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    *Registered User* pjkumpon's Avatar
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    Default Software & Breakout board question

    I'm in the process of designing a 3 axis wood router. I've done my calculations and determined my steppers, drivers and power supply. The next step for me is to pick a USB breakout board & determine the software that I need to download or buy. I would appreciate any input to the following questions:

    1. CNC Software: I see that Mach 3 is common, but I'm looking to build this thing on a budget and $160 is more that I had budgeted for. Are there any open source/low cost alternatives?
    2. CAM software: Are there any open source options with this?
    3. Breakout board: I'm looking to have 4 stepper total, with one of them slaved. I also need USB interface. Do I need to choose my CNC software before buying a breakout board to make sure it is compatible? I've found this one, but it seems to be geared for the Mach 3:

    https://buildyourcnc.com/Item/electr...ach3-USB-Board

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks!

    Pete in upstate NY.

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    Community Moderator ger21's Avatar
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    Default Re: Software & Breakout board question

    1) UCCNC is $60, plus $125-$150 for a USB or ethernet motion card from CNC Drive.

    LinuxCNC is free, but if you don't have a parallel port, you'll need to spend about ~$100 for a Mesa ethernet board.

    There are low cost Arduino based controllers running GRBL.

    2) Fusion 360 is free, and very popular. There are lots of other options, depending on what you want to do. Look at F-Engrave for free V Carving.

    3) A breakout board is typically the interface between your stepper drives and your PC or motion controller. It's the controller that will have a USB interface, not the breakout board. Although some controllers are both controller and breakout board in one package. Most controllers only work with specific software. See #1 above.

    Breakout boards can be as cheap as $5, and as expensive as $200, depending on features, and whether they are made in China or not.

    Gerry

    UCCNC 2017 Screenset
    http://www.thecncwoodworker.com/2017.html

    Mach3 2010 Screenset
    http://www.thecncwoodworker.com/2010.html

    JointCAM - CNC Dovetails & Box Joints
    http://www.g-forcecnc.com/jointcam.html

    (Note: The opinions expressed in this post are my own and are not necessarily those of CNCzone and its management)


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    Default Re: Software & Breakout board question

    Quote Originally Posted by pjkumpon View Post
    I'm in the process of designing a 3 axis wood router. I've done my calculations and determined my steppers, drivers and power supply. The next step for me is to pick a USB breakout board & determine the software that I need to download or buy. I would appreciate any input to the following questions:

    1. CNC Software: I see that Mach 3 is common, but I'm looking to build this thing on a budget and $160 is more that I had budgeted for. Are there any open source/low cost alternatives?
    Be careful with Mach 3 as it is getting old in the tooth. Combine that with issues with Windows and you might end up with more problems than you would like. Mach 4 is actually a supported solution worth considering.

    As for low cost or open solutions, thanks to the 3D printing crowd there are lots of free options out there.

    LinuxCNC (LinuxCNC) is perhaps the most technically excellent option that is "free". This is really old software that is actively maintained and of very high quality. You best be technically inclined to use it. Beyond that you really should buy the hardware that is available to do the real world interfacing. Even if you end up using other software the Linuxcnc site has a wealth of information about DIY CNC.

    GRBL (https://github.com/gnea/grbl) & (https://github.com/fra589/cn5X "mega fork") & (https://github.com/gnea/grbl-LPC "ARM LPC fork") {There are many more forks} is a Arduino based solution that is pretty good but the little Arduino is maxed out so it isn't ideal for further development or roll your own functionality. That is unless your wnat to experiment with some of the forks that use modern hardware. Do realize that GRBL has begat a number of other controllers that are often running on ARM hardware (think repraps). ARM hardware generally allows for better performance and code expansion beyond what the Arduino allows. Last I knew there was also an effort in the GRBL community to select the "ideal" ARM platform for an official GRBL on arm solution, right now: https://github.com/gnea/grbl-LPC.

    In any event there are a number of solution's that are available from the 3D printing community for low costs and sometimes open CNC controller boards. I probably should be keeping a list but I don't have one at the moment. A bit of googling, maybe starting at the reprap forums, will lead you to them.

    Next you have MachineKit (http://www.machinekit.io/) which seems to have slowed down a bit development wise. Machine kit si an attempt to get LinuxCNC running on a BegalBoard Black with the GUI's running on other hardware. One nice feature is the use of PRU hardware in these chips.

