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Completely Confused with software options.

Discussion in 'Control Software' started by Ollieg, Jul 4, 2018.

  1. Ollieg

    Ollieg Well-Known
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    I'm a bit overwhelmed with option and information and would love if someone who know what they are doing can point me in the right direction.

    So I have just purchased a WorkBee 1500x 1500 (I also purchased 2400mm rails and screws but I install this later) I purchased both the Mach3 option and GBRL option to make sure I have the correct one. I would like to be able to cut simple shapes (that are too big for our laser cutters) such as a 1100mm circle from 3mm acrylic or aluminium composite, and I intend to mainly cut in 2D but I might cut some simple slots and recesses in MDF eventually.

    I don't really understand the difference in the controller software G code sender etc etc. I do have solidworks which I use for other work to generate a .dwg or . dxf file, how is my easiest / simplest (not cheapest) way of getting the drawing into something that would cut, do I need multiple software so it goes from on to another before going to the CNC or can I just install one software that does everything, any suggestions would be much appreciated. I should also note I have no coding knowledge.
     
  2. Gary Caruso

    Gary Caruso OpenBuilds Team
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    Hi Ollieg,
    You don't need GRBL and Mach3 pick one, return the other..
    Not sure what the options are that you purchased? can you list the actual parts you purchased?
    GRBL is controller software that runs on an Arduino based controller.
    Universal G-code Sender (UGS) is a sender software and graphical user interface (GUI) that "sends" the g-code to the GRBL controller. It runs on your computer and talks to the Arduino board with a USB cable.
    Mach 3 is GUI controller and sender, can't use an Arduino based controller board for Mach3 typically it takes a parallel port board for this.

    I started out with GRBL works fine, switched to Estlcam (estlcam.com) because the CAM is so good, handles complex and simple 2.5D tasks with ease.
    Estlcam can do the CAM right from any DXF file and also has a built in machine controller which works with arduino and some other boards.
    I use DXF files which I draw with Draftsight or Autocad, you can keep using solidworks.
    So my system goes Drawing in draftsight, then open file in estlcam make the CAM (G-code file) and control the machine..
    This is what I do and it works great but there are a million ways to do this.
    Gary
     
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  3. Ollieg

    Ollieg Well-Known
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    Thanks for your fast reply Gary.

    These are the 2 kits I purchased with the machine

    Aliexpress.com : Buy Mach 3 Controller Electronic Combo For WorkBee CNC Milling Machine,DIY CNC kit,Wood Machinary Router,Engraving Machine from Reliable CNC Controller suppliers on BULK-MAN 3D TECH Store

    Aliexpress.com : Buy GRBL Controller Electronic Combo For WorkBee CNC Milling Machine,DIY CNC kit,Wood Machinary Router,Engraving Machine from Reliable CNC Controller suppliers on BULK-MAN 3D TECH Store

    So from your previous message am I right in the understanding that mach 3 can not run off a USB (none of our laptops have parallel so if this is the case it wont be the correct option.

    And I have also understood it as if we went the GRBL option we would need to draw the design in whatever software lets say solidworks, save it as a DXF upload it to a CAM software then use the Gcode sender to get the machine to cut it OR I could draw it in Solidworks, save as DXF, upload to estlcam which then sends it to the machine as well as convert it to G code. As I am hoping to have it as user friendly as possible is there a 1 stop shop of a software which I can draw a basic shape in, that also converts it to G code and acts as the controller with the GUI?

    Thanks so much for the help

    Regards

    Oliver
     
  4. GrayUK

    GrayUK Openbuilds Team Elder
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    Have a look at the Estlcam videos on YouTube.
    You will see how easy and versatile it is to use, and really quite cheap, considering how good it is. :thumbsup::thumbsup:
    Plus, I don't think there is a Chinese rip-off of it from China yet! Which most likely what you have with the other Controllers you have listed.
    I know Mach3 used to have Protection software built in, so if it was not from a genuine source, and didn't have the key, it would mess up the measurements and distances it performed.
    However, I haven't been near Mach3 for a while now, so can't confirm this is still the case. :rolleyes:
     
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  5. Matt W

    Matt W New
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    Ollieg

    I just went through this same issue. My first CNC ran on marlin, the second was GRBL, and now I use Mach4.

    So the basic idea is you draw in CAD or create the shapes in some non-CAD type graphics drawing program. This file is then imported into a second program that creates the g-code with special instructions for the method, speed, and direction of cutting. This is fairly intricate. I use Estlcam because it is cheap, fast, and clean.

    Step 3 is sending it to the CNC controller. This can be done easily with GRBL but it is just send and cut. No control once you hit go. This is where I switched to Mach4.

