PlasmaCAM CNC Software Specifications
Samples & Use
The PlasmaCAM software is one complete Windows 95/98 program that allows you to draw and edit designs, import
designs from other sources, convert designs into cut paths, and control the PlasmaCAM cutting table.
"It's extremely easy to use." - Maurice Lavoie, Pemberton Valley
Our customers love our software because it's so easy to use. The program is very simple yet it gets the job done quickly.
The program consists of a large window that displays the design image while you work on it or cut it with the machine. Both the edge of the cutting area and the current position of the torch are also displayed in this window - allowing you to easily place parts exactly where you want to cut them on the table.
(In the example shown, the deer is placed near the lower left corner of the cutting area, and the torch is currently positioned just above the deer's back.)
The program has a simple menu at the top of the window. This menu contains about 50 different commands that each do something to the drawing you are working on. For example, the Scale command will change the size of a part to whatever size you want to make it.
Shown next to the commonly used commands on the menu is a letter code that you can type to activate the command. This allows you to work extremely fast once you learn the commands. For example, you can simply press the "s" key to scale a part, instead of pulling "Scale" off the menu.
Note that every software command available is listed on the menu in plain English, so you are not required to memorize the meanings of any secret key combinations or icon buttons to use this program.
(In the example the Edit menu is opened; this is the longest menu.)
Here's what the Software Commands Do:
Note that some of these commands are commonly used while others are rarely used. Just skip past any description that doesn't sound like it applies to your needs. To best understand our software, watch it in action as shown in our demo video.
- Save and later open drawings, regardless of where you are at in the process. You can create, cut and save a design to disk, then open it years later and immediately cut it again.
- Print out your designs to paper.
- Directly read and convert scanned pictures and hand-drawn artwork. The unique raster-to-vector conversion engine separates background and foreground colors, removes defects, and turns bitmapped drawings into line and arc paths that can be cut by a machine.
- Read and write DXF files to and from other programs without errors. If you design with other CAD software like AutoCAD, CADKey, FastCAD, DesignCAD, GenericCAD, SolidWorks, SolidEdge, ProEngineer or even CorelDraw, you can transfer part designs to PlasmaCAM and directly cut the parts.
Note: If you want to design and build HVAC ducting with the PlasmaCAM system, you can purchase design and layout
software from Design2FAB and transfer ducting profiles to PlasmaCAM in DXF or HPGL/2 format.
Click here to see Design2FAB's web site
- Directly read and write G-Code programs to and from other CNC machines. This means you can use PlasmaCAM to
program another CNC machine. You can also load into PlasmaCAM old drawings that are only stored as G-Code programs.
These drawings can then be modified or directly cut on the PlasmaCAM machine.
- Read and write HPGL/2 files. This allows you to transfer designs from virtually any other Windows program to PlasmaCAM,
even if the program doesn't support the DXF format. To set up this capability, simply install the Windows driver for a
high-resolution Hewlett Packard plotter and configure the driver to print to a file. You can then print from other programs
to the virtual plotter and import the file into PlasmaCAM. For example, the PlasmaCAM software was used to extract and
modify 3-D perspective images of our cutting table from SolidWorks using this method. These images were then used in our
Click here to see an example page from our instruction manual
- Read and write drawings to spreadsheet text files. Most of our customers do not use or even know about this capability, but if you ever need to draw a shape that is based on a special mathematical function (such as a parabola, a spiral, or even an involute curve - which gear teeth are based on), you can create the equation and coordinates in spreadsheet file and read the shape directly into PlasmaCAM. For example, the bizarre wavy clock shown in our video was first drawn as a round clock, then loaded in MS Excel as a spreadsheet. Waviness was added to the shape with the right equation, and the shape was loaded back into PlasmaCAM and cut.
- Draw artistic letters using any True Type Font (TTF) installed on your computer. Letters can then be edited just like any other
shape (they can be attached to something, for example).
- Quickly and accurately draw new geometric shapes consisting of line segments, arcs, circles, rectangles, etc.
