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STEPCRAFT under Mach3 control

This page describes the Mach3 control of the STEPCRAFT machines. As will be outlined on this page – Mach3 is a full Gcode controller – and allows much more advanced CAM packages (like Cut2D and Vcarve) to be used with your STEPCRAFT system. Mach3 also has the added advantage that you get a live view of the machine when setting up and operation the software

Mach3 Control Software

Mach3 is a full Gcode control software package. Mach3 allows you to manually move/control the machine in all directions and therefore allows you to align the machine to your workpiece. Mach3 also has a live view which is very helpful to check the setup has been carried out correctly. We now use the UCCNC controller instead of Mach3 – but will still provide and support Mach3 if you would prefer.

Mach3 is a Gcode interpreter – and therefore allows the use of Gcode with the machine (Note: You do not have to know what Gcode is or understand it to use Mach3). When using a Gcode compatible program like Mach3 – we can use powerful CAM (computer aided manufacturing) packages to generate the Gcode.

Therefore (as discussed later on this page) Mach3 allows you to use the family of products from Vectric (cut2D Vcarve etc) that are very user friendly and very compatible with other CAD/Drawing packages.

UC100 USB motion controller from CNC DRIVE

The UC100 USB controller is a full dedicated machine control module. It is a lot more than just a parallel to USB converter. The device is fully compatible with Mach3 and fully supported. The device has WSQL certification with Windows and as a results is extremely reliable with Windows XP, windows 7 (32bit and 64bit) and 8 (32bit and 64bit). Visit the CNC Drive website for more information. The UC100 allows any netbook/laptop/PC to be used as a CNC controller with Mach3. Some of our users are running Windows – on a Mac – and controlling the machine successfully.

Vectric products with Mach3

By choosing the Mach3 Controller (which is a full Gcode controller) you can the Vectric products with your STEPCRAFT system.

Cut2D is the starter package for general 2D operation in CNC. In cut 2D you can generate your own designs or import designs from other CAD packages in “.DXF” format. You can then apply toolpath parameters that are compatible with your STEPCRAFT machine under Mach3 control. To get a feel for the process and to get a better idea about the different features of Cut2D please click here – and review the Cut2D specs. Also – scroll below for a video demo of Cut2D being used to make a toolpath for the STEPCRAFT. NOTE: the video is of the older version of Cut2D. Cut2D Desktop has much richer CAD tools.

Cut2D Desktop (95£) has a 600mm x 600mm travel limit. Cut2D Pro (300£) does not.

Vcarve is also a much more advanced 2D CAM package with a powerful text engraving feature that allows you to load a V cutting tool into the CNC machine and Vcarve will generate a 3D inlay V grooved toolpath automatically. this is why Vcarve is more expensive than Cut2D. This feature is especially popular for making name plates and signs.

Vcarve Desktop (235£) has a 600mm x 600mm travel limit. Vcarve Pro (470£) does not.

Both Vcarve and Cut2D can be used to generate shapes in 2D – or they can import DXF files generated externally. So if you don’t have a CAD package already, you can use Cut2D and Vcarve as your CAD package. Watch the demo videos below to see the full process from drawing parts through to machining with Mach3 controlling the STEPCRAFT machine.

So how can I use Mach3 to control my STEPCRAFT?

STEP 1: Generate or import your shapes and designs into the CAM software (Cut2D or Vcarve)
The first step is to generate your design / geometry that you wish to reproduce. So for example – lets say we are using Vcarve/Cut2D (so working in 2 dimensions (2D)). We can generate shapes and designs inside Vcarve/Cut2D (where there is an internal CAD/graphics package) – OR – We can import 2D CAD data from other CAD/Graphics packages (illustrator, AutoCAD, TurboCAD, Solidoworks, CREO, Catia, etc etc). The format that is compatible is a .DXF file. Most CAD/Graphics packages have a .DXF export option. Once we have the shape we want to machine inside the CAM software (Vcarvpe/Cut2D in this case) we can move onto the next step and apply tooling strategies.

