Simulator Update v0.8.0

We've been hard at work on our simulator to bring you new (old) machines, better performance, better integration with our community forums and better options for proofing your programs on Pocket NC machines. The video below takes you through all the features, with details listed below with images/text, as well.

New (Old) machines

First, we added two different V1 machine models for the benefit of our longest standing customers. After pressing the stop button, you can click the button in the bottom right and select the V1 Kickstarter to get the green kickstarter version with the CHB spindle that we use on our V2-50s or V1 to get the silver and black version with the same spindle as the V2-10. It can be handy to load up your specific machine to better catch errors where tool paths may exceed the limits of the machine. With this change, we also made it easier to add new machines in the future (hint, hint)!

See the V1 machines in action below: 

Performance

We also significantly improved the performance of the simulator. Programs should interpret much faster than before. In some of our tests, we saw a time reduction of up to 90%. Playback should be smoother on lower powered devices, as well. This means you should be able to play through a program on your phone or tablet, as well as your desktop. If you're reading this on your phone, the simulator above should work just fine!

If you want to try it out fullscreen, click on the link below.

 Pocket NC Simulator

Integration With Community Forums

File management is one of the trickier parts about using the simulator with your phone or tablet, so we've also improved the integration of the simulator with our community forums to allow for easy sharing of files that can be linked for others to easily open on any device. In our community forum, we've added a new button at the bottom of every post that will take you to the simulator. If the post has an attached G code program and optionally a model, clicking that button will automatically open those files in the simulator. The link can be freely shared and any device will be able to open it without any hassle. So, people can upload their G code program with ease to the forum from their desktop (it's possible from your phone or tablet as well, but not as commonly done), and someone from their phone can quickly take a look and offer their input.

In addition to the extra button on the forum, there's now a share button in the upper right of the simulator which can provide an embed code to copy that can be posted in the forum or a blog post, etc. which allows others to see the simulator without leaving the flow of the post (like the V1 above). We see potential for adding more options to the share panel for controlling various options, setting tool length offsets, work offsets and more, but for now it simply uses the current URL. 

We hope that these integrations will encourage people to upload their G code programs to the forum, so we can provide better service as well as to encourage more community engagement.

New Options

There's a new pane on the right hand side with options that control various aspects of the simulator. 

Back Plot

The back plot can be very helpful to visualize the path the tip of the tool takes and can help reveal mistakes in programming or bugs in post processors. In larger programs, though, it can easily look like a tangled mess. In this update, we've added options for limiting how much of the back plot is displayed at one time.

Show Between Lines

The Show between lines checkbox enables two textfields for entering line numbers. The back plot will be limited to showing only the portion of the program between those lines. The button inside each textfield can be clicked to populate the field with the current line number.

The Set Current Tool Path button will look for surrounding comment lines (the first one it finds at the current line or above, as well as the next one it finds after the current line). Examples of comment lines from the Rook program in the simulator above are (CENTER OD ROUGH 2) or (TOP BORE). These are tool path names output by the post processor that generates the final G code. If your post processor doesn't provide those comment lines, you can manually insert them between tool paths.

There are also new Previous Tool Path and Next Tool Path buttons in the playback overlay to quickly jump between tool paths. Also, when Isolate Playback Slider is checked, the full range of the playback slider will be allocated to that line range, which can be especially useful in longer running programs, where otherwise a specific tool path would be a tiny sliver of the slider.

Show Time Window

The Show Time Window checkbox allows a user to focus on a window of +/- the specified number of seconds from the current time. This can give a continuous localized view of what just happened and what is about to happen.

Show Past and Future Only

These checkboxes isolate the back plot to show only before or after the current time in the playback.

Colors

You can now change the color of the back plot. The color shown when performing a rapid movement as well as the color when performing a feed rate movement can be set.

Plot Offset

The plot offset is a distance to move the back plot along the direction of the tool. A positive number will move closer to the spindle and a negative value will move further away from the spindle. This option can be helpful when the back plot aligns perfectly with the surface of your model, which results in what is called Z-fighting to determine whether the surface or the back plot is shown. To ensure you can see the back plot on top of the surface, you can set a small positive offset to bring it slightly in front of the surface. This option can also potentially be used to visualize a depth of cut.

Model

While we've had the option to upload a model since the release of the simulator, it's been difficult to use properly as the origin of the model had to be positioned at the center of rotation of the machine. With the release of Kinetic Control which has support for TCPC and RWO, the machine's G5x offsets can be used to reposition your tool paths. By default, the origin of your models now use the same origin as your tool paths, which is easier to make the origin of your part. The origin can also be switched back to the center of rotation or a different G5x offsets could be used if you want to manually specify an origin. Previously, we also assumed the units of the model were in mm. Now there's an option for specifying in inches, as well. Finally, you also have the option to change the color of the model.

Camera

The previous version of the simulator provided a menu for transitioning between a perspective projection and an orthographic projection. In general, a perspective projection is a more natural way of looking at an object, but an orthographic projection is helpful when ensuring lines are parallel/perpendicular, etc. An orthographic view is generally most helpful in an axis aligned view, such as a top or front view. In the latest update, the camera transitions into an orthographic project when the camera is aligned with the top, bottom, left, right, front or back planes of the view cube in the upper right corner. You can click the faces of the view cube to get the camera into such an alignment. The camera will automatically, transition back to a perspective projection when you rotate away from that view. You can still change to either perspective or orthographic, but the automatic switching handles the most common use cases.

 

By default, the camera transitions smoothly from one position to the next or into and out of perspective or orthographic projection. This gives more context to the 3D view and can help maintain an understanding of what is being shown, especially for newer users. The amount of smoothing can be adjusted. Scrubbing the slider under the Smooth Camera Transitions checkbox to the left will make transitions slower and moving it to the right makes them faster. Dragging the slider all the way to the right will essentially be indistinguishable from unchecking the Smooth Camera Transitions checkbox. Disabling smooth camera transitions can be desirable when playing through a tool path animation with the camera parented to the tool or part of the machine, where the extra camera smoothing would introduce a lag behind where the machine's actual position is.

What would you like to see?

That's all we have for now. We think there are enough new features for people to explore to help them with their processes and perhaps spark more ideas for how it could be improved. Let us know what you'd like to see added in the future!