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2 years with the Torchmate 2×4 CNC Plasma cutter

As a high school teacher and user of equipment with teenagers, I feel that we know how to abuse tools.  Like all reviews, each reviewer is sharing their personal perspective. This review comes from the perspective of lots of users doing a huge variety of projects with a variety of materials.  This isn’t a review from a production shop, but rather a learning atmosphere.  Over the last 2 years, we have fired up the CNC plasma about 400 times. We get a lot of use out of the tool.

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Prepping your Vectric Aspire files for the CNC plasma

We are using Vectric Aspire for creation of vector designs and altering the vectors for quality cuts on the Torchmate.  You will be exporting a .dxf file from Aspire once done.  You will be using the torchmate software for post-processing and operating the CNC plasma

Once you have your design ready in Aspire, you need to change your vectors so that they cut right on the Plasma

Here are the issues and how you need to deal with them.

Issue #1.  The CNC plasma will cut directly on your vector lines and there is a thickness (kerf) to the cut.  The kerf thickness does vary, but we have been happy with planning for a 1/16in (.0625in) kerf.  However, you can access the real chart here.  This requires you to design things slightly larger than you need.  The offset tool in aspire has worked wonders to solve this.  We have been offsetting at about .035in depending on the requirements of the part.  For outside cuts you will need to offset to the outside.  For inside cuts you will need to offset to the inside.  We have created modeling of what the cut looks like by making a profile toolpath with a 1/16in endmill in the toolpaths tab. Another way to deal with this is to Vector design it purposefully large and grind/mill it to correct tolerances.

Screenshot 2015-04-27 10.46.06

Issue #2.  This issue is not for all cuts, but something to keep in mind.  The CNC plasma takes it’s time around corners which introduced heat to the corners of your cut.  This can be a problem if sharp precise corners are needed.  This can be solved with the Plasma loops tool.  I show the class the need for a square and this is what the toolpaths vectors look like.  As you can see the square was offset first, then the plasma loops were added.

Screenshot 2015-04-27 10.52.59

Issue #3. The plasma does not start and stop cleanly.  This means that you want the plasma to start before your part and end after your part.  These are called lead-ins.  For the above design I simply cut one of the plasma loops.  For inside circles, and any complicated designs, individual lead-ins must be added with the node editing tool.  I will create another post on dealing with just this issue as it is slightly more work.  One great feature of Aspire is the green node.  This indicates where the CNC will start cutting.  You can easily change the starting node by right clicking on desired starting node and selecting, “Make this the start node.”

Screenshot 2015-04-27 10.58.09

After this, the vector is ready for exporting as a .dxf

Screenshot 2015-04-27 10.59.44