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  1. #1
    Hello all,

    I'm new to CNC but I have a fair amount of machining experience over the last 40 years. I am a professional electronics and electrical engineer and former systems programmer (a long time back).

    I have a mill that I am converting to CNC if I can ever get a motion controller to work. I'm on the fourth one now (from different manufacturers) and have tried each on both a Windows 10 (freshly installed) laptop and an old indestructible Toughbook XP machine (that ideally I want to use for the CNC).

    I'm ageing rapidly as nothing I have tried so far does what the suppliers claim. The instructions are just plain wrong in most cases and the software seems hopeless. I'm four months and several hundred hours into this project now and losing the will to live!

    I would be most grateful if anyone can recommend a USB motion controller for Mach3 that actually works. Or should I give up on Mach3 and use something else?

    Your thoughts, words of encouragement or sympathy gratefully received

  2. #2
    Which motion controllers have you tried so far then ?

    When you say systems programmer are you referring to PDP-11 type equipment ?
    Spelling mistakes are not intentional, I only seem to see them some time after I've posted

  3. #3

    Professionally, mostly IBM 370s, IBM Series 1 some PDP and VAX-11s, Various Micros: SC/MP, 6502, 6809, 68000
    My own first computer had 256 bytes of RAM and controlled my model railway.

    Ah for the days when computers did as they were told!

    So far I've tried:
    A breakout board that the supplier claimed would work on either USB or parallel but they actually meant it could be powered from USB (I know rookie mistake).

    A UC-100 added to the breakout board, no life signs. No activity on the USB.

    A Chinese USB motion controller that they said would work with Mach3 but later confessed only worked with their own proprietary software. Not that I could get that to work either.

    A UK supplied (European made) SODIAL USB motion controller. Mach3 didn't even recognise the plugin provided.

    A UK supplied (Far east made) NVUM USB motion controller that was supplied with a plugin driver that didn't match what the instructions claimed. They swear it's the correct plugin. Mach3 recognises the plugin but will not communicate with it.

    I've downloaded Mach3 multiple times and tried copies provided by the controller supplier. All claim to be the same version, 3.043.066 . I've reinstalled Windows 10 on a formatted laptop. I've tried both the USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports and there is data activity on the USB. I've also tried my old Panasonic Toughbook XP machine (ideal for the workshop).

    I am close to binning the whole project and sticking to manual machining.

  4. #4
    m_c's Avatar
    Lives in East Lothian, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 8 Hours Ago Has been a member for 9-10 years. Has a total post count of 2,125. Received thanks 233 times, giving thanks to others 5 times.
    Starting at the top.
    Mach parallel port drivers won't run on any 64bit windows, or any 32bit windows after 7.

    Was it a genuine UC100 board? Amazon and eBay are full of counterfeit copies, none of which are supported by CNC Drive.

    Cheap Chinese is always a gamble.

    The only SODIAL board I've found says Mach 3 substitute, so I would doubt it's meant to work with Mach 3.

    NVUM do seem very plentiful, so I would expect them to work.

    Are the motion controllers showing up correctly in Device Manager with no warnings?
    Win10 can be very temperamental with any drivers that are not signed.
    Avoiding the rubbish customer service from AluminiumWarehouse since July '13.

  5. #5
    Sorry to say this but unfortunately you are the perfect example to others why you should never try build CNC machine on the cheap or without asking advise first.
    I've seen this approach countless times and nearly always ends up costing twice the price of good components. Worse still, as is nearly case with you can lead to folks throwing in the towel giving up on CNC.

    It really doesn't need to be that difficult. People just have to understand and be prepared that building a Good reliable CNC machine can't be done cheaply. Trying to do so just leads to frustration and wasted time & money.


  6. #6

    I was assured it was a genuine UC-100 but without a known good one I didn't have a comparison. It should have worked on my 32 bit XP Toughbook. It went back at their expense.
    I tried the BOB on a very old desktop (not mine) and it seemed to work from the LPT. i.e inputs and outputs functioned I didn't connect it to the stepper drivers.

    The Chinese motion controller was a gamble but why do they bother to say it works with Mach3 and then change their mind when pressed surely they will just get them all sent back! It was well made and appeared well designed for, EMC and isolation. It went back at their expense.

