CNCSimulator Pro

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Workflow

This is an introduction to the basic workflow of SimCam. If you want, you can try to follow the steps even though this is not exactly a step-by-step tutorial. Or you can just read it through to get a basic idea of how to work in SimCam and then do the tutorials. 
 
When you work in SimCam, you mainly follow these steps.
 
1.     Add one or several workpieces.
2.     Add lines, points and circles.
3.     Add contours and set parameters.
 
 
Let's have a look at these steps:
 

Step 1. Add workpieces.

 
To add a workpiece, you first need to have it in your CNCSimulator workpiece registry.
 
 
When you have the workpieces you plan to use, switch over to SimCam by clicking the SimCam tab and select [More] – [Workpiece] to add the workpiece(s) you want to use.
 
 
You should always start a new SimCam project by adding a workpiece to the drawing.
 

Step 2. Add lines, points and circles.

 
There are two types of drawing objects you can add. Guide objects and drawing objects. Guide lines and circles are used as a drawing aid to help finding intersections, tangents etc.
 
Guide objects are lines, points and circles and they are as simple as possible. A line does not have an endpoint, just a start and an angle. There are no arcs, just full circles with a center and a radius.
You may see these objects as guide rails for helping the tracker (more on that soon) to find his way around when creating contours.
 
 
Drawing objects on the other hand are complex objects that can have many shapes, colors, sizes and styles.
 
 
There are several ways you can add objects using the SimCam menu. Also by clicking on the coordinate system, entering coordinates by keyboard or clicking on other object, you alter the way these objects are created.
 
When you create objects and as they interact with each other, like for example when a line crosses a circle there will be snap points automatically created. They can be tangential points, intersection points etc.
 
 
Snap points has gravity, meaning when the mouse cursor gets near one of them, it will “snap” to the point by its gravitation. This is very helpful when adding objects.
 
The row of checkboxes at the bottom of the SimCam window controls what snap points are turned on and off.
 
 
These are End (Endpoints), Cen (Center points), Mid (Midpoints), Int (Intersections), Tan (Tangential points), Ext (Extreme points), Dis (Disable all point snaps), Ang (Snap to angles 0, 45, 90, etc.).
 
Let's look at what happens when you add a guide circle.
 
Click [Circle] - [Guide Circle]- [Center – Radius].
 
Click a center position and then drag the mouse and make another click for the radius.
 
Now, move the mouse cursor around the perimeter of the circle.
 
 
The first thing you will see is an object information sign telling you the center coordinates and the radius of the circle. Also, note that the circle gets highlighted as long as the mouse is over it.
 
Check all snap checkboxes (except "Dis") at the bottom of the SimCam window.
 
 
Now move the cursor to the top of the circle.
 
There you will find an extreme point. With extreme, we mean that the mouse cannot get higher on the circle.
 
 
You will find another extreme snap point to the far right of the circle and in total there is four of them (top, left, right, bottom). If you move the cursor to the center of the circle, you will find another type of snap point, the center snap point.
 
 
There are also temporary snap points. For example, when you start drawing a line, temporary tangential points will be created on all circles.
 
Let's try!
 
Click [Line] - [Guide Line] and then click somewhere outside the circle.
 
Now move the mouse cursor to where you think the line would tangent the circle. With a bit of luck, you will find a tangential snap point there. Click on it!
 
 
Another example of temporary snap points is when you start a new line; there will be 90 degrees snap points on all other lines making it easy to draw perpendicular lines.
 
 
And there is more…
 
SimCam's goal is to do all calculations for you so you can focus on making the coolest CNC projects imaginable!
 
To delete an object, just click on it and select [Modify] - [Delete].
 
 
If you want to create an offset copy of an object, select [Modify] - [Offset] from the SimCam menu.
 
Then click on [Distance] and enter the distance you want for the offset. Click OK and then make another click on the object (circle or line) you want to offset. Final step is to click on the side you want the offset copy.
 
 
You can also move, rotate etc from the Modify menu selection in the object content menu.
 
 
The context menu is shown each time you click on a highlighted object.
 
Let us add a drawing line as well.
 
Click on [Line] - [Drawing Line] and then click the start and 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.
 
Note how the relative distance in X and Y is shown while you are dragging the object.
 
 
Drawing lines and arcs are more advanced objects compare to guide objects. They have parameters for the visual aspect of the object as well as handles to allow the user to drag end points etc.
 
Click once on the object to make it activated and then click and hold one of the handles (blue squares) to drag it around. Note how it can snap to other objects, to straight angles etc.
 
 
When you have your drawing objects in place it is time for the final step in the workflow.
 
 

Step 3. Add contours and set parameters.

