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Stepper driver options for LinuxCNC

Posted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 8:52 pm
by Rhynier

I am waiting for my mechanical kit to arrive from Inventables and have been looking at electronics options. I really do like the way EMC2/LinuxCNC works as opposed to Grbl but have been struggling to identify an acceptable stepper driver solution. Going down the list of options currently on the Wiki each option has issues.

The open source CNC controller from is difficult to source even though Edward clearly loves this as his preferred setup :). I could order a PCB, source all the parts in the BOM and build it myself but that seems like a whole lot of work and with the PCB setup costs is just too expensive for what I would get out of it.

It would appear that the HobbyCNC EZ Driver board does not work with 4 wire stepper motors like the recommended one from Sparkfun. So either I find a 5, 6 or 8 wire stepper motor which isn't as easy as I thought (especially for Nema 17 size motors) or look for another driver.

The Xylotex is just plain expensive but if people have excellent experience with it I might consider it.

The last option, the HY-TB4DV-M CNC controller, is sold on eBay but seems to have serious design issues with how the TB6560AHQ chips are used … see ... 4&t=9#p321 and the links to the CNCZone forum postings on this.

All in all, not very promising.

And then I found this on eBay for $99 + $46 shipping from China (see also ... =75&sid=88).

What I think might be good about it:
  • Wantai Motor is the same company that manufactures the recommended stepper motor being sold on SparkFun.
  • Attractive price
  • Nice all-in-one purchase to cover everything that I need
  • Drivers are in professional cases.
  • Drivers are separate so if one blows it can be (relatively) easily replaced (like the Polulu's) :)
What might be of concern:
  • It comes from China with no real guarrantee
  • Doesn't mention support for Mach3 or EMC2
  • Stepper motors in kit are 56 oz-in as opposed to the recommended 68 oz-in
  • Stepper motors are 200 step as opposed to 400 step
I could also purchase the power supply, drivers and DB25 breakout without the motors and buy the higher rated ones on Sparkfun (literally just a different model number from those in this kit).

Any comments/suggestions/responses would be appreciated. My thinking is that if it has even a tentative blessing from Edward and other knowledgeable members I would consider buying it and testing it out with the idea that it could become either a recommended buy in the Wiki or we could work on a solution to stock it State-side.


Re: Stepper driver options for LinuxCNC

Posted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 9:12 pm
by Improbable Construct

I use a "4 Axis TB6560 Motor Driver Stepper Board Controller With Box" you can search eBay and get lots of results.
You will pay $88.00+ if you can wait for it to ship from china or $93.38+ if you want one already in the US.

I have had a very good experience with this controller. It seems very solid and does not get very warm. There is very little documentation but there is enough to get running with Mach3. I have not used linuxCNC but would guess that it uses many of the same settings. I am reasonably sure that if it works with Mach3, it should work with LinuxCNC, but more research may be needed.

There are many more boards that come up if you search "TB6560" They use the same driver chip but have different layouts. Some may be good designs, others maybe bad. It's hard to tell, but a three axis one can cost as little as $42.99.

I went with a 4 axis board and run a second Y axis motor on the A axis.
I keep meaning to document my setup on the Wiki but never seem to have the time.

Re: Stepper driver options for LinuxCNC

Posted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 11:54 pm
by levlandau2
I don't know much about LinuxCNC yet (currently using GRBL), but I would highly recommend the Buildlog Open Source Stepper Shield.

Check out this thread, where fellow board member "ejs" has mentioned that he is selling these boards.

He sells them on his website.

I drive four stepper motors this way (dual y-axis), and it is great. Putting together the board was really fun and it was easy to replace the Pololu stepper drivers integrated circuits when I burned them out (I disconnected the motors with the power plugged in).

ejs has nice videos on how to put the boards together and since the board is open-source debbuging it is doable. Also very affordable path.

Re: Stepper driver options for LinuxCNC

Posted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 7:43 pm
by Rhynier
Thank you for all the feedback so far. After what I read about (some of) the TB6560 solutions out there I'm still trying to get something better. As for the boards sold by member ejs, those are the Arduino shield variant of the driver board and not the parallel port based one I am looking for.

In short, it appears that the go-to solution for an EMC2 setup for ShapeOko is the one but in the absence of that everybody is trying or going with various other options with varying degrees of success. By "go-to" I mean it is what Edward uses, is known to work really well and is well documented.

I emailed Wantai motors and they created a custom eBay listing for me with the same stepper motor as the one recommended from Sparkfun. Once I have my system up and running I can provide feedback ... should be a couple of months as I don't even have the mechanical kit I ordered from Inventsbles yet.

The custom package:

Re: Stepper driver options for LinuxCNC

Posted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 3:14 am
by northbear
Rhynier wrote:Once I have my system up and running I can provide feedback ... should be a couple of months as I don't even have the mechanical kit I ordered from Inventsbles yet.
Please do provide feedback as I am having the same dilemma you did!

Re: Stepper driver options for LinuxCNC

Posted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 10:49 pm
by Rhynier
I finally got my batch #3 mechanical kit and started building it. I will create a separate forum post to talk about some of my assembly experiences and have some ideas for a "tips and tricks" section for the wiki that might help others not make some of the mistakes I made :).

After a long delay the package from Wantai Motor finally arrived a few days after the kit from Inventables and I set about getting it all working. Finally, after issues with installing Ubuntu, some hardware incompatibilities, etc. I got the stepper motors working with the drivers using the older Linux CNC installation that uses Ubuntu 8.04.

Last night everything came together and I had my "hello world" experience. The video is on Youtube! :)

Re: Stepper driver options for LinuxCNC

Posted: Sat Sep 22, 2012 12:11 am
by fito

Re: Stepper driver options for LinuxCNC

Posted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 8:26 pm
by redpawfx
I too was part of the Batch 3 group, and just got my unit working, for electronics I went with a company called
Probotix, who sells a nice complete kit of motor controllers and parallel interface.

I've only tried one or two test "prints" so far with a sharpie.. and am still learning the ins and outs of LinuxCNC but
so far I haven't had any problems with the electronic hardware.


Re: Stepper driver options for LinuxCNC

Posted: Sat Mar 16, 2013 8:57 pm
by eat5hams
Are there any USB based controllers that have 4 stepper motor controllers (for dual drive y-axis) that work with LinuxCNC? New to this and excited to ordera kit ASAP but trying to get it all sorted in my mind.

Re: Stepper driver options for LinuxCNC

Posted: Sun Mar 17, 2013 1:08 pm
by ThatOtherGuy435
LinuxCNC is explicitly parallel port based. The problem lies in USB not being a real time connection as I understand it; you won't find any USB based CNC controllers anywhere except solutions like GRBL, where the actual control mechanism is onboard and the computer simply sends instructions.