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General Controller Board Chat

Discussion in 'Controller Boards' started by davidbrowne, Nov 17, 2015.

  1. davidbrowne

    davidbrowne Journeyman
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    My CNC pro card has been a bit of a problem from the start. Mostly overheating or loosing its way, even converting to inches halfway through a job. So against all advise, I purchased some of those cheap drivers from China, Aus$140, did all the recommended modifications, and installed Mach 3.
    I have just finished running the initial tests and can not believe the sound of the motors. They positively sing. Ran some tests for missing steps, ran a test cut for over 1 hour, not a sign of overheating and the steppers sound so good! Really happy so far. Next test is to start turning a nice piece of jarra into chips.
     
  2. Jonny Norris

    Jonny Norris Veteran
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    The sound of a motor being correctly powered is much quieter isn't it.

    Xpros are a bad bet and i will suggest again they are removed as a recommendation from all nema 23 builds.

    Not asking people for a debate on the subject, though I'm sure I will get one. But a forum where there is a recommendation for bad hardware ends up being a support forum for said hardware, and gets bit boring reading the same issue again and again in all honesty.

    And at the end of the day the Xpro is not that shy cost wise to a mosfet setup with the exception that xpros don't work. And by don't I mean, they are not repeatedly accurate and do not produce smooth enough motion to avoid chatter, both due to power incompatibility with nema 23's.
     
    #2 Jonny Norris, Nov 17, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2015
  3. RomCorrea

    RomCorrea New
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    I wish I had that information before I got it. It sure was quite expensive. I think I might put that one on ebay and get something else instead. What do you recommend? It needs to be usb as I don't have a printer port.
     
  4. Jonny Norris

    Jonny Norris Veteran
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    My opposition to the xpro is always met with claims that they do work, what they actually have is something that appears to work but struggles and the results of which will be substandard, but without a standard I suppose they are not to know. Frankly I have no quarrels saying this now the evidence is clear to see yet again and any opposition to my view on this, I will say that having wasted my fair share of money on rubbish cnc gear, I will and have at times been a voice to disapprove poor quality products and will continue to be so as less people are stung.

    Afraid rom you must have not read any of my posts on the subject. uc100 with a bog standard Bob and mosfet drivers such as cw5045 won't let you down.
     
  5. Paruk

    Paruk Master
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    Stay away from the Planet CNC USB solutions. They're also crap. In short, there are no cheap or reasonable priced USB solutions available at the moment, there are cheap promises enough though. I've settled for a Gecko G540 and parallel port solution on an old PC. Works like a dream right now. Lots of power and so silent I can hear the PS fan inside the table (the Kress mill is also extremely silent!). I think you can run it all over USB with the addition of an extra BoB. Look at the work of the guy in Florida, Area 51 CNC Parts F-117 CNC Gear Rack Drive System | OpenBuilds.
     
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  6. RomCorrea

    RomCorrea New
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    This is getting more and more pricey. :( I saw the geckos when I was first starting but at around £300 it is not something I can afford atm. What I might consider is getting the cw5045 (per jonny norris suggestion)
    and control with an arduino board. I can get 3 of those for around £60 + £30 for the arduino which would let me control through USB and sort me out until I can afford something more meaty. I have a mac which seems to be a big problem. I can get my hands on an old pc and by old I mean XP, pentium 4 early 00's old. Might work though. What do you think?
     
  7. Paruk

    Paruk Master
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    After fooling around with all kinds of stuff for about a year now, I can only tell you to better save up and get good stuff than waste money on crap and ending up buying the Geckos and other reliable equipment. I've thrown away about $S 300 (a bit more) on Planet CNC crap and some cheap drivers. That money is evaporated with little to learn out of it (besides that it is crap!). So, its "Penny Wise, Pound foolish" or bite the bullet. The CW5045 of Jonny are actually from Wantai and you can get those cheaper with them. Order some extra to be sure you have enough working for your setup. Make a package deal with them (drivers, motors, BoB and power supplies) and you can get the whole load for a very competitive price. (I had 5 drivers, 4 motors, 2 BoB, 2 power supplies 36V for about 235 US$). I didn't use them in real life settings yet, but it looks promising and Wantai has not too bad reviews on their stuff.

    That PC could work. Strip it completely of anything not essential. That includes networks, wifi, internet, mail, sound etc. Test it with Mach3 for speed, read the manual for how to set it up.
     
  8. Jonny Norris

    Jonny Norris Veteran
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    Praux I did a bit of research the cw5045 aka m545d is made by a sister company to wantai, so they do infact come from the same place, just not sold as a wantai. Link >

    Changzhou Jinsanshi Mechatronics Co. Ltd.

    The cw5045 is a little more powerful in spec then the closest wantai driver hense the extra $10 rrp however they are similar and a ox is a ultra light weight setup so the wantai would be more than surfice.

