587,006 active members*
3,180 visitors online*
Register for free
Login
Results 1 to 10 of 10
  1. #1

    Fixing or Changing Controllers

    Hello. I wasn't sure where to post this as there are an incredible number of subcategories to post in.

    I have a Laguna Level 2 plasma table. It came with a Starfire controller (will add more details of that at end of post). I've been having problems with it for the entire time we've owned the machine. It doesn't do conversions between standard units and metric very well, as the machine does everything in metric. So part sizes aren't incredibly consistent. Not the biggest issue.

    Biggest issue is that it will occasionally ignore a curve and cut straight across a part. Since we mostly use it to cut out signs for people, you can imagine the frustration with all the ruined signs when the machine randomly (I've tested for randomness) decides to cut straight across an arc. At first, Laguna kept telling us it was a software issue. I ruled that out. Since then, Laguna has admitted that it is a common problem and their solution is to buy a new Starfire controller and install it. I would rather do something else.

    Laguna has switched to using a Flashcut controller on their machines that they now call a SmartCut+. I contacted both Laguna and Flashcut separately. Laguna offered to reconfigure the table with a Flashcut controller for $15,000, which is a large chunk of change. Flashcut offered to do it for $10,000.

    Here's the kicker: one of the reasons I originally ordered the Laguna machine is that it came with servo motors. The last machine we had used stepper motors and we had a lot of ruined parts from the machine 'crashing' during a cut and losing its place. Since servo motors don't lose their position, we haven't had that issue since switching to the Laguna with its servo motors.
    Flashcut is telling me that I have to convert the machine to use stepper motors and stepper controllers instead of the nice Panasonic servos that are on it now. Obviously that's a big downgrade and I told Flashcut I didn't want to do that. After arguing with me for a while, the Flashcut rep stopped communicating with me.

    Since I really don't have the budget to spend on this, and I'd rather not replace a Starfire with a Starfire, what are my other options? It seems to me that I should be able to buy some kind of interface board that lets me use Mach3 to run the table. Is that an option? I have no idea how any of the interfacing works. I'm considering building another plasma table from scratch, so I need to learn this stuff anyway.

    --------------

    Irrelevant information: I was looking to upgrade our older hobby-grade 4x8 plasma table to a 5x10 commercial-grade water table. There were two machines that came close to my budget. Laguna was the only one that actually fit my budget. To this day I regret not spending the extra $10,000 and buying the Victory that was just outside our budget. At the time, Laguna had just released the Level 2 plasma table. It had adjustable water level, it was marketed as having a custom-designed European controller, and was hinted at being made in Finland. The rep was very cagey about telling me where the machine was actually made. After delivery, I was disappointed to find an off-the-shelf Chinese table with Chinese controller. It's the exact same machine that you can buy on made-in-china.com for $20,000 after import fees. The only "upgrade" Laguna seems to have really done with the table is they installed Japanese servos and servo controllers in it. So the stuff that drives the table is pretty high quality. The table itself is very robust and is built fairly well. The water level doesn't come up close enough to the plate level though. I may fix that problem later, as I'll be stuck with this machine for a while. I've had it for 2 years.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    4469

    Re: Fixing or Changing Controllers

    Hi,

    Flashcut is telling me that I have to convert the machine to use stepper motors and stepper controllers instead of the nice Panasonic servos that are on it now.
    That does not sound right to me.

    I use Delta servos, which I assume are similar to your Panasonic servos, ie they are Step/Dir. In fact as far as a controller goes they might as well be steppers, it make no difference
    to the controller. I use Mach4 which as you probably know is a Hobby-to-Industrial grade Step/Dir CNC solution, where the software runs on a PC and that it turn communicates with a motion
    controller, in my case an Ethernet Smoothstepper. I used this with my earlier stepper driven mini-mill but now use it with my new build servo driven mill.

    Post the exact model code of the Panasonic drivers. The only reason I can think that Flashcut suggests that their controller would NOT work is if they believed the Panasonic drivers
    are not Step/Dir types but are Ethercat or CANOpen or something.

