MeshCAM Art tutorial

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MeshCAM Art tutorial

Postby sjj47 » Sat Aug 06, 2016 5:15 am

I'm in the same boat as a lot of folks -- I can't find a thorough MeshCAM Art tutorial out there. :cry: I've seen the short "colored medallion" one from GRZ, but I was hoping for something more detailed. Any suggestions - outside of trial-and-error, which I'm doing now?

Thanks,
Steve - Shapeoko 3; Inkscape, MakerCAM, UGS, bCNC.
Software engineer professional; woodworker journeyman; CNC tyro;
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Re: MeshCAM Art tutorial

Postby ArchieF » Sat Aug 06, 2016 7:04 pm

Hi Steve,

what are you trying to do not described in the short "colored medallion" one from GRZ ?

Richard
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Re: MeshCAM Art tutorial

Postby sjj47 » Mon Aug 08, 2016 3:45 am

Thanks for the response, Richard.

It's not a question of some specific task I don't know how to accomplish. My issue is I have very little idea how to use MeshCAM Art at all. I haven't found anything that explains how to use the tool except for a 2 minute silent video. So I have a lot of very basic questions.

Now, I'm not a complete newbie -- I've used Photoshop, Inkscape, and other such tools for years, and I've been doing CNC work for a year now, 2D, 2.5D, and 3D.

Some of my questions -

    Which file formats can be handled by MeshCAM Art? A Photoshop file exported as a PNG file can be opened successfully in MeshCAM; an Inkscape file exported as a PNG file cannot.

In fact, no file format (svg, dxf, png, pdf, etc.) exported from Inkscape works in MeshCAM Art. Either the file can't be opened at all, or it can be opened and all the Relief pull-down menu options are grayed-out, or all I get is a white field missing all the colored shapes.

    In opening a PNG file in MeshCAM, an "Image Settings" window pops up that includes "Height Mapping" options -- Black is Z- | Black is Z+. What is the significance of this option, particularly in a image file that doesn't contain any black regions? How does this option relate to the "Select Shape" window "Start height" value?

    In that same window, in the "Height" section, what do the options No Limit | Limit height | Scale Height mean?

    In that same window, in the "Merge Type" section, what do the options Add | Subtract | Max | Min mean?

    What exactly does "Smoothing" do?

The short "medallion" video uses some of the options above, but without any voiceover or sound explaining what is going on, the meaning is not obvious. It also doesn't help that the pull-down menu options shown in the video differ from the options available in my MeshCAM version.

    Why is it, when I import a PNG file with 3 flat colors, I get 10 or more color swatches on the left hand side of the "Shape Relief" window? I would expect three.

Yes, I could work through all these issues on a trial-and-error basis, but I had hoped there was a tutorial, or a manual, or even a hint somewhere out on the Web, that might save me some time.
Steve - Shapeoko 3; Inkscape, MakerCAM, UGS, bCNC.
Software engineer professional; woodworker journeyman; CNC tyro;
sjj47
 
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Re: MeshCAM Art tutorial

Postby sjj47 » Mon Aug 08, 2016 5:01 am

[Emily Litella voice] Never mind.

I found most of my answers in the MeshCAM Help document. I thought I had checked that source earlier and found nothing, but I must have had a brain-glitch. :roll:

Thanks,
Steve - Shapeoko 3; Inkscape, MakerCAM, UGS, bCNC.
Software engineer professional; woodworker journeyman; CNC tyro;
sjj47
 
Posts: 11
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Re: MeshCAM Art tutorial

