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35+ Useful G-Code and M-Code Commands You Might Not Know

Like most coding languages, G-code looks strange when you first see it. There’s no apparent rhyme or reason, the numbers don’t seem to relate to each other, and the whole thing can appear a bit haphazard. It gets even stranger when you try to tell the codes themselves to the machines they work with. What do alphanumeric combinations have to do with x-y-z coordinate systems and toolpaths?

G-code programming is part of the firmware on all (or nearly all) machine tools. CNC mills, lathes, and 3D printers have a machine controller with native G-code language. While those languages can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, they all follow the same general principles, and most codes stay the same.

What are G-Code commands?

G-code is a complex but straightforward programming language that uses Cartesian coordinate systems to tell a machine tool where to go and what to do with the workpiece. Each command begins with an alphanumeric combo or code that starts with G or M. By stringing together lines of G-codes, operators can automate the entire machining process, identifying work coordinates to ensure precise cuts.

G-codes are more than “move here” and “cut this” commands. They include subprograms and subroutines (more on those later) and programs related directly to the machine itself. A lathe will have G-code commands to turn the spindle on and adjust the spindle speed, while a milling machine with multiple tools will specify the tool number and length for each operation. 3D printers will have their commands, like ones to heat the extruder to a designated temperature.

Individual G-code languages are typically available online and are open-source. Some, like the RepRap project for 3D printers, have been available for years with commands.

How many G-Code Commands are there?

The complete G-code list runs to about a hundred commands, not including M-codes, subroutines, etc. For this article, we’ve selected 25 of the most valuable and common G-codes and M-codes for programmers, including some that may not be as familiar.

G-Code Commands

G20/G21 – Unit modes

Inches or millimeters? Use the G20 and G21 commands to select your unit of measurement. All size and location commands will be in inches with G20 and metric mode with G21. This setting must be set at the program’s beginning, or the machine could default to base settings or the previous program.

G00 – Rapid Travel

Often referred to as rapid traverse, G00 moves the CNC at the highest speed possible from its current position to its next one. Rapid moves can be placed anywhere in the program, especially at its start or end when it returns to the home position.

G01 – Linear Move

Otherwise known as linear interpolation, G01 sets the CNC movement mode to the straight-line movement (along the X-axis and Y-axis) using a feed rate specified by the feed (F) command. G01 is a modal command, meaning it will stay on until changed to another code in the same “movement” group of codes that include G00 (rapid travel) or G02 (clockwise circular interpolation).

G02/G03 – Circular interpolation (clockwise and counter-clockwise)

These G-codes move the CNC to a specific location along a specified arc or traveling clockwise (G02) and counterclockwise (G03). The movement’s speed is determined by the feed rate (F). When using the G02 and G03 commands, you must specify a start point, an end point, and a mid-point.

G17 – XY Plane Selection

Most movements in a CNC program are relative to the XY plane. Plane selection affects how G02, G03, cutter compensation and some canned cycles are handled.

G18 – XZ Plane Selection

Plane selection affects how G02, G03, cutter compensation and some canned cycles are handled. G18 tells the machine you are machining radii around the Y-axis.

G19 – YZ Plane Selection

Plane selection affects how G02, G03, cutter compensation and some canned cycles are handled. G19 tells the machine you are machining radii around the Z-axis.

G28 – Auto Home

The G28 command sends the tool to its starting position. It’s useful both as a reset device and to set the limits and parameters of the cutting area. Operators can specify a midpoint in the G28 command to clear obstacles.

G40 – Cancel Cutter Compensation

Cutter compensation allows the CNC controller to adjust for the size of the cutting tool. Turning the cutter compensation on tells the machine to shift the cutting tool radius either to the left with G41 or right with G42. Setting the cutting tool’s diameter enables you to use the same program with multiple cutting tools. G40 turns off the cutter compensation modes G41 or G42.

