The first thing you have to do before you can start cutting is learn to use CAD, or Computer Aided Design, to create the file of whatever you want to cut out of metal.
Kevin likes to use Geomagic (which has now gone back to its original owners and will be called Alibre Design). It’s the easiest CAD program for him to use, but there are also free programs such as Tinkercad and Google SketchUp. They will all create the type of file you need to go to the next step.
Even if you don’t have a CNC table yet, you need to know CAD, so start now. Find a CAD program to play with. Start with some basic designs – here’s how you make a box or a tube, etc. It will all start to make sense after a while.
Once you’ve designed your part and converted it to a .DXF file, you open that file in the SheetCam program. This is where you set your parameters: where you want your cut on the steel plate, what amperage to run at, how thick the metal is, how fast you want it to cut, whether you want the cut inside or outside the lines, etc.
Then you save your file into a different format and take it to the computer associated with the cutting table.
By the CNC table is another computer that has the host, or machine control, program that actually talks to the cutting table. You put your file into this program and adjust a couple of other settings. Then Kevin Caron likes to go through the “dry run,” which lets the machine make the motions without cutting so he can see if it fits on the metal sheet and everything else is the way he wants it.
Click one more button, then click “cut,” and you are under way!
So that’s the “big picture” of how the CNC process works. Kevin will go into more detail in future how-to videos, but for now, it’s time for him to go back to work. You, however, might want to stick around for another second to see him articulate masterfully ….