CAD/CAM with Fusion360

Last updated: Feb 24, 2020

Introduction

These tutorials aim to get you cutting with your CrossFire by guiding you through all the steps from creating a digital design to firing your torch. They can be used as baseline knowledge for a novice or as short refreshers for those with some digital fabrication experience.

There are two pieces of software that are needed in order to cut parts on your CrossFire™ machine. Please follow continue through this guide for in-depth video guides on how to use these programs.

CAD: Design your Part

Autodesk Fusion 360 is a powerful design CAD and CAM software that is free to use for hobbyists and startups with less than $100k revenue per year. This software can be downloaded from our website or directly from Autodesk. You can design your own custom 2D & 3D parts right in Fusion, or you can simply import your own part files from your favorite CAD program. The software is easy-to-use for beginners new to drafting, and Autodesk has published an ever-growing library of tutorial videos to follow along and learn.

1: Installing Fusion 360

Download and install Fusion 360 and activate as a hobbyist or small business if you qualify.

2: Starting a Sketch

Start your first sketch and learn to move around in Autodesk Fusion 360.

3: Basic Dimensions

Beginning a Fusion 360 Project showing basic dimensioning and sketch functions.

4: Constraints

Using the Fusion 360 sketch palette, constraints, and fillets.

5: Importing Files

Import files from other programs into Fusion 360 for CAM. DXF, Mesh, and SVG vector files are easily imported in Fusion 360.

6: Move, Copy, and Scale

We cover moving portions of your sketch, copying and pasting sketch selections, and scaling.

7: Sketch Text

We cover the text function in Fusion 360 and how you need to be careful choosing your fonts for CNC Plasma cutting.

8: Mirroring and Patterning

We cover the sketch mirroring and patterning functions in Fusion 360 using example project files from our website.

9: Trim, Extend, Offset

Trimming, Extending, and Offsetting your sketches in Fusion 360.

10: Save, Export, and Offline Mode

Saving, exporting and what you can and can't do with Fusion 360 when you're not connected to the internet.

CAM: Program your Part

The next step in the process is to create the toolpaths from the part file that will be followed by the CrossFire™ machine when cutting. Once your part is designed, you will use Autodesk Fusion 360's plasma CAM feature to program toolpaths based on the part geometry that you want to cut. Here you will specify cutting parameters such as cut speed, pierce delay, and lead-in geometry and Fusion will export these toolpaths as a G-code file that can be read by the machines controller software.

UPDATE 1/9/19: Autodesk has renamed the CAM Workspace to the MANUFACTURE Workspace. All of the same functions are still available within this workspace.

1: The Fusion 360 MANUFACTURE Workspace

We cover CAM and Toolpaths, the MANUFACTURE workspace in Fusion and what functions you'll be using to start generating toolpaths for your CrossFire.

2: Creating a Plasma Cutting Tool

We cover creating a Plasma Cutting Tool with an accurate Kerf width and nozzle diameter.

3: Creating a Setup

Create a setup for the profile cutting operation that describes your stock, cutting tool, and origin.

4: Profile Toolpath Generation

We cover all of the toolpath configurations you need to generate a profile cut toolpath in Fusion 360 and then simulate that toolpath.

POST: Exporting your Part

Posting Programs from Fusion 360 translates your designed and programmed parts into files specific for the CrossFire CNC.

NOTE: The original CrossFire 2x2 runs on Mach3 so to post process and export G-Code, follow along in the video for POST for Mach3. The CrossFire PRO runs on Langmuir System's FireControl so for posting programs for the PRO, continue reading the Post Processing for FireControl section below.

Post Processing for Mach3 (CrossFire)

We cover installing the Mach3 Plasma Post configuration and post processing our toolpaths.

Note: To install Personal Posts on Fusion 360 in MacOS, please follow the instructions provided by Autodesk.