G41 – Cutter Compensation Left

G42 – Cutter Compensation Right

G43 – Tool Length Compensation

The G43 command tells the CNC machine to turn on tool length compensation, and the H code (height) informs it of the amount to compensate. The H offset numbers are entered during setup and stored in the machine’s memory. They correspond to a value, the tool’s length, in a location called the offset table or library. Multiple H offsets can be stored in the tool table, each with a corresponding H offset value.

G49 – Tool Length Compensation Cancel

Turns off the tool length compensation initiated by the G43 command.

G54 thru G59 – Offset Codes

The G54 command tells the CNC machine where your part is located. In other words, it sets the work offset zero location currently used in the CNC program. Once the G54 work offset code is selected, all sizes and areas in the program will be relative to the new zero location of the part. Multiple work offsets can be set in a CNC, all relative to the machine’s zero location. This type of G code is called a modal command, meaning it remains in effect until it’s canceled. Think of work offsets like the presets on your radio, but you’re storing a location instead of a radio frequency.

Canned Cycles

The following canned cycles are default mini-programs that speed up the programming process and allow programmers to add them to various program parts. They pertain to drilling, tapping, boring, and reaming along the Z-axis.

G73 – High Speed Peck Drilling

This cycle peck drills a hole by repeatedly drilling and retracting a small amount, then drilling deeper. It’s typically used as a chip breaker to prevent long chips that tend to wrap around the drill bit.

G74 – Left-Hand Tapping

This is a tapping cycle for left-hand threads where the spindle runs counter-clockwise. The machine feeds to the bottom of the hole, reverses the spindle direction, and backs out.

G76 – Fine Boring Canned Cycle

The machine bores a hole and stops the spindle. It then moves the tool away from the hole’s surface to prevent marking it and rapidly retracts the tool.

G80 – Canned Cycle Cancel

G80 cancels any active canned cycles for drilling, boring, tapping, and reaming.

G81 – Standard Drilling Cycle

This modal function allows the machine to drill the hole in one straight shot and then rapid retract the drill bit from the hole.

G82 – Standard Drill Cycle with Dwell

G82 drills a hole without pausing, dwells at the bottom for a specific time, and rapidly retracts out of the hole. G82 is typically used when the hole being drilled needs a better surface finish at the bottom of the hole.

G83 – Deep Hole Peck Drilling Cycle

The CNC machine drills in pecks while rapidly retracting entirely from the hole between each peck to help clear chips from the drill. Peck drilling is the first option for CNC programmers when making blind rather than thru holes. The pecking process breaks and removes chips, helping to prevent size and surface finish issues in the hole.

G84 – Right-Hand Tapping Cycle

This is the standard tapping cycle with the spindle running clockwise. The CNC feeds the tap to the bottom of the hole and reverses the spindle direction to back it out.

G85 – Reaming Cycle

Much like the standard drilling cycle, the machine feeds to the bottom of the hole and then rapid retracts out.

G86 – Boring Cycle

The machine feeds to the bottom of the hole and then rapidly retracts. Unlike with the fine boring cycle, the tool is not pulled away from the surface which could leave a tool mark on the hole’s surface.

G87 – Back Boring Cycle

This operation bores a hole from the bottom to the top, which is the reverse direction of the G86 code.

G88 – Boring Cycle with Dwell

Bores a hole and then dwells at the bottom for a specified amount of time.

G89 – Back Boring Cycle with Dwell

The machine feed to the hole’s bottom, pause, and rapids out without pulling the tool away first.

G90 – Absolute Mode Positioning

Many G-code commands rely on the positioning. A G90 code sets the CNC to absolute positioning mode, meaning the CNC interprets all location values as relative to a single zero location, which is typically the workpiece zero location or CNC machine zero location (a.k.a. home position or reference point). Absolute positioning is the default, but it could pose a challenge under specific conditions.

G91 – Relative Positioning

A G91 code sets the CNC to incremental positioning mode, meaning that the CNC will interpret all location values as relative to the position of the machine before making the move. The zero location of the machine changes each time the machine moves, which can be beneficial for repetitive work like drilling a series of holes. Specifying relative positioning cancels absolute positioning and vice versa.

