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IndustryArena Forum > WoodWorking Machines > DIY CNC Router Table Machines > Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.
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  1. #1
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    Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.

    I currently use a G540 on my CNC and have found it very reliable but I'm struggling with the parallel port connectivity and that its for 4 axis, 2 un-needed. I'm also design unaware, meaning the G540 is nice package in that I just need to connect the servo's to the unit, power it and go. With steppers and drivers it's a little more complicated.. I think the setup is a Motion controller, BOB?, steppers, drivers and power source... is a BOB needed???

    I'd like to be able to use my laptop (Windows) and I would probably shy away from Linux.

    So, my questions are in no certain order...

    - Does it make sense to go G540 again and use UC100 to interface to my laptop?
    - Is it cheaper to simply go with 2 steppers and drivers and an inexpensive BOB?
    - If going the 2 steppers and driver route, are there suggestions for good reliable inexpensive equipment? I'm not looking for top dollar just reliability. I have Keeling motors on my current machine and have no issue with them, are there alternatives?
    - What Motion Controller should I be looking at? Warp9, UC300, K flop, etc.?
    - Reliability and ease of use, recommendations?

    Appreciate any input...

    Adam,
    Gecko G540, Rack and Pinion Drives-X and A axis, 1/2-10 5 Start Acme-Z Axis
    4-THK HSR 25 Linear Slides, KL23H2100-35-4B, Power Supply-KL-600-48 48V

  2. #2

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    Re: Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.

    Quote Originally Posted by adam_m View Post
    - Does it make sense to go G540 again and use UC100 to interface to my laptop?
    Adam,
    That is what I am using with my current 4 axis router. It has been very reliable. For your case, you have the two extra drivers on the G540, but it sure is using the "easy button".

  3. #3
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    Re: Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.

    Thanks for the reply LorenBMS. The problem with the G540 is the communication, parallel port, it just isn't viable and makes little sense to build a new system using it.

    So, I'm thinking of using UC300, UC400, Smoothstepper to fix the communication issue but am totally blind on what's after that... the G540 has it all in one nice package, I wish they would come out with a unit with an Ethernet interface...

    I think I need a BOB to make the physical connections but have no clue as to what to use for that. Does price, manufacturer matter on a BOB, I'm guessing yes, but isn't it used for simply connecting the steppers? it seems like it should be a relatively inexpensive piece but I don't know.

    I also believe I need drivers in addition to the steppers themselves. With the G540 being such a compact unit, why are all of the drivers so large and frankly so costly?? Can anyone recommend some drivers and or steppers they are suing?

    Just trying to put some quality electronics together at a budget friendly price.

    Adam,
    Gecko G540, Rack and Pinion Drives-X and A axis, 1/2-10 5 Start Acme-Z Axis
    4-THK HSR 25 Linear Slides, KL23H2100-35-4B, Power Supply-KL-600-48 48V

  4. #4

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    Re: Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.

    That is where the UCCNC UC100 comes in to plug into the PC's USB port.

  5. #5
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    Re: Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.

    Quote Originally Posted by LorenBMS View Post
    That is what I am using with my current 4 axis router. It has been very reliable. For your case, you have the two extra drivers on the G540, but it sure is using the "easy button".
    Same here.... UC100 is a big improvement over mach3/ parallel port and is an easy setup. I changed over when I had to replace the computer and didn't want to mess with the parallel port again and glad I did. If you already have the G540 then adding the UC100 would be the easiest and cheapest way to go.

    Not an expert here but the limitations on the G540 is the amount of power you can run through it. It also gets very hot due to being a small footprint where putting the same electronics in a bigger/separate packages has to allow them to run cooler. I put mine in an enclosure (old electrical panel) and added a fan to keep it cool. It has been running for several years with no problems. Not what I would buy today but it was the go to setup when I built my CNC and since it isn't broke... I'm not "fixing" it

  6. #6
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    Re: Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.

    The G540 will remain on my original CNC as its up and running and doing well... assuming you're moving away from a G540 do you have preferences?

    When looking at a BOB, it appears they all have headers designed for just stripped wire.. is there a BOB designed for a 9pin connector similar to the G540? I'm assuming the headers are used simply because steppers vary in connectivity and a 9 pin cable won't always work?

    Adam,
    Gecko G540, Rack and Pinion Drives-X and A axis, 1/2-10 5 Start Acme-Z Axis
    4-THK HSR 25 Linear Slides, KL23H2100-35-4B, Power Supply-KL-600-48 48V

  7. #7

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    Re: Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.

