How to Control the Cut Side and Start Point?
Our support staff speaks with users on a daily basis and new users have many questions. One of the questions asked often is:
How can I control the cut side and the cut start point of my 2 Axis toolpaths?
This article addresses this question is detail. To get many more of your questions answered be sure to get the Question & Answer Guide available for each of MecSoft’s CAM desktop plugins. As an Annual Maintenance Subscription (AMS) subscriber, this guide and other training materials are available to you as part of your annual subscription. To learn more about AMS or to become an AMS subscriber just give us a call at (949) 654-8163 option 1 for Sales or contact firstname.lastname@example.org today.
Understanding Curve Geometry
To answer this question, we must first talk about curve geometry (i.e., line, arc or spline). Collectively we will call them curves. Each curve has a Start point, a Direction and an End Point. If you position yourself at the start point and face the direction the curve is traveling, then your right and left hand will govern the right and left side of the curve. These definitions are shown in the illustration below. In 2-1/2 Axis machining methods the Cut Start Point is defined by the Start Point of the curve region. Thus, controlling the curve Start Point is critical in controlling the Cut Start Point of the toolpath. For closed curves, Inside and Outside can be used to control the side to cut. If the curve is a surface edge of a 3D solid model, you can also allow the program to determine the correct side to cut based on the part’s topology.
When Machining Multiple Curves
When more than one disconnected curve is selected for one machining operation each is obviously treated as a separate curve region, each with a unique cut start point.
| When multiple curves that are located end-to-end are selected for one machining operation it is highly recommended that you first merge or join the curves into one poly-curve. Doing this first will define a single cut start point for the entire poly-curve.
NOTE: If the curves are left disconnected, the start point of the first curve selected for the machining region will serve as the cut start point. You can move a curve to the top of the Selected Machining Region(s) list and its start point will become the cut start point for the operation.
Error – Open Loops Found!
If you get an “open loops found!” error message when generating an operation, this means that the machining regions you have selected are not joined when the operation is expecting them to be. 2-½ Axis Pocketing is one operation that expects closed curves. This is why it is always good practice to join closed curves into one poly-curve before being used in a machining operation. The following illustrates open loop conditions:
How to Identify Start Points in CAD
You can identify and display curve start points and direction arrow indicators using your CAD system tools.
1. In Rhino, at the command prompt type the command crvseam and press <Enter>. Then select the curve and press <Enter> again to display the start point and direction. In VisualCAD, go to the Home tab in the top ribbon bar and select the Options icon.
2. Select Display from the left side of the dialog. Find the Curve Display Style section and check both boxes for start point and direction arrow and then pick OK to close the dialog.
3. Start point and arrow indicators will appear.
How to Change a Curve Start Point in CAD
You can use your CAD tools to move the Start Point of a curve. See the section above on How to Identify Start Points before continuing.
1. In Rhino, at the command prompt type the command crvseam and press <Enter>. In VisualCAD, go to the Curve Modeling tab in the top ribbon bar and select the Change Start icon .
2. Select the curve to modify and press <Enter> again. Then select a point on the curve that you want to move the start point to.
How to Change the Start Point in CAM?
In MecSoft CAM you can use Pre-Defined Regions to control the Cut Start Point, Direction and other aspects of your machining regions. This is a convenient method because it works on both curves and surface edges.
1. To the left of the Program tab in the Machining Browser, select the Tools Machining Objects icon to make sure the Machining Objects Browser is displayed.
2. Select the Regions tab.
3. Pick the Select Curves icon.
4. Select the curves or surface edges that you want to create a predefined region from and then right-click or press <Enter>. In the example below we select the top outer surface edge.
5. You will see that a new Machining Region Set was added to the Machining Regions folder and that a new Curve Region was created and added to the set. It is selected. In the graphic screen the curve region is highlighted and the start point and curve direction is indicated.
6. With the curve region selected from the list, pick the Select Start Point icon to enable start point editing.
7. Now select a new start point anywhere along the pre-defined region. The start point will move to that location. You can use the CAD systems object snap tools to assist with selecting a point.
8. Notice that the Select Start Point icon is still enabled. You can select another location for the start point if desired.
9. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the other Region commands on the toolbar. You can use them to save time and control your toolpaths.
Create Machining Region Set
Select Surface Edge Areas
Flat Areas Selection Filter
Select Flat Areas
Select Start Point
Reverse Cut Direction
Automatic Bridge Points on Selections
Manual Bridge Points on Selections
Delete All Bridge Points in Selections
Edit Bridge Point in Selections
How to Select Predefined Regions for a Toolpath?
Once you have created a Predefined Region and have verified that its start point is where you need it to be, you can use them as machining regions in any toolpath operation. Here are the basic steps.
1. Create a toolpath operation as you normally would.
2. From the Control Geometry tab of the operation dialog, pick the Select Predefined Regions button to display the dialog.
3. Select one or more regions for the toolpath operation and then pick OK to close the dialog. You can also select a region set.
4. In the Control Geometry tab, the Pre-Defined Region is added to the list of Selected Machining Region(s). It is listed as a Curve Region and can mixed with other curve or drive regions in the list.
5. Now Generate the toolpath as you normally would and the Start Point of the Predefined Region controls the Cut Start Point of the 2-1/2 Axis toolpath. In this example, it is a Profiling toolpath.
6. NOTE: If you are generating a 2-1/2 Axis Profiling toolpath and your entry IS NOT being located at the curve start point, go to the Cut Parameters tab of the operation dialog and make sure the option called Use Midpoint of Longest Side is not checked. If it is, uncheck it and Generate the operation again.
Cut Start Point Controls in Other Methods
Here is a list of the toolpaths that allow for Cut Start Point control.
1. All 2 Axis toolpath methods.
2. 2 Axis Roughing and 2 Axis Pocketing have an additional Start Points sub-tab on the Control Geometry tab where you can define Cut Start Points.
3. 3 Axis Horizontal Roughing and 3 Axis Horizontal Re-Roughing also have an additional Start Points sub-tab on the Control Geometry tab where you can define Cut Start Points.
4. Other 3 Axis methods have various parameters that control the toolpath so be sure to review all of the controls on the Cut Parameters tab for each operation type.
How to get the MecSoft CAM Plugin Question & Answer Guide?
To get this and many more of your questions answered be sure to get the Question & Answer Guide available for each of MecSoft’s CAM plugin. As an Annual Maintenance Subscriber (AMS), this guide and other training materials are available to you free as part of your annual maintenance subscription. To learn more about AMS or to become an AMS subscriber just give us a call at (949) 654-8163 option 1 for Sales or contact email@example.com today.
For more information about each of these Mill Module products, including data sheets, videos and other resources we invite you to visit the following product pages:
- VisualCAD/CAM-MILL (VisualMILL)
- VisualCAM for SOLIDWORKS-MILL
- VisualCAMc for Onshape