Any interest in tri-state Z axis?

I posted it in github, but figured I should ask here as well (since it will probably be seen by more people):
Is there any interest in a Tri-state for the Z axis [Auto | Manual | Off]

  • Auto - Powered Z axis; asks no questions and follows orders
  • Manual - Manual Z axis; if requested to move, GC pops up a “please move me” dialog
  • Off - Z axis ignores commands and ask no questions. Doesn’t even wait for motion.

Off could be used for aircutting without removing the bit, or in an obtuse scenario:
“oh… it would be cool to add a trench between these 2 points” -

  1. Pause
  2. Use G-Code navigator to go to start
  3. Go
  4. Pause
  5. Z-Popup: Go to .25" depth, Set Mode=Off, Done
  6. Resume (cut trench)
  7. Pause (during cut)
  8. …wait for cut to complete…
  9. Z-Popup: Go to Safe, Set Mode=Auto, Done
  10. Resume Job

Probably best done in firmware and GC (if we do it to all axes, then we can flip Maslow into “still life mode” and troubleshoot things like 6000 lines of G-Code w/o further changes - don’t let X/Y be manual or you’ll be sick of the buttons real quick!)…

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I don’t fully understand the use case. Are you saying that while running gcode, you might have the inclination to turn a “move to” command to, in essence, a “cut to” command? If so, I’m not sure I’d run into that need (wouldn’t feel safe that I wouldn’t bugger it up somehow).

However, the aircutting might be useful as a test run of code to make sure all is reasonably well. If I wanted to use a pen or something to mark out the piece before cutting it, having the z-axis off would help… This way I wouldn’t need to modify the gcode to avoid driving the pen into the piece. I could just set the height to zero (or whatever is appropriate for a pen) and run the code.

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Yep… that’s the obtuse scenario; in my case I decided that instead of using the nuts and bolts to hold the bricks in place on my sled, if I cut a trench between the points, I could probably use a zip-tie.

Since I was running “manual Z” at the time it was just a matter of putting it at “cut depth” (~3/8" down) instead of “traverse depth” when moving from hole-to-hole (ASSuming that MakerCam put the brick holes one-after-the-other [which it did]).

The other way to do it (doesn’t require “Off/Manual” as an option) would be to pause the code, touch the canvas and say “move here” (at traverse), go to cut depth, and touch the canvas and say “move here” – though technically, that’s a G00 command (iirc), so the path the machine takes isn’t “defined” (G00 says get there as fast as possible and not necessarily in a straight line).

The pen option is probably a better use-case.

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I worked on a lasercutter in a makershop once, and it had a button where it would move (without cutting) along a rectangle where your workpiece would be cut, so you can see where your shape is gonna be cut. It was real handy when you wanted to cut something from a sheet where something was already cut out of, and lose as little material as possible, or if you put your pieces really optimal and have 3mm on each side of the sheet. Is that what you mean by aircutting? If so, then please add it in :wink:

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The box would be an “outline”… for “aircutting” my plan is to disable the z axis (and if you were at safe height, you can see it wander around… if you were at cut height, you’re gonna make a mess). Good for putting a pen in the router or if you wanted to see the cut ahead of time.

I’ll post more about image stacks when that one gets in place and then we’ll see if you still want an “outline” option.

This is a cool idea. Not to make this more complex, but what about a “pen” mode? This would work by having the user specify a maximum depth to use for a pen, say 2 mm. Then, the Z axis would operate as usual, except that any requested depth deeper than the pen depth (2 mm in this case) would be capped at the pen depth.

In essence, it would allow someone to take any Gcode file, and use a pen to see what the actual cuts would look like with a pen instead, without destroying the pen or having to manually control the Z axis.