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LinuxCNC – Tool Change (part 2)

LinuxCNCYowza! More to the tool change than I realized in LinuxCNC. The tool change routine exists in the latest available stock version of LinuxCNC but it is poorly implemented for a manual tool change on a hobbyist machine and unworkable as is, for an automatic tool changer.

The good part is that the bones are there. It is up to the user to hang some flesh on those bones.

LinuxCNC will respond to the tool change code installed in the Post Processor I mentioned in a previous post, by stopping for a tool change. But that is all it does. Stop at the safe move height.

None of the axes will manually move. They remain disabled. Any fooling with the pause or start buttons which will get manual control back, will also set the G code file back to the beginning. Bummer.

With the age of EMC, EMC2, and LinuxCNC (all the same) I would think a MACH3 type of manual tool change would be fully implemented AND FUNCTIONAL in the stock release. Such is not the case.

My normal MACH3 operating method on my Taig micro mills and HB2 is to wait for the auto stop for the tool change. (Stock LinuxCNC only does this.) Then I manually run the spindle up to provide room for the manual tool change. (ER16 collets) Then move X/Y to find a place to touch off Z height. Do the touch and set Z to zero for the new tool. Then move back to a safe Z height.

When I resume the run, the program picks up where it left off and moves to the new cutting location and continues.

I found the solution in the LinuxCNC Wiki. The issue has been recognized for a very long time. That itself, is a… Continue reading

LinuxCNC and Vectric Aspire

For a moment, I thought I may have made a small miscalculation in switching my HB2 CNC router to LinuxCNC.

I finished creating a detailed sign carving in Aspire using three different cutting tools to make the carvings. I have been using MACH3 for my controller for which Aspire has a post processor file that includes ATC, automatic tool change. Aspire does not have a post processor file for LinuxCNC with ATC.


There are two post processors for LinuxCNC in Aspire with no tool changing, one in inches and one in millimeters. I spent a moment thinking I might have to run 3 or 4 separate G code files to get the sign made.

I then considered I should do some research as surely someone has created a post processor file for Aspire and LinuxCNC with tool changing. I found some conversations on the subject but no sources.

I never hacked my own post processor file so that was my next consideration. A little more digging and study and I discovered how ridiculously easy adding ATC to the existing LinuxCNC post processor would be.

If you own Vectric Aspire, everything you need to know to add ATC to any post processor is in the help files that are included with Aspire. Check the help tab on the program screen.

In a few simple steps of code, I now have a beautiful operating post processor with ATC running with Aspire and the LinuxCNC. Sometimes the stars are aligned in the right house and things get easy.

I did a “dry run” (axis moving but no carving) with my new Aspire generated G code. The LinuxCNC stopped and waited for a tool change right on schedule. It’s always best to do a dry test run after making code changes on critical… Continue reading


LinuxCNCI did my homework with a lot of investigative reading and “Live DVD” testing. Today I made the commitment and installed LinuxCNC and the Debian real time Linux on the computer that operates my HB2 CNC router. It totally wiped out the Windows 10 OS (operating system) that was on that computer.

It was one of those “Popeye the Sailor” moments for me where he says, “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more!” Then Popeye gulps down a big slug of spinach. For me it is a big slug of Linux. Ha!

There were several reasons and the big one was Windows 10 habit of constantly changing the operating environment. Random reboots made, and make, me very gun-shy of putting any trust in MS for stable machine control using Win 10. Windows 10 wants to run my life, not my machine tools.

The next reason is MACH3 prefers a 32 bit operating system and Windows has moved beyond that. MACH3 works fine with an external pulse generator running on 64 bit hardware, but it is still like kicking a dead horse to get it to stand up. It ain’t gonna git up an go anywhere… It’s just too old.

The final reason is a high profile CNC vendor has switched to (their own) flavor of LinuxCNC and tossed MACH3 out the door. They did not move to MACH4. That tells me a lot. You know I am talking about Tormach.

I am fluent in Linux so the OS doesn’t bother me at all. I just thought MACH3 offered more features than LinuxCNC back in the day. It has a heck of a lot more configuration settings than LinixCNC. That’s for sure! It had to be “better”.

Actually MACH3 has and still does perform very well for me.… Continue reading

Killer Heat

I operate three PC type computers in my workshop and each controls a separate CNC machine. I have two Taig CNC mills and a home brew (HB2) CNC gantry router. Two of the computers are refurbished., small form factor size. I paid no more than $100 for each of them. One is an HP Compaq and the other is labeled a Compaq. Their styles are different. The third is very similar but larger bare bones built up. Probably $250 invested in it.

None of them have great internal cooling as they were designed to operate in conditioned spaces. My shop operates at outdoor temperature. It’s been running 95 degrees in there for the last two weeks. Outside it has been very near 100.

The larger case unit running the HB2 has stopped suddenly twice in the middle of a long run. It ruined one piece and almost ruined the re-run second.  It is not going to be put back into service again in this hot weather.

The HP-Compaq computer is a sweet little machine, or at least it was. I just let it upgrade from Windows 7 pro to Windows 10. I use it with a smooth stepper so I don’t have to be concerned about pulse timing. The upgrade took many hours of loading and saving files. It converted just fine and MACH3 and the Smooth Stepper were performing well with Win10.



I left it on for a day with it doing nothing but staying on the network. I wanted to see if WIN 10 was going to do any self-updating since the install. When I came back to it the computer was dead. There is a single blinking LED on the motherboard constantly flashing at about 1 Hz with a slight audible click.

I did a lot… Continue reading

Getting My Head on Straight

I had to make another Taig to PNJ (HB2) adapter plate. So I removed the Taig spindle from my HB2 to make a close examination of the adapter plate I had made for myself. The spindle and motor are very easy to adjust in height or remove from the HB2. There is one clamping screw that holds the Taig ER16 spindle on the black clamping plate. No worry, it is a very secure clamp.

Of course it is always a good idea to check spindle alignment after making major movements and what I had also done was loosened the adapter from the Z axis plate. That meant I would have to double check the shims I used to remove a front to back tilt. The shims can be seen in the detail picture.

On a machine like this, when installed in an unconditioned garage shop, and some of the material it is made with is  wood, I don’t believe extreme tramming of the head to (say…) +/- 0.001 across the travel is necessary. Routing wood signs and making Lithophanes isn’t extreme machining. We do want to be perpendicular to the table, have consistent Z height, and have a very rigid machine. But you can be as fussy as you please if you want. I’m good with this.

I am not sure where the offset creating the need for the shims was created. If the Z axis guides are not perfectly vertical, then a full stroke Z would be offset in the Y axis. This type machine (at least mine) is never used for that kind of cut so I am not concerned about any small offset that may be created. I am more interested in cutting a flat X/Y area flat.

One trick I do employ… Continue reading

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