Doh! I just ordered a usb SmoothStepper a few weeks ago. I've only heard good things about it so I figured that it can't be that bad in comparison to the ethernet version. I will make efforts to ensure that the grounding is A-okay, will used shielded wires for the motors, and get an opto-isolated breakout board. I will keep you guys updated!
My USB SS would lock up as soon as the VFD powered up the spindle on on of my routers.
I managed to get it stable by putting it at the end of a 5m active USB extension cable like this:
USB 2.0 active extension cable, 5 meters
They have a single port USB hub in the female end which seems to help. YMMV.
But, I bought an ESS to simplify the cabling and swapped the USB SS to another router which doesn't seem to have noise issues.
can the ethernet smoothstepper be connected through a network switch or does it need to be directly connected to the network adapter on the computer running mach?
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More to the point, the PC running Mach3 needs to be dedicated to running Mach3, so it is best if it is NOT on a general network. Mach3 is a pre-eminently REAL-TIME system, and Windows is an absolutly crap real-time OS, so adding to its woes is sheer stupidity. So you should not have any thing else on that ethernet card or network. Just don't do it.
Visions of someone trying to play Quake or some network-based multi-player shooter game while running a 4-axis NC machine on the same PC dance through my head...
However, for the correct answer you should ask this on the Warp9 web site, where Greg can answer you directly.