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  1. #1
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    Mach 3 vs Linux Cnc

    Hello All,
    I am installing a Cnc Fusion Kit on my high torque mini mill, and was wondering
    what most of you guys are using (LinuxCnc or Mach 3), and why?

  2. #2
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    Pretty sure you'll find 90% or more use Mach3, 10% or less use EMC/LinuxCNC. Both work just fine, but most people have Windows PCs and are not fluent in Linux, plus CAD/CAM choices in Linux are very limited. Mach3 is, arguably, easier to setup, and definitely much easier to customize. LinuxCNC can be brought up painlessly using a bootable CD (ISO image can be downloaded from LinuxCNC website), to see what it's like.

    Regards,
    Ray L.

  3. #3
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    This will likely go no where fast.

    Quote Originally Posted by tamartin View Post
    Hello All,
    I am installing a Cnc Fusion Kit on my high torque mini mill, and was wondering
    what most of you guys are using (LinuxCnc or Mach 3), and why?
    At the moment the only thing I have a little experience with is LinuxCNC but frankly this question is kinda silly if you ask me. It is far better to choose based upon your particular interests and vision of how you want your CNC control to run. In that regard there are a number of high quality solutions out there for CNC control beyond LinuxCNC ad Mach 3. For example the Kflop series of hardware and software solutions and a whole bunch of others.

    Beyond that I'd have to say the number of LinuxCNC installs is probably larger than many want to admit. In any event if you go over to CNC Machinist Cookbook: Software and Information you will find an insteresting blog entry on CNC interpreter programs and usage there.

  4. #4
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    I ran emc on my first router which was a slower stepper set up and it worked great . My second router was built with large , fast stepper motors and emc didn't do so well . I went to xp with mach after spending months squeezing the best that I could get out of the linux , the difference was night and day and I was finally able to get top performance out of my table . I don't know if it's a fault with emc or ubuntu which was an absolute pig on resources .
    It's been a couple of years since I used emc(linuxcnc) it and I'm sure that there have been a number of improvements on it , though I think those improvements went more toward servo based set ups (I'm sure I'll be corrected if I am wrong). I still play with ubuntu and it's still as much of a hog as it ever was if not more so , Xp is a way leaner system in my experience
    I'm not knocking the linux setup and I'm quite aware of the time an effort that those guys have put into it . it's pretty decent and easy to set up and use , but for my table it's no good and I'm not prepared to buy a power house pc to run it . It would be nice if some thought was stepped back towards a linuxcnc for dumpster grade

    The best thing is install it on you computer and try it , if you like it then your rocking , if you don't then reinstall windows and you'll loose a few hours of your time


    .
    A poet knows no boundary yet he is bound to the boundaries of ones own mind !! ........

  5. #5
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    I use linuxcnc (having used mach last year) and prefer it. More intuitive (homing, touch offs), easy to get going (wizard rather than finding the right setup screens), and it's free.
    Contrary to what many will tell you (they probably tried it years ago), you don't need to write code or edit text files to get a setup going. The stepconf wizard will handle most setups (up to 4-5 axes).
    7xCNC.com - CNC info for the minilathe (7x10, 7x12, 7x14, 7x16)

  6. #6
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    I use LinuxCNC and it has been rock solid for me from the start. Never a hiccup due to the software. I have also tried the Mach3 demo. My very first machine I had up and running on linuxCNC within about 2 hours of getting all the wires hooked up. The tuning with the stepper configuration wizard is very simple as far as I am concerned. The install with the CD ISO was also dirt simple. Simply answer a few questions and the operating system was installed with the LinuxCNC controller already there.

    On my new machine I got it wired up and since I am now a bit more familiar with LinuxCNC I configured it in about 30 minutes. I have attempted to get this machine set up with Mach3 and have spent probably about 3 or 4 hours messing around with it and am nowhere near close to what I accomplished in 30 minutes with LinuxCNC. Not sure if I will try some more or not.

