CMC CAD question...

Garnetta

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We have a custom shape to be cut out of a customer's mat and unfortunately we do not have a CMC. A framer about 60 miles from us does have a CMC and they just purchased the CAD software that goes with it. I have created the shape the customer needs in Illustrator which is a vector program. Can anyone tell me if I can save this file in any type of format that can be used in the CMC as a template?

Thanks for any input you can give me. I'm trying to gain some knowledge that might be helpful to the framer that has the CMC because they couldn't answer this question since they don't have the experience yet with the CAD functions.
 

Mike Labbe

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Good morning,

I hope you don't mind that I moved your post to the CMC/TECHNICAL(geek) forum


Most CMCs can import vectorized DXF files and re-save the results in their native format. In some cases you may need to re-trace the image in the CAD software first.

If they have a Wizard, you can often create custom shapes by combining existing designs and using the powerful "Merge openings" feature.

Do you know what kind of CMC the other shop has? This might help folks to give a more accurate answer.

Welcome to the Grumble!
Mike
 

Garnetta

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Thanks, Mike! I'll export the Illustrator file as a .dxf file for them. I'll ask them which CMC they have.

If we need a double mat cut and I send them the template for the top mat only, will it be easy for them to set up the bottom mat in the CAD software? It's the unusual shape that makes it difficult for me to do that in Illustrator and keep the lines exactly ¼" apart, smooth & exactly parallel.

I wish we were at the point where we felt we had enough business to rent the Wizard CMC.

: ) Thanks!
 

Susan May

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I have an Eclipse, and they (Eclipse) told me that when you draw the picture in CAD you want to draw it in a clockwise direction, or the blade might cut a reverse bevel. This might not be as simple as you think. CAD takes practice... and time to learn.

Good Luck.
 

Ron Eggers

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They should be able to convert the dxf to a double mat without problems, but watch out for sharp curves. CMCs use a blade, not unlike a Dexter #11, and too much detail makes them nuts.
 

MarkEatonLLC

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Garnetta;

My name is Mark Eaton. I am the Engineer that created the Eclipse and MatWRITER mat cutters. I also have 20 years of CAD experience. If you would like someone to create the CAD program that your framer friend can cut I would be glad to help. I no longer work for Eclipse. My non-compete clause expired with Eclipse in July so I am now able to re-enter this market and offer this service. I may be wrong but from your original post I would conclude that your framer friend has an Eclipse.

A vector file from Illustrator is not the correct format for a CMC, although it can be converted into one. The two file formats used by most CMC are DXF and HPGL. Both of these file formats are text files that the CMC converts into cutting instructions. Simply creating a DXF file from your AI file will not make it work. Yes, these file formats do describe vectors (lines and arcs), but no they are not the same as a vector file format such as AI. There are very strict rules that must be followed to create a cutting path for a CMC to cut. You can find some of these instructions in the “Advanced” section of the Eclipse Users Manual. These instructions are not the complete story.

If you are interested in more information on the subject or would like a quote on your job please contact me.
 

Garnetta

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The shop that has the CMC mat cutter has a Fletcher 6100. They said they were not able to get the .dxf file I created for them to work. Does anyone have any insight on if and how they could get the template I created in Illustrator and exported as a .dxf file to work in their CAD program? They are learning this new program and may not know the proper procedure. It would be a time saver and very helpful for future jobs if anyone knows the answer.

Thanks!
 

Rick Bergeron - CPF

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Garnetta,

It's difficult not knowing the complexity or detail of your particular problem at hand; which includes the minimum radius.

Probably the easiest way would be to take the file that you have, import the dxf into the 6100 and Overlay a combination of straight lines and arcs to approximate the original. The 6100, and maybe the others, doesn't do CAD generated ellipses, splines, etc well. It seems to convert those lines into many short, straigt lines; each with their own blade plunge into the mat.