    Actually there is a lot more but I'm running out of time (public WiFi). Some are open, some are commercial, projects targeted at low end CNC.
    2. CAM software: Are there any open source options with this?
    There are some open source options. Spin up google to see what is current.
    3. Breakout board: I'm looking to have 4 stepper total, with one of them slaved. I also need USB interface. Do I need to choose my CNC software before buying a breakout board to make sure it is compatible? I've found this one, but it seems to be geared for the Mach 3:
    Generally it is a bad idea to buy anything before you are ready. By ready we mean have a solid mechanical design down and a really good idea of what you will be using as a G-Code processor. The mechanical design is important as it dictates to some extent the design of your controls (big machines require bigger drives, motors and etc). The mechanical design is critical really to be resolved first.
    again don't worry about controls until you have a mechanical design suitable for what you want to do.

    Beyond that you seem fixated on Mach 3. Again I'd review all your options and determine what is suitable for your your machine build when the mechanics and your goals are nailed down. Beyond that it is generally considered tricky to get USB working well real time on Windows. Some would say impossible. Combine that with otudated Mach 3 and you may end up having more issues than you will wnat to explore. Unreliable may be a better word to describe USB under Windows.
    Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks!

    Pete in upstate NY.
    Any place special in NY?

    Dave



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    Default Re: Software & Breakout board question

    For my build I was keen to avoid Mach 3 for the reasons listed elsewhere.This left a choice for my purposes between LinuxCNC and an Arduino based solution.I bought an Arduino to learn a bit about them and tried one or two experiments-it seemed utterly reliable,but the style of it's usage was totally alien to me.Linux is something I have used in the form of one or other Ubuntu derivatives for a few years and downloading an iso image of LinuxCNC and burning a DVD was no big deal.I had to find a ued computer to get my hands on a parallel port,but it was very inexpensive and I reconfigured it as a dual boot system so I could use Windows if I wanted to.Installing the operating system wasn't difficult,configuring the BOB and getting the motors spinning was quite challenging as the BOB was bundled with the steppers and power supply from Long's Motor and any documentation was very sparse and for use with Linux-non-existent;being a bit stubborn and reasoning that it was a matter of 1's and 0's I dug deeper .Thankfully a couple of evenings searching youtube put me on the right track as well as demonstrating that you need to be a bit selective as not all video tutorials are equally useful.You have been given good advice in other posts,is there a community of users of your machine to offer specific advice?

    I looked at CAM software also and found two solutions for different aspects.F-engrave is good and free and deals with engraving very nicely.For cutting panels and pockets I downloaded Freecad,you can guess the price,and it isn't the most intuitive software I have ever encountered.It is getting better quite steadily and the development branch is nudging closer to 3D surfacing and adaptive toolpaths are already present.It will import a number of file formats if you find the parametric aspect annoying and there are post processors for several systems including GRBL and LinuxCNC.



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    Default Re: Software & Breakout board question

    if you are comfortable with electronics check out bart dring's esp32 port and board for grbl. You can get the board on tindie or make it yourself. it can do wireless and it also has a few extra pins available. The esp32 has a ton of resources and is much much faster than an 8 bit arduino. You also can run it directly over usb if you don't want to use the wifi/bluetooth.

    I wanted to try out g2core but the learning curve is very high for a DIY build (I was going to make my own board).

    Grbl is great and very well supported with plenty of tutorials available. Check out universal gcode platform and bcnc which are used to drive grbl and feed it g-code. They also do things like run probing routines.



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    Default Software & Breakout board question

    Even though I use Linuxcnc, mach3 and UCCNC on my machines, I play around and compile test every grbl, marlin, smoothie etc port that is available.

    ESP32/grbl is the newest port but still some rough edges. I like it but slow usb serial. Plenty fast for 3axis cnc but too slow for laser raster engraving. Neat WiFi web based interface available.

    LPC1769/grbl-lpc is what runs my CO2 laser because it is the fastest grbl port available. The development has stopped and there are some features of original grbl that still hasn’t been ported over. 4 axis only. Over 100khz step rate. Fast raster CO2 engraving capability.

    STM32/grbl is a mostly a full grbl port with 6 axis capability. The STM32 is 72mhz so not as fast as the 120mhz LPC1769. Good enough for 95khz step pulse rate. New dev has picked up development work and added new features and bug fixes.