G94 – Feed per Minute Mode

With G94, the feed rate is set to units (inches/mm) per minute. The tool moves at a set rate.

G95 – Feed per Revolution Mode

G95 sets the feed rate to units (mm/inches) per revolution, meaning the tool moves a designated rate for every spindle rotation.

G96 – Constant Surface Speed

The spindle speed varies to maintain the same surface speed of the material.

G97 – Constant Spindle Speed

The spindle operates at a constant RPM.

M-Code Commands

Most G-codes are standardized, at least for certain categories of machine tools. G-codes for milling machines should be broadly similar. The same goes for G-codes for lathes, 3D printers, and so forth.

M-codes are more complex. These are miscellaneous codes from the manufacturer, most of them varying from machine to machine, but there is a handful that stays consistent.

M00 – Program Stop

Want to run the program to a certain point and then stop it completely for an inspection? M00 is the command for you. It shuts down the current operation and the machine itself, allowing you to change tools, rotate the part, clean the machine – whatever you need to do.

M06 – Tool Change

Operators for CNC machines with automatic tool changers use the M06 command to switch tools within the program. For machines that require a manual tool change, the M06 command usually indicates to the machine that there’s a new tool at work.

M08 – Coolant On

The M08 code is a command used in CNC machines. It tells the machine to turn on the cooling system. This cooling system helps stop the machine and its tools from getting too hot. The M09 code, on the other hand, tells the machine to turn the cooling system off.

M01 – Optional Program Stop

If you might need to do a tool change, and you think you’d like a closer look at everything, then M01 is the right call. Insert an M01 command at regular intervals in your program to create potential checkpoints. Most CNC machines will have an optional stop button; press it, and the machine won’t shut down immediately. It will execute the program until it reaches the next M01 and then shut down.

M30 – Program reset/Return to start

M30 codes come in handy for continuous operation. They reset the program, telling the machine to go back to the beginning with the tool and start again.

A Code for All Seasons

Other codes exist, specifying spindle speed, setting incremental moves, and identifying or resetting the home position and end stop for the tool. Each code may influence the rest of the program, particularly with modal codes that remain active until a new code supersedes them.

Other codes control how fast different actions are performed, such as feed rates, constant surface speed, and cutter compensation. Still, others set the length of time for certain operations, down to milliseconds.

Despite being complex, a well-built G-code file contains everything the machine needs to conduct an operation without direct human intervention. 3D printing, 3D milling, and turning centers, and a huge range of other machine tools all rely on g-code commands.

You can find G-code programming tutorials online, from actual classes to informal YouTube training sessions. The specific G-codes mentioned above are standardized across machine tools, but you’ll need to look more closely at machine-specific lists to improve your skills.

About Peter Jacobs

Peter Jacobs is the Senior Director of Marketing at CNC Masters, a leading supplier of CNC mills, milling machines, and CNC lathes. He is actively involved in manufacturing processes and regularly contributes his insights for various blogs in CNC machining, 3D printing, rapid tooling, injection molding, metal casting, and manufacturing in general. You can connect with him on his LinkedIn.

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2 thoughts on “35+ Useful G-Code and M-Code Commands You Might Not Know”

  1. You forgot the most important one:
    M18
    I print to my Ender 3v2 via USB from my computer, using Cura…and the Cura controls don’t include one for “unlock steppers”, so I had to unlock the steppers via the control panel whenever, for instance, I wanted to manually level the bed.
    Then I looked up the M-code for unlocking it. Saves me valuable milliseconds.

Comments are closed.

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29. Create a Peck Drilling Program in Circular or Rectangular Patterns
Using the Circular or Rectangular Drilling Wizards, you can program the machine to drill an un-limited series of holes along the X and Y planes. Program it to drill straight through to your total depth, use a high-speed pecking cycle, or deep hole pecking cycle. You can program the cut-in depth and return point for a controlled peck drill application to maximize chip clearance.