An alternative would be to have it cut with a laser. I've seen a few quite impressive mats cut that way and the minimum radius doesn't seem to be a factor. Overall size might be a problem for the laser though.
 

John Gornall

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Using draw programs to create mat shapes usually doen't work with a CMC. The results are far too complex for the machines to process or to cut. For example I converted a clip art file of a whale from Corel draw and saved it as a dxf file. The dxf file had over 10,000 line segments and few joined at the ends. If the line segments don't join to create a single contiuous opening the CMC probably won't recognize the lines as a mat opening. And besides who wants to wait a month while the CMC cuts 10,000 cuts. If you have created the design you wish to cut in a draw program the best technique to move this into a cut situation in the CMC is to paste it into your CAD program and then draw a simplified CAD shape around it - then delete the drawing. You will learn to approximate elipses and spline curves using circular arcs. Then you can learn how to use your CAD program to draw it again to create double and triple mats. Also how to indicate to your CMC which lines to cut for each mat layer. Also how to size the drawing to cut the right size mat. And then after doing this a number of times you will learn what will cut and what won't. You will also learn the quirks of your CMC software as to getting it to cut correctly as to forward or reverse bevel.

I've been using computers for 30 plus years, used to be an engineer, and put my time in on 2 different CMC's over the past 6 years. I cut CAD designed mats every day. Most of my multi opening mats are done in CAD because it's faster for me to do it this way. If you have the energy, time, math and geometry education, and drive, it's well worthwhile to learn CAD/CMC - it's very profitable. But it takes incredible detail and patience - it's not like drawing with a pencil - it's all math and geometry.

I tried other CMC's but settled on a Fletcher Terry F6100 - works best for me.
 

MarkEatonLLC

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If you would like to read a general simple article on computer graphics formats go to this link: http://www.raycomm.com/techwhirl/magazine/technical/graphicfileformats.html

As this article states AI, or Illustrator files, are EPS (Encapsulated PostScript files) in disquise.

EPS files are vector files and DXF files are vector files but they are not the same kind of vector files.

John Gornall just said it straight up. Creating a drawing for a machine to follow is not the same as drawing with a pencil. Rick Bergeron has also added an all important point about tangency. Lines and arcs that make up a cutting path for a machine to follow much touch each other EXACTLY and if you do not want the blade to pick up and plug at the intersection they must also be TANGENT. These lines and arc must also be sent to the machine in a logical order for cutting.

Wizard has an adjustable setting for determining wheather two lines are tangent largely because those machines cut from an HPGL type file format which is made up of hundred of little line segments. Eclipse has this feature programed into their software. I am not sure about Fletcher, maybe Mr. Gornall would let us know the answer to that. Both Eclipse and Fletcher use machine controllers that understand lines as well as arcs. Lines and arcs are stored in the DXF file where as HPGL files are almost always made up of lots of little lines.

Designing the logo of clipart on paper or in illustration software is a right-brained activity; while creating the CAD program that actually drive the machine is a left-brained active.

CAD is the key to tapping into the ultimate power of your CMC. Prepare to exercise that left half of your brain.

Thanks John R for the welcome back.
 

MarkEatonLLC

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Garnetta;

If you would like I can create the CAD file for you and send it to you via e-mail. Or, I can create the CAD file and have the job cut for you and sent to you. I can have it cut and back to you by friday if nothing is to odd. Please feel fee to call my cell to discuss the details or e-mail the Illustrator file for a quote.
 

WizSteve

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From John Gornall:

the best technique to move this into a cut situation in the CMC is to paste it into your CAD program and then draw a simplified CAD shape around it - then delete the drawing. You will learn to approximate elipses and spline curves using circular arcs.
I agree with John here too - if you're converting a drawing (especially a scanned-in drawing) to a format for cutting on a CMC then it can be easier to draw over it in order to reduce the complexity of the drawing. Just wanted to point out that the software continues to improve, and Wizard's MatDesigner 5.0 software now supports splines so you don't have to approximate curves or ellipses with circular arcs any more. You can in fact now get a best fit spline curve using a series of points or line segments.

