589,388 active members*
6,741 visitors online*
Register for free
Login
IndustryArena Forum > WoodWorking Machines > Uncategorised WoodWorking Machines > I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased
Page 1 of 2 12
Results 1 to 20 of 21
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2024
    Posts
    6

    I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased

    I just bought a small table-top CNC machine at an auction to use for hobbyist woodworking. My problem is that the machine has no manufacturers identification so I have no idea what kind of software to use to get started.

    It has three AnChuan (Chinese I assume) 57HD0401-15SB 1.8* 3 OA N2001 motors. There is a (Mini-CNC Engraving Machines) T-D 3 Axis Controller with a USB and a parallel port.

    My main questions are as follows:
    - What software can I use to control the machine?
    - Are there minimum hardware requirements for the computer I attach it to?
    - Will the software walk me through how to set up the machine properly? If not, are there recommended sources?

    Thanks! Tom

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    4674

    Re: I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased

    Hi,
    need to see a picture of the socket to which the PC plugs into the controller. I rather suspect it is a DB25 parallel port, in which case you'll use Mach3, but here's the tricky part
    you need to run a 32 bit Windows 7 or Windows XP PC, and it pretty much has to have a parallel port built in. You can add an extra parallel port, but only a few boards actually work.
    A USB-to-parallel converter WILL NOT work.


    Take the cover off the controller and post some pics. I suspect the parallel port is the main control port and the USB is just to get a power supply from the PC.

    Craig

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    1254

    Re: I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased

    There used to be lots of that type of machine on ebay or AliExpress and I believe most were supplied with the demo version of Mach 3.Which doesn't actually help you very much because you still have to calibrate the machine,regardless of software and if it does have a DB25 plug you will have to determine the pin assignments.It is possible to run the machine from LinuxCNC via a DB25 plug and again you need to sort out pin assignments and calibration,but you won't have the program length limitation of Mach3's demo version and it won't cost anything.Most people get nervous about leaving the Microsoft ecosystem,so you may not go that way.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2024
    Posts
    6

    Re: I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased

    I appreciate both of your help!

    I have attached some pictures of the back and inside of the controller as requested.

    If I understand correctly, essentially the controller is good for a boat anchor and that is about it. Is it possible to get a different controller to work with this machine? If so, any suggestions?

    Thanks again!
    Tom

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Posts
    5770

    Re: I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased

    You might be able to use one of these motion-control adapters to run it off your computer's USB port: https://cnc4pc.com/uc100-usb-motion-controller.html It looks like you'll need the gender-changer as well. You'll still need to figure out the ports and pins.
    Andrew Werby
    Website

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
    Posts
    6553

    Re: I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased

    Hi Tom - Look at Knighthawk from CNC3D. A one box solution that's very good. Plus the support is excellent. https://www.cnc3d.com.au/nighthawkcnc-controller Its a good 3 axis controller, has laser output and plasma control capabilities. My other suggestion if you want excellent motion control and 3D printing capability is Dynomotion see dynomotion.com it has a forum here. Peter

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2024
    Posts
    6

    Re: I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased

    I appreciate everyone's help but as a newbie to CNC some of this is going over my head.

    - What does a motion control adapter do? They look fairly pricey for a maybe.
    - When you say I need to figure out the "Ports and Pins" what does that mean and how do I go about doing that?
    - What is a gender changer and why do I need it?
    - If i get a new controller do I still need additional software?

    Thanks!
    Tom

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
    Posts
    6553

    Re: I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased

    Hi Tom:
    1) a motion controller adaptor. I think this is as follows. If you buy a machine controller these days (like Mach3-4 UCCNC others) these use a path planner (or motion controller) to drive the motor controllers (drivers). eg UC100, easystepper etc. If you buy knighthawk or dynomotion you do not have to consider any of those things. These are a one box solution.
    2) using a multimeter you have to test each plug pin, identify where they go into the controller and figure out what that pin does
    3) a gender changer is a device that converts say a parallel port into a USB port
    4) Knighthawk and Dynomotion have their own free machine controller software

    If your not into electronics and don't want to muck around getting the current system going, look at Knighthawk (KH), I found it simple to install simple to run, its wireless and you can run your machine from your phone. It's an up-to-date system well supported. If you go discrete devices then support is difficult as each device supplier will potentially push issues onto other device suppliers or yourself. Sometimes integrating various BOB's, machine controllers, motor drivers, velocity planners etc is a big steep learning curve. I found that to be the case when I got into it. Something like KH is simple, reliable and if there is an issue its the single suppliers issue not something spread over many suppliers... Good Luck Peter

