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CNC Guide

A guide to using the Shopbot CNC machine in MAKE ll

Working With Text

Text blocks are specialized closed vectors where the shapes are created through fonts installed on the computer. Simply select the Text Within a Vector Box icon (there's another text option to the left of that icon, but it has been know to cause issues). There are several different options for styling the text, however the two that matter the most are the top box where you put in the text and the font selector.

When selecting a font, it is important to use one that works well with the router bits. Since router bits are relatively thick compared to a pen, it is important to use a font that and be carved properly. Thin serifs and other stylistic lines often cannot be carved properly because even a small bit is too wide to fit in a narrow space. The larger the text, the more room a bit has to move, however you will need to check the previews after creating a toolpath to ensure that it will cut enough out to be legitble. Thicker, sans-serif fonts generally work better as there are fewer thin areas to work around.

You can set a bounding box to fit the text into, but it is easy to resize and move later on. As with the basic shapes, if you select and existing text box and then the icon, it will edit the text instead of creating a new one.

To the right of the Text Box icons, there are two more icons with important functions. The first will adjust the spacing between characters and the second will put the text along a vector line (open or closed). For instance, if you want the text to go in a circle, you simply create the text and then a circle shape. Select the two vectors and click the button to automatically move the text, which will then be linked to the circle. If the circle is then moved or resized, the text will move with it.

Clearance Tools

See more: Clearance Tools

For pocket toolpaths, using multiple tools can help clear out large sections of the pocket quickly while using smaller, slower, tools to clear out only the areas that cannot be reach with a larger tool.

Editing Objects

See more: Editing Objects

While not as complex or as powerful as dedicated vector design software, VCarve contains many tools for creating and modifying basic shapes, text, and other other types of objects. Additionally, vectors created in other programs can be imported and adjusted in VCarve.

Node Editing

 You can edit the individual nodes of any vector by clicking on the second icon in of the top row under "Edit Objects". By doing this you can move each node around freely, and the two connected lines will move and resize automatically to stay connected. You can also grab the faint square in the center of any line to split it with a new node created at that point. You can select multiple nodes by holding shift, and then they will move in sync.

If a node is select, you can right click to get options for removing nodes, turning them into smooth curves, splitting the vector (turning it into an open vector), or closing the vector. If you right click on a line segment you can create either new nodes or a midpoint at the spot where you clicked.

When you are done, click anywhere in the workspace or press Esc to return to normal editing.

Important! Once you edit the node on any basic shape or text it losing any special properties and becomes just an undefined shape. This is especially important when it comes to text - you will never be able to edit the text by choosing new fonts, changing the actual text, and so on. Therefore this should only be done if you are completely done making those types of changes.

Vectorizing Images

Tracing bitmaps is a way of converting a standard image file (e.g. JPGs, PNGs) into vector files by drawing a line along the border of any two pixels of different colors. In order to do this, select the "Import Bitmap for Tracing" button from the File Operations group or simply drag and drop the images into the workspace.

Next, select the "Trace Bitmap" icon in the "Create Vectors" group. You can trace either black & white images or full color ones. Black & white images are the easiest, as all the software has to do is draw lines around the black shapes. If you need to work with full color images, the software will first have to simplify the image by reducing it to no more than 16 different colors. There are other options to account for color gradients and feathered edges - if the trace is not working properly, try adjusting the slider bars to see if you get better results. Be aware that not every image can be traced well, and the more complex it is the more difficult it will be to get a satisfactory tracing. If you are unable to get a proper trace in VCarve, you may be able to get better results by taking the bitmap into a graphics design program such as Inkscape or GIMP and simplifying it before trying to trace it in VCarve.

After selecting the options, click on the Preview button and it will show you where the vector lines will be placed. If you are satisfied with it, click Apply to actually generate the vector lines, otherwise change the options and click Preview again. You can create multiple traces from the same bitmap, which you will often need to do with multi-color images.Once you've created the vector lines, click Close and then delete the original bitmaps.


Adding Your Own Bits

See more: Adding Your Own Bits

If you have your own bits that are compatible with a Shopbot CNC, you can add them to VCarve manually. You will need to have detailed information on the geometry of the bit(s) to be able to add them.