The cutting features most commonly related to CNC plasma technology help in making signs and writings of many shapes and forms. Although it’s a heavily automated process, writing with a CNC plasma isn’t simple. That’s why we’ve compiled several CNC plasma table writing tips to simplify the job and make you more effective.
Whether you’re cutting or marking, CNC plasma tables are effective at transforming writing ideas into practice. The process is similar to regular cutting tasks, with the end product being letters, numbers, or symbols.
In the article, we’ll review the whole writing process and provide pointers on performing more effective cuts or marks with your CNC plasma table.
CNC Plasma Table Writing Tips
The first step is having the idea, but how ideas come to be is too complex for the purposes of the article. Instead, we will cover the technical steps to creating quality writing.
The process starts with material selection because proper fabrics are imperative when cutting the cuts. Once you have the materials, you must create a design and project your idea onto the software you use. Afterward, you can begin cutting and work towards the end goal.
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Now, here’s a step-by-step guide on how the process works and the best tips for each step of the way:
Material selection and preparation
Before even making the designs, you need to know what kind of material you will need because the properties of the fabric will determine the level of intricacy you can implement in the design.
CNC plasma tables are versatile and capable of performing with various metals like aluminum and steel. It’s worth researching how various metals react with the plasma to determine the speed and other configurations before making the cuts.
Switching the torch with an engraving tool allows you to write on non-conductive materials like wood, acrylic, etc. This method expands the use cases for CNC tables and allows the users to combine materials in their designs.
To prepare the material, you must ensure it is clean. Debris and dirt can damage your cutting tools and lead to inaccurate cuts. This is particularly important when doing delicate tasks like writing.
Once you find the suitable materials, purchase the correct quantity and dimension, and add any specifications you might need. The sheets must fit on your table to be laid horizontally, so consider that when making the order.
Design the letters
To perform the designs for your project, you need good software that’s compatible with the CNC plasma table. You can purchase various CAD software solutions online with features that enable you to design letters or choose from ready-made fonts.
The most popular CAD software options are AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Fusion360, DraftSight, and Solid Edge. They are easy to use and have a wealth of features that will help you conduct a design that’s close to your or your client’s idea.
CAD software solutions implement nesting, which finds the best way to use up as much material as possible, leaving less scrap during the process. What you also need from your software is to offer various templates. Those are fonts that will help you streamline the process.
The CAD software needs to create compatible files with your CNC plasma table so the system can read it and execute it on the material of your choice.
If you’re a beginner or if you need to conduct more straightforward writing, go for free CAD software that already has fonts, like Tinkercad and FreeCAD.
Programming refers to giving the machine the necessary instructions to perform the cuts. You should convert your design into readable code for the machine using CAM software. This will define the toolpaths the plasma torch will follow while performing the cuts.
In this step, the machine receives instructions for the task type it will perform. It also receives parameters like depth and feed rates as well as information for what strategy and tools you will use upon performing the cuts.
Finally, the CAM software can display a simulation of the cutting job before it’s performed for real. Here, the user can observe the process and look for any flaws in the design and toolpath creation.
You should use software solutions that combine CAD and CAM functions. This unity of features will make the process very straightforward, especially when converting the designs into code for the CNC plasma table.
Some segments of this step are often overlooked, but not paying attention here can cost you invaluable time and material. First, you have to align and secure the workpiece into place to prevent any kind of movement during the cutting.
Second, you need to ensure that the machine is adequately calibrated by performing a compensation test. Cut several test pieces and inspect the cuts for quality.
If there is a deviation from the specifications, then you should re-calibrate the machine. Otherwise, you might notice these deviations later in your writing, and you may need to repeat the process.
The way to recognize that the machine requires calibration is by inspecting the cutting results for consistency and drifting in the toolpaths. Another indicator may be noticing excessive wear of some of the machine components.
You might be interested in: Cut deviations and CNC table tolerance.
Regardless of the state your CNC plasma machine is in; you should perform calibration and maintenance regularly.
Performing the cuts
Once you’re confident with the accuracy of all the previous steps, you can commence with the cutting. The machine will follow the toolpath and guide the torch along the designated lines with the needed intensity and depth.
Even though the cutting process is automatic, you will need to keep a watchful eye to make sure everything is going well. What needs paying attention to is the movement of the torch or the engraving tool. Look out for excessive sparks, low-quality cuts, or unusual noises.
It’s also possible that the torch begins to move erratically because of some obstacle that’s in its path or excessive dross appears along the edges of the cuts.
If you notice any of these signs, then immediately stop the cutting and troubleshoot the issue to prevent causing further damage to the material.
There is a normal amount of dross that tends to accumulate around the edges of the finished product, and there are various ways to remove it. You can remove the dross by grinding, sanding, or scraping.
Remove any sharp edges or burrs that may appear along the surface of the letters, either with sandpaper or a deburring machine. Lastly, sand the whole letter or sign to achieve the desired smoothness of the surface and then clean it with soap or alcohol.
If the writing isn’t delicate, then you can start by slightly bumping it around the edges with a hammer, and a fair amount of dross will come out.
Getting to the final product
With signs which have engravings, you can immediately begin applying paint and protective coatings at this step, as there is nothing more to be done.
However, if you had cut out separate letters, you must join them together or stick them to a designated surface.
You can join the letters to create a sequence by welding or applying strong adhesive. Depending on the design, you can join them mechanically with screws, bolts, or even joints. Finally, you can apply paint and color decorations, and the writing will be ready for use.
Have the letters’ alignment in mind when creating the design. You can possibly avoid joining or welding simply by designing the whole sequence to be cut out in a way that it would represent one whole piece.
Writing with a CNC plasma table doesn’t differ much from the standard practice of cutting or engraving various designs. It still falls into the group of more complex tasks, especially when you have to design every letter separately.
After receiving a request or having a specific idea for a design, it is important to select the correct material before starting the design process. Using CAD software with CAM components is the most straightforward way of performing any tasks that require the execution of more complex designs, such as writing.
Other CNC plasma table writing tips include having a well-calibrated machine to provide quality cuts and a seamless process and ensure everything goes smoothly. You also need to monitor the cutting in real-time. Once the cutting is over, you have to apply the finishing touches, like brushing and painting.