View Full Version : CONVERSION: Denford Novamill 1996 Conversion, Hints & Tips Appreciated

29-04-2016, 07:54 AM
Hi there,

I recently acquired a Denford Novamill from a friend for a few quid. I'm obviously looking to get her up and running and wanted to poke you guys for some thoughts as well as record my progress here. I've been scouring the net for info and have already come across Denfords forum which I've had a good read of. There's not a definite "how to" step by step guide around which was a shame considering it's a sort-of common conversion to make.

My first decision to make is which direction to go for the conversion, my understanding is that converting for Mach3 use is a good way to go. But, I've also seen that my unit may have had an EPROM upgrade to 2.1? meaning I could purchase a license to some other software and use that? Not sure on that front, however I'd rather go with the most commonly used software which at the moment sounds like it'll be Mach3. I do have a spare PC that can run a serial port, however I'd rather get her working on USB for future proofing.

Thanks for any input :) Pictures to follow:

http://i.imgur.com/iqh3l8ul.jpg (http://imgur.com/iqh3l8u.jpg)

http://i.imgur.com/jdAvWgyl.jpg (http://imgur.com/jdAvWgy.jpg)

http://i.imgur.com/FIxgnjnl.jpg (http://imgur.com/FIxgnjn.jpg)

http://i.imgur.com/0b5PQUwl.jpg (http://imgur.com/0b5PQUw.jpg)

http://i.imgur.com/b7VCgXel.jpg (http://imgur.com/b7VCgXe.jpg)

http://i.imgur.com/5SDIjaRl.jpg (http://imgur.com/5SDIjaR.jpg)

http://i.imgur.com/KtLJWnWl.jpg (http://imgur.com/KtLJWnW.jpg)

29-04-2016, 11:08 AM
You could run the mill using VR Milling 2, as I don't think VR Milling 5 supports serial. I use 5, however my machine had been upgraded to the USB controller, and came with a license.

You would have to get a license for VR Milling 2 to use it. Denford will sell you a new license, however if you were to find a somebody who already has a license, Denford are OK with you using licenses that came with the machine, but won't re-issue a license to anybody other than the original buyer.

Personally, with the absence of a working license, I'd be looking at doing some form of retrofit.
Basic level would be to add a basic breakout board, remove the controller board (that's the top board of the two boards at the top left of the cabinet), and patch into the existing stepper drivers (they're built into the lower of the top two boards), and then patch the other signals into the BOB, however you would need a BOB that supported 12V signals.

A more involved retrofit would be to replace the controller and stepper drivers. This could potentially give you better performance, as modern stepper drivers are far better than what is currently fitted.

Final option would be redo the control box completely. The 12V control switching, although far more robust than the typical hobbyist 5V, can be a problem. Most more industrial controllers are geared to 24V controls, so you'd most likely need to convert either up to 24V or down to 5V.
Although a Dynomotion KFlop and KStep combo would allow you to stick to 12V and give you pretty good stepper drivers, as the KStep is capable of 12-24V inputs.
I say pretty good, because although they're not as good as modern digital drivers, they'll still be an improvement over the fitted drivers, and if you were really wanting maximum performance, you'd need to look at replacing the motors with more modern ones.

29-04-2016, 11:17 AM
Great info, thanks. By "performance" are you referring to speed or accuracy? Speed isn't the end of the world for me as it's a hobbyist machine at the end of the day, accuracy would be more of a concern though.

Cost being kept to a minimum would be preferable of course, so of your options:

1) VR milling 2.

2) Retrofit: Basic 12V BoB, remove control board, patch into stepper drivers.

3) Retrofit: Replace controller & stepper drivers.

4) Retrofit: Replace whole box with 5V or 24V system.

Option 2 is sounding the most appealing.

I've seen people referring to break out boards (BoB) all over the place but I've yet to find a simple beginners guide on them. I assume there is a standard format these BoB's come in and it's just a case of choosing a brand? All they do is take the signals from USB and separate them out into the relevant control signals? Forgive my very basic questions, have to start somewhere!


29-04-2016, 11:51 AM
BOBs come in various forms.
At the most basic, they connect to a parallel port and simply breakout the pins to more convenient terminals, which gives you the option of running Mach3/4 or LinuxCNC.

More advanced ones add in extra features, such as relays, 0-10V output (you'll need this for your spindle speed control), opto-isolation (avoids the computer getting fried if something goes wrong with the wiring).

