What CNC controller do you use and why?

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kiwihacker
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What CNC controller do you use and why?

Post by kiwihacker » Tue Jun 26, 2012 10:41 pm

Hi everyone... I just thought I'd put it out there and see what cnc controller you use (or plan to use) with your shapeoko. I just can't decide on whether I want an Arduino based setup of some description, a cheap controller from ebay or some other option.

So, if you're game, perhaps answering the following could help others in the same situation:-
1. What controller are you using?
2. Cost? (controller board/drivers only, not including motors/PC/etc)?
3. Purchased from?
4. Pros? (what's really neat about it?)
5. Cons? (what's missing?)
6. Any additional thoughts/notes/etc that influenced your decision? (eg. can use with XXX software, can upgrade, etc).

I tend to be leaning towards a parallel port breakout with cheap single axis TB6560 based drivers myself. I like the idea of being able to add more axes so I can potentially add an extruder (or dual ex.) in the future. I also had originally planned on using EMC2, so that has swayed me away from an arduino solution (though I know it's still possible to use grbl or similar with this).

As I say, I hope the net result is more information so that those who have a mechanical kit on order can decide which option may suit best :) .
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ShapeOKO #351 - Wiki Page

"I can't figure out if I'm just eccentric, or if I'm nuts"

rustythebear
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Re: What CNC controller do you use and why?

Post by rustythebear » Fri Jun 29, 2012 12:21 pm

I'm using a Gecko G540, it was about $250 on Ebay. I am also using the demo version of Mach 3 for now.
I am new to CNC so I went with a plug and play/future growth scenario. I went with NEMA 23, 400 step
~280 ounce motors rated at 3.0 Amps. I limited the current below that deliberately to cut back on
the torque and heat, since this setup is overkill for Shapeoko. The pros of this setup are numerous and
the only con for me to speak of was the expense. I weighed price, performane and future expansion\
and decided that I could always use this configuration for a long-term machine.

I read some horror stories regarding the chinese controllers and thought if I blew up some $50 motors,
I have saved nothing. I haven't ruled out a cheaper setup yet, but I need to build up some confidence first.

On a side note I was just looking at the CNC USB controller/software pairing from Planet CNC.
I don't mind using an old pc and parallel port for now, but it sure would be nice to run from a laptop.

Rusty

Colecago
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Re: What CNC controller do you use and why?

Post by Colecago » Fri Jun 29, 2012 5:43 pm

I'm really leaning TinyG. It seems to offer good performance over the GRBL, and I like how easy it is to double up axes or add a rotational axis. Before that I was thinking of the Printrboard as it was an all in one $130 solution, but the TinyG is the same price and meant for milling.

zimmer62
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Location: Lansing, MI

Re: What CNC controller do you use and why?

Post by zimmer62 » Fri Jun 29, 2012 5:54 pm

rustythebear wrote:I'm using a Gecko G540, it was about $250 on Ebay. I am also using the demo version of Mach 3 for now.
I'm using the same, ordered for $239 from keling http://www.automationtechnologiesinc.com/ + shipping, so about the same cost.

I'm actually kicking myself for not ordering this much earlier in the past, as I've spend MANY MANY hours screwing with electronics that only partially worked.

I've got nema 17's from sparkfun right now installed, I like a bunch of things about the G540, such as the current setting resistor gets installed into the cable, which makes it very easy to swap one controller for two different machines.

I'm also using the demo Mach 3, but with this setup you can use EMC as well, and that's free.
rustythebear wrote:I read some horror stories regarding the chinese controllers
I've had two of these cheaper Chinese controllers on a previous mill.. They work for the most part, but I really wanted to have a turn-key solution that saved me time and money each time I decide I want to build a new machine that requires CNC.
rustythebear wrote:I don't mind using an old pc and parallel port for now, but it sure would be nice to run from a laptop.
I spent several hours this time around trying to get the G540 to work on a laptop's parallel port, with no luck. It ran, but not correctly.
I think I'm going to look at the ethernet based smoothstepper unit, so that I can control it from afar if need be. Example laptop in the garage for getting started, and watch it's progress from inside the house.

Yes the G540 is expensive, but it is supposed to be a very good controller at a reasonable price.
3 or 4 individual gecko controllers would set you back closer to 500 once you have the charge pump and breakout boards added to the cost.

rustythebear
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Re: What CNC controller do you use and why?