    The default interface in LinuxCNC is simple and no frills. That is what I like. I really don't care for the cartoonish Mach3 interface with its many many tabs. LinuxCNC is much closer to the simple interfaces I remember from my days working as a CNC machinist on older vertical machining centers. I also don't like Mach 3's small graphical display window for viewing machine motion. I know that the interface can be modified and there are many "skins" out there, so this may not be that big of a deal. The interface is also customizable in LinuxCNC. This is purely my preference, but comparing default interface to default interface, Mach3 is simply way to cluttered for my taste.

    As for machine performance, I have had no problems with LinuxCNC using an old PC and running my G0704 as fast as it can go through the parallel port interface. The speed of the machine isn't limited by the computer or control software but by the capability of the steppers.

    As for linux vs windows, I have to disagree with the comment that linux uses more resources. If you haven't used linux in a while, you would find that the current crop of linux distributions are quite good and have been slimmed down in regards of resource usage. I use Linux on a couple computers at home and in general I find that the Linux computers outperform the XP computers I have. Even on a purely subjective level I believe the Linux runs faster. This could be simply because many MS windows programs are just huge and the linux software isn't in this bloatware category. Let me also say that I'm not by any stretch a linux expert. I can install and remove programs and that is about it. The only Win7 computer we have is my wife's laptop and I seldom am on that one so can't compare to Win7 or 8 or Vitsa.

    There are several aspects to performance that people care about. One is boot up and shut down speed. I have my machine control computer set up as a dual boot with a clean install of XP Pro from CD and the Ubuntu from the LinuxCNC live-CD. I can say without any doubt that the Ubuntu installation boots and shuts down a hell of a lot faster than the XP install and I have not noticed any adverse performance while running.. Now you can run Mach3 on newer windows versions but I don't have any install disks for those. They may be and are claimed to be faster to boot and shut down. As far as when the OS is up and running, There are countless benchmarks that show whatever you want them to show favoring whichever operating system you want to favor. They show memory usage, cpu usage, speed using various programs, etc. What really matters is how fast does it do what you want it to. On a machine controller, if it runs the machine as fast as you want it to, then that is what matters. This speed is going to be dependent on many things including the computer hardware in question, background processes, etc. On linuxCNC, the hardware is particularly important and it doesn't like some kinds of hardware. Laptops are particularly troublesome, as are some video cards. I don't know enough about Mach3 to know if this is a factor with Mach3. I actually regard this as a benefit for LinuxCNC because I have it running on a free computer. LinuxCNC runs well on older desktop PC's that you can get for free as in my case or at least really cheap.

    In terms of how fast you can actually drive your machine with each of these controllers, LinuxCNC has a dedicated testing program for determining the latency or lag due to the operating system. this in turn leads to the maximum step rate that LinuxCNC can support. As far as I know, Mach3 has no such test and you simply choose what kernel speed you want to use. This seems a little iffy to me, but I guess it works. In reality, on a metal cutting mill or lathe using steppers with sane microstepping settings, you won'r see a difference in running the machine on either controller. Now if you are running a large router at really high speeds, or a servo system with high count encoders then you may need a high pulse rate to get the travel speeds you want. With this situation, you are probably better off using an external motion controller anyway. In that case, then either LinuxCNC or Mach3 are just offloading the critical timing tasks anyway.

    Bottom line is each will work and does work, but it comes down to your preferences and comfort level. In terms of Mach3 and LinuxCNC I have already expressed my preference for the simpler interface. There is also my preference to Free vs. have to pay for it. As for the operating system, many people regard Linux as being way too complex compared to Windows, but I find it very Windows like in its current form. I am vastly more comfortable working in the MS windows environment, but don't find Linux particularly scary, especially from the standpoint of using it for just linuxCNC. Another aspect is that some people want a machine controller on the same computer they have their CAD and CAM system on. That isn't me. I want the computer that is hooked to my machine only tasked with running the machine and I use a different computer for CAD/CAM. Again that is my preference. Obviously there is more available in terms of CAD and CAM for MS windows than linux, and if your choice is to have machine controller/CAD/CAM on the same machine then I think your decision is clear.