    Mega2560/grbl is a full grbl port but hindered by the 16mhz atmega2560 speed. Up to 6 axis available. About 30khz step pulse rate.

    Uno/grbl. This is the original master code running on a atmega328 arduino Uno. The most reliable and stable version. Max step pulse is about 30khz. I would recommend using this version for beginners since it has the most users and knowledge base. 3 axis only. Arduino Uno is cheap to buy.


    For a full featured controller on a budget. You can’t really do better than free Linuxcnc running on a spare PC laying around. If it doesn’t have a built in parallel port for I/O, a $8 pci parallel port card can be purchased. Linuxcnc isn’t the easiest to configure though.

    Last edited by jfong; 01-03-2019 at 12:58 PM.


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    Default Re: Software & Breakout board question

    Jfong, did you ever get a g2core test going? I want to check out the s-curve motion but i was not able to find a gcode sender for it that worked well and the lack of saving of settings on a due was quite annoying!



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    Default Re: Software & Breakout board question

    Quote Originally Posted by jschoch View Post
    Jfong, did you ever get a g2core test going? I want to check out the s-curve motion but i was not able to find a gcode sender for it that worked well and the lack of saving of settings on a due was quite annoying!
    Yes I did on a arduino DUE but like you I hated the few compatible gcode senders. I did end up using CNCjs to test. It’s been awhile since I looked at it. Lack of Save settings was annoying. Hopefully that got fixed.

    Marlin 2 has s-curve now. I tested that on a re-arm recently. You can turn off the 3D printing functionality to make it a bit easier to use on a standard 3 axis cnc. Still need to test s curve functionality on a heavy machine. None of my other controllers do S-curve so I don’t know what to expect yet.



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    Default Re: Software & Breakout board question

    If it doesn’t have a built in parallel port for I/O, a $8 pci parallel port card can be purchased. Linuxcnc isn’t the easiest to configure though.
    If going that route be aware not all cards are a good choice. A bit of searching on linuxcnc.org should point to something suitable.
    If depending on the computer for step generation check the latency, it should be possible to do that without installing.
    Other than that don't fear the penguin.
    The number of options available now is a little overwhelming but for a robust system linuxcnc is still hard to beat.

    Anyone who says "It only goes together one way" has no imagination.


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    Default Re: Software & Breakout board question

    I agree about LinuxCNC being hard to beat.It may not be perfect,but it does have slider icons to adjust feed rate and I didn't find it too hard to configure.I may be approaching the whole home CNC thing from a different direction to many of the posters here as I have a fair amount of experience of using CNC routers and wanted to extend the capabilities of my home workshop.I have been obliged to learn things that had already been done by professionals on the machines I have used previously.It wasn't too hard to deal with the basics of LinuxCNC and I really need to learn the intricacies of homing in the near future.I still have no regrets about not following the Arduino path and I may one day find a use for the Arduino I didn't use.

    I would quite like it if there was a way for us mere mortals to install Freecad on a LinuxCNC box as it is the way I generate my toolpaths and at the moment I have the computer set up as a dual boot machine which means either returning to the house or shutting down the workshop computer and rebooting to deal with the toolpath and then switching back.



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    Default Re: Software & Breakout board question

    You should also look at Centroid's 'Acorn board. By the time you buy software, hardware and muck about trying to get it all working you could buy an Acorn board and instead of trying to learn LinuxCNC you could be making parts. Under 300 dollars for the basic board and software. Great support and from one company for the software and board. Just a thought!



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    Default Re: Software & Breakout board question

    Linuxcnc is pretty easy to get going and robust enough for commercial companies like Tormach and CandCNC to use it. Just install an .ISO onto a USB stick, CD or DVD and run the install program. Run the latency test to make sure your hardware is OK and fix any issues ( BIOS settings may need tweaking). Then run the stepconf program to configure your parallel port breakout board. Just be aware that LinuxCNC will never use a USB board as USB is not real time and that laptops are generally not suitable becasue of the hardware latency introduced by their power management. The alternative is to use an ethernet based Mesa board. The Mesa 7i96 will set you back around $100 and there is a separate configuration tool available for it. 7I96 picture
    The Mesa products have a lot of expansion options so if you want to add more axes or I/O connections you can.

    LinuxCNC can be run from the Live CD image without actually installing Linux on your harddrive and also comes with heaps of simulated configs that you can experiment with before connecting any hardware

    Rod Webster
    www.vehiclemods.net.au


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