CNC controller

Discussion in 'CNC machining projects' started by ddmckee54, Sep 12, 2019.

  1. ddmckee54

    ddmckee54 Copper

    What are you guys using for a controller on your CNC's?

    The last CNC machine I built ran off TurboCNC so I'm looking to step up to something that's using technology that's at least in this century.

    I'm in the process of designing/building a CNC router and I'm not sure which way to go. I'm currently designing around a 48"x24"x6" working volume and planning on using NEMA 23 steppers for the X, Y and Z axis. I'm not planning on, and don't need to run this at blinding speeds, I figure that rapid travels in the 125"-150" per minute range are more than enough. I'll be cutting mainly wood and plastic with MAYBE some non-ferrous metals thrown in at greatly reduce feed-rates and DOC. The spindle will either be a Bosch Colt compact router, that I already have, or a Chinese spindle in about the 1KW range.

    I have looked at the following:
    Mach 3/4
    LinuxCNC - I don't have a Linux machine but I'm including it because somebody would say I need to use it.
    Acorn Centroid
    Arduino GRBL

    I know each one has advantages and disadvantages. What are you guys' using and why?

    Last edited: Sep 12, 2019
  2. Jammer

    Jammer Silver Banner Member

    Mach 3 works for me and it was what I could afford at the time.
  3. Al2O3

    Al2O3 Administrator Staff Member Banner Member

    Don, are you a member of any of the CNC Router forums or blogs at the manufacturers sites? If you search it you'll get plenty of hits. -Might get the latest skinny.

  4. DavidF

    DavidF Administrator Staff Member Banner Member

    I'm running mach 3. But have been thinking of switching to linux...
  5. ddmckee54

    ddmckee54 Copper


    Yeah, I'm a member there, just haven't been active for a long time.

    Part of the problem is that there are many camps and each camp has it's own followers, sometimes rabidly so. I'm trying to find out some of the whys' in "Why did you do it that way? I can afford to do it right this time, I just don't want to have to do it right multiple times.

    As far as I can tell, the big three: Flashcut, Mach 3, and LinuxCNC, all do pretty much the same thing to varying degrees of accuracy and smoothness. I can pretty much guarantee that what I will be doing will NOT push the software to the point that it I would notice it out-performing the others.

    With the possible exception of Acorn, I think all the others that I have listed will require some type of interpreting software to spoon-feed the g-code to the stepper controllers, still researching that.

  6. Gippeto

    Gippeto Silver

    My little machine came with and runs Arduino will the one I'm building. Dads machines (router and Taig mill) are running Mach 3...I've started learning a little Mach to better decide whether to switch them over to GRBL. GRBL and UGS are open source, well developed and do everything I need at this point, and IMO, they are super easy to use...I've got it setup via bluetooth on a tablet which is super convenient.

  7. ddmckee54

    ddmckee54 Copper


    It's my understanding that GRBL doesn't do smooth arcs, but rather divides the arc up into a gazillion short - but straight lines. Is this the case, and if so has this been an issue? What are you using your machine for?

    I have always liked the idea of using an Arduino, one of my 3D printer is running on an Arduino. The reason that I was leaning away from them was my understanding of how arcs and curves are dealt with by their associated software.

    This is one of the reasons that I started this thread, to talk to people that use the various controllers/systems and ask what they like and do not like about that system.

  8. Gippeto

    Gippeto Silver

    I mostly use it for foam patterns as it's pretty light duty. GRBL may well divide the arcs up, but I have not noticed any issues related to it. Most of my parts have more than one arc or curve.


    Attached Files:

  9. 509Maker

    509Maker Lead

    I have used Mach, uccnc, LinuxCNC and GRBL ( with Bcnc ). All work very well. With Nema 23 motors on all axis I would recommend picking up a Gecko G540 and giving all options a go, to see what you like. For mach / uccnc I have always used the uc300eth ethernet board. Linuxcnc the Mesa 7I92H ethernet board. With grbl I just designed my own G540 plug and play usb controller. It is open source "Here" feel free to make one. With the projects I tend to tackle on my routers I have never reached a bottle neck with grbl or noticed any quality issues arising from how grbl process g-code.
  10. Guster

    Guster Silver

    I'm planning to run a RichAuto A11 DSP on my current build. Uses a pendant style DSP with a fully featured breakout board that supports a wide variety of configurations. This is quite a common component in midrange commercial CNC router machines which Fusion360 has post processing support for. It removes the need for running a dedicated PC for CNC control thought it is a little harder to use compared to say Mach3 or Linux CNC alternatives. It also comes in other flavours for CNC plasma cutting or multi-axis milling. As well as other variants with touch screens that support running interactive g-code processing.
  11. garyhlucas

    garyhlucas Silver

    I just finished cutting most of the frame parts for a 24” x 48” x6” CNC router for the high school FIRST robotics team. Very special design. Overhead bridge design pulls the X axis rails in so it fits through a standard school door. So it has a very rigid 8020 aluminum cross braced frame and 8” casters. The frame design allows passing a full 4’ x 8’ sheet through.

    It is also intended primarily for metal cutting. There is a full coolant pan under the table, a built in vacuum, air compressor and vertical slide doors on all sides with sound proofing. It has a large electrical cabinet and an industrial PLC in addition to what will likely be an Acorn CNC controller.

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