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  1. #11
    Much as I would like to see different options prevail I feel we are stuck for a while with what we have.
    Art when he wrote Mach3 put an immense of work into it and it very nearly burnt himself out, his words, not mine.
    Unfortunately no one else seems prepared to step up to the plate and come out with the next version, especially for the same amount of money.
    We have had many promises, the Gecko G100 which turned out to be a door stop, the smooth stepper which has frozen in time and lacks any support.

    I know of two people working on USB controllers but one is finished and works after a fashion but the guy isn't interested in working with users, take it or leave it attitude and the other is still hot air.

    EMC is out there but without being derogatory it's written by geeks, for geeks, if you think windows and Mach is hard then Linux and EMC is ear of bat, tongue of newt as regards setting up.

    The 'new' Mach4 is aimed at OEM's or profession retrofitters working on expensive dead machinery, anyone with less than three pound seventeen and six need not apply.
    John S -

  2. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by ecat View Post
    I have a little chip sitting right beside me, 80MHz clock, 1/2MB flash, 32k RAM and something like 80 I/O pins, it costs about 5.
    I have a little chip, 40MHz, 64 pins, 1.88 at 1000 off, already soldered to a PCB.

    On the back 4 RJ45 sockets for 3 stepper drivers and 1 phase converter, 3 switched outputs, 6 buffered inputs, 1 USB socket and one header plug to connect one of those big fat positioning knobs. On the front an RJ45 for the pendant, a spindle speed knob, 5 push buttons and one concealed RST button.

    I built if for my machine so it has everything I want. Would work for anyone who built their machine around it, but people build their machine then think about how to control it. Cart before the horse perhaps, but that's exactly what I did :naughty:
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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  3. #13
    Dear ecat

    Thank you for your previous contribution with the link to slides and ballscrews, but most of all thank you for getting the ball rolling.

    I have to start by saying much of the above sailed clean over my head, but if your initial cost estimates are realistic you have confirmed my suspitions that a suitable controller need not cost a fortune. I wish I could contribute technically but I can't, however I can help with organising such a project and would be prepared to fund a prototype or two to prove the system, after which those in the team could progress however they wish.

    Perhaps when you have a moment you could list the other difficult areas so that members with relevant experience may be enthused enough to join in.

    Geoff Vaizey

  4. #14

    Thank you once again for the benifit of you experience.

    It seems to me that there is little wrong with either the machines or Mach3, the weak link is the PC. Is it not possible to design a dedicated PC in a box that runs Mach3 and talks correctly to the machine. Ecat has made some usefull suggestions and Robin Hewitt has clearly trod this path before.

    I think it is time for me to stand back for a while and see if we can put a team together.

    Geoff Vaizey

  5. #15

    Thank you for your contribution, you clearly have much valuable experience in these matters.

    Geoff Vaizey

  6. #16
    m_c's Avatar
    Lives in East Lothian, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 16 Hours Ago Has been a member for 9-10 years. Has a total post count of 2,147. Received thanks 236 times, giving thanks to others 5 times.
    I suspect at the current moment, the Mach in a box type of set-up, is the nearest you're going to get to a plug and play solution.

    As for the Smoothstepper, Greg has been active on his forum over the past week, and it looks like things are finally progressing. His latest post (as of 14hrs ago), says he'll hopefully be releasing a test plug-in for slaved homing tomorrow provided it tests ok, and then he'll be working on finishing up the backlash compensation. So with any luck, it might be done by the time I get my new toy wired up!

  7. #17
    EMC is out there but without being derogatory it's written by geeks, for geeks, if you think windows and Mach is hard then Linux and EMC is ear of bat, tongue of newt as regards setting up.

    Quite an interesting interpretation? Being an EMC2 user i would have to disagree, i actually found EMC easier to get to grips with than MACH3. What is interesting is that what you get because it is free is unconditional help and a shed load of people inputting to the code and improvements because they want to and not for a pay check. The big problem you face whether it be free or for money is that hardware dictates most of the software changes made by any developer (keeping it up to date). Fixes come before improvement and upgrades takes a lot more time to develop and deploy.

    If you could have a proprietary software in a box solution, what they do is start a company like all the big boys and charge a lot more money for the fruits of your labour. Plug and play comes at a cost.
    If the nagging gets really bad......Get a bigger shed:naughty:

  8. #18
    ecat's Avatar
    Location unknown. Last Activity: 08-02-2014 Has been a member for 6-7 years. Has a total post count of 157. Received thanks 5 times, giving thanks to others 8 times.
    Oh PCB porn, that's a beautiful looking board :) Driven via USB so you still need a PC for the user interface?

    You're welcome :) but as well as point out some of the basic building blocks I was also prompting at the overall hardware costs of small scale production of a full controller, the software costs, as JohnS hinted, could be much, much higher.

    If you are thinking of a one off unit or a production run of a few hundred units then dedicated hardware and software makes some sense. If the numbers are anywhere in-between then a PC platform makes good sense, especially if a complex user interface is required and doubly so if software is already available.

    The problem with the PC platform is not due to all the subtle and not so subtle differences in makes and models, this can be addressed by targeting a specific board implementation. The problem is the insanely short life span of the various makes and models meaning that a chosen board will be end of life within 6 months. Thankfully, this can also be addressed, mostly, with a bit of luck and sprinkling of bat tongues and newt ears ;)

    The trick is to chose a light industrial solution. VIA, Jetway and others produce such boards which often have a production life of several years. They may not be the cheapest, 50 to 150 each, but if one of these can be certified to run something like EMC, or if a version of EMC can be tailored specifically for one of these boards then a cost effective, readily available, supported and documented solution is at hand.

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