Am I in over my head?

I’m a graphic designer using Illustrator for 11 years, self taught. My boss just bought this machine to use to make our own foil stamping dies from brass. From looking at the tutorials and the software, I’m not so sure it’s that easy… looks like a lot of geometry to me. (and I barely survived college algebra!!)

My question - am I way over my head with this machine and programming it to cut out logos? or is this a case of once we get the “formula” figured out I can just duplicate it with each logo?


Post a picture of what you want to make, we are here to help.

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I can understand why you feel overwhelmed, but in all honesty the nomad is dead easy to use. There is a slight learning curve in Meshcam - if for no other reason than there are a lot of settings and numbers to plug in.

But to directly answer your question - once you get things dialed in, you can keep banging out your logos no problem.

And like Apollo said, there is a ton of help for you here on the forums. Post more detail and pics of what you want to do and we will help! :smile:

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It sounds like what you’re wanting to do is similar to a woodburning tool. There was a discussion on that in the MeshCAM forum a while back

There is an introduction to machining from bitmaps in the MeshCAM Help | Quickstarts | Bitmap Quickstart

If your logos are in AI form and don’t have multiple nested outlines (shapes within shapes), you can convert them to DXF and work from that too. It is a little more work but as Apollo and Darren said there is a lot of help here.

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Just give it a go. I wish my boss would have bought this machine! I had to buy it myself. If you have questions you can ask them here or through the support email. Good luck, it will be a steep learning curve but the upside of that is you learn heaps!
All that said, your boss could not have picked an easier machine for someone unfamiliar with CNC and machining to learn. The carbide3d team have made a great product.

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I don’t think you’re in over your head at all. All this business is very intriguing and might even suck you in.

Your boss might be shocked by the cost of brass bar stock. You might entertain the thought of using aluminum as it is much cheaper.

I have also worked w/ the Creative Suite a lot. Even used to work for Adobe as a contractor. If you do get sucked in by your own curiosity there is a large amount of free web-based modeling software available. I had a hard time trying to grasp a number of them (my old Illustrator days). By far the best one I found was Autodesk’s Fusion 360. Check it out - it’s free if your company is not too big $-wise. But as others have said you don’t need that to make your dies.

Thank you all so much. The machine arrives today but my initial reaction after downloading the software was “I quit.” Looks like lots of support here. I’ll take some pictures of what the final product needs to look like and see what feedback I get!

We usually have these dies made out of magnesium but the brass ones last longer. Cost isn’t as much of a factor because our sister company is a metals company (NTR). We have lots of sources for metals to use at good prices.

Is this going to be messy? They are thinking they can put the machine in my carpeted office…

Size is 6x9 - When I order them from the vendor, I ask for Etch to 250 Thousands Depth on 3/8" magnesium (we will be using brass.) Raised (What is black on the art will be raised.) and wrong reading (mirrored.)

If someone has the magic formula and what format I should bring the art work into meshcam, I would owe you a custom made football! That’s what we do with the dies - stamp footballs.

This one is usually 2x2.5 or so. I order at least one of these a day right now so this one is the biggest need.

The other one may be too big for the Nomad… I get the machine today so we will see.

I don’t think you’re in over your head at all. I’m completely new to this and only recently received my Nomad so I have limited experience but found that I was able to import .JPG .BMP and .PNG files into Meshcam to mill 2D shapes much like you are describing. When opening an image file, you can set the X, Y and Z size as well as the option to choose either Z+ or Z- height mapping and based on the images you have provided so far, if you import a black and white image of your logos (with the raised sections being black and the background as white) and choose the Z+ height mapping option then you will already be half way there. From there you can define the stock, setting the x, y and z dimensions and choosing the options to center x, center y and set z position top to 0 rather than center to move the design to the top of the stock. I’ve only been working with pallet wood scraps so far for practice so I can’t really advise on settings for milling brass but there are plenty of others here who can offer you advice on this. I’m quite sure my process, as described above, isn’t perfect but it has worked for me so far with excellent results. Don’t be afraid to experiment on your own and tell us what worked and what didn’t work, we’re a community and we’re here to support each other and we all learn something from our successes and our mistakes.

Do you have the .stl version of the logos? If so, then you can just load them into Meshcam and a few clicks later you’ll be ready to cut.

Well, I have them in Illustrator so if I can save them as .stl then that should work! I’ll see if that’s an option.

I checked - not an option. How would I save them as that type file? Another software??

There are a couple of important things to understand as you think about your ‘workflow’ for this. Since you are starting with an Illustrator drawing, you will need to convert it to 3D geometry so that the CAM software can generate the instructions to send to the Nomad (these instructions are called gcode).

