CUT with FireControl

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Last updated: Feb 24, 2020

Introduction

FireControl is a proprietary controller software made by Langmuir Systems to operate the CrossFire line of CNC Plasma machines. The software was designed with several key features specific to plasma cutting while offering an easy-to-use interface. FireControl software is used to connect your computer's USB port to the CrossFire CNC Electronics unit for controlling the machine and for running cutting programs. The below User Guide explains the features of FireControl and how to setup and configure this software for use with your CrossFire CNC machine. We highly recommend reading this User Guide in its entirety before operating your machine and software.

The Main User Interface of FireControl

Installing FireControl Software

The latest version of FireControl software can be downloaded from our website at http://www.langmuirsystems.com/downloads.

Make sure your computer meets the following system requirements.

System Requirements

  • Operating System: Windows 7+ / MacOS 10.13+
  • Minimum Processor Speed: 1.6 Ghz, 64 bit
  • Minimum RAM: 4 GB
  • Graphics: OpenGL 3.0+ compatible
  • Available Disk Space: 150 MB
  • Ports: One USB 2.0 (Standard Type A)

After downloading the FireControl installer from our website, follow the onscreen installation prompts to correctly install the software on your computer. You will not need to restart your computer after installation. Be sure to note the folder on your computer where the software will be installed; we recommend creating a Desktop shortcut for quick access. Make sure that your CrossFire Machine is not connected to your computer's USB port when downloading FireControl software.

Note: If you are installing FireControl on Windows 10, you will likely encounter the Windows Defender dialog shown below.

Windows Defender Dialog

To continue installing FireControl, please select the 'More Info' link beneath the text. Then click on the 'Run Anyway' button at the bottom of the box.

Windows Defender Dialog after selecting 'More info'

Connecting to a CrossFire Machine

Before connecting the CrossFire machine to your computer for the first time, be sure to close FireControl software. Next, connect the provided USB cable from your electronics enclosure to an available USB port on your computer. When first connecting your device to the computer, it should automatically install the appropriate USB serial drivers for your computer; do not close or stop these processes from running. If you are running a Windows computer, a pop-up in the task bar will notify you when the drivers are correctly installed. For a computer running MacOS, the necessary drivers should already be pre-installed with your operating system and you may not see any activity when first plugging in your device.

Manual Driver Installation for Windows 7/8

Windows 10 will install the correct drivers automatically but earlier versions of Windows (7/8) will require manual driver installation before FireControl will auto-connect to the electronics. Please download the necessary driver from our Downloads page and follow the Manual Driver Installation Instructions for Windows 7/8.

After the drivers are auto-installed on your computer, you can now open FireControl software. The main FireControl workspace will be locked out until it makes a positive connection with a Langmuir Systems CNC electronics board (see image below).

FireControl Lock-out Screen

Auto-Connect

The CrossFire CNC electronics box was designed to auto-connect to FireControl whenever it is plugged into your computer. The CrossFire should show as the connected device ‘CrossFire’ in the upper right hand corner of FireControl as shown in the image below.

Auto-connected to a CrossFire

Height Control

Note: If you also have the Langmuir Systems THC installed, you will see it auto-connected under ‘Height Control’. Please follow the separate THC User Guide for specific instructions on setting up your THC unit in FireControl.

Manual Connect

If your CrossFire CNC electronics box is plugged into your computer but fails to auto-connect, you may need to manually connect the device. Next to ‘Machine’, click the ‘Connect’ button to drop down a list of available machine connections and select CrossFire from this menu. If connected properly, this field should turn green like the previous auto-connect image representing a positive connection.

Manually connecting to a CrossFire

Disconnecting and Resetting Connection

At any time during operation you can reset or disconnect your CrossFire machine from the FireControl software. This may be required if you need to clear an alarm state or if the machine is unresponsive. To reset the connection, click the circular reset icon next to the CrossFire machine and the machine will reset the connection and auto-connect again. To disconnect the machine completely, click the ‘X’ next to the reset button. After disconnecting, you will need to manually connect to the machine by selecting it again in the drop-down menu. Note: Your XY position may be lost if you reset or disconnect while the machine is in motion.

Connection management in FireControl

Connection Troubleshooting

For a Windows computer, the drivers for your CrossFire USB Motion Control Board should automatically download when you first plug the electronics box into your computer. If this driver installation becomes corrupted, it may be necessary to delete the driver and start from the beginning. To do this, navigate to Control Panel in Windows and select Device Manager. Here you will see a subheading titled ‘Ports (COM & LPT)’. Click the downward arrow next to this subheading to collapse the devices within this category. Next, note the devices in this category and unplug and plug back in your electronics box to see which of these devices disappeared from the list when you removed the electronics box USB cable. Plug the cable back in and highlight this device in the drop-down. Next, right click this device and click ‘Uninstall Device’. Next, check the box next to ‘Delete the driver software for this device’ and click Uninstall. After uninstalling the driver, plug the device back in and let Windows automatically download the appropriate drivers without interruption and follow the steps above for connecting to FireControl.

