Thinking About Using a Machine for CAMduct?

This blog post was originally written for the Managed Design blog. Managed Design is now a U.S. CAD company, so please check back here at for more written articles from Philip Charlson and our new U.S. CAD Minnesota team.

Before setting up a new machine within the Installed Machines database, the following considerations must be reviewed and understood. Certain procedures must be in place, and certain information must be available, in order for a new post processor to output and write NC in the correct format.

CAMduct can interface with, and control, a wide range of machines used in the manufacturing and production of ductwork and sheet metal components. It can work with burning tables, such as plasma, laser, and oxy-fuel tables. It can also work with decoiler units and insulation cutters, such as water jet, router, and tangential knife units.

WARNING: Configuring CAMduct to properly communicate with these machines is a specialized skill that is typically performed only when a machine is acquired or modified. Machine setup varies for each machine, make, and model. Improper machine configuration can damage the equipment and endanger people by causing the machine’s moving parts to act in unexpected ways. Always consult the equipment vendor or supplier or retain an experienced consultant when setting up machinery.

So what is CAMduct used for?

It is important to understand that configurations for flat sheet cutting types of machines (ductboard, laser, plasma, flatbed, rotary, shear) can be installed and used for both estimating and fabrication. Configurations for linear nesting machine types (round linear, rectangular linear, ancillaries) can be installed and can be used for estimating, but not for fabrication.

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Is the correct post processor library file (.VPL) installed and configured in CAMduct?

For non-custom machines, each post processor (machine) being configured requires a corresponding .VPL file which typically gets installed when CAMduct is installed, or can be obtained after installation, if required. The correct .VPL file must be copied to the following location: C:\Autodesk\Fabrication <version>\CAMduct\VPLs. Once installed, this .VPL file (Post Processor Library) must be selected in CAMduct using the File Setup > Installed Machines > Select Machine > Setup > Controller Tab

Use the Post Processor Library drop-down menu, or use the Browse button.

For custom machines, a .VPL file is not required.

You can also take a look at the list of the current post processors included with CAMduct.

Do you want to install a non-custom machine or a custom machine?

To install a non-custom machine, click the New button on the Installed Machines dialog. Clicking the New button creates a machine setup that depends on the selection of an external machine-specific post processor file .VPL to generate and view NC. For these non-custom machines, the external post processor file has a .VPL file extension that is typically installed in the following folder: C:\Program Files\Autodesk\Fabrication <version>\CAMduct\VPLs. The VPL file is really a DLL (Application Extension) which contains both custom code to read and write NC files in ISO or ESSI format, and machine-specific code that modifies the NC code to match what is required by the machine. The corresponding .VPL is specified on the Machine Editor dialog, Controller tab, Use Post Processor Library field.

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Each .VPL contains only the tools and options supported by a specific machine. For these machine types with external, hard-coded posts, all supported tools are added when a new machine is created, and all supported Globals, Details, and Conditions are added when a tool is added.

To install a machine that does not have an external .VPL file associated with it, click the Custom NC button. For this type of installed machine, there is no .VPL file associated with it, the Use Post Processor Library field on the Machine Editor dialog Controller tab is grayed out (not selectable), and no tools are added to this machine configuration (or setup) by default. Instead, any tools that are required for this type of machine are added and configured using the Add Tools and Configure Tools features available from the Installed Machines dialog. The Configure Tools options allow you to specify the required tool behavior.

Has the correct machine setup for each machine been created and installed?

Does this machine setup include the correct tools and tool settings? When installing a new machine, you can save time if you start from a similar machine setup and then edit the machine settings as necessary. When installing a non-custom machine, initiated by clicking the New button, the files that define and control the machine setup must be placed in the “MCH” folder which gets automatically created, and includes the machine name. For example, the files controlling a non-custom machine must be placed in the following location: C:\Users\Public\Documents\Autodesk\Fabrication <version>\Metric Content\<version>\Database\Default.mch.

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