Usually the workflow is something like this (read the whole message before you get started because there is a nifty shortcut):

  1. Draw a 2D shape
  2. Import it into a CAD/modeling program like Sketchup or Autodesk Fusion 360 and ‘extrude’ it to the appropriate height. This basically just means giving height to the flat 2D model, but you could also make other 3D changes to the model once it’s in a tool like this.
  3. Save the resulting 3D model to a format that MeshCAM can read, for example .stl.
  4. Open the 3D model in MeshCAM and define your stock, type of cutter, type of material, and generate toolpaths (gcode).
  5. Save the gcode to a file.
  6. Open the file in Carbide Motion, set your X,Y,Z axis zeros on the Nomad to match the location you defined in MeshCAM, and run the job.

Seems complicated at first! There is a cool shortcut that MeshCAM gives you, though. You can save your file from Illustrator as a .dxf file and open it in MeshCAM directly. MeshCAM lets you define how ‘thick’ you want the part to be when you import it. It lets you skip steps 2 and 3 above.

Check out this link:

Once you have the part looking the way you want in MeshCAM, the trickiest part will be figuring out the right settings for defining your stock (the material block you are cutting from), the material ‘speeds & feeds’ (how fast the cutter can move through the material), and so on. I strongly suggest that your first several attempts at this use the machining resin or machinable wax blocks that you should received with your Nomad. Once you are comfortable with MeshCAM settings and how the Nomad works you should step up to brass and aluminum.

Also, some of your pictures show stamping dies with very nice sharp interior corners (the insides of the ‘M’ logo). It will be difficult to replicate this with the end mills that shipped with the Nomad. You will end up with a rounded radius the same dimension as the end mill cutter. In order to get sharper angles, you will need to cut with a smaller end mill, or do finishing work with a file.

Good luck!

If you can save as DXF you’re fine. MeshCAM can import DXF files and extrude them to a given depth (which sounde like you want to have as .25" given your earlier post). Then it is just a matter of centering the extruded DXF on the stock, which you will make the size of your blank. We can go from there later but saving as DXF is the first step.

Here’s a workflow for DXF. I drew a simple file

It is 2.5 inches square and has random geometry.

I imported it into MeshCAM at full size. I placed a stock around it that is 4 inches square and half inch deep. I told MC to center X and Y and make a top margin of 0 (i.e. the geometry is flush with the top of the stock). I set Max Depth at .25" and set the Program Zero at the top front left corner of the stock (this is where you will zero the cutter on the Nomad)

I used a .125" flat-end cutter for this geometry since it fit all the spaces to machine. As @mitchell said, you’ll need to choose your cutter size based on the size of the details you want to machine. Also cutting brass you’ll want to be conservative on your stepovers and stepdowns and machining speed to not overtax the Nomad.

After a little calculation MeshCAM will show you the toolpaths. They are really dense here because I used a small stepover and stepdown for the roughing and finishing

And here is MeshCAM’s simulation of the result

It really is that straightforward.

You’ll want to remember to mirror-image your logos since you’re cutting “from the bottom side” but you probably already do that for the current method. If you don’t mirror image them then your etching vendor does.

The important part will be in selecting the machining feeds and stepovers. @ApolloCrowe is machining brass for his retro rocket hammer head 3D Rocket Hammer Head in Brass so he can probably give advice on what will be appropriate.

And I was wrong about MeshCAM not accepting multiple-nested outlines (I specifically made an outline within outline within outline in my test DXF). I was thinking about SolidWorks which only takes a single nest level for extruding shapes from DXF input.


kellysue07- For Graphics based designers like yourself, I would recommend opening a jpeg or png in MeshCAM. It will open at the size of your existing art, just choose inches or millimeters.

When you open the file you can also scale the art to fit your stock if necessary.
In my case here, I have a stamp blank that requires I scale my art to 2" in the Y dimension.
The Z size is also adjustable, for a brass embossing stamp, .1" is probably good, but you can measure your existing stamp as a reference and match that.
Since I am going to make a rubber stamp, a depth of .05" is going to work for me.
One additional adjustment you can control is height map control over the Black in your art: Z+ or Z-

Here is my art work imported at .05" Z height and with the black Z+

Here is my art work imported at .05" Z height and with the black Z-

Dont forget to Mirror your art!

Heres the Tool Path Settings for Brass:
brass 063 3d.tps (2.1 KB)


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One thing to be aware of when importing a bitmap, is that MeshCAM V6 puts the Program Zero at the bottom level of the geometry rather than at the top, and this can’t be changed with Set Program Zero, so you need to be careful to set the Z appropriately when you touch the cutter to the top of the stock when setting up. I.e. if the geometry is .05" deep as in Apollo’s examples, the top of the stock is actually Z+.050 rather than Z0


Got the machine and am on my third attempt at the wrench tutorial. First, it didn’t come with the USB cord so I had to find one… Second, the electrical input cord is a joke… it won’t stay attached… duct tape may be needed.

Third - I cut myself already with the cutting blade.

Not happy.

Which tool do you use for cutting these? This looks like exactly what we are wanting to use it for.

Can you snap a pic of your power cord issue? I haven’t ran into one not staying plugged in properly but it’s possible, if so we’ll send you a replacement. Sorry about the missing USB cord, it’s already in the mail : )