STEP 2: Apply the machine settings, cutters, depths and parameters for your machining operation – and finally generate your Gcode compatible with the machine controller (Mach3)
The second step is to create the Gcode so you can translate the toolpath you make in Cut2D/Vcarve to your machine. Here we use our shapes and designs and tell the CAM software (Cut2D/Vcarve) what tools we are using, how fast we want to machine, how deep we need to machine, limit the cutting depth for each pass of the cutter (cutting 10mm in 5 steps of 2mm for example) and we can also ask the software to compensate for the cutting tool radius. Once completed we can generate the Gcode file for the CNC control software (Mach3) that will allow us to cut out our design automatically with the CNC system.

STEP 3: Import the generated Gcode into the Mach3 controller, setup the machine datums to your loaded work piece and run the program
The final step is to now import the generated Gcode into the machine controller (Mach3) and then setup the machine to run the program. You will have assigned the x,y and z zero positions during step 2 in the software – these must be then used to setup the machine and configure the machine zero positions (See video below). You must clamp the work piece to the machine and move the machine manually to the x,y and z zero points and “zero” Mach3’s x,y,z co-ordinates to tell the machine where your zero points are. The control software (Mach3) can then carry out your machining operation automatically using the Gcode generated from Cut2D/Vcarve. Mach3 has the advantage that you get a live view of the machine when setting up and operation the software. This helps considerably when setting the machine up and checking you have zero’d the machine correctly.

The three videos below show the process from Cut2D (applicable directly to Vcarve Also) through to the Mach3 software and controlling the machine.

Software demonstration

Shown in the video is a demonstration of how VcarvePro and Mach3 can be used to control your STEPCRAFT system (as outlined above). (Note: VcarvePro is similar to Cut2D with more functionality).

We suggest you watch the video in full screen mode here and use pause/play to go through it step by step.

The video shows some simple shapes being drawn, the machine parameters being setup in VcarvePro, and then shows Mach3 running the program.

Pay particular attention to 5:20 in the video where, when the X and Y values on the screen have been zero’d – the machine is ran across the work. The view in the top right hand corner of the screen shows where the machine is relative to the work. this is very useful to check you have setup the machine correctly.

Mach3 Setup and configuration for your STEPCRAFT machine

This section shows the steps required to install the Mach3 control software and walks you through (supported by video demonstrations) everything you need to do to get your STEPCRAFT machine working with Mach3.

Mach3 installation | STEP 1 of 4

This video comes as part of the STEPCRAFT installation pack with all machines. It walks you through the installation of Mach3 on the computer. This is step 1 of 4 to get your machine going. Mach 3 should be included in your software pack – however it can also be downloaded from here

Mach3 License installation | STEP 2 of 4

The second step is to install your license file for mach3 to allow Mach3 to run in full version. In demo mode Mach only runs a certain number of lines of Gcode. You should have been provided with a license file in your pack (unless you have opted to purchase Mach3 yourself)

Install UC100USB Drivers | STEP 3 of 4

In order to allow your Mach3 system to operate on your PC you must install the drivers, plugins and other necessary software to allow it to work. The guys at CNC drive have a great download pack that has an autoinstaller to take care of all of this. Simply run the autoinstaller and the UC100 USB motion controller should be ready for off.

Install STEPCRAFT settings | Step 4 of 4

Mach3 must be configured to the settings in the STEPCRAFT control electronics. We have done all this for you. You must simply copy the configuration file to the Mach3 directory on your C drive. Be sure to load this configuration when you load Mach3 (shown in next demo video)

Open up Mach3 for STEPCRAFT machine control

If you have followed the previous steps correctly (1 through to 4) you will not be able to open up Mach3 and begin moving your STEPCRAFT CNC manually with Mach3.

It is very important to make sure EVERY step is followed to the letter in the videos. Incorrectly carrying out any of the steps will result in your machine not working with Mach3.