And I just want to clarify Mark Eaton's remark:
Wizard has an adjustable setting for determining wheather two lines are tangent largely because those machines cut from an HPGL type file format which is made up of hundred of little line segments...Lines and arcs are stored in the DXF file where as HPGL files are almost always made up of lots of little lines.
This statement is a little misleading... the tangent adjustment is used before the conversion to HPGL to determine whether a head-up/replunge is needed and has nothing to do with the HPGL code itself. In fact the HPGL code is just one step among many from design to finished product.

Ultimately all output to all CMCs are line segments - the motors aren't vector based and don't know anything about curves, so it just depends where you do the conversion. Wizard's software does the conversion to line segments in software before it sends it to the machine controller (via HPGL). Other CMCs, probably like the Fletcher, tell the machine to cut an oval and it's up to the controller to convert it to line segments. Both controllers still have similar logic for accelleration tables, how to drive the various motors, and stuff like that.

And Garnetta, if you're still having difficulty getting the DXF to cut I'm sure Wizard or Eclipse can find several CMC owners in your area... Wizard also offers our MatDesigner software for personal use.

Thanks...
 

GUMBY GCF

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Steve Did I miss something there can I now use spline curves to do the vcadd drawings?

If so I am off to see my Wizard. Hi Ho Hi Ho HOOOO I am off to see my Wizard
 

WizSteve

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That is correct James... we've also added some new buttons for 5.1 in VCADD - auto-tangify and arc-to-spline, and PathTrace has a few new tricks as well.

I'll be at the Atlanta show if anyone has any other questions or want me to show you how to do something...
 

John Gornall

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In answer to Mark's question I don't have any idea about the Fletcher's programming and controller. I have never worried about this end of it - my energies have been directed to cutting the mats I always wished I could cut.

There was a mat shape that always appealled to me which I was unable to cut well until the CMC came along. I refer to the shape as a "Soft Arch" - this is an opening which is usually a horizontal with the top being an arch and the bottom being a straight line but "Soft" because all 4 corners are rounded. I can draw this in CAD and using geometrical construction to make sure all lines and arcs are TANGENT and cut the mat opening all the way around without the blade lifting on any of the 3 mat layers. (I seldom do less than 3 mats) I still marvel at watching the F-6100 do this. Not that this is a difficult shape - it's just that this is the shape that led me into CMC.
 

MarkEatonLLC

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John has again hit the nail on the head. All of this talk about controller details does not really matter. What matters is the final product – the mat in your hand after the cutting is finished.

It does not matter if you used VCADD, ACAD, Illustrator, or Corel. It does not matter if you use HPGL or DXF. It does not matter which file format your CMC uses. It does not matter if the file is converted at the software level or at the hardware level. What matters, is that you know that each line and/or arc that these files contain is an instruction to CMC on exactly where and what to cut.

If you use HPGL you should know that the file is made up lots little line segments. Line segments so small that your eye cannot tell that they are line segments. But the computer running your CMC can tell this. To prevent the blade from plunging at the end of each of these little line segments your CMC cutting software must have some type of tolerance that lets the CMC know that it is ok to cut through a corner that falls within said tolerance (+/- 6 degrees as an example). This setting is either hard coded in the cutting program or it is on a “Settings” window somewhere in your software. The method of implementation by the CMC vendor does not matter. If your brand of CMC does not have this feature then you mostly likely won’t be cutting from an HPGL file and instead you will use DXF.

If you use DXF you will need to draw lines, and arcs (and splines in Wizards case) that are tangent if you do not want the blade head to pick up and replung. This is of course unless the DXF file is then output as HPGL instructions to the CMC. If so, the paragraph on HPGL above applies.

