Making it Easy: Tool Lengths and Work Offsets

Updated: May 12

The versatility of a CNC machine can be somewhat daunting. The fact that it is completely up to the user to enter the correct coordinate values to prevent the machine from crashing is a stressful reality. However, this is exactly the situation for every CNC operator in every manufacturing shop out there. The fact that catastrophic crashes are so rare is only a result of good methods and modern software. The problem is basically 3-parts: the machine needs to know what to do, where to do it, and with what tools.

Step 1 - Programming

Modern CAM software, like Fusion 360, allows point and click toolpath generation of everything from 2-½ D to full 5-axis operations. With additional capabilities like process simulation and crash detection, the CNC programmer can have high confidence in the resulting gcode.

Step 2 - Defining the Work Coordinate Systems

This is only a matter of carefully matching the coordinate systems of the programmed setups to points in the build volume of the machine. With the H-Series, this task is greatly simplified with the omni-directional touch probe. A part clamped in a vise can be easily located by probing 3 sides of a corner or finding the centerlines of an existing cavity. This probe can also be used to measure the flatness of an existing surface and automatically compensate for these measured contours. This can be extremely useful to ensure consistent layer thickness for 3D printing or consistent cutting depth for tasks like PCB milling.

Using touch probe to set WCS

Step 3 - Defining the Tool Offsets

While setting up the machine for a particular job, we define what tools will be used and make sure that the machine will correctly compensate for the length and location of these tools. With the H-Series machine, each tool Z-offset (which is the parameter most likely to cause crashes) is easily calibrated using the touch plate. The x and y offsets are also easily calibrated using the touch probe.

For more information on these and other functions of the H-Series Machine, please see the video below. (Jump to minute 5 to skip the firmware update info.)