CNC Simulator Pro

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12.1. Workflow

This introduction provides an overview of the basic workflow in SimCam. While not a step-by-step tutorial, you can either follow along with the steps or simply read through to familiarize yourself with SimCam before attempting the tutorials.
 
When working in SimCam, follow these main steps:
 
Now let's examine each step in more detail:
 

Step 1. Add workpieces.

 
To begin, ensure that the workpiece you intend to use is registered in your CNC Simulator Pro workpiece registry.
 
 
Once you have created the workpieces you plan to use, switch over to SimCam by clicking on the SimCam tab. To add the desired workpiece or workpieces, select [More] – [Workpiece]. This will enable you to incorporate the workpieces you have prepared into your SimCam project.
 
 
Begin every new SimCam project by adding a workpiece to the drawing.
 

Step 2. Add lines, points, and circles.

 
In SimCam, you can add two types of drawing objects: guide objects and drawing objects. Guide lines and circles serve as drawing aids, helping you find intersections, tangents, and more.
 
Guide objects, which include lines, points, and circles, are designed to be as simple as possible. A line has a starting point and an angle but no endpoint. Circles are always complete, with a center and a radius, and arcs are not used. Think of these objects as guide rails that help the tracker (discussed in more detail later) navigate when creating contours.
 
 
In contrast to guide objects, drawing objects are more intricate, featuring a variety of shapes, colors, sizes, and styles. These elements enable you to create detailed and visually appealing CNC projects, while still benefiting from the simplicity of guide objects for accurate contour creation.
 
 
There are multiple methods for adding objects in SimCam, such as using the menu, clicking on the coordinate system, inputting coordinates with your keyboard, or interacting with existing objects. This flexibility allows you to create objects in a way that suits your preferences.
 
As you create objects and they interact with one another (e.g., when a line intersects a circle), snap points are automatically generated. These snap points can be tangential points, intersection points, and more, helping to facilitate precise object placement and alignment.
 
 
Snap points possess a gravitational effect, which means that when the mouse cursor approaches one of them, it will "snap" to the point due to its gravitational pull. This feature is incredibly helpful when adding objects.
 
The series of checkboxes at the bottom of the SimCam window allows you to control which snap points are enabled or disabled, giving you the flexibility to choose which points you want to utilize in your project.
 
 
These are End (Endpoints), Cen (Center points), Mid (Midpoints), Int (Intersections), Tan (Tangential points), Ext (Extreme points), Grp (Snap to objects in groups), Dis (Disable all point snaps), and Ang (Snap to angles 0, 45, 90, etc.).
 
Here's what happens when you add a guide circle in SimCam:
 
First, click [Circle/ Arc] - [Guide Circle] - [Center – Radius] to select the appropriate tool.
 
Next, click on the desired center position, then drag the mouse to define the radius, and click again to finalize the circle.
 
As you move the mouse cursor around the perimeter of the circle, you'll notice the circle gets highlighted, allowing you to see its boundaries and snap points more easily.
 
 
When you move the mouse pointer over the perimeter of a guide circle in SimCam, an object information box will appear, displaying the center coordinates and the radius of the circle. Additionally, the circle will be highlighted whenever the mouse cursor is hovering over it, making it easier to see and interact with.
 
Enable all snap points (except "Dis"), make sure to check all the corresponding checkboxes located at the bottom of the SimCam window. This will allow you to utilize the various snap points while creating and editing objects within the program.
 
 
Now, move the cursor to the top of the circle.
 
At this location, you will find an extreme point. By "extreme," we mean that the mouse cannot move any higher along the circle.
 
 
You will discover another extreme snap point at the far right of the circle, and altogether, there are four of them (top, left, right, bottom). If you move the cursor to the circle's center, you will encounter a different type of snap point called the center snap point.
 
 
There are also temporary snap points. For instance, when you begin drawing a line, temporary tangential points will appear on all circles.
 
Give it a try!
 
Click [Line] - [Guide Line], and then click somewhere outside the circle.
 
Now, move the mouse cursor to the location where you think the line would be tangent to the circle. You will come across a tangential snap point there. Click on it!
 
 
Another example of temporary snap points occurs when you start drawing a new line; 90-degree snap points will appear on all other lines, making it easy to draw perpendicular lines.
 
 
And there's more...
 
SimCam's goal is to handle all calculations for you, allowing you to focus on creating the most impressive CNC projects possible!
 
To delete an object, simply click on it and select [Modify] - [Delete].
 
 
If you wish to create an offset copy of an object, choose [Modify] - [Offset] from the SimCam menu.
 
Next, click on [Distance] and input the desired distance for the offset. Click OK and then click on the object (circle or line) you want to offset. Finally, click on the side where you'd like the offset copy to be placed.
 
 
You can also perform actions such as move, rotate, and more using the Modify menu selection in the object's context menu.
 
 
The context menu appears each time you click on a highlighted object.
 
Now let's add a drawing line as well.
 
Click on [Line] - [Drawing Line], then click on the start position and the end position of the line.
 
 
Another way to move an object is by dragging it with the mouse. Simply move the mouse over the object so that it becomes highlighted, then press down the left mouse button and drag the object to a new position.
 
Take note of the relative distance in X and Y displayed while you are dragging the object.
 
 
Drawing lines and arcs are more advanced objects compared to guide objects. They have parameters for the visual aspect of the object, as well as handles that allow the user to drag endpoints and more.
 
Click once on the object to activate it, and then click and hold one of the handles (blue squares) to drag it around. Observe how it can snap to other objects and straight angles, among other things.
 
 
Once you have your drawing objects in place, it's time for the final step in the workflow.
 
 

Step 3. Add contours and set parameters.

