What is PyCAM?

PyCAM is a toolpath generator for 3 axis machines (usually: milling machines). Your workflow will probably look like this:

  1. load a 3D or 2D model
  2. specify some processing parameters (tool size, ...)
  3. save the resulting GCode to a file

The GCode file can be used by most standards-compliant machine controllers (e.g. LinuxCNC).

What licence applies to PyCAM? Does it cost money?

PyCAM is free software licenced under the GPL v3. Thus you may use, change and distribute it without any costs and you do not need any kind of approval from its authors. Please take a look at the licence details for further information.

Installing PyCAM

Requirement installer for Windows: “the NTVDM CPU has encountered an illegal instruction”

The above erros seems to be triggered occasionally when installing the GtkGLext component of the dependency installer in Windows XP SP3.

The root cause seems to be the (quite outdated) installer script for GtkGLext. Please take a look at this filelist and download the two required DLL files manually. There you also find the preferred location of these two files.

Running PyCAM

Failed to initialize the interactive 3D model view

A lot of new users of PyCAM stumble upon this error message. The solution depends on your platform and your method of installation.

Please take a look at OpenGL troubles for details.

PyCAM consumes all my memory! [only Unix]

There seems to be a problem with PyCAM v0.5.x running under Python 2.7. Ubuntu Natty and Oneiric (11.04 / 11.10)) and other distributions ship this version of Python by default. The specific cause of the problem was discovered recently by jferrara. It will be fixed in release v0.6 of PyCAM.

SVG import: postoedit reports a missing MSVCR100.dll library [only Windows]

After installing inkscape, pstoedit and ghostscript the import of SVG files fails with an an error report referring to a missing library MSVCR100.dll.

pstoedit v3.60 (or later) depends on the MS Visual C++ 2010 library. Thus you have to options to solve this issue:

Toolpaths (general)

Cropping a toolpath results in no moves at all

The crop feature reduces the x-y area of all tool moves to the projected area of the current model.

You should press the 2D projection button to see if the resulting 2D projection meets your expectations. PyCAM is partly guessing the height of the slicing plane: usually z=0 is assumed, but the bottom of the model is used if the model is completely above or below this plane. Just shift the model along the z axis if you want to force a specific slicing plane.

Toolpaths for 3D models

The surface path generator goes down to the bottom of the model. This will break my tool!

The surface path generator should be the last step of your workflow. You should probably use a “push cutter” strategy before. This will remove the material in slices of configurable height.

My Art of Illusion models are half-way turned over

The coordinate system of Art of Illusion assumes that the xy plane is the front face of a model. Thus the height of the model goes along the y axis - instead of the more common z axis. Just swap the y and z axes (see Model Transformations) to fix this issue.

Toolpaths for 2D models

I can't open SVG files

PyCAM contains no built-in support for SVG. Thus you need to install Inkscape and pstoedit.

See the list of requirements for details.

My SVG models are empty

Please read the 2D modeling with Inkscape (SVG).

The most common problems are:

  • partially transparent items are ignored (opacity must be at 100%)
  • items outside of the document sheet (the canvas) are ignored
  • ghostscript is not installed (probably only relevant for Windows users)

Rapid moves are placed below the model instead of above

Probably you need to adjust the safety height (see GCode settings) accoding to the height of your model. Alternatively you could also shift the model down to z=0.

Toolpaths with an offset are placed inside of the model instead of outside

There can be two reasons:

  • you specified a negative engraving offset: In this case the toolpath is supposed to be inside of the polygons. This is a feature.
  • the polygon's winding is clockwise instead of counter-clockwise (or vice versa): use the toggle directions or revise directions button to fix this issue.

How can I specify the depth for gravures?

The height of the bounding box defines the depth of a gravure. Just increase the upper z-margin of the bounding box. You will need to switch to the “fixed margin” style to accomplish this.

Why can't the pocketing algorithm handle simple holes/islands?

Sadly both major libraries offering 2D polygon operations (CGAL and GPC) were distributed under GPL-incompatible licenses until recently. Since the middle of 2012 CGAL switched to the GPL. Thus it is now possible to use this great library for geometry operations. So this missing feature can be added easily as soon as someone feels like jumping into this task ...

Open Questions

Just add your problem or question here - it will get collected and answered ...

(Or use the forum, if you expect a longer discussion.)