Technical Support - FAQs, Tips and Techniques

Installation & Licensing FAQs

I'm just starting out with Prospector. Is there a good installation guide to get me started?
This PDF document is great starting point to get you going: Prospector Initial Installation Guide
After installing the software, it doesn't recognize the presence of the USB dongle. What now?
The driver probably did not get installed when the software was installed. Take the following steps to rectify the problem:
  1. Login as Administrator. Make sure you login to the computer and not onto a domain as that has been known to be a problem as well.
  2. From the Prospector program group in the Start menu, choose Install USB Key Driver:
    This dialog should appear to indicate that the program is running and installing the driver:

    This dialog should appear after a successful installation of the drive. Click OK.

Installation and licensing is still not working for me. What else can I try?
Login as Administrator to the problematic computer. Temporarily disable anti-virus software that you have running on the computer. Some anti-virus software applications are particularly aggressive and will defeat attempts to make system changes such as writing changes to the Windows registry and/or installation of necessary drivers. With the anti-virus software disabled, install your application software. Remember to restart the anti-virus software after installation.
I'm getting an error message about a Sentinel driver when installing. What's wrong?
You may need an updated version of the Sentinel HASP USB key driver. Download the latest driver here. Extract the program haspdinst.exe from the zip file and copy it to the bin\ directory where Prospector is installed. In a command prompt window, run the program twice. The first time with the -kp -fr option to remove the older driver. Run the program a second time with the -i option to install the new driver:

I'm getting a 403 error from the update program when using Check for Updates in Prospector 2014. What's wrong?
Your firewall or other security software may be blocking access to In your internet browser, enter:
This should give you more information about what is possibly blocking access to the update information on our web server.
I can't find my USB license key for Prospector. Can I get a replacement?
No. You must repurchase the software license to get a new key. Treat the USB key as though it is as valuable an asset as the computer it is connected to or any other capital equipment in your shop. Check with your insurance agent as your business insurance may cover the expense of replacing your software license.
I think my USB license key is defective. I've tried updating and installing the new drivers. Tried it on other computers. Nothing works. Can I get replacement?
Certainly. If you have a software maintenance contract, we'll exchange the defective key at no cost to you. If you do not have maintenance, a key exchange may be possible for a nominal fee.
I licensed Prospector on a subscription basis so I have an iLicense (internet license). How do I move this license to a new computer?
Contact us and we will be happy to assist you. Before you call or e-mail us, install Prospector on the new computer you will be putting into service. From the Prospector program group, choose License Manager. Click on the iLicense tab and write down the Host ID (the 12 digit hex number). Once we have this Host ID, we will enable it for Prospector and disable your former computer. We can do this over the phone while you are on the line or send us an e-mail.

Post Processors

How do I install a custom post processor? A custom post processor is an executable program (.exe) that is created specifically for you and your machine tool to generate the exact output you have told us you need. When you receive your post processor from customer service, follow the instructions in this document to install the post processor and tell Prospector all about it: Post Processor Installation Guide

Importing CAD Data

I'm having trouble importing data from Autodesk Inventor. Any suggestions? Try exporting the CAD data from Inventor in Parasolid format. Make sure you choose Parasolid Version 22 as the revision of the Parasolid format to export.

Performance Considerations

Got Memory? Prospector can and does use a lot of computer memory especially when generating complex 3D cutter paths on multi-core processors. Each thread started to work on part of the job requires a good chunk of RAM to compute and store the partial results of the complete cutter path. Now multiply the demand for RAM by the number of sessions of Prospector you usually have running concurrently. When the demand for RAM exceeds the amount of physical RAM installed in the computer, the operating system uses virtual memory. Virtual memory uses the computer disk to swap in and swap out entire threads and/or processes to service all demands placed on the system by the programs running at the time. This swapping is very expensive in terms of performance. Accessing data stored on disk as opposed to physical RAM is many magnitudes slower. Take the time to get familiar with the Windows Task Manager. Task Manager will tell you exactly how much memory you are using relative to the amount of RAM in your computer. If you're bumping up against the amount of physical RAM, then it's time to add more. All other things being equal, adding memory to your computer is the best way to get get better performance.
Where's your cache directory? The Cache Directory is scratch space on disk that Prospector uses to store temporary files during the cutter path generation process. You set this directory in your PowerSource database using the program PowerSource Insight:
You want to make sure the directory you choose has these characteristics:
  • The partition where the directory is located has sufficient disk space. 100MB should be more than enough. If you run out of disk space, programs will fail to generate!
  • Never use a mapped drive or network drive for the cache directory! Reading and writing data to a network drive is many magnitudes slower than writing to the local disk. You always want the cache directory local to the computer.
  • If your system has a solid-state drive - SSD - (or it's a hybrid with a solid-state drive and a conventional drive), put your cache directory on the partition that is the SSD. An SSD is many times faster than a conventional drive.
  • Prospector removes temporary files from the cache directory when they are no longer needed. It's a good idea to check once in a while to make sure that the cache directory is indeed empty. If there are files or directories there when Prospector isn't running, you can go ahead and delete them all.
A computer with 4 cores is twice as fast as one with 2 cores. Right?  Well not really. If you have a computer with 4 cores that doesn't mean it will run twice as fast as a computer with 2 cores. Think of it like a horse-drawn carriage. If you add a second horse to pull the carriage, you can't go twice as fast. Horses only run so fast. Adding more horses doesn't add speed to any of them. But doubling the number of horses means you can pull twice the load! The same holds true for computers. Adding more cores or an additional processor(s) is additive to the overall computational capacity of the computer. This means the computer can tackle many more tasks concurrently which is a good thing. It allows Prospector to break up the generation of a single large program into a number smaller parts and farm out each part to a separate core to work on concurrently. That certainly helps performance. You can read more about multi-processing here.
Choosing a proper tolerance. The tolerance you choose for 3D programming can make a big difference in the processing time needed to produce the cutter path. Click here to learn more about the effects on tolerance and performance.

PowerSource Programming Tips

How can I prevent my guys from using a tolerance other than .005" for finish machining?
All settings in the PowerSource database can be locked. This means that a user can not change the setting during program creation in Prospector. To lock this setting, follow these steps:
  1. Login as the Administrator or as a user that has administrative privileges.
  2. Start PowerSource Insight from the Prospector program group.
  3. Edit the system database:

  4. Set the rule for Tolerance in the strategies in the Finish category. In the example below, we'll set tolerance for finish lace cutting:

  5. Now lock the Tolerance setting:
    Choose Permissions from the Tools menu.
    Enable the Lock switch for Tolerance under the Lace strategy in the Cutting Strategy Selection folder.
  6. Save the system database.
Locking setting can only be done in the system database. To edit the system database, you must have Administrative privileges. Provided your users do not have administrative privileges associated with their logins, they can not go into the database and unlock this setting. Because user databases are derived from the system database, you have full control over the settings you want to enforce and what settings you want your guys to be able to change. To learn more, dive into the Help for PowerSource Insight and learn about all the features available to you.

My machinist on the 2nd shift doesn't agree with the settings the machinist on the first shift has in the user database. Can she get her own PowerSource database or do they have to share the same one?
Absolutely. In fact, give both their own databases. Here's how:
  1. Give the 1st shift and 2nd shift separate logins on the computer they share.
  2. Copy the user database (user.udb) they are sharing now to the home directory of each login.
  3. Login as the 1st shift user. Start Prospector and point it to the database you copied in step #2:
Choose Settings from the Tools menu, click the PowerSource navigation key on the left side of the dialog then browse for the database - user.udb - in the users directory and click OK.
  1. Logout then login as the 2nd shift user and repeat the previous step.
Now both users have their own user.udb database they can edit however they wish. Prospector remembers which database to use on a per-login basis. So now everyone is happy.

NC Programming Tips

Save machine time using a fast feed rate when retracing. Fast Feed Rate specifies the feed rate to use when the tool must retrace its last path to return to the start point to descend to the next level. Because retracing is not removing any material, you can use a much faster feed rate for this portion of the cutter path:

This is an example of retracing for a Z-Planar No Clear program.

The style is Plunge One-Way No Lift.

After each cut, the cutter steps away from the part and retraces it’s path back to the start point where it will descend and cut the next level.

Because we are not cutting any metal during the retracing, this part of the path can be done at a much higher feed rate than the cutting feed rate.

Here's how to speed up the program:

Fast Feed Rate can be set on the Finish page of the new program wizard for 3D Z-Planar programs and for 2D pocketing and profiling.

This is the feedrate to be used anytime the cutter must retrace in order to reposition in order to descend to the next level to be machined.

Since we aren't cutting anything, we might as well go at a feedrate much higher than the cutting feedrate.

If you're really clever, you'll want to program this into your PowerSource database so you don't need to change this setting each time you make a Z-level program.

In PowerSource Insight you can change this setting to a default you like.

In the example to the left, the Fast Feed Rate is set to be 5X the cutting feedrate. That should speed thing up!

Using Prospector Design to Machine Multiple Parts

This instructional video shows you how to prepare a Prospector project in Prospector Design that has multiple parts to be machined. This example shows setting up 4 electrodes for machining however the techniques used can be applied to any job where you wish to machine any number of parts.

Download this video.

Download the sample data used in this video.

Download a document that describes this process in detail.