Mach4 Plugin: Try out my visual CNC plugin and give feedback?

Hi, would you be willing to try out a plugin I wrote for Mach 4? It’s called Paper Tools.

You place a drawing on your work piece and my software generates gcode based on recognized handwritten or printed text and targets

You can see a video here:

What you’ll need
You’ll need to attach a webcam to your router facing downward toward the work surface. You need Mach 4. It should take about 15 minutes to get up and running. If you can print out a PDF on a standard piece of paper that’s a bonus, but Paper Tools does handwriting recognition so that’s fine too.

What does it do?
Drill, Bore, Slot, Pocket, and any gcode you upload executed on the spot you draw. Cut on the spots you show the machine.

What it costs

Is it reliable?
My repeatability tests get +/- 002". Other than that please try it out and let me know your experience!

Is this from a big company?
Nope, I’m just a guy who wrote some software. You’ll get the kind of support I can give a small number of people early to the game who want to try out something new.

** What to expect**
This is BETA software, I’m looking for feedback and your help improving the system. Please don’t use this software on expensive materials. You should be an early adopter, lover of technology. Ideally you’re frustrated with how even simple things can be so hard to accomplish with CNC and you’re willing to give Paper Tools a whirl.

Are we close?
I am based near New York City. If you have a shop around here and would like to work together, I’d be happy to come by and get you set up. I might even bring you a free camera to keep.

Thanks so much, I hope I meet a few people who like this approach.



@brettbond Nominee for strongest first post yet…

I don’t know if this is something I’ll benefit from but I respect your hard work.

Well thank you so much for your encouragement!

This seems to be a take off on the Shaper Origin technology but generating Gcode from an SVG or this case a PDF instead of trying to cut using computer vision. Interesting concept. Shaper Origin has an extensive data base of SVGs for hardware fasteners, hinges, etc. Sounds like your process could make good use of it.

This is an awesome idea! I wish I had more time to help you test this, but my project backlog is overwhelming right now. If I can’t get time during your testing phases, I will gladly purchase the production product. I’ve been in IT for 25+ years, so it kind of makes me sad I can’t help test.

This is awesome !!! many uses for this.

I can’t find a download link anywhere. Or a website. I am always truly interested anytime somebody has written a “Mach4 Plugin.”

Actually I think this is very different. He uses the Web Cam and the machine position to generate the g-code according to the image target printed on the sheet of paper. He probably uses a library of these shapes as they tend to be standardized.

Essentially he is printing a target from a PDF onto a piece of paper. Then he uses the Web Cam and positions the tool to the target points and calculates the g-code between the two points. Being that 3 axis machines are really 2D all you need are two points, right?

Now, what would be impressive is if he places the sheet of paper and the “plugin” moves the machine to find those targets for you, unassisted.

Otherwise all you need to do is find the X and Y for two points on your work piece. Enter those coords into F360 or that vcarve thingy some people use. Adjust the thing you want to cut between those two points in CAM. Generate the g-code.

Now, is this a C/C++ plugin actually running in Mach4 or is it just Lua? That is the question of the hour…

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Here’s another video showing a bit more of the system:

@subnoize you’re quite right on much of your explanation. But, you can hand draw the square targets you don’t have to print them. If you’d like to try it out, feel free to reach out to me and I can provide the plugin.

The “Paper Tools” are indeed PDFs you can print (I use tracing paper) so, like a set of wrenches or hole saws of various sizes, you have a bunch of pre-drawn shapes to position wherever you want to cut.

Blockquote Now, what would be impressive is if he places the sheet of paper and the “plugin” moves the machine to find those targets for you, unassisted.

Yes, that’s correct, you tell it the targets to use, Paper Tools commands Mach 4 to move the machine and camera to find the precise location of each one then scans the printed or handwritten code on the paper and starts the cut. No user intervention except to confirm the operation and press start.

Oh, I see! The first video made it look like you were using the tool like a probe. But in the second video you have calibrated the camera and then it moves to the target to refine the sample. That makes sense.

Is this a true Mach4 plugin using the licensed Mach4 Plugin C API from Newfangled or a library using Lua? I am always interested in hearing tales of trying to license that from Newfangled :rofl:

@subnoize I haven’t licensed anything from Newfangled. The plugin is a very slim interface in Lua that connects via local socket to my computer vision app that runs in a different process. I didn’t want to be particularly bound to Mach 4. The only functions needed from Mach are: jog, position and execute gcode. All the machine learning, CV, gcode rendering, etc happen in my app and on my server.


Ah! OK. That makes sense. Thank you so much for the info :grin:

For the record, Newfangled has a checkered history in licensing that API which is why I was asking. When you said “plugin” my ears shot up! “Reeeeally?” :rofl:

Cool, there certainly are a few folks on this forum who would love to see your application in person. They don’t really want to go in depth as much with the whole CAD/CAM thing and if they could sketch it out on paper then they would be much happier.

Just here to say awesome job!

Thanks a bunch. Maybe when the plugin is ready you’d like to give it a try?

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Definitely! I think the most interesting use for me would be identifying the origin of my workpiece. It could save some time to identify the X drawn in the center of some things I do.

Piece of :birthday: I’ll let you know.

Hey Brett, really cool stuff here!

Could you share a bit about the tech stack here? Is this a Pi running OpenCV? (guessing here!)

…and I’d love to try this out. As a former Shaper Origin owner this is really interesting to me.

Hi Eric,

All that’s needed is a webcam connected to the computer. The local software can run on the same PC as Mach4. Some of the machine learning / heavy lifting is performed on the server so you do need a decent internet connection.

Would you by chance have a way to reach out to Avid customers in the NY area? I’ve been in the basement for a couple years now and would like to work personally with a few early users to see how it goes and what they need.

You can also reach me at

Hey Brett, I’ll reach out to you via email.