I have been using Easel Pro for several months now, but really only for basic setup of a carve file, and then I export out to use a different program to do the actual cutting, such as Makerverse and UGS.
I do this for a couple of reasons. One, I couldn’t get Easel to talk to my M2 to even try to cut (probably my fault in hindsight), and Makerverse works really well. I can export a g-code file from Easel and open it in Makerverse and can set what I need from there. Easel does work with my little 4040 machine, but I really don’t like that I can’t trace my workpiece with the spindle. If I output the file and use UGS, I can trace my piece and even watch my cut paths as they are about to happen. Easel doesn’t do that.
I am trying to give Easel a fair shakedown and using it more. Here’s what I like and don’t like about it.
- I do like that Easel is easy to use. It has a fairly simple and intuitive interface that is easy to figure out.
- Easel has a bunch of apps that are useful and easy to use.
- I can easily switch between inches and mm whenever I like.
- I like that I can change bits and see immediately in the preview the changes that it will make.
- The Detail and Simulate buttons give good details, even if they are not very accurate on the time sometimes.
- I do like that I can manually change the Feed Rate on the fly during a carve. This is a huge bonus!
- I like the ability to do two-stage carves using different bits. This really does make a big difference on just how long it takes to do a carve, but I am still struggling to keep accuracy between bit changes. It is probably my fault, but again, it would be great if I could know exactly what my Work Zero position is, or at least have a hole to line up. Neither is an option.
- I don’t like that when Easel is open, I cannot talk to the machine using any other software. As I mentioned, I like to trace my carve using UGS or Makerverse, and if Easel is open I have to shut it down and reload my other software. Not a big deal, but it was frustrating until I figured out what the problem is and how to deal with it.
- A big don’t like is that I can’t trace my carve to see where it is going to cut. Knots, grain, different parts of the wood that I need to know where it is going to cut. Makerverse and UGS can both do it, and I use it a lot.
- When I am setting up to actually do a carve, I get no indication of where my bit is, other than visually. Makerverse and UGS will both tell me exact positions of my X,Y and Z, and I can use those numbers to find my Work Zero place again if I happen to turn the machine off and come back to do more later. Easel is not like that at all, and I really don’t like guessing.
- I cannot drill a pilot hole at WorkZero in Easel. I have no control over the spindle except when it is actually running a carve. UGS has a console window where I can manually turn on the bit, drill a hole, and then turn it off. This would be very useful to have manual control.
- I do not like that I cannot see on the screen what the carve is doing, what the paths are, and where it is going next. Yes, I can use the Simulate button, but this does not show what is happening in real time at all.
- The progress and time bar is not very accurate. Makerverse and UGS both show a start time, progress (percentage), and remaining time that changes on the fly. How long a job takes on Easel is totally up to me to time it, which is a pain.
- I mentioned above that I like being able to change my Feed Rate on the fly during a carve, but the other adjustment of Spindle Speed doesn’t work. I can change the speed, but my spindle rate does not change.
- If I need to Pause a carve for any reason, I cannot turn off the spindle. If I need to make adjustments and don’t want the bit running (to move a clamp for example), I don’t really have a choice - I have to stop the job and redo it.
- If a carve fails (hits a limit switch or something), it stops and acts like the job is done. No alarm or error message is reported.
- When a carve finishes (successful or not), it raises the bit about 5mm and returns to Work Zero. Why can it not raise the bit to the upper limit before it moves? I have hit a clamp several times because it doesn’t raise it high enough. If the Home and Work Zero buttons can raise the bit all the way to the top before it moves, why can’t it do this when the job is done?
- I can’t jog the spindle diagonally. Only straight back and forth on X or Y axis. Why? If I Home or Work Zero, it will travel diagonally to get there, but I can’t just tell it to go diagonally.
- There are no alarms for limits. If you hit a limit, the machine just stops and may become unresponsive. I have drawn lines on my wasteboard to know where the limits are going to hit, so I can visually see what the problem is, but the software doesn’t tell me anything.
- When the Y axis hits the top limit switch, it can get stuck there. Home and Work Zero do not work, it just moves the machine all the way to the left X limit and gets stuck at the left X limit and top Y limit. I have to unlock the machine and manually jog it away from the top limit before the machine will respond. Maybe this is just a problem with my machine, but the software should tell me something. Again, there are no alarms and no indication from the software as to what the problem is.
This might seem like a rant session, but it is really intended as being constructive feedback. Some of these issues I believe should not be difficult to correct.
I’d also like to hear from others about what you think. Maybe you have some workarounds for these issues? Maybe you use different software? Maybe I’m doing some things wrong and you have a trick to show me?
Cheers to all, and happy carving.