Introduction: FlowJet Series Part 5: Manual Pathing in FlowPath
Purpose: Save time and money by creating logical tool-pathing for a FlowJet.
Step 1: Modifying Lead-in / Lead-out Properties
This menu can be accessed through “Draw” > “Lead-in / Lead-out Properties”. In here you can switch between straight line or arc leads, adjust their length and angle. Everything is very manageable... once you know where to look.
I've run into a few people who have avoided manual pathing, not because it's difficult but because they never understood the process. This Instructable is set up to give you familiarity and confidence in setting up your own pathing because in the long run you will create more logical, concise paths that will be more efficient – effectively saving you time and money.
Step 2: Lead-in / Lead-out Placement
In order to be a viable option against auto pathing, manual pathing must be set up quickly, so here's the best way to go about it: Since the cutting head is starting in the bottom left corner of the material it is most efficient to move left to right for a linear sheet, or clockwise for a file like our robot. Cut any interior shapes before the final profile. Set you snap to “Endpoint” (sometimes “Nearest”) and select “Draw lead-in/out with traverse”. This will automatically add a traverse line inbetween your leads, effectively streamlining the process even more.
MOST IMPORTANT PART: Place your leads on the edge of a part that points to the next part to cut. Consider, “where am I going next?” with each placement; think one step ahead. This means that whenever a part is cut out the head assembly of the FlowJet is moving AWAY from that part, never over. If you anticipate a part is small enough to fall through (and you didn't want to keep it anyway), but instead it lands on a support fin, all of a sudden you have a part sticking out and a potential collision. By moving away from this condition, there is an available window for you to react to the problem. If the cutting head moves over and into this condition, you have just made a $200 dollar mistake and will need to purchase a new mixing tube. That is a sad day.
Step 3: Manual Pathing
Now that the leads and traverse lines are placed, click on “Manual order path”. A command prompt in the lower left part of the screen will state “Select an open entity”. All of the traverse lines create a continuous, closed system, so the open vector is the first lead in you placed.
Check “Use Semi-automated” as this will automatically turn to the right (as selected below) whenever a lead-in encounters a shape. If there are really short segments near each other, you might be prompted to determine which direction to go next, so the cleaner the file the less this will occur.
Export the pathing as an ORD file and you are ready to roll! I also included an image of auto pathing for comparison. This file wasn't too bad and would probably work out alright. There were a few conditions of backtracking, making it less than optimal, but thankfully not all over the place. Another worry with auto pathing is that the cutting might take place on the wrong side of the line. Which ever method you choose, always assume something went wrong and double check your work.
The project continues with part 6!
For more resources, tools, and training, head over to TechShop!
FlowJet Series Part 1: AutoCAD Basics
FlowJet Series Part 2: Applying AutoCAD
FlowJet Series Part 3: Converting an Image to Vector
FlowJet Series Part 4: Cleaning Vectors for FlowPath
FlowJet Series Part 6: Using FlowNest
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