Post by rustythebear » Fri Jun 29, 2012 7:49 pm

I put the current limiting resistors on the motor DB9s, that way they are right for whatever motor I drive from the G540.

I bought my steppers and the DB9 cables from Keling (now automationtechinc.com) I think.

I read somewhere that laptop parallel ports don't work with G540s and CNC in general due to timing and power saving problems.

At $240, the G540 4 axis is only $60 per axis at 3.5 amps max, not bad, and no ribbon cable octopus to breakout board etc.

I've learned from reparing stuff that skimping in the power supply and high current compenents leads to many failures.

Colecago
Posts: 136
Joined: Fri Jun 08, 2012 5:31 pm

Re: What CNC controller do you use and why?

Post by Colecago » Fri Jun 29, 2012 7:52 pm

Weird, automationtech has the ORD Bot in stock for purchase.
http://www.automationtechnologiesinc.co ... controller

zimmer62
Posts: 81
Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2012 4:51 pm
Location: Lansing, MI

Re: What CNC controller do you use and why?

Post by zimmer62 » Fri Jun 29, 2012 7:59 pm

Colecago wrote:Weird, automationtech has the ORD Bot in stock for purchase.
http://www.automationtechnologiesinc.co ... controller
I was wondering about that myself.
Both Keling and Inventables are in chicago, I forgot to ask Zach about Keling... I did see their build of ord bot in person when I was there as couple weeks ago.

Colecago
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Joined: Fri Jun 08, 2012 5:31 pm

Re: What CNC controller do you use and why?

Post by Colecago » Fri Jun 29, 2012 8:25 pm

I really need to make it to the CNC meeting. Chitown is over 2 hours and probably $40 in tolls away. There is a 3D Printing Camp in Madison in July, maybe some ORD Bot guys could visit...
http://www.3dprintingcampwi.com/

zimmer62
Posts: 81
Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2012 4:51 pm
Location: Lansing, MI

Re: What CNC controller do you use and why?

Post by zimmer62 » Fri Jun 29, 2012 8:28 pm

I was at a CNC workshop in Michigan last week, good information there. I'm 4.5 hours from Chicago, but I got a chance to check out Inventables while I was there.

3d printing camp sounds cool.

edwardrford
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Re: What CNC controller do you use and why?

Post by edwardrford » Fri Jun 29, 2012 8:31 pm

I chose this setup because that's just sort of how it worked out :-)

Controller: 4 axis open source controller from buildlog.net. The controller has 4 axis support and uses Pololu Drivers.
Software: EMC2 (it's not the newest version, it's the 'next' to newest version.)
Computer: Dell Latitude D430 (laptop). I use a port replicator to give the system a parallel port. Prior to that I tried a variety of PCMCIA -> DB25 setups, USB to DB25, etc, etc. Nothing worked. The port replicator works. no problems since I put it in place.
Power Supply: 24V 5A Supply from allelectronics.

Pros:
- Open Source
- EMC2 is very robust and it's very Fast. It's tried and true and does exactly what it's supposed to do.
- I really like the toolpath visualization, command history, pause/resume, just to name a few features.
- Favorite feature hands down is the ability to increase/decrease max feed and speed. The feed override is nice too.

Cons:
- Steep learning curve!
- Full Computer setup with parallel port.

After about 2 weeks of having the machine setup, I found myself tearing it apart again to try an upgrade, test a different controller, put on a new spindle,etc, etc, etc. Whenever that happened I would instantly lose the ability to cut anything until that machine was put back together. To remedy this, I chose to build another machine :-) (commonly referred to by me as 'my test rig'). So, I figured as long as I was building a 'permanent' machine, and planning to keep it in a fixed location (my garage) I saw no reason to not use EMC2. After all, I knew how to use it, had a computer/parallel port, and I had the room. Now I use 'my test rig' to test upgrades, test controllers, and generally hack around with.

My general workflow goes something like:
1.) Draw the part on my CAD workstation (another Dell Laptop - XPS 13z).
2.) CAM the part on either my workstation or one of my other laptops
3.) Email the gcode to myself.
4.) From my CNC computer, download the gcode from my email.
5.) Open the gcode in EMC2 (inspect toolpath)
6.) Run job.
7.) Dominate world.
Shapeoko 1 #0 - a couple of upgrades.
Shapeoko 2 #0 - a couple of upgrades.
Shapeoko 3 #2 - Stock

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