    Craig

  3. #3

    Re: Fixing or Changing Controllers

    The drivers are MCDLN35SE 200V. I can post pictures of them if that helps. https://www3.panasonic.biz/ac/e/sear...t_no=MCDLN35SE

    Our old machine used an ethernet smoothstepper with Mach3. Going back to that solution would be fine if it could fix my issues with the Starfire controller. Right now we use a separate PC that we design our parts with using VCarve 11 Pro, then transfer everything to the Starfire.

    The way we used to do it was VCarve 9 > SheetCam > Mach3. It was more steps but now that I've done it this way for a while I see that it had its advantages.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    4469

    Re: Fixing or Changing Controllers

    Hi,
    well as far as I can tell the drivers ARE Step/Dir type and thus any Step/Dir type controller could be used, which includes Mach3/Mach4 and an Ethernet Smoothstepper or newer Flashcut controller.
    Why would they argue that you cannot use their controller? Is it not Step/Dir? Certainly if they claim it operates steppers then it is almost certainly Step/Dir.

    Craig

  5. #5

    Re: Fixing or Changing Controllers

    Well that's great news.

    So how would I set that up? I'd imagine it's not plug-n-play. Last time I looked, Ethernet smoothstepper boards were pretty inexpensive. How would I go about changing it all over?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    4469

    Re: Fixing or Changing Controllers

    Hi,
    I don't use plasma so I cant be 100%.

    Firstly I'd recommend Mach4 over Mach3 any day. Secondly Warp9 sell a 'WarpRunner' board which is a combination breakout board and high dynamic THC controller.
    Its not cheap, about $450, but it gives a good high bandwidth THC solution with good anti-dive strategies and compares favourably with various pro (expensive) controllers.

    Mach4 $200
    ESS $225
    WarpRunner $450

    I use Mach4, an ESS and my own design breakout board. While I've been using Mach4 and an ESS for about nine years, I've been using servos and differential signalling (my own board) to
    them for about three years.

    You would need to 'integrate' Mach4/ESS/WarpRunner into your machine. but I can all but guarantee it will take some doing and you'll be pulling your hair out....but you'll get there.
    If this is for commercial purposes you need to consider a fortnight or so.......if you put yourself under time pressure you'll regret it!

    Craig

  7. #7

    Re: Fixing or Changing Controllers

    That all sounds great. I like your mill setup. Love to have one of those at home.

    Not quite a commercial application - we're a school. I'm on my own with all this stuff though.

    Where do I go to learn how to integrate everything together?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    4469

    Re: Fixing or Changing Controllers

    Hi,

    Where do I go to learn how to integrate everything together?
    You are already there.....get the kids to show you.

    There is some stuff that many find tricky, like interfacing the Step/Dir outputs of the breakout board to the servo drive. The servo drive is highly likely to have 24V single ended inputs
    where the breakout board my have 5v outputs say. Its those little details that trip you up. You need a soldering iron, preferably an oscilloscope to sort it out.

    Craig

  9. #9

    Re: Fixing or Changing Controllers

    I know a lot more about computers than the kids do. We don't have a CnC or tech or robotics program. My class is the closest thing we have to any of that.

    Is there a good site I can go to that walks you through the process or should I just be hitting up google or this forum as I go along?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    4469

    Re: Fixing or Changing Controllers

    Hi,

    Is there a good site I can go to that walks you through the process or should I just be hitting up google or this forum as I go along?
    Not really. Mach4 does have quite a few videos so that part is reasonably well covered. Its the practical wiring of the controller to the servos that will give you the most grief....probably.
    Each installation is unique so there is not a generic video that walks you through the process.

    Do you have the services of a electronics or electrical tech, maybe a parent to call on? The problems you'll likely encounter are not difficult if you understand basic electronics
    but a distinct challenge if you do not.

    Craig

Similar Threads

  1. Fixing MDI
    By pbreed in forum Tormach PathPilot™
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 01-15-2020, 03:09 AM
  2. Replies: 1
    Last Post: 01-04-2013, 04:45 AM
  3. Even worth fixing?
    By obfuscode in forum DIY CNC Router Table Machines
    Replies: 12
    Last Post: 08-10-2009, 11:30 AM
  4. Fixing rings?
    By JayH1119 in forum CNC Tooling
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 01-12-2009, 08:43 PM
  5. need help in fixing emco f1
    By slow_rider in forum Benchtop Machines
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 02-14-2008, 02:02 AM

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •