Here at Handibot, we use ShopBot Desktop and Desktop MAX tools to cut many of our parts. We use VCarve Pro to generate all of our toolpaths. Here’s a tip or two for those using VCarve Pro for production work.
First, let me explain our workflow. Normally, a part is designed in CAD and then a 2D .dxf file is created from a 3D CAD model. This dxf is imported into VCarve Pro and toolpathed for production.
I sort the imported vectors onto layers based on the intended toolpath. For instance, all my 1/8″ through holes will be on the same layer. When I setup my toolpaths, I associate each toolpath with the vectors on a specific layer. Here’s a picture of the things I select in VCarve Pro to associate a layer of holes with a toolpath.
If I setup a single part this way, I can copy and paste the part to fill up my sheet of material. The vectors will copy onto their respective layers. When I hit recalculate, the toolpaths will automatically grab all the pasted vectors and treat them correctly, so I don’t need to go back and add the new pasted vectors into each toolpath.
After I’ve filled up my sheet of material with parts and recalculated the toolpaths, I show all the toolpaths that use the same bit and do a “Merge Visible Toolpaths” from the toolpath menu. Merging the toolpaths with the “Merge by Part” option selected makes VCarve group all the cuts for each part and do them all before moving on to the next part. This reduces the amount of time spent jogging in the air between parts. Also if something catastrophic happens, like the power goes out or the vacuum hold down system fails, I’m more likely to have some salvageable parts since each part will be finished before moving on to the next part rather than waiting until the final toolpath to finish all the parts. See the picture below comparing a sheet of laser sight parts cut out with separate toolpaths versus a merged toolpath. Note how much jogging is spent to and from the home position at the middle of the right edge and also the amount of jogs between parts. Most of these jogs go away when I merge the toolpaths.