Post Processing for FireControl (CrossFire PRO)

The following guide provides instructions for generating cutting programs in Autodesk Fusion 360 for running in FireControl software. This guide assumes that you are already familiar with performing CAM operations in Fusion 360 for creating cutting programs; if not, we suggest first watching our Fusion 360 CAM video series (videos 1-4) in this guide before proceeding.

  1. If your CrossFire machine is equipped with a powered Z-axis, you will want to go back and make sure that the box for ‘Keep Nozzle Down’ is left unchecked in the Linking menu of your CAM settings.
  2. When creating your toolpath in Fusion, there is no need to set any values in the 'Heights' tab. Pierce and Cut Height Values will be set in the Post Processing Step below.
  3. By this point, you should already have a valid toolpath created in Fusion 360 for your part similar to what is shown below.
  4. Next, we are going to generate a G-Code file for this tool path using the Post Processor in Fusion 360. A G-Code file is a set of text instructions that are fed to the CrossFire CNC electronics box through FireControl software for telling the machine where, how, and when to move in order to cut out the part. To do this, click on the Post Processor icon (below) in the Additive menu bar.
  5. If this is your first time posting a program for FireControl in Fusion 360, you will need to open an internet browser and download the ‘Langmuir Systems Fusion 360 for FireControl Post Processor’ file from the Downloads page on our website. Once the file downloads to your computer, open up the folder where this file is stored and right click and copy this file.

    For MacOS users, please follow the instructions provided by Autodesk for installing Personal Posts for Fusion 360.
  6. Go back to Fusion 360 and click the ‘Setup’ button in the Configuration Folder subheading and select ‘Use Personal Post Library’ as shown below.
  7. Note the file name that now shows up in the Configuration Folder text field. You will need to navigate to this folder on your computer using the Windows File Explorer (Use Finder in for MacOS).
  8. Once you have located this file, you can now right click and paste the downloaded file from Step 5 into this folder. It should look like the folder as shown below. You can close the folder on your computer after completing this step.
  9. We now need to close and re-open the Post Processor menu in Fusion 360 for the changes to take effect. Close the Post Processor Menu in Fusion by clicking the ‘X’ in the top right corner of the menu and then re-open it by again clicking the Post Processor icon (below) in the Additive menu bar.
  10. Repeat Step 5 by clicking the ‘Setup’ button in the Configuration Folder subheading and then click ‘Use Personal Post Library’. After doing this, you should now see the CrossFire FireControl Post selected in your Post Processor Menu as shown below.
  11. Next we need to designate an output folder for the g-code programs that we are going to create. We recommend first creating a folder on your Desktop that you can store these generated programs in. To select an output folder, click the square icon with 3 dots next to the text field for Output Folder and locate your desired output folder for your programs. Here I’ve created a folder on my Desktop titled ‘Fusion 360 CrossFire Programs’ for easy access.
  12. Next, in the Program Settings subheading we can type in a Program Name or number and a Program comment (as needed). Then, select the appropriate units for your cutting program and uncheck the boxes next to ‘Reorder to minimize tool changes’ and ‘Open NC file in editor’. Your Program Settings should look similar to what is shown below.
  13. Next, we are going to enter our desired cutting parameters for this program. Below is an explanation of these Properties and how they affect your cutting program. You can disregard any other properties not mentioned in this menu as they should be left to the default settings.
    • Cut Height (in): This is the desired cutting height for your plasma torch above the surface of the plate. Consult your plasma cutter documentation for the ideal cut height for your torch and material. If you are using a CrossFire without a powered Z-axis, set this value to 0.
    • IHS Springback (in): Use this value to add additional cutting height to your plasma torch when cutting on thin gauge sheet metal to account for the force of the IHS switch. The IHS switch applies approximately 2lbs of force to your material when detecting the plate height and this springback value can compensate for the deflection. If you are using a CrossFire without a powered Z-axis, set this value to 0.
    • IHS: Use this toggle to enable or disable Initial Height Sensing switch on your machine. If you are using a CrossFire without a powered z-axis, set this value to No.
    • Pierce Delay (sec): The pierce delay value is the amount of time that the torch remains stationary after firing in order to fully pierce the material before moving down to the Cut Height. The pierce delay is dependent on your plasma cutter and the thickness of material being cut. Please consult your plasma cutter documentation for appropriate pierce delay settings for your cutter.
    • Pierce Height (in): The pierce height is the height above the plate that is used for the initial piercing process. The pierce height should be larger than the Cut Height and is typically about twice the value of the cutting height. If you are using a CrossFire without a powered Z-axis, set this value to 0.
    • Retract Height (in): The retract height is the height above the plate that the torch retracts up to after finishing each cutting loop before rapid moving to the next cutting loop. This retraction is key for avoiding tip ups and warped material when moving the torch to the next cutting location on the material. Please make sure that your selected retract height does not exceed the Z-axis travel limits of your machine. If you are using a CrossFire without a powered Z-axis, set this value to 0.
    • THC: Use this toggle to enable or disable THC for your cutting program. If you are using a CrossFire without a powered z-axis, set this value to No.
    Typical Properties for CrossFire without Powered Z-axis
    Typical Properties for CrossFire with Z-axis and THC
  14. After completing your cutting properties, click the Post button (below) to create your g-code program. Your program will be stored in the Output Folder from Step 10.
  15. Finally once your program is created successfully, you can now open FireControl and upload your program for cutting.