If connectivity to your CrossFire device is lost at any point in FireControl, we recommend unplugging your USB cable from your computer and restarting FireControl before plugging the cable back in. We also recommend trying multiple USB ports on your computer to see if this fixes any connectivity issues that you might be experiencing.

Configuring Display Units

The default units for FireControl are inches. If you wish to switch to metric units, you can select ‘mm’ from the drop-down menu in the top right corner of FireControl and the user interface will update accordingly. Note: Cut programs can be loaded into FireControl as either imperial (G20) or metric (G21) programs; the units toggle only changes the interface display units in FireControl and not the cutting program.

Selecting Display Units in FireControl

Digital Read-Out (DRO) & Zeroing

Location of DRO in FireControl

Each axis (X, Y, & Z) has a corresponding Digital Read-out (DRO) value for the current work position of the torch on the machine. The work position for each axes at any given time is displayed next to the axis in the selected units. The image below shows the positive axes directions for X, Y & Z on the CrossFire PRO machine.

Axis Directions (shown on CrossFire PRO)

When jogging the machine or running cut programs, you will notice that the DRO values change to indicate the new position of the torch in the work coordinate system. When setting up to cut a program file you can individually zero each axis by clicking the vertical ‘ZERO’ button next to the respective axis. If you would prefer to zero all axes at once, you can click the ‘ZERO ALL AXES’ button. All cut programs are created with respect to an XYZ zero position so it is important that you appropriately zero each axis before running your programs.

Initial Height Sensing and Z

Note: If you are running a CrossFire CNC with Initial Height Sensing (IHS). As a result, it is not required to set the Z position before running a program because the Initial Height Sensing event will automatically set the Z-axis height at the start of each cut loop. You will just need to make sure that you have enough torch clearance to rapid to the first pierce point in your program.

Machine Jogging Menu

Location of Jog Menu in FireControl

The Machine Jogging Menu is located on the right-hand side of FireControl. Jogging is used to manually move the torch carriage around the machine bed in order to set up before running a cut program. There are two different jog modes; Continuous Jog and Step Jog. The Jogging Menu includes two columns of buttons for switching between Jog Modes and also selecting a desired Jog Speed.

Continuous Jog Mode

Continuous Jog Mode is the default jog mode and is used to rapid the torch carriage quickly around the machine bed when setting up to run a cut program. The default continuous jog mode speed is 300 inches per minute (IPM), but the speed can be changed using the Jog Speed selector next to the Jog Mode select menu. Continuous jogging is achieved by clicking and holding the jog arrow for a specific direction and releasing the button to stop the jog when finished. Continuous Jogging can also be accomplished by pressing and releasing the appropriate keyboard arrow button and holding for the duration of the jog (see keyboard shortcuts below).

Step Jog Mode

Step Jog Mode is used for fine adjustment to the torch carriage position that is not possible in continuous jog mode. To enter Step Jog Mode, select one of the four step distances (1/16”, 1/8", 1/4", or 1”) and a desired Jog Speed. To move a given step distance, select the desired step distance and click an arrow key direction (or use the keyboard shortcut buttons).

Jogging Keyboard Shortcuts

These shortcut keys can be used to jog your CrossFire easily with standard jog keys.

  • Jog X+: Right Arrow Key
  • Jog X-: Left Arrow Key
  • Jog Y+: Up Arrow Key
  • Jog Y-: Down Arrow Key
  • Jog Z+: Page Up Key
  • Jog Z-: Page Down Key
  • Toggle Nudge Jog: Tab Key

Toggling Nudge Jog

Nudge Jog was added as a feature in FireControl to allow for fast toggling between continuous jogging and 1/16” step jogging using the ‘Tab’ keyboard button. This can be very useful for rapiding quickly to a given table location using continuous jog mode and then pressing the Tab key to cycle to a 1/16” step jog for fine torch position adjustment when setting up for a cut on your material. Pressing the Tab key again will cycle back to continuous jog mode.

Program Toolpath Visualizer

Location of Visualizer in FireControl

The Program Toolpath Visualizer is used in FireControl to display the toolpath of a loaded program as well as the current torch position in relation to the cutting program. Cutting toolpaths are shown in orange color, rapid moves are shown as blue lines, and the current torch position is shown as a white crosshair. The visualizer will be blank until a cutting program is loaded into FireControl.