    I don't know that there is any advantage to a DB9 connector vs a terminal block type.

    Have you looked at the https://cncdrive.com/AXBB.html

  8. #8
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    Re: Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.

    Hi,
    you can still use the G540 with an external motion controller like a UC100, UC300, or an Ethernet SmoothStepper.

    The G540 has a DB25 'parallel input' socket, and all of the devices I mention have a 'parallel output port' albeit with an IDC connector rather than a DB25 socket. So just plug the G540 into port1
    (with a IDC-DB25 adapter cable) of the ESS and away you go.

    It is true that the G540 has only 17 IOs, and you might want more IOs, so you could just add a second breakout board like a C10 ($23.00) to port 2
    of an ESS then you'd have the original G540 plus another 17 IOs from the second breakout board for a total of 34 IOs.

    Craig

  9. #9
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    Re: Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.

    Thanks for the reply's. It seems I'm not getting far from the G540 and I do understand why, its been very reliable and is complete in a nice package, the parallel port is its only downfall.

    Adam,
    Gecko G540, Rack and Pinion Drives-X and A axis, 1/2-10 5 Start Acme-Z Axis
    4-THK HSR 25 Linear Slides, KL23H2100-35-4B, Power Supply-KL-600-48 48V

  10. #10
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    Re: Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.

    Hi,

    its been very reliable and is complete in a nice package, the parallel port is its only downfall.
    That is not correct, a G540 can be run perfectly well WITHOUT a parallel port.

    Take a look at a UC100, it is USB connected to your PC, inside it has an FPGA, a clever device that makes pulse streams, and puts them out on a DB25 socket.
    You might say it looks like a parallel port, but it is not, its a genuine motion controller and beats Machs parallel port hands down.You could plug your G540 into it....just like that.

    An Ethernet SmoothStepper is Ethernet connected to your PC, and it has three parallel port (equivalent) output ports, not in regular DB25 style but a 26 pin IDC header.
    With a an IDC-to-DB25 adaptor cable you could plug you G540 into it......that all. Machs parallel port runs at 25kHz (default), a UC100 at 100kHz, but an Ethernet SmoothStepper runs at
    4MHz, 160 times faster than Machs parallel port and yet runs on any PC, Windows XP through Windows 11, 32 OR 64 bit, laptop or desktop....and with none of the stuttering
    and BS you get with a parallel port.

    If you want a separate breakout board and separate drivers then by all means buy them, but if you want to re-use your existing G540 you can and still get away from the
    slow-as-a-wet-week parallel port.

    Craig

  11. #11
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    Re: Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.

    Thanks Craig.... after reading your post I'm understanding that Mach3 is a huge bottleneck??

    If Mach3 runs at a max of 25kHz then is there no chance of the communication chain running faster than 25kHz, regardless of using a smoothstepper, UC100, etc? I'm trying to understand the communication bottleneck there...

    What happens if I were to use a smoothstepper, G540 and Mach? Would it still be limited to the 25kHz communication or would it max at 4mHz?

    Adam,
    Gecko G540, Rack and Pinion Drives-X and A axis, 1/2-10 5 Start Acme-Z Axis
    4-THK HSR 25 Linear Slides, KL23H2100-35-4B, Power Supply-KL-600-48 48V

  12. #12
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    Re: Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.

    Hi

    If Mach3 runs at a max of 25kHz then is there no chance of the communication chain running faster than 25kHz, regardless of using a smoothstepper, UC100, etc? I'm trying to understand the communication bottleneck there...
    No that is not correct either. Mach is a Windows application that provides numeric trajectory data to a motion controller. For many years the only real choice for a motion controller was Machs parallel port.
    Note the Mach, the application, is separate from Machs parallel port, the motion controller. Machs parallel port is and relies on code running within the CPUs kernel to generate accurately timed pulse
    streams. Windows PCs are not well suited to this task, in fact many were amazed that Art Fennerty ever manged to get it to work at all. At the time however there were no other choice for hobbyists,
    and Machs parallel port started the CNC hobby revolution.

    One of the consequences of using an interrupt driven timer for generating pulse streams is that its quite slow and subject to timing errors. Mach3's parallel port can run up to 25kHz (default) with some
    well sorted PCs might push that out to 65kHz, 100kHz is theoretically possible, but not practical.

    Mach3 the application however can run as fast as needed, it is after all only providing numeric data, which is something that Windows PCs are very good at.