    In broad terms this is how CNC works

    CAD (virtual model of what you want to make) export a file to CAM
    CAM (generates the g code for the router to work) connects to the BOB
    Break out Board (BOB) discretises the signals into axes, machine commands and device commands, BOB connects to
    Motor Drivers and other devices signals get processed to create motion, turn things on and off or sense positions eg homing
    Result - real object that you created in CAD, plus lots & lots of sawdust or swarf
    cable chain 1 - typical discrete device build. Lots of wiring and devices
    rewire 1 - knighthawk all in one box build.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    4674

    Re: I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased

    Hi,
    the motion controller recommended is a UC100 made by CNCDrive and has been on sale for over a decade with tens of thousands of users.

    It plugs into the PC by USB and outputs signals via a DB25 connector. You might like to think of it as a USB-to-parallel converter......but it is not....it is a genuine motion controller.

    A motion controller takes the numerical trajectory output of a program like Mach or UCCNC and converts that into to accurately timed pulse streams to drive motors. In the early days Mach3 had a 'parallel port driver'
    which is a motion control, ie it took numerical data from Mach3 and converted that into pulse streams but WITHIN the PC. It was something that many said would never work, but Art Fenerty got it to work and Mach3
    became the hobbyist CNC software. The truth is that while it worked, it was quirky, and sometimes failed and was very (PC) hardware dependent. Then there came a rush of external motion controllers like the UC100
    and the Ethernet Smoothstepper. These are external to the PC and have electronics that is suited to the task. They have become the norm with the parallel port becoming a thing of the past.

    One advantage of an external motion controller (aside from speed and smoothness of motion) is that you are no longer required to stick to a desktop 32 bit OS like Windows XP. That hardware requirement was because
    of the parallel port driver, not Mach3 the application so you can use a Windows10 PC including a laptop....provided you have an external motion controller..

    A UC100 would allow you to use your machine pretty much as is. Run either Mach3 or UCCNC on the PC to run the UC100 and plug the UC100 into the parallel port socket of your controller.

    If that appeals, then make sure you get a genuine UC100, not one of the Chinese knock-offs on Ebay and Amazon. Get the real thing or don't bother, the cheap Chinese stuff is junk.
    The real deal is 88Euro....if someone tries to sell you one cheaper than that, then smell it first. If it smells of ChopSuey walk away.

    https://cncdrive.com/UC100.html

    Craig

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    1254

    Re: I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased

    Quote Originally Posted by OhioGuy View Post
    I appreciate both of your help!

    I have attached some pictures of the back and inside of the controller as requested.

    If I understand correctly, essentially the controller is good for a boat anchor and that is about it. Is it possible to get a different controller to work with this machine? If so, any suggestions?

    Thanks again!
    Tom
    I don't have any issues with the recommendations people are making but they will all require you to do an amount of work before machining is possible.The controller you have isn't a boat anchor and unless something is broken inside the box,it will work.The matter you need to deal with is that the computer you have for the machine may not be old enough to have a parallel port.It is a common fallacy that a basic CNC machine needs a high spec computer when it isn't a highly demanding activity such as 3D gaming.The difficult part is determining which of the connections on the back of the controller are controlled by which pin of the DB25 plug and you have some detective work to do.Tracing back from the connections for X,Y,Z and spindle back to the board isn't too difficult,but determining how those terminals are controlled by the board is the problem.You need to find out and make a note and then you will still need to determine the amount of axis travel for one rotation of the steppers.I will say again that you will need to do this regardless of whether you stick with the box you got with the machine or any substitute.There were so many of this type of machine sold that somebody,somewhere may have a manual they could scan for you,or possibly a disillusioned owner may have listed one on an auction site.It could be worth buying such a machine as both a source of information and spares.Of course,if you can get the machine running,there will still be the challenge of learning the software to produce the programs.

    It may e worth a bit of your time to search through youtube as many answers can be found there-as well s some silliness.This will show you some of the steps that have already been done to your controller and may lead to further clues about what needs to be done next https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_9LpHoEgvU.These steps will still be relevant if you decide to change elements as the computer will still need details of steps/mm and pin assignment or you may feel like a USB based solution.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2024
    Posts
    6

    Re: I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased

    You have all given me a lot to think about; and do! I appreciate the time you have taken to explain my various questions! I am sure there will be more as I attempt to dive in.