Below the visualizer window are three buttons; Fit, Zoom-in, and Zoom-out. The toolpath visualizer can be panned around the window by left clicking and holding while moving the mouse around. To zoom the visualizer in and out, click the zoom-in and zoom-out magnifying glass icon buttons below the Toolpath Visualizer. If you have a mouse with a scroll wheel click, the visualizer window and scroll up on the scroll wheel to zoom in and scroll down to zoom out. The ‘Fit’ button is used to reset the toolpath view size to fit the window if it was previously changed or moved.

The toolpath visualizer is a useful tool when running programs to verify that everything is correct with your program before and during a cutting cycle. We suggest that after zeroing a program, you manually jog the torch around the machine bed to verify that your cutting program will fit within your available material by following the crosshairs on the screen.

G-code Display & Status Bar

Location of G-code display in FireControl

The G-code Display window shows the lines of g-code when a program is loaded into FireControl. When a program is running, FireControl will scroll through the lines of g-code as they are executed by the controller with the current g-code line being highlighted while running. The G-code Display window can be a valuable resource tool for manually checking lines of g-code before running a program. It can also be used to operate the ‘Run From Here’ feature that allows you to start a cut program in the middle of the program (see the ‘Run From Here Mode’ section below for more information).

Below the G-code Display window is the FireControl Status Bar. Here you will find a Torch On/Off indicator light, a controller Status bar, and a program Time Elapsed bar.

Program Run Menu

!WARNING!

Before running a program, make sure that your torch is first zeroed in a good position on the machine bed relative to your work piece. Also be certain to manually jog and check that your program will not run outside the machine’s usable travel range and that there is nothing obstructing the torch cutting path. Verify that your plasma torch cable has enough slack in the Cable Support Tube to traverse the length of the cutting program without binding and that your plasma cutters work clamp is attached to the drain plug of the water table. Ensure that nothing within range of the plasma cutting arc is flammable and that you keep your hands away from pinch points on the machine when in motion. Consult your plasma cutter manufacturers guidelines for safe operating instructions and for the appropriate personal safety equipment when operating your plasma cutter.

Location of Program Run Menu in FireControl

The Program Run Menu contains the necessary buttons for Loading, Starting, Pausing, and Stopping cut programs. To load a program, click the green upload button next to the ‘Load Program’ bar. From here you can select your program to upload by following the onscreen prompts. After loading, you will see a ‘Validating Program’ screen pop up (see below) to indicate that the USB motion control board is scanning the lines of g-code and checking for any errors before executing the program. If successful, the program will be loaded and will show in the Toolpath Visualizer window. If your program has an error, FireControl will let you know the error and the line in the g-code file where the error is present.

Validating a cutting program in FireControl

Below is a list of keyboard shortcuts that will help to streamline the program running process.

  • Start Program: Alt + R
  • Pause Program: Space Bar
  • Stop Program: Alt + S

In order to cut a program in FireControl, you will need to generate your program using a Langmuir Systems approved post processor for your CAM software or else it will not run (visit our Downloads page for access to our Fusion 360 and SheetCAM post processors for FireControl). We also suggest reading our CAM for FireControl Guide for instructions on how to create programs for running in FireControl from either Autodesk Fusion 360 or SheetCAM. A program generated without the use of our post processor will lack the necessary g-code formatting, IHS loop functions, and THC activation codes.

Pausing and Stopping a program while cutting will automatically shut the torch off for safety reasons. If you pause a program in between cutting loops such as during a rapid move, then the program can be started again by clicking ‘Resume’ and the program will function as normal. If a cut has to be paused in the middle of a cutting loop when the torch is on, please note the current g-code line and use this to pick up the cut again using the ‘Run From Here’ feature. FireControl automatically stores your work position when pausing and stopping programs so that you can remain in your work coordinate system if you need to use the ‘Run From Here’ feature without needing to re-zero the machine. See the ‘Run From Here Mode’ section below for more information.

Real-time Overrides Menu

Location of Real-time overrides in FireControl

The Real-time Overrides menu is used to make adjustments to your cutting program while the program is currently running. The two Real-time Overrides are Feed Rate Override and Pierce Delay Override. Feed Rate override is used to slow down or speed up the feed rate of a program while it is cutting. The Pierce Delay Override is used to increase or decrease the pierce delay duration while a program is running. The overrides can be reset back to default by clicking the reset icon to the right of the current override percentage.

