESN'T KNOW HOW MANY TABS!! Calculate It will show you where it's cuting Click other vector New Preview Pocket tool path Cut ? inches? Select endmill for this toolpath 2 Flute 1/8"?

Preview all tool paths

if you have used TWO SEPERATE BITS (end mills) You need to save TWO seperate files! Note where

Save tool paths Select toolpaths Save toolpaths Output all toolpaths Arcs, Millimeters Save toolpath

Generates gcode text file!

load into Mach 3

Load the GCODE Safety Goggles on Rewind Estop OfF Reset Currently we are up pretty high, so we lower with page down We say we are at center We start *** Doing a test run above your material to see if things seem appropriate***

Go to zero Lower down to material Make sure nothing is in the way Reset Zero everything again Rewind Hit start Gets up to speed Begins!

Generate file in inkscape

Save as Desktop Plotting (DXF) autocad Default settings

Launch VCarve Pro

Job setup

Set size, 2" x 2" Hit Okay File -> Import -> YourFile.dxf Might neeed to zoom out (scroll down with mouse button)

Select everything (Control+A) Edit Object : Move Scale & Rotate Resize & Drag onto your editing board

File: Close: Open an existing file Change size to size you want 2" 2 " Set X/Y Origin Position Center Uncheck "Use origin offset" Check Data Scaling: Scale data with job

Hit "Ok"

hit control a to select everything Edit Objects Tool section Scale / move to fit as you like

Select your vectors Click Toolpaths on right handd side Choose the right toolpath type Edit Passes *** ** Machine Vectors You can set if you want it to cut inside or outwside or on the lines(vectors) Sometimes it will eror when you hit calculate, setting it to "on" sems to resolve this?


Select additional vector if needed Adjust settings Hit calculate

to Save: Check your toolpaths/profiles you want to save Under Toolpaths select the Floppy Disk icon to save Save Toolpaths to file Give it a name File type: Mach 2-3

Open Mach!

Hit "Load GCODE" Pick your file Reset Zero everything Setup Tool Run by "Cycle Start"

Misc. Comments

Close GCODE Load GCODE Pick your file you saved from VCarve Pro Design should show up in Mach 3

Deselect offset toolpath if your toolpath starts way off from your object

Cut 3D Allows you to do 3D Models and cuts with the CNC Router

      • Make Scrabble pieces of your initials?***

      • What are default settings for dxf?***
      • Don't ever plug vacuum into anything that the CNC or Power is connected to ***
      • Adjusting speeds can this be done on the CNC hardware, or software, or both***

Changing End Mill Get appropriate end mill Get collet Put end mill in collet Put collet w/end mill into collet holder Tighten with adjustable wrenches Tight, but don't crank down on it You can raise / lower spindle holder Z height if your part is too high or too low Limited

      • Where do tools stay?***

      • Aluminum? Cutting? Need coolant!***

      • Vcarve has online tutorials and monthly projects***

Settings Diagnostics

Cut depth Software determines

Collet Cleaner

VCarve pro

Vector Cut 3D Very expensive software

Bed size ~19x12x3 Software can setup multiple sections that will connect together