- Radius or chamfer corners of parts.
- Draw massive arrays of multiple parts. This allows fast and efficient nesting.
- Undo several operations if you make a serious mistake.
- Move, rotate or resize parts.
- Slant parts at an angle (such as letters), or make parts more skinny or fat (make an ellipse from a circle, for example).
- Break, explode and trim parts (you can take a piece from one design and join it to another design, for example).
- Copy or delete parts, and edit parts in other ways not possible with other programs.
Advanced Editing & Cleanup
These capabilities are invaluable to plasma cutting, yet they are not found in other software. Watch our demonstration video to see just how helpful these features are.
- Link Segments automatically joins together nearby broken pieces to make one complete path - just specify the
allowable gap distance it can jump to connect pieces. Link Segments can even erase entities that overlap other entities.
- Smooth removes ragged part edges left over from the original
artwork. Smooth really improves the apparent quality of the final
part. Smooth is also useful for reducing the number of entities
in a drawing - a must if you are programming another CNC machine
that has memory limitations.
- Detect Intersections and Select Shortest allow you to immediately
find and remove tiny defects from a drawing. This makes clean-up
of a messy drawing much easier, and may really help if you're
programming another CNC machine.
- Convert to Cut Path turns even a complex part into a group of
cut paths in one operation. (The cut paths are then traced by
the machine when it cuts.) This function does all of the following
to both the perimeter and all the holes of a part:
- Offsets the part outline to correct for the kerf width of the torch.
- Adds lead-in pierce points at the start of each cut (for better part quality).
- Reorders holes so they are cut in a logical order - before the perimeter is cut.
- Automatically breaks up and reorders a large part (up to 20 ft long) so it can be cut as one piece on the PlasmaCAM table.
- Omits edge cuts from a part if the part is aligned to the edges of the sheet. This saves time and material when cutting large parts with one or more straight sides.
- Adds adjustable gaps at the end of each cut, in case you want to tab parts and pull them out later.
- Reorder Path(s) allows you to easily change the order in which any piece of a part is cut. You can safely view the cut order before you cut the part by choosing Cut Preview.
What makes the PlasmaCAM software so impressive is the fact that it interacts with the machine in real time. Therefore, the same program that displays the drawing on screen also controls the machine and knows where it is. This visual interactivity between the design software and the cutting table makes it so much easier to lay out and cut parts.
- MoveTo will immediately move the machine to any point you specify
on the cutting table - just click with your mouse. For example,
you can instantly tell the machine to move the torch tip to the
corner of a part, so you can see where the part is going to be
cut on the material. If you don't like where the machine is about
to cut the part, you can move the part on the computer - much easier
than trying to move the material.
- You can also jog and shuttle the machine around from the cutting
table control panel, and the computer screen will show where the
torch tip is at the same time.
- To cut a part, simply select it on the screen and choose Cut
from the menu. You can pause or stop the machine during cutting
and resume cutting at any point on the part. While the machine
is paused, you can change speed, height and time settings, or
you can trace back along the path to recut an area. You can even
change the cut speed while you're cutting simply by turning the
dial on the control panel. The computer screen displays what the
machine is doing while it is cutting. You can watch the yellow
torch cursor move around the perimeter of the drawing as it is
- The software can also be set to display the machine's grate points on screen, in case you want to position parts so as to miss the points. (The grate will still last for years even if you don't try to miss the points.)
- Several View commands allow you to see different parts of the
drawing while you are working on it. For example, you can zoom
in close to do detailed work on a particular area. PlasmaCAM even
allows you to adjust the view while you are in the middle of another
- Snap commands allow you to draw and edit very accurately while
still working quickly. Snaps also help make sure that parts and
features are cut exactly where they need to be on the table. For
example, you could use Center Snap and Torch Point Snap to move
a part on screen so that its hole is exactly centered with the
current location of the torch tip.
- Measure allows you to figure out how long parts will take to cut. Also, you can quickly determine sizes of parts, distances, and angles.