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What is the difference between standard and 2-stage levelling?

Standard levelling is where the GCode resulting from Autoleveller/AE probes an area, stores the probe results in parameters, and calculates the Z values ‘on-the-fly’ during milling/etching. The probing stage and the etching stage are both in a single GCode file therefore.
In 2-stage levelling, there are 2 separate GCode files. One for probing and one for etching. When the probe file is run, the X, Y and Z values are written to an external text file upon each contact made rather than to parameters. This raw probe file is then fed back into Autoleveller along with the original un-levelled GCode to create the levelled etching GCode. Because the probe values have been recorded in the raw probe file, Autoleveller/AE can pre-calculate the Z values rather than forcing your controller software to perform calculations ‘on-the-fly’ as with standard levelling.
Some of the advantages of 2-stage levelling include:

  • Can use separate tool bits for probing and etching
  • Only need to probe once if you need to restart or resume a part-finished job
  • Can view the results of probing visually in the Autoleveller/AE viewer and therefore find and debug issues easier
  • Smaller and neater GCode output since Z calculations are not needed in the GCode file
  • Does not burden your controller with calculations before every line of GCode
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What is the difference between the free Autoleveller/AE and the member versions?

All programming updates are made to the member versions. The free versions are not updated. This means all the latest features and fixings are available in the member versions but may not be available in the free ones. Work on AutolevellerAE is on-going so all future updates will be available in the member version too.

As of now, some of the exclusive features in AutolevellerAE member version include:

  • 2-stage levelling support
  • Saves and retrieves regular settings such as units (millimetres or inches), probe controller software, feed rates etc.
  • 3D and 2D viewer of an RPF
  • Additional options available for probing and levelling
  • All latest fixes
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What is the difference between Autoleveller and AutolevellerAE?

In short, AutolevellerAE (Advanced Edition) is a better, feature-full, later version of Autoleveller. Both versions adhere to the same goal, that of producing levelled GCode from un-levelled GCode, The end result, algorithms and interface are very similar. For example, AE features two views that AL doesnt, that of a view of the area showing the probe points covered. This view is updated as you change the settings. The second view is of the any (optional) raw probe file you insert. This shows a 3D or 2D representation and other statistics of the area you have probed, and will help you find any errors and spikes in your probing session which may cause problems when you come to etch.
AE also includes more settings you can change such as probing feed rates and even an option to change the probe word and variables via a custom controller option.
I am actively working on AE, so it is the most up to date and bug free. What I would say is to use AE as you first choice,  AL should be used for backup as I am not supporting this version currently.

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Will Autoleveller work with GRBL?

No. Autoleveller/AE requires that you can store the probed point values either to parameters or to an external text file, neither of which is directly supported by GRBL. Instead, it is left to GRBL client software to support parameters or external log files. You may find that your GRBL client software has its own Autolevelling component and that may be all your require.

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Will Autoleveller work with Mach 4?

Yes but its not as straightforward as we would like. For standard levelling, i.e using # values to store probe values, the current Z parameter is #2002 in Mach3 whereas in Mach4 it is #5063. You can either use a text editor to find and replace all #2002’s with #5063 in the GCode output or you can use the custom controller option in Autoleveller AE 0.8.5+ to set the current Z parameter to #5063. See Mach4 thread for further details.
Mach4 does not provide direct support in GCode for logging of probe values, i.e M40 and M41 commands, as Mach3 does. Instead, you will need to write a macro to enable this. Please see Mach4 M40, M41 macro thread for further information and pre-written macros.

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Will Autoleveller work with my USB board?

Yes and no. Unfortunately, many USB boards do not properly support the G31 word, which is the Mach3 GCode word used for probing. Autoleveller/AE requires probing to work correctly so it may or may not work directly if you are using USB. You may be able to write a Mach3 macro to work around this issue however. The macro should contain the line “SetVar(2002,getoemdro(802))” and the macro should be called on the line after the G31 line in the GCode program. See this discussion for further details: Mach3 USB probing workaround and discussion
From version 0.8.5 of AE you can easily insert a call to your macro using the custom controller option. However, try the free version of Autoleveller first to see if the macro workaround works.

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Where should I put the Autoleveller/AE file I downloaded? Is it a Mach3 script?

Autoleveller/AE is not a script. It is a standalone program which accepts an unlevelled GCode program and produces a levelled GCode program. It is the levelled program which you load into your CNC controller and run. GCode in, GCode out. If you are using Windows you should be able to just double click the downloaded file to run it. It doesn’t matter whether the Autoleveller file is on your desktop, in your program files folder or wherever.

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Does Autoleveller convert arc moves into line moves?

No. Arcs may be split into smaller arcs as part of the segmentation process but, unlike other similar programs, Autoleveller will always keep your arcs as arcs and will not convert them into many straight G0 or G1 moves. This maintains as much ‘smoothness’ to your arcs as possible and keeps the number of GCode lines to a minimum.

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How does Autoleveller do its levelling?

This is quite a big question, but in brief… There is an initial process of probing the material in several places. It then uses these probed values to adjust the Z element through bi-linear interpolation. The calculations or values for Z are used to transform your original unlevelled GCode file into a levelled GCode file.

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What do you mean by Autolevelling?

The tool bit automatically adjusts its height to match the contours of the material being etched. In other words, Z constantly changes to match your actual material height according to its current X Y position in the job being run.

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