    The comparison is that Mach parallel port at default kernel speed can produce a maximum frequency pulse train of 25kHz. The same comparison with a UC100 is 100kHz.With an
    ESS that is 4MHz. In truth the maximum pusle speed required is the frequency at which your steppers can operate, ie max velocity. This is subject to things like microstepping
    and can often be chosen such that 25kHz is entirely enough.

    My new build mill uses Delta servos. They are set up (programmed) to turn one revolution with 5000 pulses, and the ballscrew is 5mm pitch. That means that the resolution is 1um
    which is very adequate. My servos can spin at 5000rpm, so the max frequency I would require to have them spin at max is 5000 x 5000 / 60 = 416.7 kHz. Neither Machs parallel port
    nor the UC100 can even get close. If I used a parallel port I would have to program the servos to 300 pulses per rev or 16um resolution, which would be disappointing.

    To take advantage of my servos superior speed AND resolution I need a motion controller capable of at lest 416.7kHz, the ESS does this no trouble.

    Mach, the application, can provide the numeric data to keep the ESS going no trouble.

    Years ago I used a parallel port and Mach3, and it worked pretty well. Then I bought an ESS and I found that I could increase my G0 rapids by 33% without losing steps due to the much smoother
    more accurate delivery of pulses to my stepper drivers. I would not have guessed that my previous parallel port installation was bad, and it wasn't, but its just that the ESS is that much
    smoother.

    What happens if I were to use a smoothstepper, G540 and Mach?
    In short you would not notice a great deal of difference. You could use the higher speed of the ESS to increase the microsteppeing, which may improve the smoothness of motion
    but not by much. What you would notice is that your PC can deliver its data WITHOUT stuttering and stalling that is inclined to happen with a parallel port, and instead of having
    to use an old XP desktop 32bit clunker, you can use one of the kids cast off school laptops or just about any other PC you care to name. I run my machine on a single board
    mini ITX PC with a dual core Atom and NO graphics card, it about as gutless a PC as you can get but it runs Mach and the ESS just fine.

    Craig

  13. #13
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    Re: Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.

    Thank you for the great detail and explanation it's very helpful!

    My take away is to avoid the Parallel port for communication purposes if at all possible...

    I don't see any options for changing the frequency setting in Mach for setting "pulse" for a servo, I'm guessing that is part of the configuration of the servo and not something a stepper utilizes?

    I'm assuming a stepper just utilizes what is presented by the application such as Mach, so if I'm using a smoothstepper it should be "better" than using just the G540 and parallel port, better communication.

    You could use the higher speed of the ESS to increase the microsteppeing, which may improve the smoothness of motion
    but not by much. What you would notice is that your PC can deliver its data WITHOUT stuttering and stalling that is inclined to happen with a parallel port
    Just curious how this presents itself when a program is running G-code.. does the motion of the machine literally stop/pause/stutter because of the lack of data being presented?? I do notice when cutting some radius' on my machine it tends to slow down or stutter slightly, not as fast or smooth as a straight cut, doesn't really show up in the material being cut but maybe it does and I've not been aware of what's been happening or what I'm looking at.

    Adam,
    Gecko G540, Rack and Pinion Drives-X and A axis, 1/2-10 5 Start Acme-Z Axis
    4-THK HSR 25 Linear Slides, KL23H2100-35-4B, Power Supply-KL-600-48 48V

  14. #14
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    Re: Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.

    Hi,

    I don't see any options for changing the frequency setting in Mach for setting "pulse" for a servo, I'm guessing that is part of the configuration of the servo and not something a stepper utilizes?
    A stepper uses microstepping, the common settings are 4, 8, 16, 32, 5,10,20 micrposteps per full step corresponding to 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 1000, 2000, 4000 pulse per revolution respectively. They are set in the driver.
    I do not know whether the microstep setting is adjustable in the G540, possibly not, it may be fixed at 8 or 10 microsteps per full step.

    A modern AC servo has 'electronic gearing' where you can apply two numbers, a numerator and a denominator and those two numbers combined determine the pulses per revolution. As I posted I set my servos
    to 5000 pulses per rev but I could just as easily program them to 4550, or 2021, or 6432 for example.

    Electronic gearing and microstepping are broadly similar, with servos just being more flexible.

