Estlcam behavior

Question for all you estlcam users out there:

  1. Why does estlcam cut a shape and sometimes raise the z axis up and back down to plunge at the end/start of each lap? I am using the carve option because I can select inside or outside cut depending on whether the border is the inside or the outside of the cut shape, so it compensates for the width of the bit. Sometimes it just plunges deeper and continues, sometimes it plunges and does the second pass in reverse, which is more rare, but it happens.
  2. why does estlcam insert a cut offset at some corners and not others for a closed shape? It is like a dog bone for an outer edge of a box, but it does this on the inner letter cutouts, so the letter has notches in it. This also is not consistently applied.

Those are my main 2 right now. I am curious if it is a user setting that is off and I’m hoping it is something I can adjust as I use the program to have better control rather than a bug fix request. Any thoughts?

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  1. no resolution. sometimes it does, sometimes it does not raise and plunge between each pass. I can live with it.
  2. I’ve started just using the “hole” and “shape” options that cut in the inside or outside of the shape respectively. That avoids the corner offset cutting that makes a mess with the dogbones and I don’t have to watch to change it if it autoselects wrong with the carve (EDIT: I meant engrave. I have yet to use carve) option.

Unnecessary moves permeate most CAM programs, unfortunately. I don’t recall if GCodeClean would optimize out a retract/plunge in the same place but it’s likely it would. Estlcam is still releasing bug fixes, it might be worth submitting an issue, with an example, and see if they’ll get fixed.

Are you saying you were using offset and on-line toolpaths on the offset instead of inside/outside profile cutting? I don’t think I ever used offsets with estlcam, but I have with Carbide Create (back when they had a free for non-C3D customers version) and with VCarve Desktop. Both round off corners of offset closed shapes although I just checked the VCD docs and it has a “sharp corner” option to not do that. Don’t remember any dogbones. I’d check them both, but the CNC laptop is buried under parts (yes, bad practice) for another project and hard to get to atm. Is that angle sensitive, sharper angles get one and shallower ones don’t?

the problem is when I cut the letter K and it does it in the upper crook and hogs out the middle of the letter. Or I have an inner cut on the upper loop of an R and it digs into the center of the R… 1/8" mills makes a small mark, but a 1/4" bit makes a giant hole when it does that. I’ve gotten a bit faster at setting things up and missed a couple and had to recut. Not sure if there is something in the SVG to adjust or if it is estlcam or if I’m just being careless, but this has never been an issue before.

Estlcam has a carve (EDIT it is the engrave option) option where you can select on-line, left side, or right side of the closed shape to cut. When you select the shape, you can click on any one of those three options until you see what you like, but once you click off, you have to delete it and do it again if it needs to change and I was doing like 50 letters and got a bit less observant and missed a few. Changing to hole and part outline has helped. Probably should have done that from the start. Sometimes those inner cuts have that weird overlapping “dogbone” on the sharp corner and it just eats into the work piece and wastes a lot of time having to redo it.

I can run it through gcode clean… good idea, not sure why I didn’t think of that first.

This right here is why I moved away from EstlCAM and jumped over to Carbide Create. I liked the simplistic set up of EstlCAM, but I was doing some larger, more complex carves, and it started to get very tedious to realize I had messed up on one of the shapes, and I couldn’t just go back and fixt the little part, I had to delete it completely and redo the whole thing. and if you made an edit to the .svg or .dxf, it wouldn’t just recalculate the tool path, you had to delete it and set it up again. Again, it got very tedious!!

This is all part of the journey to become proficient in Estlcam because I paid for it and it does what I need if I can guide it properly. In choosing between CC and estlcam, estlcam was more intuitive to me to begin with and CC looked like they could yank the rug at any time and start charging for it, soI stayed at arms length though I did try it out.

In Estlcam, I manually set the cut order simply by clicking on the “machining order” field and it auto-assigns a number incremented by 10 so if you miss one, you can easily put a few between the machining order sequence. I then highlight them all and bulk set the tab spacing and height and insert tabs for all of it at once. I’m learning now that doing all the inner shapes as holes first and then going around and doing the outer shapes, then clicking on them and then the cut sequence field in the cutting order I want will work for my needs. I have, since posting this changed how I do it from using engrave to holes and parts and using the automatic functions and my use time has improved dramatically.

it would be nice if it had control key shortcuts for the hole or the part selection vs always moving the mouse. left hand control sequence for menu and right hand mouse selecting. This was one of the drawbacks from going from wordperfect to ms word… all the keyboard shortcuts went away in favor of mouse mileage. They have since come back to some degree, but mouse menus are for the uninitiated. Real productivity is with keystroke commands (in my opinion).

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Carbide Create supported a free version and a paid version. The paid gave more features to support 3D, the free version is excellent for 2.5D. It’s a off line program so once you have it you have it. However v6 is no longer supported with upgrades or bug fixes. They moved over to v7 which outputs a gcode file that can only be used with their CNC control program. Their are excellent videos on their site that teach you how to use it, which I found really helpful. I have not experienced any problems with v6.