    Mach 4 works with a mach4 compatible controller/driver board and CAN be USB (mach3 is normally parallel). I use a Gecko G540 with a PMDX usb cable but there are tons of options. With Mach4 (and mach3) I can slow or speed up the jog and cut speeds and have incredible control of the cutting. Much easier than going back and forth thru step two to change cuts and feed speeds.

    From here the controller then triggers the CNC driver modules to control each Stepper motor.

    Easy and cheap is using a simple cad program to draw, estlcam to gcode, and then a basic GRBL sender to an arduino board that talks to your drivers. This is a set it and forget it kind of system. Dial it in and it should be great. If you want to cut certain plastics and aluminum, then you need more software and should get something with better control like Mach 4.

    Good luck.
     
  6. Ollieg

    Ollieg Well-Known
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    Thanks for your suggestion . So If I were to use your workflow setup it would be something along the line of draw in Solidworks or illustrator and save file open in Estlcam which would genetrate G code then that in Mach4 which will control the CNC?

    For the hardware it would require the gecko G540 I assume would control all for axis (rather than 1 needed for each motor) and PMDX-411 which is called a motion controller and connects the Gecko to the computer parallel > USB, would any other hardware be needed? And for the software it would just be the Mach4- hobby licence?

    Thanks again
     
  7. Matt W

    Matt W New
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    Ollieg

    Yes. Solid works and save the file as a DXF. Import that into Estlcam and then you specify the tool and cut types then save it as a gcode file for Mach4 TAP file. Then when you open it in Mach4 you can setup the CNC and run.

    The gecko G540 has all 4 motors drivers up to 48v. The PMDX411 is really easy to use and just plugs into the G540. So you don’t need any other motor drivers or controllers.

    When you get it all assembled, let me know if you need help configuring the software. It takes a while but makes logical sense. I would suggest buying limit switches for each axis. You just need 1 per axis so the CNC can home itself. Mach 4 works better if you set the machine zero before starting.
     
  8. Gary Caruso

    Gary Caruso OpenBuilds Team
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    Looks like that Mach 3 package comes with a usb board, must be somewhat new.

    Matt has a good setup, maybe he has not tried other newer options because I can do those things with Estlcam or even UGS and GRBL.
    Both support live (while running) feed changes and Estlcam has real nice continuous smooth jogging at five different user adjustable speed.
    You can also use an X-box controller in estlcam, and in UGS it's easy to change the jog settings after you get it figured out.

    One thing with that GRBL package is the drivers listed are rather low power. and I don't know the quality of the Mach 3 drivers either.
    Gecko's are real nice drivers, so are DQ542ma's openbuilds has.. and leadshine branded 542 drives..

    Either way you go both are not hard to setup or use and will do what you need.
    Plenty of help here when you need it too.
    Good luck
    Gary
     
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  9. Ollieg

    Ollieg Well-Known
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    Thanks for all the feedback it has been really useful. from all of the above I "THINK" I have worked out the below options, have I covered everything that is needed.

    So I have 2 kits the MACH3 and the GBRL from china, the plan is now to get rid of them and the motors that came with the Workbee and use the

    Gecko 540 with motors and a 48v power supply like this
    4 axis Gecko G540 kit with 381 oz-in Stepper Motor, 48V/12.5A | eBay

    Then add one of these PMDX.COM - Products for CNC and motion control applications

    And the Mach4 Hobby as the software

    Is this all the hardware I will need? I have seen some users have a handheld pendant that they use to move the axis, is there a specific one anyone would suggest?

    And to confirm software It will be Solidworks to DXF, then open in estlcam then save as MACH4 TAP file and open in MACH4 which will send the code to the machine and run the job. The part of the software I am struggling to get my head around is if I can minimize number of bits of software. For example our laser cutters which I know are not CNC's but use a much simpler process and I am hoping for something similar. Our trotec lasers are effectively set up as a printer so we can print a vector from illustrator and it spools to the laser cutter ready for cutting and our Chinese lasers use something called RD works which allows us to draw shapes in the software and cut/ control the machine all from one piece of software, am I dreaming or is there a similar type of process we could use to run the CNC?

    My last of many questions is, I have 2 pieces of V groove which are 2.4m from the same supplier and I plan to use them to upgrade the size of the machine to 2.5x1.5, of all of the larger builds I have seen on this forum they seem to use belts, is there a reason for this or am I ok to use the screw drive system for this size?

    Thanks again!
     
  10. Gary Caruso

    Gary Caruso OpenBuilds Team
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    Edit.. Ok I see the usb parallel thingy now...

    Where will you get the 2.4m screws? they will whip unless they are quite large diameter.. Either belts or rack and pinion is your best option at that size.
    What V-groove do you have?
    Cheers
    Gary
     
    #10 Gary Caruso, Jul 5, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2018

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