Bantam Tools Blog

Otherplan 0.32: Custom Tools, Faster PCB Toolpaths, and More

Posted by Ezra Spier on Oct 6, 2016 9:28:42 AM
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It’s Otherplan release time! Otherplan 0.32 is full of enhancements, including two of the most frequently-requested features of all time: support for custom milling tools and a new PCB toolpath algorithm that speeds up jobs significantly. As always, we’ve also included a few performance and usability improvements for good measure.

There’s a lot in this update; read on for the details or download the update now:

Download NowEditable Tool Library

Have metric tools sitting around? Prefer to use end mills or engraving bits from other suppliers? The new Tool Library in Otherplan 0.32 has you covered.

Tool_Library.png

To add a new tool, click File > Tool Library to open the new Tool Library window, then click the “Add” button to add a new custom tool. After entering a name and tool dimensions, you’ll be able to select this tool when milling PCBs or G-code files. You can add and remove custom flat end mills and engraving bits, and import and export tool libraries. 

When milling a PCB with a custom tool, Otherplan calculates feeds and speeds based on the settings used by the default tools. We plan on adding support for configuring your own feeds and speeds in a future release.

Using custom tools for your G-code files will not change your motion plan, since you’ve already accounted for tool size and speeds and feeds as part of the CAM process. However, using custom tools with imported G-code offers some advantages: your custom tools will be used for generating a 3D preview that more closely matches your design, and tool change prompts will reflect any custom tools you've selected for the job. While Otherplan doesn't yet support other types of tool geometries (ball end mills, chamfer bits, and so on), selecting “flat end mill” for other types of custom tools will not affect the resulting toolpaths. It will, however, result in a less-accurate 3D Preview.

Optimized PCB Toolpaths (Or: No More Wasting Time Milling Tiny Details!)

We’ve made a few changes to the PCB toolpath algorithm that will speed up many PCB milling jobs, particularly when you’re using multiple tools.

First, prior to this release, Otherplan would attempt to stay as true to your PCB design as possible. As a result, Otherplan would diligently (and time-consumingly!) mill out corners and other small features with small tools – even if these features didn’t impact the conductivity or functionality of the PCB.

Otherplan 0.32 has a new approach: instead of milling out all the details, Otherplan will only use the smaller tool to clear areas that bridge traces. In other words, Otherplan will prioritize conductivity and feature isolation when generating toolpaths.

If this behavior isn’t desireable, we’ve added a new option in Advanced section of the PCB Setup panel. Selecting "Use Detail Tool Everywhere" will revert to the previous behavior and mill all shapes as precisely as possible with the tools you’ve selected.

Here’s an example. This test board is configured with 1/32 in and 1/64 in Flat End Mills. With only Traces selected, Otherplan’s new algorithm shows a 2:51 milling time estimate. With the “Use Detail Tool Everywhere” option selected, the board will take an estimated 4:24 to mill. For large or complicated boards, the time difference can be even more pronounced.

Use_Detail_Tool_Everywhere.png

Second, the default trace clearance is now 0.15 mm. If the selected tool is wider than the trace clearance, only a single pass will be generated around traces. Previously, this would have resulted in two passes. If you would like your tool to make more than one pass around your traces, try manually raising the trace clearance to be larger than your tool width.

Finally, we also added some improvements to the way areas near edges of boards are handled to avoid unnecessary milling.

Taken together, these changes result in shorter toolpaths and faster milling times. If you encounter any issues with these changes, please send us details at [email protected].
 
Other Updates

Of course, we’ve also tried to pack a few additional improvements into Otherplan 0.32. In this release, we’ve included:

  • Major updates to Otherplan’s 3D graphics infrastructure for improved responsiveness and lower CPU utilization.
  • Support for milling internal outlines in .brd and Gerber files.
  • Clear_Buttons.pngButtons in the material and plan offset inputs that easily clear custom settings (see screenshot).
  • Keyboard shortcuts for zoom in, zoom out, and zoom to fit.
  • A number of usability improvements to the Debug Console, including a Clear button, a Send Command button, a command history (press the up and down keys) and requiring the Alt key to be held when sending a command (to prevent accidental input).

As always, we’re excited to hear your feedback at [email protected]. Happy milling!

Topics: Software, Otherplan

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