"One Perfect Part at a Time"

MACH4

Reader Email

I received a good question from reader feedback at Ramblin’ Dan’s Store. It was sent to me as a private email, but I think it is worth making my reply public. MPS2000 is a CNC micro-mill produced by MicroProto, the CNC division of Taig Tools. The question is about using a laptop computer for CNC control.

“Looking to see if there is a way to rum my machine (CNC Mill) from a lap top. Has the MPS2000 software been upgraded to true 3D?”

My reply,

Not sure of your question of “true” 3D. I don’t use or support MicroProto (MPS) controllers and am unaware of any (perhaps hardware?) issues about 3D mill operation and the MPS controllers. The software is MACH3 which can certainly run 3D CNC action in 3 or 4 axes on a single parallel port. I have been doing it for nearly 2 decades.

There may be purest fanatics with certain micro accuracy issues with MACH3 and such things as trajectory planning and my answer is, “don’t use it if it is a bother.” In practical use, it works fine for the hundreds of projects I have run. (Because of issues with Windows 10) I recently switched to LinuxCNC. Not perfect either, but is works for what I need. 🙂  BTW… I don’t recommend LinuxCNC to a non-programmer unwilling to hack code.

Tormach for example, has switched to their own (self-supported) version of Linux based CNC called PathPilot https://www.tormach.com/pathpilot.html

The problem with laptops is the built-in energy conservation techniques at the OS or hardware level that may shutdown ports or interrupt the critical pulse timing. Of course, laptops are being used, but there are too many variables for it to be recommended.  One solution is to use an external pulse generator… Continue reading

CNC Control Penchant (and a new pendant)

The switch to Linux CNC was not without some trepidation. I left a machine control system (MACH3) that has worked well for me for over a decade. When something old still does its job very well there is no need to make a change. (It’s a shame human corporate careers don’t follow that philosophy. 🙂

The truth is , MACH3 is still a perfectly fine CNC machine control program. It’s a tool that just keeps working. The problem I have been bemoaning is the computer operating system with which it must operate within, has left it in the dust and moved on to a better social life.

Yes, I have kept the old OS on my old machines, but as I add additional machines and CNC computers to my shop, the old OS, which must have a license to prove it is legal, is no longer provided or can be installed on new hardware. The MACH3 license is a site/owner license so I can run as many copies as I need. The problem is the computer operating system.

So now my go-to is the Linux OS and CNC software called LinuxCNC (a.k.a EMC2).

I am very fluent in the Linux OS, as I have been working with it almost since it was first created. No, I am not a guru, but let me say, “I know the language.” That helps a lot.

I feel sad that I can not highly recommend Linux CNC to every (hobbyist) as a replacement for MACH3. It definitely CAN be a replacement for those folks where editing and rewriting software at the program level and working with Linux at the system command line level, are no problem.

There exists a large amount of documentation. However, Linux CNC is still evolving and I have to be… Continue reading

MACH4 Thoughts

Quad-Screen-Shot1I am interested in giving the new MACH4 a spin. (Pun intended.) Not that I am so excited about plunking down $200 for a single computer license. The days of the MACH3 single license but multiple copies for a single hobby user are still here but it doesn’t work that way for MACH4.

I currently have three CNC machines in my single shop and a computer for each of them. It’s perfectly “legal” for me to load MACH3 on each computer under one MACH3 license.

I have purchased three very nice refurbished PCs from Newegg for $80.00 (yes eighty) each and dedicated each to their own CNC controller.

The same setup with MACH4 would cost me $600.00 just for the licenses. As I have told my friend José, “No way!”

MACH3 has been ripped-off so many times, I completely understand the reasons. Also most hobbyist don’t have three PC’s and three controllers in their shop. One solution could be to put the MACH4 computer on a cart and just wheel it to each controller. A serious alternative for a hobby user. I only run one machine at a time anyway.

I am willing to pick one machine and controller to be a test system with MACH4. In reality I don’t believe I will see any real earth shattering improvement in my CNC operations. However, there is a very good chance that MACH3 may go into a totally unavailable and unsupported hibernation. Probably never to awake again. I think it has already entered into the sleeping den.

MACH3 retirement is a matter of economics and competition to MACH4 growth.

MACH4

MACH4 will really need to interface to an external pulse generator for best performance. There is a parallel port plug in (+$25.00) but MACH4 will then perform no better than… Continue reading

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