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20. Change up to 30 tools with compensation, and store your tool offsets for other programs
The MX supports…

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21. Use the optional ATC rack up to 8 tools for milling, drilling, and rigid tapping applications
The CNC Masters Automatic Tool Changer Rack and Tools (US Patent 9,827,640B2) can be added to any CNC Masters Milling Machine built with the rigid tapping encoder option. The tutorial will guide you through the set-up procedure using the ATC tools.

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22. Use the optional Rigid Tapping Wizard without the need for tapping head attachments
When you order your CNC Masters machine, have it built with the optional rigid tapping encoder. You can take any drill cycle program and replace the top line with a tapping code created by the wizard to tap your series of holes up to 1/2” in diameter.

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23. Use the optional Digital Probe to scan the profile and/or pockets of your fun/hobby type designs to write your tool path program and machine out a duplicate of your original design To “surface” scan an object, you can program the probe along the X or Y plane. The stylus will travel over the part starting on the left side front corner of the object and work its way to the end of the part on the right side. Depending on how the stylus moves, it will record linear and interpolated movements along the X, Y, and Z planes directly on the MX Editor.
To “pocket” scan an object containing a closed pocket such as circles or squares, the scan will start from the top front, work its way inside of the pocket, and scan the entire perimeter of the pocket.
Under the Setup of the MX software you will find the Probe Tab which will allow you to calibrate and program your probe. Your “Probe Step”, “Feed”, and “Data Filter” can also be changed on the fly while the probe is in the middle of scanning your object.

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24. Use work offsets G54-G59 for nesting applications
The work offsets offer you a way to program up to six different machining locations. It’s like having multiple 0.0 locations for different parts. This is very useful especially when using sub-routines/nesting applications.

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25. Create a Rectangular Pocket / Slot with our selection of Wizards to help you build a tool path program
The Cycle Wizards for the mill or lathe makes it easy to create a simple tool path without needing to use a CAD and CAM software.
On this Wizard, the Rectangular Pocket / Slots, can be used to form a deep rectangular pocket into your material or machine a slot duplicating as many passes needed to its total depth.

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26. Create a Circular Pocket Wizard
Input the total diameter, the step down, and total depth and the code will be generated.

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27. Do Thread Milling using a single point cutter Wizard

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28. Cut a gear out using the Cut Gear Wizard with the optional Fourth Axis

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19. Disable the axis motors to manually hand crank each axis into place
Easily de-energize the axis motors by clicking [Disable Motors] to crank each axis by hand, and then press [Reset Control] to re-energize the axis motors.

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30. The MX interface can easily be interchanged from Mill Mode to Lathe Mode
Use this interface for your CNC Masters Lathe. It contains all the same user-friendly features and functions that comes in Mill Mode. Simply go to the Setup page and change the interface.

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31. Use Tool Change Compensation or the optional Auto Tool Changer Turret if your application requires more than one tool in a single program
You can offset the length and angle of each tool and record it under Tools in your Setup. The program will automatically pause the lathe’s movement and spindle allowing you to change out your tool, or allowing the optional ATC Turret to quickly turn to its next tool and continue machining.
On the MX interface, you also have four Tool Position buttons. Select your desired T position, and the auto tool post will quickly turn and lock itself to that position.

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32. Use the Lathe Wizard Threading Cycle to help you program your lathe’s internal or external threads in inches or metric

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33. Use the Lathe Wizard Turning / Boring Cycle to help you program simple turning and boring cycles without having to go through a CAM or writing a long program with multiple passes

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34. Use the Lathe Wizard Peck Drilling Cycle to help you program your drill applications or for face grooving

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35. Facing / Grooving / Part Off Cycle Wizards – with Constant Surface Speed
These cycles can be used with Constant Surface Speed allowing the spindle speed to increase automatically as the diameter of the part decreases giving your application a consistent workpiece finish. With CSS built into the wizard, there is no need to break down the cycle into multiple paths and multiple spindle speed changes.

