"One Perfect Part at a Time"


Smoothstepper a Champion Again!

Once a real smoothie, then a stumble bum, now a VERY smooth stepper again. One tiny software update can change what became a chunk of lead back into pure gold. I don’t know what made the step controller a forgetful POS but I very pleased it has found its feet again.

I suspect it may have been Microsoft fooling around with the USB ports. It is always easy (fun?) to poke at a large and favorite target like MS. But perhaps it could be whomever wrote the USB driver code for Smoothstepper, left out an unneeded (at the time) refresh timer that was in the USB spec for critical devices all along.

It doesn’t matter. There is a fix and seems to be working perfectly. I am extremely impressed again with the very smooth operation. I just finished a six (6) hour run of continuous spiral micro machining of a round dome shape with lettering. That requires all three axis working very hard. I used three tools which means two tool changes with Z axis reset. It went flawlessly! Yes, my trust in the software and Smoothstepper is back.

Lesson Learned: When a new problem appears, I must think about what was just changed. A software update? If I can do a restore, I could see if the problem disappears. Always check web sites for bug reports. I may not be the only one with the problem. I never believe solutions I read from other users. They may be correct but there is a LOT of bad advice in forums. I look for official sources. They don’t respond first or very often. I look for official software updates.

Stumbling Warp9TD Smoothstepper

Update 10/1/12 (see below)

If you have been reading me for awhile, you know I purchased a USB Warp9 TD Smoothstepper for my Taig CNC mill controller. The link in the sentence above is to the last time I posted on the Smoothstepper.

It has been running wonderfully well until my last project. I was doing several roughing tool changes then a long three hour run with a 0.005″ ball end mill. When I was stopping the spindle motor for a tool change I was getting a glitch that would give me an E-Stop in MACH3. I would also get communication errors with the Smoothstepper saying MACH3 hadn’t “talked” to it for awhile on the USB port so it would go into a lock up state. Very frustrating as it required a Smoothstepper power off reboot and trying to salvage the run somewhere in the middle of the program.

Thoughts of ripping out the Smoothstepper and going back to parallel port did cross my mind. But I am more analytic than that. What had changed?

I remember reading one of the issues with the USB version and why Warp9 TD is producing the LAN version is noise issues on the USB line. The USB interface was never designed to survive interference as well as a LAN interface that in typical applications may run hundreds of feet through noisy environments. So I looked where I had routed my USB cable.

I had recently neaten-upped my cabling and run the USB along with a lot of power wiring along the side of my computer and in parallel with my power surge protector strip. I am a control systems expert and I know better. My USB cable has no industrial strength shielding. Yes, there are some USB… Continue reading

Smooth Stepper Update

The Smooth Stepper has been in use through several projects. In the picture you can see it installed (green board to the right) with the USB port poking through the front of the case.

I have routed the ribbon cable past the far end of the main board since this picture was taken but it makes no operational difference. It just looked to be a little better wiring practice not passing over the center of the board.

Performance has been outstanding as far as glitch free very smooth stream of pulses. The direct parallel port operation was always first class so without using an oscilloscope, it is more of my personal perception of operational difference. It determinately “sounds” smooth and continuous when running the steppers. Listen to the 4th axis videos in this blog.

My opinion for this installation is the Smooth Stepper is extra piece of mind that I am running with the smoothest pulse stream possible (within my budget.)

There are many I/O ports on the board I am not using in this application. That indicates the Smooth Stepper can do a lot more than generate step pulses. I can see how it could be used in robotic I/O machine control as well as CNC machining.

My OS is Win XP Pro on a custom built AMX dual processor desktop running nothing but MACH3 when doing CNC. I added a high speed parallel port card. There was no parallel port on the mother board. The XP Pro is the best OS scenario for MACH3 on a parallel port. I can option boot into Linux OS for other shop computer uses.

The new Smooth Stepper just steps up my entire system quality and my goal is to have the best output for doing very small and accurate machining. The… Continue reading

Getting “A” Turned On

Late Saturday night I found some time to to work in Aspire software to create a little project I could run using the 4th axis on the Taig. Little did I realize what an intense learning experience I was about to endure.

The first challenge was to learn how Vectric Aspire creates a forth axis tool path. I do a little reading and I dive right in. After working for a couple of hours burning the midnight oil, I realized I was making something far more difficult than it needed to be especially for a first project.

A shallow pocket and add a shallow pocketed name inside of that and see if the shop computer and MACH3 can make it wrap around a cylinder. That’s all I really need.

I had a piece of inch and a quarter aluminum bar. I figured this would be the perfect victim for my first attempts. So on Sunday I began setting up the mechanical side of this experiment out in the shop.

You can see I had to be super cautious around the three jaws so I wouldn’t crash into them. I also discovered what I think is a clever trick for zeroing the Z axis. If I touch off on the top of the tail post I am exactly 0.450 inches above dead center.

All the above was the easy stuff. The hardest time I had was to figure out the MACH3 setup for 4th axis. The first run I showed in the previous post was way off base. I will probably have to write a story for the THMS main site with some more pictures of a real project. I can save someone a lot of trial and error from my experience.

With quarter stepping I am set up for 160… Continue reading

Taig 4th Axis Operational

I have it fully wired and working. I didn’t make finishing this project a high priority because I really don’t have anything to make on the 4th axis. I have lots of ideas but nothing designed.

The work on getting the SmoothStepper installed kind of kicked my butt and said, “What are you waiting on?” I didn’t have a real good answer for myself. I knew there wasn’t much more work. All I had to finish was the wiring.

Then I had to find the piece of paper on how to set up the controller for the correct current for the new stepper motor. I think I spent as much time searching for the document as wiring up the cable.

The final step was to research MACH3 and figure out how to set up a rotary axis for the “A” channel. Since I have never done it before it was a new experience. I didn’t even know for sure how to set up the pulse rate. Right now the acceleration and the top speed are still sort of a SWAG. That’s a Scientific Wild Ass Guess.

In any case, the video here is proof that it is running. I may next have to invest in Art Fenerty’s gear design program so I have something to make on the 4th axis.


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