    Thanks!
    Tom

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2024
    Posts
    6

    Re: I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased

    Will the motion controller suggested by several folks get around the lack of a parallel port issue and still work with the controller I have?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Posts
    5770

    Re: I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased

    It's hard to guarantee that something's going to work if you don't know anything about it. But the UC100 would be the easiest thing to try. The gender changer would be necessary, since it has a female 25-pin plug and so does your controller. The gender changer has male 25-pin plugs on both sides, so the UC100 could plug into your controller.
    Andrew Werby
    Website

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2024
    Posts
    6

    Re: I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased

    I think I have figured out my machine is a CNC 3040Z-DQ. As mentioned before it came with a 3 axis controller. However, it also came with the motor/parts for a fourth axis. I was able to find a manual on-line and it looks like it has the ports and pins information.

    I will get the UC100 and gender changer as suggested.

    - Is there any a preference between a desktop and a laptop besides the obvious space considerations?
    - Is there any advantage of one over the other between Mach3 vs.UNCNC software?

    Again I really appreciate everyone's time and input answering my rookie questions!
    Tom

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Posts
    145

    Re: I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased

    Quote Originally Posted by OhioGuy View Post
    - Is there any a preference between a desktop and a laptop besides the obvious space considerations?
    In a shop/garage environment, I'd choose a desktop over a laptop. When the keyboard gets goobered up a replacement keyboard is easy and cheap. With a laptop, not so much. Same with any other component in a desktop -- parts are generally available and reasonably priced. Laptop parts may be available, but working on laptops is a PITA.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    4674

    Re: I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased

    Hi,
    Mach3 is obsolete. All development on Mach3 ceased nine years ago. Not withstanding that it still works and has a loyal fanbase it is obsolete.
    I've been using Mach4 for nine years and it is light years ahead.

    Caveat: I do not own or use UCCNC, but a friend does. What knowledge I have of UCCNC comes from him. UCCNC (the current version) is very MUCH better than Mach3 but is
    very similar to Mach4.

    Mach4 has a scripting language (Lua) and an architecture that allow for complete customization of the machine. To 99% of users that is of only modest interest as most of us have fairly conventional
    machines (three axis CNC routers, mills and lathes) and for such machines you can use Mach4 'out-of-the-box'. If however, you wish to do something a bit unusual then Mach4 is very good.
    You can also write scripts for UCCNC but with reduced scope and facility.

    UCCNC cost $60 per machine. Mach4Hobby costs $200 but can used on up to five machines. Thus for a single machine UCCNC is cheaper but if you have several machines and say a licensed copy
    on your development PC then Mach4 starts to look OK.

    My mill has cost me something like $25000 over the years....and just yesterday fitted a new spindle (3.5kW, 40,000rpm, HSK 32 ATC) which cost another $2000 plus $600 for the matching VFD.
    My Fusion Basic and Fusion Machining Extensions subscription cost $2020USD/year. What I'm trying to suggest is that cost of the software is chicken feed by comparison to the machine.
    Hell, I spend way more on carbide tools every year than Mach4 cost me!!

    Either UCCNC OR Mach4 would be a very good match for the UC100. I specifically exclude Mach3 from contention.

    Craig

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    1254

    Re: I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased

    Quote Originally Posted by OhioGuy View Post
    I think I have figured out my machine is a CNC 3040Z-DQ. As mentioned before it came with a 3 axis controller. However, it also came with the motor/parts for a fourth axis. I was able to find a manual on-line and it looks like it has the ports and pins information.

    I will get the UC100 and gender changer as suggested.

    - Is there any a preference between a desktop and a laptop besides the obvious space considerations?
    - Is there any advantage of one over the other between Mach3 vs.UNCNC software?

    Again I really appreciate everyone's time and input answering my rookie questions!
    Tom
    I would say you are set for the initial steps.I completely agree that Mach 3 is outmoded,but for a newbie to get moving with an existing machine,you have enough for the time being.The process of setting up any CNC control system requires the same steps,so you won't be wasting time by learning and once done you will be able to practise turning blocks of foam or wax to dust.That you are fortunate enough to have the parts for a fourth axis is a real bonus,but will your version of Mach 3 run the fourth axis?A lot of these machines were supplied with a demo version of Mach 3 and will only run 500 lines of code-which may seem like a lot,but isn't really.These may be considerations for the future,but I would recommend that you begin with what you have,if only to understand the limitations and to learn what would be a good way to progress.Unless and until you get into 3D work you won't need a hugely powerful computer and even then you don't make heavy demands on computing power to run the machine,but you will need a bit more performance to create the more complex toolpaths.I agree that a desktop is a good solution and the box can be located away from chips quite easily.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    4674

    Re: I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased

    Hi,

    but will your version of Mach 3 run the fourth axis?A lot of these machines were supplied with a demo version of Mach 3 and will only run 500 lines of code-which may seem like a lot,but isn't really.
    Correction, these are often supplied with a PIRATE copy of Mach3, and often one where the code is non-standard to suit Chinese made boards probing procedure.

