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PixelCNC v1.61b Update Overview

 Several bugfixes, changes, and feature additions are included with the v1.61b update. The most prominent feature is the ability to use Layer Groups in a project. Now that this update is out there will be a shift to working on more tutorial videos which will take the time to focus on the details of using different functionality and slow things down a bit compared to the existing videos. The current canvas editing videos cover just about everything PixelCNC can do, but do so very quickly - cramming everything into two videos. Some users have expressed a desire to see tutorials that spend more time showing how to use certain things. We'll be working on that for the next while, likely releasing just a bugfix update or two in the meantime.

The more important aspects of the v1.61b are detailed as follows:

 

Layer Groups

 Projects now include eight layer "groups". A layer group is an individual combination of the project's canvas layers. Operations can choose which of the eight groups to use as input when generating toolpaths. This does not affect the selecting of paths-layers as input for an operation as paths-layers are not included in groups (because they don't directly contribute to the canvas).

 While in the Project Canvas mode the active Layer Group can be chosen from the top of the layers list. Selecting a layer group will show its composition in the 3D view. When creating new layers they are automatically added to the currently active group. Layers can be added or removed from a group by clicking the new diamond icon button next to their visibility/delete buttons that are visible on their listing within the canvas layers list.

 This functionality makes it easier to work with projects that require toolpaths which are generated off of different compositions. Previously, users would have to go back-and-forth between a project's operations and canvas and toggle layers on/off to re-create a composition for a specific toolpath. This meant that users had to remember to do this in the future when returning to an old project (which has also warranted a project notes type feature to save some user text with a project, but that will be included in a later update).

 

Operation Tool From Library

 Users have found that the ten tool limit per project is restricting when trying to test different tools out for their project's operations. Their tools are all saved to their Tool Library but they must go back and forth between Project Operations and Project Tools switching tools in from the Library and then setting their operation to use the tool they've swapped in.

 The new feature adds a library access button to operations' Tool parameter which opens the Tool Library and allows loading a tool from it to the project. This will automatically assign the tool definition to a tool index that's unused, or that no other operations are using (i.e. if the operation is the only one using the tool in the tool index it's already using).

 Previously, a warning would appear if no tools had been defined for the project when trying to create a new operation and prevented an operation from being created. This has been replaced with an info message box that reminds the user that there's no tools, and that they will either need to define one first or load one from the library by clicking the tool library button on the Tool parameter. Toolpaths will still not generate if a tool index is not selected that has a proper tool definition assigned to it.

 Users should also beware, loading a tool to an operation via the new feature applies to the project's tool definitions, whether or not Apply is clicked on the operation. Once a tool is selected from the library and overwrites the operation's existing tool's definition they won't be able to easily revert the change unless the previous tool is also in their Tool Library and they can set it back.

 

Tool Diameter Percentage Stepover

 While the ability to enter math expressions into certain numeric value parameter edit boxes made it possible to quickly calculate a fraction of a tool's diameter within the cutting Stepover parameter, it was still more steps than are necessary.

 A toggle has been added to the Stepover parameter for operations to switch between the parameter value representing a physical cut stepover size or a percentage of the tool's diameter that is set for the operation when Apply is clicked. Users can freely change an operation's tool and the stepover percentage will use that tool to calculate a stepover distance when the user clicks Apply to generate the operation's toolpath.

 

Optimized Trochoidal Cutpaths

 A caveat with the trochoidal milling operations (2D and 2.5D Trochoidal Milling) was that cuts approaching a previously-cut area, such as with a pocket surrounding an island, would weakly optimize the cuts where they overlapped the circular area of removed material by skipping the area for each cut arc move. This resulted in breaking up an arc cut into two or more (depending on how many previously-cut areas were being overlapped) cuts that had linear feeds between them. The result was a lot of moving back-and-forth between these sub-arc cuts when it would be much faster to just stick to each group of sub-arcs for a given part before moving to the next set of arc cuts.

 

 v1.61b includes the proper cut ordering for these cuts to reduce overall operation runtime. For some operations the linear feeds between sub-arc cuts only added a few seconds total to the entire operation's runtime but if there were large open cut areas then the time could really increase unnecessarily by a sizeable amount.

 

Reverse Along Path(s) Direction

 The Raster/Text Along Path(s) function now includes a path-direction reverse toggle. This essentially tells the function to map the input layer to the paths-layer's paths in the reverse direction of their nodes, as paths retain the order that their nodes are created in.

 A user pointed out that they didn't know a way to map text onto a circle path and have the text be right-side-up at both the top and bottom of the circle. The only way to achieve a reversal was to mirror the input raster/text layer on both X and Y axes (same as 180deg rotation) and then merge-down onto a blank raster-layer to get a new layer with the contents rotated. The result could then be used with Along Path(s) and be functionally "reversed".

 A related issue was that the Mirror X/Y toggles on a layer were not being considered by Along Paths - so now there are two ways to map a layer along paths in opposite directions, either by just using the new toggle on the function's dialog or by enabling the Mirror X/Y options on the input layer before using it.

 

What's Next?

 For now we're switching gears back to video recording/editing mode to produce more tutorials and learning materials for PixelCNC. We're looking for requests for how-tos, anything anybody wants to learn about feel free to let us know what you're looking to do with PixelCNC and we'll see what we can do.

 The goal is to produce much shorter more concise videos than the existing ones. Two - five minutes each that just cover a specific aspect of PixelCNC in more detail, demonstrating different things that can be achieved, hopefully making the usage of different functions clear enough that viewers will start having ideas of their own.

 The hope was to have the initial form of PixelCNC's online content library ready for v1.61b but some bugfixes that had been added needed to go out ASAP, so this release went out without it. The focus will be on additional canvas editing features and the online user content library for the next update, which will be released after some new tutorial videos have been put together. Free-trial users will be able to browse the library of content but won't be able to upload to it.

 That's all for now. Don't forget to send any feedback, questions, or help requests to us at: support@deftware.org.

 Happy CNCing!

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