However, you'll need to consider what controller and/or software you're going to use. Parallel port (PP) is the most basic option, but PPs are gradually dying. So then you're looking at external motion controllers. Common options being USB/Ethernet SmoothStepper, CSLabs CSMxxx, Dynomotion KFlop, PMDX (highly recommended for BOBs) have recently started producing their own controllers, and there are a few others. All those will tie you into certain software, so you might want to consider what software you'd like to run, as the software may be an additional cost depending on what you choose.
Then if you go the LinuxCNC option, you're looking at either PP, or internal Mesa cards.

I won't deny it, as for a beginner, it is a minefield!
In a nutshell, the more common options are-
LinuxCNC obviously runs on Linux. Only limitation is what you're capable of coding. Good if you like Linux or are willing to learn. Support can be very hit or miss.
Mach 3 will run indefinitely in Demo mode, with a limit of 500 lines of G-code and no Run From Here option.
Mach 4 will run with no limitations for a random amount of time before stopping generating motion.
Community support for Mach3 is excellent, as it's been around for a long time. Mach 4 isn't quite as good, but the user base is increasing as it becomes a more mature product.
There are also lots of proprietary controller and software packages, like PlanetCNC (and plenty others but just had a total mind blank!)

I personally run KFlops, as I like how highly customisable they are, and I've just changed from Mach3 to KMotionCNC (Dynomotion's own CNC software which is free) on my lathe, and I'm loving the no nonsense interface compared with Mach3. I'm still running Mach3 on my little probing machine, as KMotionCNC doesn't handle writing probing data to files, so there are pros and cons with all options.
However if I was starting as a beginner now, I'm not sure what option I would take!

29-04-2016, 11:56 AM
Regarding performance, yes, it means speed.
The latest drivers will accelerate motors far quicker and smoother than older drivers. Actual accuracy won't improve, as even though modern drives will have smaller microsteps, you can only guarantee accuracy to within a full motor step.

29-04-2016, 12:11 PM
Once again, thanks for the info :)

I'll be in the US in 3 weeks time so I should probably figure out what electronics I want before then! Looking at the smoothstepper boards they appear cheaper over there (isn't everything).

The options you mentioned:


CSLabs CSM__:
http://www.cs-lab.eu/en/produkt-18,2-CSMIOIPM_4axis_Ethernet_Motion_Controller_stepdir_ with_connectors.html



I've not delved into Linux yet but it is on my to do list definitely, but for now I want to make this as simple as possible so best not introduce a further way for me to screw up. I'll likely head for Mach3 from what I've read.

I guess I have to figure out the pro's and con's of each board now to understand why they are priced differently.

30-04-2016, 03:20 PM
So this is what I can see so far with BoB's:

Name - PMDX-424 Rev A
Link - http://www.pmdx.com/PMDX-424
Voltage - 5V
cost - >$238.00

Name - Ethernet Smoothstepper Motion control board bundle
Link - https://emvioeng.com/shop/product/ess-bundle/
Voltage - 5V
Cost - 175

Name - KFLOP
Link - http://dynomotion.com/KFLOP.html
Voltage - 5V
Cost - >$249

Name - CSMIO/IP-M 4-axis Ethernet Motion Controller (step/dir) with connectors
Link - http://www.cs-lab.eu/en/produkt-18,2-CSMIOIPM_4axis_Ethernet_Motion_Controller_stepdir_ with_connectors.html
Voltage - <30V
Cost - 229.00 EUR

Name - Mach3 Usb Motion Card (AKZ250)
link - http://leafboy77.com/index.php/en/home/16-english-categories/mach3/usb-motion/card-akz250/1-mach3-usb-motion-card-akz250
Voltage - 5V
Cost - Cannot find

Please correct me if I'm wrong anywhere in that table. What I can easily see is that 5V is the commonly used voltage, and I think I'm right in saying that in order to use that I'd need to pull out both the board I have circled in blue AND the board circled in red? And then buy stepper drivers along with the BoB to replace it all?


30-04-2016, 11:21 PM
What you've listed aren't really BoBs, they're motion controllers. Some will benefit from a suitable BoB to make wiring easier.

In your photo, the blue board is the motion controller, and the red board the stepper drivers (I think it also provides the analogue output for the spindle). So if you were to remove both, you'd need to install new stepper drivers.
You could either go for individual stepper drivers (Leadshine of some form, or Gecko G251s would work), or if you were to go the KFlop route, you could add the KStep board which includes 4 stepper drivers, as well as 12-24V inputs.