Nothing I just said should be taken as a positive or negative comment against or for a brand of CMC. No matter what CMC you use you will need to know about HPGL and/or DXF. You will need to know how to draw at least lines, and arcs. And you will need to know how to make them tangent if you do not want that blade to pick up and replung. Your lines and arcs must touch end to end exactly if they are to be cut in a continuous path. You will need to know how to create the lines and arcs in an order so that the CMC knows where to start and stop cutting (See Susan’s comment about the Eclipse; Wizard has a different method). And last, you will need to know how to tell the CMC what mat layer to cut what lines and arcs on (Some CMCs use layers, some use colors, some use pen numbers.).

The Devil is in the details.

Tip of the Day: Test the process using a simple rectangle. When you get that to work add rounded corners to your rectangle. When that works move on to the more complicated stuff.
 

MarkEatonLLC

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Mike;

Thanks for the words of support and the offer.

At the moment all of the clipart (cutart) that I have are the property of the customers that paid for them.

However, I would like to extend the following offer to all framers (cmc brand does not matter, even no cmc). Until Jan 1, 2005 I will create your clipart in CAD for free if you will allow me to add it to Mike's site. This should be a win-win-win situation for everyone involved.

There will need to be some ground rules here:
1) Three layers, maximum.
2) The design must be usable by the framing community (i.e. the type of stuff that comes free with your CMC, or with software like Corel Draw).
3) Turn around time will very. Paying customers have priority (I do have bills to pay).
4) Capacity is limited (see rule 3).
5) I will provide a DXF file that YOU will use with YOUR CMC software (These techniques will very. I can help here but I must charge a fee for specific technical support or onsite training).
6) Some designs may be determined to be too complex for this offer (this is based solely on my decision).
7) All rights to the clipart design must be held by the Framer (i.e. no logos unless you are the owner of it).
8) This offer is not available to CMC manufacturers, framing distributors, big-box retailers, or their employees.
9) I am not responsible for any damages, lost income, or any other perceived or real negative effects of using this service and the file(s) generated by this service.
10) I have the right to refuse work related to this offer based on my discretion.

These rules are included for anyone who likes to play the jury based lottery system running at your local courthouse (see the Grumble thread "Have you ever been sued"). Everyone needs to play nice and get along.
 

Mike Labbe

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What a generous offer! I hope the response is great.

The clip art trading site absolutely needs some incentive to get it moving, and this is exactly what the Dr ordered.

Mike
 

JudyN

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[Designing the logo of clipart on paper or in illustration software is a right-brained activity; while creating the CAD program that actually drive the machine is a left-brained active.

CAD is the key to tapping into the ultimate power of your CMC. Prepare to exercise that left half of your brain. ]

Mark it is a good thing there are people like you around. I KNEW I had something wrong with me! I have taken a couple of the Wizard Cad classes but I just cannot grasp it!
icon45.gif
I can draw ANYTHING with a pen or pencil but I get completely lost with CAD.
cry.gif
 

Mike Labbe

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Mark,

Has anyone taken you up on this generous offer?

Mike
 

MarkEatonLLC

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Mike;

One gentleman. Just today. He has a Wizard Jr. though. This means that he does not have CAD so he can't use the DXF file that I create. I will figure something out for him though.

Thanks for asking.
 

Cliff Wilson

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WOW, now I'm a gentleman.
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I can't actually remember anyone ever calling me that??

Mike, I volunteered you to help me convert the file to a WIZ format. Hope you don't mind! ;)

P.S. JayH, watch this space. It might help you with your Little League question from the other thread.
 

Mike Labbe

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No problem


Mike
 

MarkEatonLLC

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Mike and Cliff;

The DXF file should be waiting in your respective in-boxes. If you guys need anything changed let me know. If I can do more also let me know.

Mike, will you kindly add the one to you site for me? Thanks.

If anyone else would like help on a CAD project let me know. I have been using CAD for 20 years.
 
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