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36. This is our list of supported G and M codes which can be found under Tools > G Code/ M Code List in the MX
If you plan to use a third-party CAM software to generate your tool path program, use a generic FANUC post processor and edit it to match our list of codes. As an option, we also sell Visual mill/turn CAM software which comes with a guaranteed post processor for our machines to easily generate your tool path programs based on your CAD drawings.

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37. Our pledge to you…

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10. Run each tool path independently to study its movement
1. Run the machine on Trace mode. You can run each tool path independently, one line at a time to study the tool path movement on the machine to verify the position of the application and if any fixture/vise is in the way of the cutter’s path.

2. You can also verify your program by clicking on the Trace and Draw buttons together. This will allow you to view each tool path independently one line at a time in the Draw Window.

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2. Clutter Free Interface
The MX is engineered for the CNC MASTERS machine so you do not have to fiddle with a detailed complicated configuration that can be overwhelming. Just load in the MX and start machining!2. Clutter Free Interface
The MX is engineered for the CNC MASTERS machine so you do not have to fiddle with a detailed complicated configuration that can be overwhelming. Just load in the MX and start machining!

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3. Features Tour and Tutorials Included
The Features Tour will give you a quick run-down on all the features the MX can do for you. The Tutorials are easy to follow even for the first time CNC machinist.
Feel free to download the MX on any of your computers. We recommend downloading the MX along with your CAD and CAM software there at the comfort of your office computer to generate your tool path programs. You don’t need to be hooked up to the machine either to test your program in simulation mode.

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4. Navigate and Edit Your Program through the MX interface with Ease
With a few clicks of the mouse or using touch screen technology, you can easily navigate through the MX interface importing saved programs into the Editor from the File drop down menu. Using standard windows features to edit your program you can then lock the Editor Screen to avoid accidental editing, and if you need to insert a line in the middle of a program, just click on [ReNum] to re-number your tool path list.
You can create a program or import CAM generated G-code tool paths into the Editor
The X Y and Z W arrow jog buttons are displayed from the point of view of the cutter to avoid confusion when the table and saddle are moving. You can also adjust your spindle speed and coolant control while jogging each axis.

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5. Feed Hold – Pause in the Middle of your Program
Feed Hold lets you pause in the middle of a program. From there you can step through your program one line at time while opting to shut the spindle off and then resume your program.
You can also write PAUSE in the middle of your program and jog each axis independently while your program is in pause mode.

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6. Hot Keys
Hot Keys is an alternative method to easily control your machine using your hard or touch screen keyboard. One can press P to pause a program, press S to turn Spindle On, G to run a program, Space Bar to Stop, J to record your individual movements one line at a time to create a program in teach mode.

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7. Pick Menu – for conversational mode programming
Write FANUC style G-codes directly into the Editor or select commands off the [Pick] menu and write your tool path program in conversational mode such as what is written in the Editor box. You can even mix between conversation commands and G-codes in the same program.

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8. Pick Menu List of Options
Use commands such as MOVE, SPINDLE ON/OFF, COOLANT ON/OFF, PAUSE, DELAY, GO HOME…. to write your tool path programs in conversational mode.

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9. Draw the Tool Path to verify it before pressing Go
Hit Draw to view your tool path program drawing, check out its run time, or even simulate the tool path in 3D mode. This can be helpful to quickly verify your program before running it. You can also slow down or speed up the drawing or simulation process.
You can also hit Go within the Draw Window itself to verify the cutter’s position on the machine. The current tool path will be highlighted and simultaneously draw out the next path so you can verify what the cutter will be doing next on the program.

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MX Software – Easy to Use, Easy to Learn – Included with your machine purchase
The MX software is designed to work seamlessly with your CNC Masters machine. It is made to work with Windows PC – desktop, laptop, or an all in one – on standard USB. Use it on Windows 8 or 10 64-bit operating systems.
No internal conversion printer/serial port to USB software or additional conversion hardware is used with the MX.