Postby AdPrinter » Wed Aug 17, 2016 8:38 am

Hi Steve,
I feel your pain, in learning to use MeshCAM Art. I have been working with it since 2008. And when I first downloaded the trial version, I actually "wrote a book" on the experience. And negotiated a trade with Robert for the permanent license. He hasn't (yet) made that "book" available on this site- at least not that I am aware of. However, to answer your question on the existence of a Tutorial: I have written a few articles for Digital Machinist Magazine. Which deal specifically with using MeshCAM Art. My memory is failing, by I think that the article was published in the 2012 Winter Edition. I am still awaiting publication of my most recent article. Step one, when opening a bitmap into MeshCAM Art, is to enter the image size in the X Coordinate box, (to preserve the aspect ratio, the Y Coordinate will automatically change), Next click on the Allow size change Box, BEFORE you enter a value in the Resolution box. Finally, click on the Black is Negative box. (assuming that you are CUTTING into a piece of stock, as opposed to creating G Code for a 3D printer). Click OK for MeshCAM Art to open the file with these settings. Once the screen displays the file, click on a blank area of the screen slightly BELOW the image area, keep holding down the left mouse button, and drag the pointer toward the top of the screen. This will slightly tilt the image away from you, and simulate what you would see, if it were sitting on a table in front of you. Next click on the Flatten Image button, to flatten all colors of the imported image. This is a very important step, so that you have a "level" playing field. Next click on the Shape Editor tool, and scroll down to the very last 2 colors (usually will be Black and White). Click on the check box for each. When the next window opens, enter the following parameters: Angle 1, Shape Flat, Starting Depth -.5" Height Limit None, action Add, and then click OK to apply these settings to the Background colors of Black and White of your imported image file. After several minutes of processing, MC Art displays the results on screen. Notice that the view appears in 3D, (since you tilted the top of the image away from you, as mentioned above). And all the colors of your image now stand .5" proud of the background of your image. Continue with the Shape Editor, for each of the other colors in your image.
I am aware, that it takes time to wrap your head around MC Art. One piece of advice: WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING YOU DO! (What I am referring to here, is for your own reference, when working with the Shape Editor in MC Art). After editing each color, if you don't like the results, you will have some clue what needs to be changed, in order to achieve the results you are looking for. For example, say you are working with a PNG file you have opened into MC Art, and using the Shape Editor for the color Blue. You have entered the following parameters in the Shape Editor window: Shape- Round, Degrees 45, Starting Depth -.5, Limit Height No Limit, Add, then clicked OK. After several minutes, MC Art displays the result of this action on the screen. The Blue area of your artwork stands at a 45 degree angle, .5" proud of the background area of the image. And you think: "This is WAY TOO TALL". So you hold down the Control Key, and type Z to undo. And you go back into the Shape Editor to "try again". WHAT? You mean you didn't WRITE IT DOWN? (all of the first attempt settings of the Shape Editor)? If you have been working with MC Art, then I am sure you are beginning to understand the importance of "Writing Everything Down" so that you will have some reference to refer back to, in order to make the changes needed for the desired results. What I did, when I first started working with MC Art, was to create a spread sheet "Form", which had borders for entering into each field the various settings available in the Shape Editor Window of MC Art. I.E. Color (Selected color(s) being editing) Shape (Round, Angle, Flat) Degrees (default setting of 45) Starting Depth (should be a negative number) Height Limit (No Limit is the Default setting) Action (Add is the Default setting). I printed out several copies of the spread sheet "Form" for use with MC Art. And wrote down the information into each Field of the form, so that I could refer back to the Form, as I worked with the Shape Editor in MC Art.
As for the software of choice, that I use: Corel DRAW Graphic Suite. I highly recommend it, for working with MC Art. For several reasons. Extensive support for different file formats when importing, OR exporting files. And the fact that it supports both vector graphic images, bitmaps, or combinations of both. Color management is also one of Corel's many strengths. Color management in particular, could fill a book by itself, as a subject to gain a comprehension of. When working with MC Art.
You can see the results of some of my work, in the MeshCAM Art Gallery. I hope that this response helps you to gain an understanding of how to use MeshCAM Art. It truly is a powerful program, once you learn how to use it!
Have a Blessed Day! -Michael
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Re: MeshCAM Art tutorial

Postby sjj47 » Tue Aug 23, 2016 1:57 am

Thanks very much for the detailed response, Michael! It is very helpful. I think it ought to be included with every MeshCAM download. ;)

I only wish I had seen your response before I spent two days painfully working out (and documenting!) a process.

I may have to spring for CorelDraw, if only to get the different export formats. I'm using Inkscape and Gimp right now. On the plus side, they're free. On the negative side I sometimes have to build in one, and export to the other, to get the format I want.

Thanks again for all the good advice!
Steve - Shapeoko 3; Inkscape, MakerCAM, UGS, bCNC.
Software engineer professional; woodworker journeyman; CNC tyro;
sjj47
 
Posts: 11
Joined: Fri Jun 24, 2016 1:21 am


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