    Just for the sake of argument, lets say the G540 is set up for 10 microsteps per fullstep, ie 2000 pulse per rev. You will nominate in Machs motor tuning page the steps/unit.
    Whether you use a parallel port to supply the pulse stream or an ESS to sup[ply the pulse stream, it matters not, it will still take 2000 pulses to turn one revolution.
    The only difference is the the ESS pulse stream will be very regular and accurate whereas a parallel port the timing of the pulse will be affected by jitter, however unless the jitter is worse than normal
    then you'll notice no difference. As I posted I found that the accuracy of the pulse stream provided by the ESS was enough to allow somewhat faster operation of my steppers at the same safety
    margin. It was a worthwhile improvement, but not dramatic. When all said and done an ESS does not make steppers perform like champions, they are still steppers, the ESS can get the best
    from them, but its not magic.

    Lets say you have a stepper driver that you can set the microstepping and you decide that you want really smooth operation so you want to use 32 microsteps per fullstep or 6400 pulse per
    revolution. With a parallel port (default) running at 25kHz the maximum speed you could run your stepper is 25000/6400=3.9 revs per second or 234 rpm, ie pretty slow.
    The ESS can produce a much faster pulse stream, lets say 200kHz, so the stepper could go 200,000/6400=31.25 revs per second or 1875 rpm, much better. In fact the stepper will probably
    not be able to go that fast, so the rpms will be limited by the mechanics of the stepper not the motion controller.

    Machs parallel port runs inside the CPUs kernel, and is badly affected by any software or services that runs at the same time. The CPU has to share its resources amongst all those software
    and services. Often times the CPU will get busy and Machs parallel port program will get starved of CPU time, and it will stutter or worse stall. Its always been a problem with a parallel port.

    An ESS however relieves the PC the need to generate pulse streams, Mach the application provides numeric data to the ESS and the ESS generates the pulses, and the ESS has hardware
    specially for it and makes a good job and can go very much faster. The numeric trajectory data, is put into a buffer in the ESS, so when the CPU goes to do some other task the ESS has motion data
    to carry on with. Provided the CPU returns to Mach before the buffer runs out to fill it up again the machine will not stutter or stall. While its not recommended to have other software running at the same time
    many people do have other software, like playing a CD, while the ESS and machine is running, without problem. The ESS means that the PC is very much less time-critical than a parallel port.

    Craig

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    Re: Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.

    Terrific info. Craig, thank you for posting your insights and knowledge, it is extremely helpful in understanding how the communication channel is working.

    Adam,
    Gecko G540, Rack and Pinion Drives-X and A axis, 1/2-10 5 Start Acme-Z Axis
    4-THK HSR 25 Linear Slides, KL23H2100-35-4B, Power Supply-KL-600-48 48V

  16. #16
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    Re: Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.

    Quote Originally Posted by joeavaerage View Post
    While its not recommended to have other software running at the same time
    many people do have other software, like playing a CD, while the ESS and machine is running, without problem. The ESS means that the PC is very much less time-critical than a parallel port.

    Craig
    How exactly does the process look like with ESS? I mean from cam to machining? I'd ideally want to compile code and send it to the machine via a long cable and continue doing other intensive stuff on the pc while the machine is unaffected... ESS allows that?

  17. #17
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    Re: Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.

    Hi,
    the ESS changes nothing about the CAD/CAM process. If you have a gcode file that you used to run on your Mach3/Mach parallel port machine, then the same file
    will run on the Mach3/ESS machine just as well.

    What the ESS, or indeed any other external motion controller like it, say a UC300 or 57CNC, is free up the PC from generating pulse streams, and thus the PC is
    more able to do other things.

    Lets say the motion buffer of your controller is 180ms long, this is the ESS default motion buffer length, you can make longer or shorter as you want. Mach will generate numeric data,
    blocks of 32 bit integers, that describes the motion of the 'controlled point' of the machine. Each block of data represents the machine coordinates of the controlled point at 1millisecond
    intervals. This data stream is called PVT, Position, Velocity over Time. There will be 180 blocks of PVT data when the buffer is full.

    Lets now imagine the PC goes onto another task, maybe updating the browser screen, or any of the other dozens of little code fragments it runs. Provided the PC completes this and any other such
    tasks and returns to Mach BEFORE the buffer has run out, ie 180ms, all is well. Mach will then generate enough PVT data blocks to fill up the controller motion buffer again. Most PCs, even low
    powered machines can compute the required PVT data blocks within a few milliseconds, thereafther the PC is again free to do other things.

    As it turns out Machs Gcode interpreter/trajectory planner/GUI is not a particularly difficult or power hungry application, way less say than a PC trying to play a DVD for instance.
    What Mach does require is that it be serviced by the PC very regularly, certainly no later than the motion buffer length otherwise the motion buffer will be empty and the machine stalls.

