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Setup & Mach3 Controls

Once your engraving toolpath (CAD file) has been designed and outputted for use in Mach3 (CAM file or G-code) you are ready to start engraving. This tutorial goes over the fundamentals for setting up your machine and creating the engraving.

  • Step 1 - Find Center
  • Step 2 - Set Machine on Work Area
  • Step 3 - Check Floating Head
  • Step 4 - Attach Cables & Cords
  • Step 5 - Power Up
  • Step 6 - Position Control Box

Click image for larger view. For smaller screens, click the expander icon in the top right of the pop-out window for the full size view.

Step 1 – Find the Center of the Work Area

In our previous tutorial we set up our engraving toolpath origin on center (Step 1- Create Job Size & Position), therefore we need to find the center of where the engraving will be located. In this example the engraving will be centered on the stoop, and offset towards the bottom so we can put a doormat in front of the door without covering up the engraving.

  • Find the center point of your work area by measuring across and dividing by 2
  • Use a T-square to mark your centerline
Had the work area not been a raised, centered slab, we would have found center from the door threshold and set up our center line appropriately. Alternatively, you can make a center line by marking two center points and connecting with a straightedge or chalk line.

Click image for larger view. For smaller screens, click the expander icon in the top right of the pop-out window for the full size view.

Step 2 – Set Machine on Work Area

  • Set the machine down in the approximate area where the design will be engraved
  • Position the machine so the cords coming off the gantry are facing the view from which you want the engraving to be seen. (Engraving will be viewable to someone facing the doorway)
  • Prepare to set up origin position by manually sliding the gantry and spindle to the bottom left corner of the frame.
To move the gantry the power to the machine needs to be off.

Move the gantry with two hands pushing equidistant from the edges. As you push the gantry might ‘lock up’ or feel like its catching or skipping. This is simply the motors building up a charge as they move. Moving it more slowly will eliminate the effect.

Push the gantry and z-axis spindle as close to the bottom corner as possible without touching it. This is where we will start to find the center point of the machine’s engraving area and match it up to the center point of the area to be engraved.

Click image for larger view. For smaller screens, click the expander icon in the top right of the pop-out window for the full size view.

Step 3 – Check that the Floating Head is Active

The floating head is what allows the machine to engrave uneven surfaces. The spring applies pressure to the spindle assembly, ‘pushing’ it down into low spots. If the floating head is not activated, the machine will simply cut at a fixed depth – cutting deeper through high spots and skimming or completely missing low spots.

In the picture above, we see the floating head activated (click image for full view). The z-axis mounting block (1) is separated from the ball screw plate (2). The ball screw plate is circular with holes, with parallel edges so it can fit within the mechanism. If the z-axis were ‘fixed’ (no floating head action), this plate (1) would be bolted from the bottom to the mounting block (2) with two allen-hole machine screws. To activate the floating head, simply remove these two screws from below the plate.

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  • Pull up on the z-axis to see if it moves, if it moves, compressing the spring – the z-axis is active

 

 

Step 4 – Attach Cables & Cords

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  • Plug in the control box power cord
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  • Plug the spindle power cord into the control box
The spindle power cord is sheathed with the motor control cables coming off the machine.

If you are engraving wood, glass, aluminum and other heat sensitive materials, plug this cord into the separate speed controller, then plug the speed control into the control box

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  • Pug in the motor control cables, matching the letter on the plug head with the corresponding port on the control box
  • Tighten the retainer screws on the ports – you want to maintain a good solid connection so your job isn’t interrupted if the box or cords are moved while the machine is running
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  • Plug in power cord to laptop
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  • Plug in control box and laptop cords to power supply
It is strongly recommended that you use a quality surge protector between your power source and the machine and laptop. A surge protector will ensure a longer life for your electronics and eliminate potential issues with power spikes interfering with the operation of the Concrete Printer
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  • Plug the USB cable into the control box
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  • Plug the other end of the USB cable into the laptop

Click image for larger view. For smaller screens, click the expander icon in the top right of the pop-out window for the full size view.

Step 5 – Check Emergency Stop Button and Power Up

  • Turn on the Concrete Printer by pushing the rocker switch toward the ‘Power’ text mark.
You should hear power going to the drive motors on the Concrete Printer (Drive motors will also emit a low humming sound). The gantry will also no longer be able to move by hand.
       

  • If no power is detected, check the emergency stop button and ensure it is not pressed in. If it is, turn clockwise.
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  • Visually check emergency stop button by viewing its profile

Click image for larger view. For smaller screens, click the expander icon in the top right of the pop-out window for the full size view.

Step 6 – Position Control Box

  • Position the control box in front of the machine so that the cord has slack and sufficient room to move without tugging the connections
  • Make sure your USB (ethernet for newer models) and Laptop power cords are slack and laying flat to avoid tripping over
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