One thing to remember, is if you do buy from outwith the EU, you'll have to pay import tax/VAT/customs charges.

01-05-2016, 09:44 AM
Ahh ok then.

So if I were to go for the motion controller and the stepper drivers, I'd be looking at something like:

Motion Controller:
Name - Ethernet Smoothstepper Motion control board bundle
Link - https://emvioeng.com/shop/product/ess-bundle/
Voltage - 5V
Cost - 175

Name - G251X 3.5A 50VDC Step motor
Link - http://www.charter-controls.com/product/stepper-motor-drives/step-motor-controllers/g251x-3-5a-50vdc-step-motor-drive/1342/
Cost - 3x 60 = 180

Total: 355
The KStep KFlop route costs: $448 + tax (306+tax)

OR, if I use a motion controller that works at 12V like the CSLabs CSM (http://www.cs-lab.eu/en/produkt-18,2-CSMIOIPM_4axis_Ethernet_Motion_Controller_stepdir_ with_connectors.html), then I can plug that into the existing stepper driver board.

Am I reading it's datasheet right? "Maximum voltage on in/out lines = 30VDC"?

So I'm staring at the cabinet and realise that I need to understand more before I go further... Anyone fancy helping me put names to the numbers? :)


Thanks again for the help!

01-05-2016, 11:13 AM
Something like that. You'd probably also want a BoB to go with the ESS to make wiring easier. That bundle includes the required adapter leads, so you'd just need a BoB.

If you do a search over on the denford forum, there's a zip file with wiring diagrams. They probably won't be the specific ones for your machine, but they'll give you a good idea, especially since Denford usually used the same wire numbers for everything.

1 - Controller
2 - Stepper Drivers
3 - main power switch and most likely an input filter/choke
4 - Control relays. At a guess, there'll be safety guard interlock, spindle on, EStop relays. They should be marked
5 - Not sure. Looks like it plugs into the Controller, so could be some kind of interface board. Where do the wires go?
6 - Terminal strips/fuses.
7 - IIRC it's some form of power supply filter
8 - Spindle drive board
9 - Transformer for the controller/stepper drivers (which has reminded 2 also handles the power supplies)
10 - choke for the spindle motor

04-05-2016, 09:17 AM
Thanks once again, m_c. I really do owe you a beer or two for taking the time to help!

5 - Not sure. Looks like it plugs into the Controller, so could be some kind of interface board. Where do the wires go?


It has a ribbon cable going to the Motion controller, it only has the two wires coming in at the bottom.


I'm currently looking at these options:

KFLOP & KSTEP (http://dynomotion.com/purchase.html) Bought in the US and stuffed in my case for 333.
SmoothStepper (https://emvioeng.com/shop/product/ess-bundle/) & 3x G251X 3.5A 50VDC Step motor drive (http://www.charter-controls.com/product/stepper-motor-drives/step-motor-controllers/g251x-3-5a-50vdc-step-motor-drive/1342/) Bought in the UK for 370
CSLABS CSM (http://www.zappautomation.co.uk/electrical-products/cnc-motion-controllers-18/motion-controllers-from-cs-labs/csmio-ip-m-4-axis-ethernet-motion-controller-step-dir.html) Bought in the UK 250. Still don't know if I can use this direct with the existing stepper board?

As much as I really want to go for the KFLOP as it looks like a neat package at a decent price... I would really want to buy from the UK if I can so I have easy support if something is faulty or goes wrong.

The next option would be the CSlabs box, that is if it will work with the existing drivers which I'm still not sure on.

Finally at the more expensive end of the spectrum there's the SmoothStepper, can buy from the UK and it seems a lot of people use them.

I might head over the the Denford forum and ask there now I know a bit more... Thanks :) I'll keep you updated.

EDIT: Found the correct page referencing the layout.

05-05-2016, 12:15 AM
Something tells me that extra board could be for the 0-10V for the spindle drive, with the big ribbon cable simply being convenient for connecting things.

I've got to admit, I do have concerns for if any of my Dynomotion stuff dies, as delivery usually takes a couple weeks or so, mostly due to Customs clearance. However, I've not yet killed anything, and I do currently have a spare KFlop/Kanalog/Konnect bundle.

05-05-2016, 07:32 AM
the step and direction signals on the cslabs controller are 5V. just the outputs are up to 30v.
Personally i would still go for the cslabs controller

John S
05-05-2016, 10:34 AM
Go for some of the leadshine M542's, they are cheaper and better than the Gecko drives and if you do get trouble you can get a replacement fast.
If you fancy going the Kflop route, contact me as I have a brand new board here, never fitted to anything.