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11. Counters display in Inches or Millimeters – Continuous Feed
1. When running a program, the counters will display a “real-time” readout while the machine is in CNC operation without counting ahead of the movement.
2. The current tool path is highlighted while the machine is in operation without causing slight interruptions/pauses as the software feeds the tool path to the machine. The MX internally interprets a program ten lines ahead to allow for “continuous machining” avoiding slight interruptions as the machine waits for its next tool path command.
3. “Run Time” tells you how long it takes to run your tool path program.

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12. Use the “Go From Line” command to start in the middle of your program
If you ever need to begin your program from somewhere in the middle of it, use [Go From Line] which you can find under Tools. The Help guide will walk you through how to position the cutter without losing its position on the machine.

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13. Exact Motion Distance without over-stepping on an axis while jogging
Use “Relative ON” to enter a specific coordinate to jog any of your axes to an exact location without having to write a program. It’s like using “power feed” but easier. You can jog an exact distance on any of the axes without needing to keep the key pressed down and mistakenly over-step the movement releasing your finger too slowly off the jog button.
Let’s say you need to drill a hole exactly 0.525” using the Z. So you enter 0.525 in the Z box. Next, adjust the JOG FEED RATE slider for the desired feed rate. Then “click once” on the +Z or -Z button to activate the travel. In this case you click once the -Z button first to drill the hole exactly 0.525”. Then click once on the +Z button to drive the axis back up 0.525”.

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14. Teach Mode – Jog Input
You can create a tool path program by storing each point-to-point movement by simply jogging an axis one at a time. Click on either of the Jog Input buttons to store each movement on the Editor Screen. You can then add Spindle ON, feed commands, and press GO to run the new program as needed. This is a great feature to help you learn to create a program by the movements you make on the machine without necessarily writing out an entire program first.

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15. Override on the fly to adjust the Jog Feed to Rapid or the Spindle Speed during the middle of a program
1. Jog Feed and Rapid with Override: You can adjust feeds using the slider from slow minimum 0.1″ per minute to a rapid of 100″ per minute of travel. You can even micro-step your jog as low as 0.01”/min. The [-][+] buttons allow you to fine tune feeds in 5% increments while the program is in motion.
2. Spindle Speed with Override: You can adjust speeds using the slider from a slow minimum RPM to the max RPM according to the machine setup. The [-][+] buttons allow you to fine tune feeds in 5% increments while the program is in motion.

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16. Adjust Counters using Pre-Set if you cannot begin the program from 0.00
In a situation where you cannot begin your cutter at it’s 0.00 location, you can “Pre-Set” directly into the counters by typing in your beginning coordinate. You can press Go from here to run your program. You can also “zero all” or “zero” your counters independently. With one click of the [Return to 0.0] button, all axes will travel back to its respective 0.0 on the machine.

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17. Set and Save your 0.00 position for future runs
Set and save your 0.00 position on the machine. These coordinates will be recorded as the first line of the program in the Editor Screen. Should you desire to return to this program at a later date, you only have to click on the Set Zero Return button. This will command the machine to automatically jog each axis to its saved “set” 0.00 position according to the recorded coordinates at the first line of the program.

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18. Create a “Home” position to clear your application and run multiple times
Let’s say you need to machine one application times 100 pieces. This usually requires a jig to retain that physical 0.00 position. But in this case, you want the program to end with a clearance of the axes to easily switch out the next piece of stock and start again. With Save Home, you have the ability to save this offset (home) position while still retaining your Set Zero position where the machine will mill your part out. Pressing [Save Home] will record this new position under the Set Zero line in your program.
Pressing [Go Home] will jog your axes back to your “saved home” position where you originally pressed the Save Home command. You can also input GO_HOME from the Pick Menu as its own tool path in your program. At the completion of your program the axes will end at your Home position. Replace your part, then press [Return to 0.0] button to allow the axes to return to its zero position, and press Go to start your next run.

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