 
Contours are the geometrical definitions that allow SimCam to create CNC code. To add a contour, simply click [More] – [Contour] - [Track] in the SimCam menu. Then, click on a snap point where you want to start the contour.
 
 
The Tracker is a helpful tool that appears as a small red circle with an arrow when you start creating a contour in SimCam. Its purpose is to guide you in connecting snap points through guide or drawing objects. When you click on a guide, the Tracker will follow it until it reaches the next snap point.
 
However, the Tracker has its limitations. If you attempt to click on a location that isn't connected to its current position by a guide or drawing object, it won't move and will remain in place, indicating that the desired connection isn't possible.
 
Remember that the Tracker is designed to assist you in creating contours, but it's essential to use it within the context of existing drawing objects and guides.
 
 
Occasionally, it may seem as if the Tracker is not cooperating, even though it appears that it should be able to follow the intended path.
 
 
Upon zooming in, you'll notice that in this particular situation, the Tracker hasn't actually reached the line, which is why it cannot follow it. Instead, it has arrived at the lower extreme point of the circle first.
 
 
To resolve this issue, click on the tangential point where the line intersects the circle. After doing so, you'll be able to proceed along the line with the Tracker.
 
 
When tracking circles, the Tracker always attempts to take the shortest path. If you want to create a half-circle from one extreme point to another, avoid clicking directly on the opposite extreme point, as there will be two paths of equal distance there. Instead, use other extreme points, tangential points, intersection points, etc., as waypoints to guide the Tracker on the correct path.
 
We recommend taking some time now to draw lines and circles and practice adding contours with the Tracker.
 
When the Tracker reaches its endpoint, press the Esc key on the keyboard to complete the contour. With some practice, you'll be able to create beautiful and intricate contours like this one.
 
 
Observe the arrows around the contour? They indicate the contour direction. When generating CNC code from your contour, SimCam utilizes this directional information.
 
Additionally, take note of the small perpendicular arrows pointing outward from the contour. These are known as "toolside" arrows. They assist SimCam in determining which side of the contour the tool should be placed.
 
 
You can modify the direction and toolside of a contour at any moment by simply clicking on it.
 
 
A menu will appear, allowing you to delete, modify, and copy the contour, flip the toolside, reverse the tool direction, set parameters, create smooth entries and/or exits, change the order of the contours, and prefabricate a workpiece (for lathe machines only).
 
The toolside can be to the left of the contour, on the contour, or to the right of the contour.
 
Once you're satisfied with your contours, open the layers dialog to view the layers that have been created for you. Each layer represents an operation in the CNC program.
 
Click on the Layers button located in the bottom left corner to access the layers dialog.
 
 
 
The top layer you will see is the Guide layer, which contains all your guides and drawing objects.
 
Below the Guide layer, there will be one or more automatically created contour layers. We will obtain the CNC code from these layers once we have defined the parameters for each operation.
 
 
Take note of the little gear button in the top left corner. Click on it to access the layer's parameters.
Tip! A faster way to open a layer's parameters is by double-clicking the layer itself.
 
 
In this dialog, you can set the type of operation (contour, pocket, drilling, or text) and the parameters for the operation. While there's a lot to learn here, for now, let's simply change the operation type to contour and leave the rest of the parameters as they are to see the results.
 
 
Click on OK to close the dialog.
 
 
There you have it! You've successfully created your first CNC program using SimCam!
 
 
Let's explore other methods for creating contours for CNC toolpath generation. If your drawing consists of well-defined contours made up of drawing objects, similar to a conventional CAD drawing, there is a more efficient way to generate toolpath contours.
 
 
Keep in mind that drawing-style projects may take a bit more time to create, but they can make toolpath generation easier. It's up to the user to decide whether they prefer using guide objects, drawing objects, or a combination of both. We recommend organizing dimensions, guide objects, and drawing objects into separate layers for convenience. When you click on one of the objects in a drawing contour, you'll see a CAM menu.
 
 
Here are the options in the menu:
 
[Pocket] This option is only visible when the contour is closed. As the name suggests, it creates a pocket milling operation using the contour as its borders.
 
[Contour] This option creates a contour milling operation. If the contour is closed, the tool will go all the way around it. If it is an open contour, the operation will stop at the last object (or at an intersection).
 
[Engrave] This option automatically creates toolpaths for all objects on the layer. It is convenient when you want to engrave everything on the layer with the same tool and parameters.
 
Let's click on Contour and see what happens.
 
First, a dialog window will appear asking for basic parameters regarding the operation. Specify the tool diameter you want, the Z level of the cut, and the Z level for transports. Then click OK. Keep in mind that you can edit these and other parameters in the settings for the layer at any time.
 
 
After that, you'll see a window allowing you to select the toolside and the direction around the contour. As you click on the buttons, changes will be previewed immediately. Once you're satisfied with the settings, click "Done!"
 
 
That's quite simple, isn't it?
 
Another method for creating toolpaths involves clicking on [Follow Mouse] found in the [More] - [Contour] menu.
 
 
This option allows you to create straight-line toolpath objects wherever you click.
 
 
Keep in mind that the contour will be added to the currently selected contour layer. If you want a contour to have its own layer, first create a new layer using the buttons in the layers panel.
 
As shown in the image above, each separate contour ends with a red dot containing a number. These indicate the order in which the contours will be machined. You can modify the order of individual contours on the same layer by using the Order function.
 
You can create complex and precise CNC toolpaths with ease using SimCam. Remember to use layers to organize your objects and contours, and take advantage of the CAM menu options to create different types of toolpaths.
 
With SimCam, you can create CNC programs using both guide objects and drawing objects, depending on your preference and project requirements. You can also import DXF files and use them as a starting point for your projects.
 
SimCam provides a user-friendly interface and a wide range of features to help you create high-quality CNC programs. Happy machining!