THC Control Panel

Location of THC Control Panel in FireControl

The Langmuir Systems THC unit was designed in parallel with our FireControl software so that all THC settings and real-time data for the THC can be accessed right from the THC Control Panel in FireControl. Please consult our separate ‘Langmuir Systems THC User Guide’ for more information on THC operation within FireControl.

Manual Torch Fire

Location of manual Torch Fire in FireControl

The Manual Torch Fire button can be used to manually fire your plasma torch from FireControl software. After verifying that you are safe to do so, click the slider toggle ‘ENABLE’ button to the left of the Manual Torch Fire button to arm the button for use. Once enabled, the torch can be fired and turned off by clicking the Manual Torch Fire button again.

Go to XY Zero Position

Location of Go to XY Zero in FireControl

The Go to XY Zero button can be used to return to your currently set work coordinate zero position for X and Y. Before clicking the button, reference the DRO for XY position to ensure that your torch has a safe path back to the expected zero position. Note: the Go to XY Zero button will rapid the torch at 300 IPM back to the XY zero position.

Straight Cut Generation

Location of Straight Cut in FireControl

Straight Cut Mode is a feature within FireControl that allows you to quickly generate straight line cutting programs without having to use CAD or CAM software. This can be useful to trim down larger sheets of material for more convenient cutting or simply to make quick straight cuts on parts. To enable Straight Cut Mode, click the toggle button which will drop down the Straight Cut Mode menu.

In the menu you can enter parameters such as cut direction, cut length, cut speed (IPM), enabling IHS (will also enable THC if you have it), and pierce delay. Once all parameters are entered, you can generate the straight cut program by clicking the ‘Generate Program’ button. Before running your straight cut program, you must click the ‘Zero All Axes’ button first.

Run From Here

Run From Here mode can be used to start a program from a point point other than the beginning of the program. This can be useful if you need to pick up a cut in the middle of a program without having to start at the very beginning. To execute Run From Here mode, highlight the line of G-code in the program that you wish to run the program from and click the orange ‘RUN FROM HERE’ button next to the highlighted line (see below).

Location of 'Run From Here' option in the G-code viewer of FireControl

Since a cut program cannot start in the middle of a cut loop, FireControl will automatically determine the start of the cutting loop for the line that you have selected and ask you to confirm this start point. After confirming, FireControl will load the new program starting with the cutting loop that you highlighted in the previous step. You will notice from the visualizer that the program now excludes cutting loops before the line you selected with ‘Run From Here’ indicating that you are in the middle of the cutting program (see below).

Result of 'Run from here' without the first loops

Manual Nest

Manual NEST Mode can be used in FireControl to cut several parts from the same program next to each other without having to reset your zero position each time. After completing a cutting program, click the ‘Manual NEST’ button below the jogging keys (see below).

Location of 'Manual Nest' below the jog keys in FireControl

After clicking Manual NEST, the D-pad for X and Y will illuminate orange. This allows you to select the direction that you want to cut your next part relative to the part you just cut. By clicking the right X arrow (+X), FireControl will automatically set your zero position so that when you run the program again it will cut a new part out to the right of the original part. This process can be repeated over again until you have cut the desired quantity of parts. The image below shows several parts cut using Manual Nest Jog.

Tightly nested parts cut out using Manual Nest

FireControl Alarms

FireControl has a built-in alarm system in conjunction with the USB Motion Control Board to throw an alarm when something goes wrong (see below). You will not be able to move your machine around again until an alarm is cleared. We suggest troubleshooting the alarm issue with your machine and disconnecting and reconnecting your machine connection before continuing.

Location of 'Manual Nest' below the jog keys in FireControl

Keyboard Shortcuts

FireControl has several built-in keyboard shortcuts which make it easier to operate, especially if you have a wireless keyboard that can be used as a pendant for jogging. These shortcuts can be accessed from the FireControl help menu for quick access and they are also listed below.

  • Jog X+: Right Arrow Key
  • Jog X-: Left Arrow Key
  • Jog Y+: Up Arrow Key
  • Jog Y-: Down Arrow Key
  • Jog Z+: Page Up Key
  • Jog Z-: Page Down Key
  • Toggle Nudge Jog: Tab Key
  • Start Program: ALT + R
  • Pause Program: Space Bar
  • Stop Program: ALT + S
  • Zoom in Visualizer: Mouse Scroll Up
  • Zoom out Visualizer: Mouse Scroll Down

Updating FireControl

To check your current version of FireControl, click the ‘Help’ Menu and then ‘Check for Updates’. Your version of FireControl will be listed along with a link to our Downloads page to check if a newer version of FireControl is available for installation.