When designing a cut in any CAD/CAM software an important element to consider is the type of toolpath that will be used. There are three different types of toolpaths that you can have. They are called Male, Female and Online. These will signify on which side of the design the torch or tool will make the cut. This has significant implications for plasma and router cutting because of the kerf. Kerf is the amount of material that is removed to make the cut, representing the width of the cut. The CAD/CAM software will offset the kerf to either the outside, the inside, or on the vector design line. This being the case, the type of toolpath will have implications on the measurement and design elements of the final product. The following is a breakdown of the three types of toolpaths:

Male Toolpath

This toolpath offsets the design so that the toolpath will be on the outer side of the vector design line. To visualize this imagine you are cutting a square out of a piece of material and you want it to be exactly 4 by 4 inches. Using this type of toolpath the actual square that you cut out will be those dimensions, but the square shape left in the material will be slightly larger than the 4 by 4 dimensions to account for the kerf.

In terms of the direction of the torch movement, for a male cut on a plasma machine it must move in a clockwise direction. For a router table the opposite would hold true, and it would cut in a counter-clockwise direction for a male toolpath.

Female Toolpath

This toolpath offsets the design so that the toolpath will be on the inner side of the vector design line. Imagine the above example of cutting a square out of the material but now your objective is to have the square outline left in the material to be 4 by 4 inches. With this type of toolpath the cutting line will be offset to the inner side of the vector design line. This will result in the actual square cut out of the material being slightly smaller than 4 by 4 inches to account for the kerf, but the square outline left in the material will be exactly those dimensions.

In terms of the direction of the torch movement for a female cut on a plasma machine it must move in a counter-clockwise direction. For a router table the opposite would hold true, and it would cut in a clockwise direction for a female toolpath.

Online Toolpath

This type of toolpath will direct the torch to cut right on the vector design line and not offsetting to either side to account for kerf. Therefore the width of the cut will be evenly distributed to either side of the line. This is used if the male/female toolpaths have not be considered or if there is no need to offset the kerf completely to one side of the vector design line for your particular cut.

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