    When I started my conversion I decided to give LinuxCNC a try because it is free but I had Mach3 and some other software controllers in mind if I didn't like LinuxCNC. I would up liking LinuxCNC and its interface and will likely stick with it until I find something I want it to do that it can't. That seems unlikely.

    Well that's my 2 cents.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by 109jb View Post
    The speed of the machine isn't limited by the computer or control software but by the capability of the steppers.

    .
    I disagree , I tweaked emc to beat hell and I could never get it to put out the pulses quick enough without freezing up the computer , I pushed it as far as I could push it and at the same time try to still keep it stable .
    Setting up and tweaking emc even before the wizard was easy enough and the performance wasn't due to a lack of my knowledge or lack of time that I put into trying . Mach on xp improved the performance instantly and if i recall correctly the difference was roughly 800 ipm to over 1500 .
    I used emc for quite a while on my other machine and I liked it very much but for this system it couldn't do it , maybe things have changed in the past 2 or 3 years and I hope it has . Personally I like the interface of mach which is quite nice when using a touch screen , it's easy to set up the motors , limits , etc . I also like that I can easily create custom m codes with whatever macro routines I need (I'm sure emc can do the same) but it's the performance that I'm happy with .
    I think that for the most part and under normal circumstances it boils down to personal preference , everyone understands how to use windows , and linux is a fairly straight forward system to work with , either a guy likes a chevy or he likes a ford , both will get you where you want to go
    A poet knows no boundary yet he is bound to the boundaries of ones own mind !! ........

  8. #8
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    Hi tamartin, if you dabbled with basic programming in the 80's, or can fathom html code then Linuxcnc will tickle your fancy. If your a mouse clicker, go with Mach3.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by dertsap View Post
    I disagree , I tweaked emc to beat hell and I could never get it to put out the pulses quick enough without freezing up the computer , I pushed it as far as I could push it and at the same time try to still keep it stable .
    Setting up and tweaking emc even before the wizard was easy enough and the performance wasn't due to a lack of my knowledge or lack of time that I put into trying . Mach on xp improved the performance instantly and if i recall correctly the difference was roughly 800 ipm to over 1500 .
    I used emc for quite a while on my other machine and I liked it very much but for this system it couldn't do it , maybe things have changed in the past 2 or 3 years and I hope it has . Personally I like the interface of mach which is quite nice when using a touch screen , it's easy to set up the motors , limits , etc . I also like that I can easily create custom m codes with whatever macro routines I need (I'm sure emc can do the same) but it's the performance that I'm happy with .
    I think that for the most part and under normal circumstances it boils down to personal preference , everyone understands how to use windows , and linux is a fairly straight forward system to work with , either a guy likes a chevy or he likes a ford , both will get you where you want to go
    You are misquoting my quote. I said that the speed of MY machine is not limited by the linuxCNC and it isn't. Mine is a G0704 mill and the speed I can run at is limited by the motors, not linuxCNC. Also, this post is in the bench top metalworking machines forum. What bench top metalworking machine do you have that mills or turns metal at feed rates of 1500 IPM?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by 109jb View Post
    You are misquoting my quote. I said that the speed of MY machine is not limited by the linuxCNC and it isn't. Mine is a G0704 mill and the speed I can run at is limited by the motors, not linuxCNC. Also, this post is in the bench top metalworking machines forum. What bench top metalworking machine do you have that mills or turns metal at feed rates of 1500 IPM?

    Sorry I miss took the statement as being in general and not your particular machine .
    I wish I could get thse rapids from my bench top mil but it's my router table that has been set to those rapids , I'll take cuts in the upwards of 500 ipm , but the higher rapids make it nice when the heads moving around to it's next cut position . In all honesty , though I've pushed the rapid above that point , I've backed of a fair bit on the rapids in order to ensure that the motor are still within a high torque range .
    A poet knows no boundary yet he is bound to the boundaries of ones own mind !! ........

