Blogs

Minor fixes and a first approach to testing code

Just in time with the start of spring in northern Germany I happened to take another week of holiday for working on PyCAM again.

I started on Monday with some previously reported issues (handling of special characters and whitespace in the "recent files" list) and some involuntary easter egg process settings that were revealed only ofter some specific activities.

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Projecting a gravure onto a custom model

Recently a discussion passed through the linuxcnc-users mailinglist that encouraged me to demonstrate a nice new feature of PyCAM (currently only available in the development repository). The thread starter asked for software that he could use for engraving a 2D model onto a specific non-flat button.

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Welcome new developers!

Some days ago two more pairs of helping hands joined PyCAM's development: Paul Bonser and John Wiggins from the ATX Hackerspace (hopefully I did not forget someone).

Quickly a lot of progress happened:

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Reduced memory consumption

PyCAM is - as the name implies - based on the scripting language Python. Python is a very efficient tool from the developer's point of view: even complicated features can be implemented quickly and cleanly in a structured way. The downside of this ease of development can be a source of annoyance for users: number crunching applications are not as ressource efficient as their compiled counterparts. But today PyCAM gained a useful feature to fight its own ressource hunger.

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Replacement wheel for a trolley bag

You surely know the useful commodity called trolley bag. They provide a convenient method of transporting your heavy personal things, especially if you need to walk a longer distance occacsionally.

But as with all the useful stuff, things tend to break sometimes. The usual weak points of trolley bags are probably their zippers and their wheels. These two types of failure usually turn the trolley bag into a worthless piece of junk, even if all other components continue to work well. But of course, home fabbing can save your day!

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Plans for the upcoming release v0.6

PyCAM's architectural rewrite is close to its completion. Around 50 plugins with limited scope replaced a formerly huge pile of fairly complex GUI code. Some few features were added and most of the existing features of release v0.5.1 are working.

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Milling of a printed circuit board

We are currently working on our [[http://reprap.org|Reprap machine]] (Mendel). Sadly the control board that we ordered (Generation 6) was broken. Somehow it turned mad whenever we tried to home the printer. Thus we decided to manufacture a control board on our own.

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Base grid for model view

The current development version of PyCAM gained another visualization feature. An optional base grid puts your models into their proper dimension. This should make it easier to estimate the relative size of toolpaths, models and all other visual items.

A dimensioning scale (comparable to the one used in EMC2 Axis) is on the roadmap and will probably be part of the next release of PyCAM.

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Configurable path patterns

The migration of PyCAM to a new modular GUI structure is almost completed. Thus I recently started to add some new fancy features to exploit all the new possibilities. One quite visible feature is the new configurable path generator. It now allows you to select a spiral toolpath instead of the currently available grid pattern.

Expect some even more interesting features for the next release ...

UPDATE: rounded corners and spiral direction (inside / outside) are now configurable, as well.

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Development bits: modularization and improved visualization

Some PyCAM users are accustomed to running the current state of development (svn trunk) if they want to use the latest features or simply out of curiosity watching the progress. This was working very well for the last 18 months. Thus maybe they were surprised to see trunk in an unusable state for the last three weeks. Of course there is a good reason for this: a huge internal rewrite of the GUI is currently going on. This post will explain the goals of this rewrite and the current state of development. Additionally I will describe some recent visualization improvements.

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