On the Cutting Edge: A Software Solution for PlasmaRouteCNC

Steve Gustine was in the electric sign business when he saw the need for a machine that could perform both plasma cutting and CNC routing. So he started building machines, mainly for sign builders but also sold to manufacturing companies producing a wide range of different parts, and people making arts and crafts. Gustine recognized from the start that his customers needed the right software to make amazing things with his machines so he resold three software packages with each machine and also provided training and support.

But about two years ago he replaced all three packages with ArtCAM Express because it offers more capabilities for one-fourth the cost. “ArtCAM has more features than the programs that I resold in the past and also offers more capabilities,” Gustine said. “ArtCAM is very intuitive which makes it easier to learn and easier to teach. After we switched over to ArtCAM our sales started increasing and today we are selling three times as many machines as before we made the switch.”

Need to perform plasma cutting and CNC routing with a single table

“While I was in the sign business, the advantages of both plasma cutting and CNC routing were obvious,” Gustine said. “I needed both capabilities to maintain my competitive edge. It irked me that every machine builder I talked to wanted me to buy two tables, one for plasma cutting and another for CNC routing. When I asked why they couldn’t sell me a table for both plasma and routing, they gave me silly excuses such as the sawdust on the table will catch fire when I am using the plasma cutter. But I didn’t have room for two tables and didn’t want to spend the money for two when I only needed one. So I decided that if I couldn’t buy a table that would do both routing and plasma I would build my own and if I had to build my own I might as well build a lot of them. That’s how this business got started.”

Most CNC plasma cutters are not designed to handle large router motors and spindles and most CNC router tables don’t offer the option of converting to plasma. Gustine’s company, PlasmaRouteCNC, provides CNC plasma cutters and CNC router tables designed from the ground up to provide powerful, high-resolution routing and plasma cutting capabilities in one affordable table. Buyers can attach a plasma torch to one of the company’s tables to improve the accuracy of their plasma cutting system and they can also attach a router head to the same table to create a high-performance CNC router.

PlasmaRouteCNC makes two lines of tables. The company’s ZR table series offers high-resolution belt reduction drives for fine detail and smooth edges and a fully welded steel frame to reduce vibration and increase durability. The result is exceptionally high levels of performance, accuracy, and reliability. XR series tables offer an extraordinarily low price.

Software critical to machine performance

Gustine has worked for twenty-five years with a popular drawing software package so when he started building machines he knew that his customers would need software to create the basic geometry for whatever they wanted to build. The drawing tool that he used was not capable of creating toolpaths so he provided another software package that could calculate 2D and 2.5D toolpaths to generate the code needed to produce them in a CNC router or plasma cutter. More advanced users of CNC routers also design 3D parts, so Gustine also provided a third software package to generate CNC code for 3D reliefs sold by the software developer for $25 each. These three software packages provided the full range of capabilities needed by most of the company’s customers at a cost of about $600. A few commonly requested capabilities such as the ability to produce inlays were lacking, but users had the ability to upgrade to a software package that could produce 3D designs from scratch for another $2000.

“I first purchased ArtCAM twelve years ago and used it for jobs as diverse as building parts for remote control airplanes and signs for the casino industry,” Gustine said. “I have long been impressed with the capabilities of the software, but when I got started building machines, I had assumed it was too expensive to resell with my machines. Then a year or two ago Delcam approached me and offered to have me resell ArtCAM Express with my machines at only $150 per copy. This was an irresistible offer because ArtCAM Express offers all of the capabilities of the three software packages I provided before as well as a number of additional capabilities. For example, ArtCAM Express gives my customers the ability to make inlays, which was not possible with the previous software. ArtCAM Express also comes with over 500 3D reliefs built into the software so there is no need for customers to buy reliefs.”

Expandability provides additional capabilities

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ArtCAM Express provides the tools and functionality to manufacture a wide range of 2D and 3D products. Its capabilities include 2D design and vector creation, 3D design, 2D profiling with bridging, 2D area clearance or pocket machining, Vbit incised carving, 3D machining and inlays and inserts. Users can also purchase additional modules to provide specific capabilities such as bitmap layers, vector tools, font creation, advanced 2D machining nesting, texture toolpath, feature machining, raised round engraving, raised flat lettering, and file import.

ArtCAM Express users can upgrade to ArtCAM Insignia which provides many additional capabilities such as automatically converting bitmaps to vectors, creating 3D face profile models, free 3D models, designing a bas-relief, and true-shape nesting. Finally users can upgrade all the way to the highest end ArtCAM Pro which makes it possible to take designs even further with capabilities such as embossing and sculpting, texture creation and 3D face profile creation.

“Switching to ArtCAM has made us more competitive,” Gustine concluded. “The lower price of the software has made it possible to increase the capabilities of our machines without increasing their price. Users gain extra capabilities such as inlays and free 3D reliefs and the ability to buy additional modules and upgrade to higher versions with even greater capabilities. We provide a full day of training on both ArtCAM and our machines with every purchase. Many of our customers drive here to pick up their machines and take our training course where they work with their own machine. When they get home they can be up and running in 15 minutes. ArtCAM also comes with training tutorials that customers can use to learn more advanced capabilities after they return home. We also make our own videos on using our machines and post them for our customers. Our latest video shows how we used ArtCAM to design and build a new dust collector for our machines.

'I am happy to say that last year, after we switched to ArtCAM, our sales started increasing to the point that that we soon had to add another shift. We are currently producing three machines per week compared to one per week before we made the switch.”


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