The leafboy board is a BoB and not a motion controller. They are very good. Sieg have been fitting these in thier KX series CNC mills for about 5 years and AFAIK only one failure which was a wiring fault anyway.

05-05-2016, 10:50 PM
Watch out if you are using the original spindle speed controller and want to run it from Mach 3. Its 0-10v input is not isolated from the mains, so a BoB with a ground referenced 0-10v output can't be connected without blowing something up. You will need an isolating buffer, there are a couple of circuits around that takes the PWM speed control through an opto isolator and smooth it to produce the dc signal. There is a thread somewhere on this forum I think, or maybe on cnczone.

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

05-05-2016, 10:57 PM
Found it. Look for a thread called Denford Novamill Mach3 Conversion on this forum. There's a circuit there I designed which has been built and works.

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

05-05-2016, 11:07 PM
I'd forgotten about that issue.

It won't be an issue if you use a KStep, as the 0-10V analog output is isolated, however I'm not sure about the CSMIO/IP-M. I've just had a quick scan of the manual, and it's pretty vague. It certainly doesn't mention isolation.

06-05-2016, 08:19 PM
this is everything you need for a good conversaion

Ethernet smoothstepper

http://www.amadeal.co.uk/acatalog/Sm...ernet-794.html (http://www.amadeal.co.uk/acatalog/SmoothStepper-Ethernet-794.html)

3x drivers

https://www.cnc4you.co.uk/Stepper-Mo...tepping-CW5045 (https://www.cnc4you.co.uk/Stepper-Motor-Driver-4.5A,-50V-CNC-Microstepping-CW5045)

Breakout board


48v psu

https://www.cnc4you.co.uk/Breakout-B...U-48Volt-12Amp (https://www.cnc4you.co.uk/Breakout-Board-and-PSU's/600W-PSU-48Volt-12Amp)

total 450

oh forgot and you will need a spindle v4 or v5 board

06-05-2016, 11:08 PM
One of the major benefits of a KStep, is it combines controller, stepper drives, and 0-10V on the one board. My only complaint is all the IO and 0-10V is on IDC header, so you do need a small BoB to make life easier(about 10 upwards on ebay - search for "16pin IDC breakout board")
As this is a Novamill conversion, space in the cabinet is limited, unless you're willing to alter the cabinet layout. I'd need to measure to check, but I think you should be able to squeeze a KStep into the existing controller space.

Power supply wise, a bridge rectifier and capacitor is all that's needed to get a supply for stepper drivers. I just checked the wiring diagram, and the transformer outputs 28VAC, which should give about 40VDC. I also noticed the diagram shows a 24VDC supply for the control electrics. Not sure why I thought it was 12V...

If you don't want to rely on USB for 5V, you'll need to add in a 5V power supply. I personally use switched mode DIN rail mount ones, as they do the job in a nice compact format. Not the cheapest option, but easy to install.

To give you an idea of how compact the KStep setup is, here's a photo of my prober/CMM control cabinet -
I made my own BoB with what I had lying around, but then I only needed two inputs (EStop and Probe). If I wasn't in a rush to get the machine running at the time, I would of ordered a ready made BoB.
The build thread can be found at http://www.machsupport.com/forum/index.php/topic,27732.0.html with some info about running it closed loop at the bottom of the first page.

John S
08-05-2016, 11:48 AM
Or Pokeys 57CNCdb25 for 79 Euro


Cheap breakout board from China for 5


This does spindle control and speed.

Then add the power supply and 3 drivers.

09-05-2016, 08:56 AM
Oh wow, thanks for all the responses guys! Sorry I've not been on, the good weather meant I could crack on with weather proofing the workshop with a new roof! I'm a bit burned now haha.

I'll read through it all and try to get to grips with all the suggestions.

Thanks once again!

02-11-2017, 04:14 PM
Hi, just run across your thread. I also in the last 2 weeks picked up a 2000ish novamill and with some careful reading on the web of various threads and a little trial and error on mach3 settings combined with a princely sum of around $60 I have the novamill up and running on mach3 using the existing controller hardware.

X,Y,Z full motion
homing switches working
e stop working both soft and via panic button on the machine
spindle on/off
spindle pwm speed control

I already had an older dell desktop with a printer port and mach3 as i have a 4x8 cnc router.

let me know if you need any help if you want to go the same way. I may eventually replace the steppers and boards with upgraded units but for now it was cool to get it running for minimal cost.