You’ve probably heard of “post processors.” But if you’re like most CNC machine operators, it’s kind of a foggy idea. You realize you know the term, but you’re not quite sure about much else.
Don’t sweat it! We have you covered. Here’s some introductory info to make sure you know:
Your CNC cutting machine needs to know what commands you’re giving it. A post processor is software that translates CAD or CAM data to specific commands your CNC cutting machine can understand. Whatever CAD or CAM system you use, it has a certain point where it produces generic output called a “CL-file.”
This “CL-file” only represents the paths your CNC machine will take when cutting your part. However, these paths are not yet specific to your CNC machine. So, that’s where post processor software comes in and translates this CL-file into specific data your CNC machine can use.
See, not so hard to understand how it works now, is it?
The final accuracy of your cut and optimal use of your CNC machine depends on your post processor software. Without it, or with poor software, you can end up with longer cycle times, damaged parts, ruined equipment, and injuries to employees. That all translates to wasted time and money at your business too.
That can also mean lower part quality. And that can lead to angry customers who take their business elsewhere.
With this kind of software, there’s a wide range of quality. If you don’t recognize the company making the software, you have a good chance of getting post processing software that only causes you more headaches. Go with a name that’s well-known to prevent problems. And you should take extra caution to follow this guideline if you have complex machining needs.
If you have more than a single person doing CNC cutting, you’re going to save serious time and increase your productivity with post processing software. You might use it for probing, custom drill patterns, setting familiar patterns, right angle heads, tracking tool life, documenting your G-Code to add clarity for operators, or to set variable setup options.
Finally, make sure you have an open post processor. Some companies “close” them, which means only a particular authorized party can customize them. That could add quite a bit to your costs if you’re not aware of it ahead of time.
Post processing software can make quite a difference at scale. Consider implementing and customizing it if you haven’t already.