 
Contours are the geometrical definitions for SimCam to be able to create CNC code. To add a contour, simply click [More] – [Contour] - [Track] in the SimCam menu. Then click at a snap point where you want to start the contour.
 
 
“The Tracker” will show up. It is a little red impatient guy who wants to know where to go. He can only move to a new snap position if there is a guide or drawing object connecting the current position with the new one. Instead of clicking a snap point you can also click directly on a guide. In that case, the Tracker will follow that guide until he finds the next snap point.
 
If you click a place where the Tracker cannot go, he will protest and stay where he is.
 
 
Sometimes it will look like the Tracker does not want to cooperate even when he should.
 
 
But if you zoom in, you will see that in this case, he has not yet reached the line, and hence cannot follow it. (It reached the lower extreme point of the circle first.)
 
 
You solve it by clicking the tangential point between the line and the circle and then you can continue on the line.
 
 
We hate to say it, but the Tracker is a lazy guy. When tracking circles, he always tries to go the shortest way. If you want to do a half circle, from one extreme to another, never click directly on the opposite extreme point as there will be two ways with equal distance there. Use other extreme points, tangential points, intersection points etc. as bridges to explain to the Tracker where to go.
 
We suggest you draw some lines and circles at this moment and practice adding contours with the tracker.
 
When the Tracker is at its endpoint, click Esc on the keyboard to finish the contour.
After a bit of practice, you should be able to make contour beauties like this one.
 
 
Note those arrows around the contour? They are there to show you the contour direction. When making CNC code from your contour, SimCam is using this directional information.
 
Also, please note the small perpendicular arrows pointing outwards from the contour. These are “toolside” arrows. They help SimCam to know on what side of the contour to put the tool.
 
 
At any time, you can change the direction and the toolside of a contour by clicking on it.
 
 
A menu will show letting you delete the contour, flip toolside, reverse the tool direction, setting parameters and do smooth entries and/or exits.
 
Toolsides can be to the left of the contour, on the contour and to the right of the contour.
 
When we are happy with our contours, let's open the layers dialog to see the layers that has been created for us. Each layer represents an operation in the CNC program.
 
At the bottom left corner, click on the Layers button.
 
 
The top layer you will see is the Guide layer. It is where all your guides and drawing objects are.
 
Below the Guide layer, there will be one or more automatically created contour layers. From them we will get CNC code as soon as we have defined the parameters for the operation.
 
 
Note that little gear button in the top left corner? Click on it!
Tip! A quicker way of opening the parameters of a layer is by double-clicking it.
 
 
In this dialog, you will set the type of operation (contour, pocket, drilling or text) and the parameters for the operation. There is a lot of stuff to learn here, but easy, let's just change the operation type to contour and leave the rest of the parameters as they are to see what happens.
 
 
Click on OK to close the dialog.
 
 
Voila! We have made our first CNC program using SimCam!
 
 
Let us have a look of other ways to create contours for CNC toolpath generation.
If your drawing is made with a well defined contour of drawing objects, more like a conventional CAD drawing, there is a quicker way to create toolpath contours.
 
 
Note! Drawing style projects might take slightly longer time to create but are easier to use as a base for toolpath generation. It is up to the user if he/she prefers using guide or drawing objects or a mix of both. We suggest putting dimensions, guide objects and drawing objects in different layers for convenience.
If you click on one of the objects on a drawing contour, you will see a CAM menu.
 
 
Here are the options in the menu:
 
[Pocket] This option is only visible when the contour is closed. It will, as the name suggests, create a pocket milling operation using the contour as its borders.
 
[Contour] This option will create 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 will automatically create 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 us click on Contour and see what happens.
 
The first thing you will see is a dialog window asking for same basic parameters regarding the operation. Tell SimCam what tool diameter you want, the Z level of the cut and the Z level for transports (usually G00). Then click OK. Please note that you will be able to edit these, and other parameters in the settings for the layer at any time.
 
 
Next you will see a window letting you select the toolside as well as the direction around the contour. Changes will preview directly as you click on the buttons. When you are done, click OK.
 
 
Easy right?
 
Another way of creating toolpaths is by clicking Follow Mouse in the [More] - [Contour] menu.
 
 
It lets you create straight line toolpath objects wherever you click.
 
 
Please note that the contour will be added to the same contour layer that is currently selected. If you want a contour to end up on its own layer, please create a new layer first using the buttons in the layers panel.
 
As you can see on the picture above, each separate contour ends with a red dot with a number. These tell you in what order the contours will be machined. You can change the order of individual contours on the same layer using the Order function.
 
 
This was an introduction the SimCam workflow. Make sure you experiment and try out all the cool features of the program.