    The SODIAL claimed to have a compatible Mach3 plugin but the .dll simply wasn't seen by Mach3 so clearly it wasn't. Not as well built and lacking good EMC design. The supplied USB cable even had fake ferrite cores on it (just plastic blobs with no ferrite inside!). It's going back at their expense.

    The NVUM is properly made and looks to have sensible EMC design. (inputs are a bit highZ which could give interference problems but that's easy to prevent.) It appears in device manager under Human Interface Devices as HID-compliant vendor-defined device and as USB input device. No errors with either. The plugin option appears when you start Mach3 as: NVUM_F-Novusun-Plugin-Ver 2.0a. It is enabled within Config Plugins but Config then takes me to a dialog that shows:
    ddream device buffer 200ms with ?? in the button
    jog buffer 200ms again with ?? in the button
    They say that doesn't matter !

    The instruction say you should install plugin NVUM_SK.dll but NVUM_F.dll is all that is supplied. They say that is correct in which case the instructions are wrong.
    I get a strong feeling they don't know anything about the product they are selling.

    Anyone got a working .dll plugin for an NVUM ?

    I don't want to go down the route of an old desktop with an LPT. Grinding dust, coolant mist and swarf don't mix with a fan cooled PC. I could look for an old silent (fanless) PC but then I need to find a sealed monitor and somewhere to put it, a keyboard and mouse too.

    I'm beginning to think Mach3 is too based around obsolete tech; LPTs and 32bit OS
    Should I give up on it? Mach3 and Mill Wizard looked a promising setup but they have been totally unhelpful.

    Is there a sensible priced, established, reliable, simple to learn, alternative I should look at?

  7. #7

    I completely agree, after consulting n people I had at least n+1 options! I did consult a lot of people and did my research. I admit being caught out by the USB powered BOB was down to me but every other controller has been based on recommendations / reviews and a detailed set of questions sent to the supplier. Sadly the sales departments of most companies simply say what ever the customer wants to hear and claim you must have misunderstood when challenged after the sale. That's why I record all phone conversations. It won't cost me a penny for products that don't work.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by ManicMetal View Post

    I completely agree, after consulting n people I had at least n+1 options! I did consult a lot of people and did my research.
    Please don't get me wrong here I'm not having a go at you just pointing out to others these things need research and acceptance that it can't be done on shoestring budget.

    Now you say you had advice. Then I suggest you change who you ask because can tell you without a shadow of a doubt no one here would recommend any of those choices you made.
    Those that know would never advise USB and nearly always point you to Ethernet-based controllers unless cost was the issue, even then would issue caution regards USB because it's flaky. Or would point to other very capable alternative systems like Linux CNC and Mesa cards etc.

    While Mach3 is aging and starting to lack behind others in some areas of software it isn't the problem you have been experiencing. Mach3 is very capable software with 10,000's of users working on whole variety of different types of machines and hardware.

    Your problem comes from the fact those cheap or fake controllers have no support for the plug-ins and Mach3 over the years has had many updates which break these plug-ins which are no longer updated.
    Any Device is only good as the support from the supplier regards the Plug-in. Without this, it's just becoming an expensive paperweight.

    Mach3 does work on 64Bit systems and on Win10 perfectly fine. It's the parallel port driver that doesn't so is restricted to 32bit but PP is dinosaur and only fitting it should go the same way.!

    Now in order to help and guide you, we need to know more about the machine and what your needs are.
    Last edited by JAZZCNC; 23-02-2018 at 06:14 PM.

  9. #9
    m_c's Avatar
    Lives in East Lothian, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 8 Hours Ago Has been a member for 9-10 years. Has a total post count of 2,125. Received thanks 233 times, giving thanks to others 5 times.
    The ?? would tell me either the translation is missing, or it's trying to use characters that don't exist on your computer. It shouldn't stop things from working.

    There are 3 different plugins listed here -
    Probably worth trying them all, to see if you any connect to the controller.

    And just to cover the basics, you have connected a suitable 12-32VDC supply to the controller?
    Avoiding the rubbish customer service from AluminiumWarehouse since July '13.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by ManicMetal View Post
    The SODIAL claimed to have a compatible Mach3 plugin but the .dll simply wasn't seen by Mach3 so clearly it wasn't.
    Plugins are usually specific to a small range of Mach3 versions, often just one ;-)
    You think that's too expensive? You're not a Model Engineer are you? :D

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