    Mach, when running the interrupt driven timer of the parallel port requires CPU service at least every 40us, otherwise it will miss the timing event and the resulting pulse stream will
    be broken. As a consequence of this the least possible software and/or services may be running or the PC will miss its timing events and the machine will stutter or outright stall.
    With an ESS provided Mach gets CPU service of a few milliseconds at least every 180milliseconds than the motion buffer will always have PVT data and the machine will carry on running.
    The PC on which Mach is running could possibly run other applications without upsetting the machine but is not recommended.

    As it was described to me 'a Windows PC that is controlling a CNC machine is NO LONGER a PC but rather a motion controller that happens to use Windows as an operating system'.
    I still apply that principle. My machine runs on a mini-ITX single board PC with no graphics card on a dual core Atom processor, a very VERY low power PC. It will not run multiple programs
    without starving Mach of CPU service. Thus when my machine is running, I may well have MachMill, a conversational Gcode generator program open, but not actively running, Autoleveller,
    a software utility for PCB manufacture open but not actively running, and a text editor to manually edit Gcode, again open but not actively running. Thays it.....nothing else.
    Admittedly if I used a more powerful PC then I could run other applications....but I don't want to crash my machine so why would I?

    Most people recommend for instance that you machine PC not be hooked to the internet, or even a network. I know many do, but I don't. My machine PC has no anti-virus or firewall,
    and I don't just mean turned off, but the software was never installed in the first place, so I do not want it to have access to the internet. I transfer any and all data I require by
    thumb drive, it tedious but it works. Given that Mach requires such a modest PC to operate then it makes sense to me to have a modest PC for that purpose alone but another much more
    powerful PC for CAD/CAM, internet use and general computing, and thats what I do. I must confess it would be nice to transfer files from my development PC to my machine
    PC over a network...but I've never bothered to date.

    Craig

  18. #18
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    Re: Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.

    Quote Originally Posted by joeavaerage View Post
    I must confess it would be nice to transfer files from my development PC to my machine
    PC over a network...but I've never bothered to date.

    Craig
    So I guess the proper way to go about this is have a standalone pc for the machine and look into some form of remote access from the main pc. Well my laptop needed an upgrade anyway so I guess converting it to an aio setup(it has touchscreen) would make a proper cnc touchscreen control panel. thanks

  19. #19
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    Re: Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.

    Hi,

    So I guess the proper way to go about this is have a standalone pc for the machine and look into some form of remote access from the main pc.
    That would be my preferred solution also.

    Well my laptop needed an upgrade anyway so I guess converting it to an aio setup(it has touchscreen) would make a proper cnc touchscreen control panel. thanks
    For some years I had a Windows 8 laptop as my main PC. Occasionally I would use it to drive my ESS equipped machine, and it worked just fine. I use Mach4 and it has quite a detailed screen,
    so much so that I found the touch screen to be not very useful. The displayed buttons were so close together it was too easy to mis-strike a button. Mach4 has a very customisable GUI so I could have
    made a much simpler screen set that would have cured that problem, but really touching a screen with grimy fingers gets pretty old pretty fast. If I had my choice I would buy an industrial PC
    with a track ball, but they tend to be expensive.

    To be perfectly honest Mach4 and the ESS are pretty reliable and the PC on which it runs is really not that big a deal either. I find myself thinking more about work-holding, tool selection, adding a fourth and fifth
    axis, coolant pumps and filtration etc. In short I find myself thinking more about the machine and making parts than I do about the PC/CNC software/motion controller. Make no mistake they have an
    important role but with a reasonable solution they tend to fade into the background.

    I have added a fourth axis and now my focus is on CAD/CAM to make it work. I have been trialling Machining Extensions of Fusion 360 and am impressed. Autodesk (Australia) have been working very hard
    to encourage me to buy, to the extent they have offered a very good discount on it, so much so that as soon as I can come up with the cash I'll do it. The regular yearly subscription for
    Machining Extensions is $1600USD/year. That's a big step up from the $500USD/year Fusion 360 subscription, and is still required in addition to the Machining Extensions.

    Craig

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    Re: Building new and better Wood router... electronics help requested.

    That's getting to be an expensive Hobby...
    Gecko G540, Rack and Pinion Drives-X and A axis, 1/2-10 5 Start Acme-Z Axis
    4-THK HSR 25 Linear Slides, KL23H2100-35-4B, Power Supply-KL-600-48 48V

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