    A Mach3 license costs $175USD. Have you paid it? If so you probably have a legit copy, so carry on with it, it does work after all. If you have not paid it, and the probability is that you have not, but relied on the Chinese manufacturer to have
    done so, a forlorn hope, then you will probably have to buy a legit license. That would be a waste of money as Mach4Hobby costs $200. There is no upgrade path from Mach3 to Mach4. Mach4 is an ENTIRELY new code base.

    To my knowledge all Mach3 versions, be they demo, pirate or legit copies of Mach3 will run four axis. Mach4 can run 3, 4, 5, and 6 coordinated axes and another 6 un-coordinated axes called Out-of-Band axes.

    I run my six axis Mach4/Ethernet SmoothStepper installation on a dual core Atom single board PC, with no graphics card. There is 4G RAM fitted, but running 32 bit Windows 7 it can only address 3G....so in effect only 3G of RAM,
    some of which is used for the graphics. All-in-all the very low power PC, even well less than recommended by NFS (manufacturer of Mach), but it runs fine. The only time I notice the small under powered PC is
    when I load a big file, say 5M or bigger. It takes 30 secs or more to load and draw the initial tool path. Thereafter it performs well. The machine is no faster, more accurate, more reliable or more anything with a powerful gaming
    PC.

    What you do need is a PC which is not cluttered with junk....and for the purpose of a CNC machine ANYTHING other than Mach is junk. Someone told me once that a Windows PC 'is no longer a PC (general purpose
    computing platform) when it is hooked to a CNC machine, it has become a CNC controller that happens to use Windows as an OS'. To this end have NO software on the PC that does not have to be there to run the machine,
    do not have it hooked to the internet....ever. Without the internet it neither needs or benefits by a firewall or anti-virus....better if both are completely absent.

    Craig

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    1254

    Re: I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased

    I completely agree that a Windows computer comes cluttered with a lot of junk that doesn't help with running a CNC machine,but as has been said,it can and does run a machine quite adequately.My Linux machine will run the machine while I listen to online radio or browse the internet while longer programmes are running.The benefit of an OS that hasn't been developed for commercial gain,I believe.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    4674

    Re: I Need Help Getting Started with a CNC Machine I Just Purchased

    Hi,
    the single most important reason that LinuxCNC even exists and even more importantly with such functionality: is that it runs on a realtime distro of Linux, well not quite a 'hard realtime' distro
    but a preempt kernel that offers very good 'near realtime' performance .

    Windows on the other hand makes very VERY extensive use of the CPU interrupt system for its own purposes, particularly scheduling. As a consequence the CPU interrupt system cannot be used (well)
    by a realtime control program for CNC.

    I don't think that it is in anyway a commercial choice that makes Windows that way, but rather that is how the Windows kernel started all those years ago,and long before anyone even thought of PC control of CNC's.
    I don't think anyone dreamed that Windows would ever be realtime, at least in the sense required for CNC. For many years now Windows has been the industry benchmark OS, at least for PC's.
    It was natural then that various individuals would try to use Windows PCs as a CNC controller, even if Windows is not the optimum choice, and as a result we have the plethora of buffered CNC solutions that run on Windows PCs.

    Craig

Page 1 of 2 12

Similar Threads

  1. Getting Started BUilding a CNC Machine
    By James123456789 in forum Benchtop Machines
    Replies: 19
    Last Post: 01-19-2020, 04:19 PM
  2. Just purchased a CNC machine
    By Al V. in forum Larken
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 03-26-2019, 01:23 AM
  3. Replies: 1
    Last Post: 02-01-2013, 10:09 PM
  4. Newbie - Just started building my CNC machine
    By Dan M in forum DIY CNC Router Table Machines
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 11-30-2012, 01:07 AM
  5. First CNC machine started
    By vger in forum Mechanical Calculations/Engineering Design
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 01-20-2007, 02:17 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
  •