I am very new at this and am doing research on what type of machine I would like to design. For starters I contacted a company that fixes plotters and was able to get a hold of several old heads that were to be junked and harvested the linear bearing, gears, motors, ect. I think I would like to copy how they controlled the machine which was by pulse width modulation (pwm) and position location sensors to control dc motors. I figure I will need to get larger motors but I would like to use the same concept. To that end I was given two old microcontrollers that use the AT91SAM7S256 chip and I am told it come from sparkfun.com. It seams like a good controller to use on this project but I am unsure how to get started, I donít have a very strong programming background. From what I have read so far I think I would like to just use the free downloadable cam program and then have the micro be the G-code interpreter and motor control with maybe even a digital screen. I have been trying to research how the G-code interpreter works but have not found much help. Also dose anyone know what software to use to program the micro with? On sparkfun.com they do give a free open source program tutorial but I have not had any luck even getting simple programs to run. I am looking for something simpler if it exists. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.
Do to where I live (small two bedroom apt because of wifeís job) I can not start building anything yet but I figure I can start programming and playing with the circuits! I live in Lawrence KS if anyone else is in the area and would like to start a group.
Since you don't have a strong programming background (not that you couldn't learn it), I'd start with Mach 3 for your control platform. You can run it on a PC, and control everything through 1 or 2 parallel ports, or a USB device like the smoothstepper. You can download mach 3 for free and try it out, and then buy it if it works for you. That is what I did to bump my first axis around before doing a complete controls retrofit.
You can go the microcontroller route, but you won't have as many folks on line that can help you out when you get stuck.
You'll find a wealth of information on this site. These guys have brought me from knowing nothing a year ago to knowing just enough to be dangerous.