Post Processing in SheetCAM for FireControl

The following guide provides instructions for generating cutting programs in SheetCAM software to run in FireControl by using the Langmuir Systems FireControl Post Processor file. The FireControl Post Processor will create g-code instructions specific to your CrossFire machine including IHS sequences, THC activation points, and rapid retract moves. This guide assumes that you are already familiar with performing CAM operations in SheetCAM for creating cutting programs; if not, we suggest first consulting the SheetCAM User Guide before proceeding.

Instructions

  1. To start, you will need to navigate to the Langmuir Systems Downloads page and download the FireControl - SheetCAM Post file. After the file has downloaded, navigate to the Downloads folder on your computer and copy the FireControl-v1.1.scpost file that you just downloaded.
  2. Next, you will need to navigate to the folder on your computer where the Post Processor files for SheetCAM are stored so that you can copy the FireControl-v1.1.scpost file into this folder. On most Windows computers, the Post Processor folder is located at C:\Program Files (x86)\SheetCam TNG\Posts but you will need to verify this on your own system. After locating the folder, paste the copied Post Processor file from Step 1 into this folder. Your folder should now look like the folder shown below showing the FireControl-V1.1.scpost file.
  3. Next, open SheetCAM software and click Options > Machine from the top Menu bar. Under the Machine Type tab make sure that Jet Cutting is selected and Rotary Cutting is de-selected as shown below. Next, under the Post Processor tab make sure that your desired Output file units, desired Output folder, and Z Zero (should be Top of Work) are configured correctly. Next, click the drop down bar under Post Processor and select FireControl-V1.1 like shown below. Finally, click [OK] to exit the menu.
  4. After selecting the FireControl Post Processor, we are now ready to create programs to cut in FireControl using SheetCAM as normal.

    If you are using the CrossFire PRO or a CrossFire machine with a powered Z-axis, you will need to input settings for Pierce Height, Plunge Rate, and Cut Height when creating a plasma tool in order to activate the IHS sequence. For pierce height and cut height, please consult your plasma cutter manufacturer for the appropriate values. Note: If you are cutting on thin gauge material, we reccommend adding additional height to your Cut Height in order to compensate for the material springback during IHS. For the plunge rate used for the IHS sequence, we recommend using a rate of 100 IPM. Please also note that the FireControl post for SheetCAM has a hard-coded 1 inch rapid retract move after each cut loop is completed by default (after M5 torch OFF).

    If you are using a CrossFire machine without a powered Z-axis, be sure to set both Pierce Height and Cut Height to 0 in order to omit the IHS sequence from the generated g-code file.

    Below is an example of a plasma tool configured for a Razorweld 45A cutter used on the CrossFire PRO.