  11. #11
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    I am a linuxcnc user - never used mach.

    The software stepgen within linuxcnc is going to be hard pressed to do much over 50khz on normal computer hardware. That being said - the linuxcnc archetecture allows for inexpensive interface hardware. For $89 you can get the mesa 5i25 which by iteslf acts like 2 printer ports on steroids (mhz step generation, high frequency pwm, i/o, and high speed encoder counters.) You can also get daughter boards that do more i/o, differentitial encoder interfaces and analog ouputs amoung other things.

    I have used mesa hardware and very much love it.

    some things that linuxcnc can do out of the box (even with just the printer port)

    Rigid tapping
    Closed loop with the loop closed within linuxcnc
    spindle synced motion using from 1 ppr up to quadature encoder with index.
    all i/o is controlled in realtime.

    sam

  12. #12
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    it depends

    I think the over all answer is “it depends” For me LinuxCNC is the answer. I have not even tried Mach yet, not sure if I ever will. For me machining is a hobby. My professional back ground is computer and technology based. I have used every version of windows from dos/win 3.0 to Windows 7. I have poked a stick at Win 8, it sucks. I also have been an avid Linux user for over 10 years. I can also sit down at a Mac OS X computer and get pretty deep in the OS with out any real problems. I am a fan of Linux but indifferent to the OS when I only have one option because some manufacturer decided to only support one OS.

    We all know that Windows pretty much is what it is. We are at the mercy of Microsoft and its developers. Some things work better, or only work, under Windows because some manufactures are very tight nit with Microsoft. Other things are a nightmare.

    Linux is a whole different entity. A “Linux box” can be anything from an embedded “system on a chip” not running much more than the kernel and a couple of add on packages up to a HUGE cluster of machines crunching animations for the latest blockbuster movie. There are dozens of distros that are all suited to different task and users. Ubunto is sort of the Windows of the linux world. It is probably the most popular “desktop” distro. From my experience it is a little more stable than windows and almost as bloated. Having said that I use the Ubuntu version of the LinuxCNC live disk. It seams they develop LinuxCNC on Ubuntu so best to run it on the same distro as the devs. Also the live version of LinxCNC/Ubunto has had much of the bloat removed.

    I tend to use CentOS for my work. It is more business oriented. The installer will let me pick from a barebones, not much more than a kernel, to various kinds of servers, to desktop machine with graphics or programming packages in place. I can also pick any of them and with some work installing or removing packages I can go from one to the other. I tend to start minimal and add on stuff as needed. Other distros have more up to date packages but at the expense of being on an upgrade treadmill or stability problems from too new to be out software.

    For even better performance there are distros that you compile every line of code yourself for your exact hardware. You can get better speed at the expense of the system being very slow and touchy to update.

    Then there are situations like one of the posters above. Where Windows is wildly faster on some hardware at some specific task. I do not know the specifics of his system or what the bottle necks for Linux CNC are but I have dealt with a linux based video system for schools. On board video with shared ram was a problem at times. One big problem was a chip set from via that had some timing issues under Linux simply would not work for smooth video playback. Unfortunately it was also a very common chipset. Under other situations it was fine in a Linux box. Windows has different but similar kinds of conflicts. My main video edit system (Windows 7) has glitchy video playback if I use an add on card with a specific esata chip. The same card on a linux box does not have the same problem.

    My over all point is that just because on one system and one distro Linux was slower or bloated it does not mean that's a problem with Linux. Only that it was a problem with the specific combination you have. The same can be said for Windows. In my experience I find I am usually farther ahead if I can find a piece of software that will run on Linux to get my work done. Linux software tends to be more stable and much lower in cost than Windows. Another advantage is that usually the reason for instability can be found much faster and will make more sense. If I can't find a decent package on Linux and “every one” is using some xyz package on Windows and it suites my needs, then I will go with that. For CNC a Linux box on the machine and Windows software on my high end video workstation for design makes the most sense. The same may or may not apply to you.

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