    Jss-motor.com actually do some slightly lower spec drivers also that do seem to match the closest wantai one, and it could indeed be that wantai are rebranding these actually it's pretty obvious with the similarities in part numbers. But the cw5045/m545d has not been rebranded by wantai it seems so not quite the same lol confusing as hell I know.
     
    #8 Jonny Norris, Nov 18, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2015
  9. Mark Carew

    Mark Carew OpenBuilds Team
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    Sorry to hear you had these issues @Prauk but in Planet CNC defense I think it should be said that many, many Builders are using and enjoying this system including myself for years. I personally really like the Planet CNC gear. From what I understand Andrej from PlanetCNC is one of the guys that helped worked on the Mach3 software back in the day and has now gone off to make his own company of really easy to use powerful CNC solutions that are used in many machines today. This was about the time that the rs232 parallel ports that Mach required were being phased out of computers and so we needed a USB solution. I have run several machines using the PlanetCNC gear and they run great. I really like the included control software as well. Its very powerful and can do most of what Mach was/is able to do for us.
    PlanetCNC does have a support forum where you can get answers directly from Andrej and even inquire about software additions as well. PlanetCNC Support Forum
    On a side note but related: I have been talking with Andrej about a more powerful driver solution that will plug into his CNC USB boards and look what just came into OpenBuilds HQ today! :) I am looking forward to testing these 6.0A bad boys
    DSC04526.JPG
    Check out the user manual here and read more about these drivers -http://www.planet-cnc.com/files/MotorDriver60A-256.pdf
    You can find them on his store here if you want to grab a few to try - Planet CNC

    Thank you
     
  10. Jonny Norris

    Jonny Norris Veteran
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    €64 a pop, ouch! seems they have priced it at the same price as a 32bit dsp driver, and the nforce mosfets, dont test as well as the chopper type.

    sorry mark, another over priced product from planet cnc
     
  11. Mark Carew

    Mark Carew OpenBuilds Team
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    I have to admit I am no expert on the electronics side of a build (but learning :) ) I only know that I have had good experences with the CNC USB boards on my builds.
    I think besides pricing, for most people it simply comes down to personal preference on the drivers of choice, either by referral from experiences of friends or to the tech details pros and cons. Either way its a good thing because it allows us as a group to focus and find the ones that work good at a reasonable price.
     
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  12. Paruk

    Paruk Master
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    And there you have it! Working good at a reasonable price. Planet CNC hard- and software doesn't. Period. The question is, how far did you "push" your Planet CNC stuff? Try starting to use it in a bit more pro way and you'll immediately see where I'm pointing at. Working now with Gecko and Mach3, I can't start to describe how huge the difference is.

    And please, don't come with the support forum. If you post there, Andrej is catching it before and might answer you in private. 95% of my postings (questions mainly) didn't make it to the forum. Heard that many others had the same experience when encountering serious issues with the hard/software of Planet CNC. A good way to avoid too much negative feedback, but it doesn't change the reality of stuff that doesn't do the job.

    Once, in my wild and stupid years, I was a Microsoft Certified System Engineer (sounds like a lot, means actually nothing!). Before I only suspected, but then I knew, Microsoft is the 25% company. Meaning, of all what they promise their software can do, only 25% of that can be achieved. If you start to use any of it in a serious way, it starts crashing and won't stop until you stop trying to do something that it promises but exceeds the 25% threshold.

    There are a lot of companies these days copying the Microsoft business model (intended or unintended makes no difference for the customer). Quality has become just another marketing yell, meaningless and belonging to a distant past.
     
    #12 Paruk, Nov 18, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2015
  13. Paruk

    Paruk Master
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    Notch-Notch, Wink-Wink, do I need say more?
     
  14. Jonny Norris

    Jonny Norris Veteran
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    In all fairness Planet cnc are doing something new with that board with its software and firmware opening up a complete new way of calibration with a potentional for many extra options that I've not seen before.

    but I can't help but ask why?! It seems they have firmware setting that would otherwise be made in the control software with all sorts of added decay settings and a whole lot of stuff that could improve motion I give it that, but it lacks adaptive pid which takes care of a lot of the issues they are creating work arounds for. And dsp pid does this without getting involved in the mathematics of it all and most importantly of all it adjusts the output current based on motor inductance at any given time so dsp pid will have much better repeatability over the planet cncs constant current driver for that reason alone.

    Very confused by this little thing. It has potential, if it had dsp with chopper mosfets instead of the nforce mosfets with its firmware it could be a next generation driver. It may well be that the nature of dsp pid would not allow the customisation they have programmed, so a compromise would be required. But as it is I think they may struggle with that one, do people want hundreds of variables or something that's slightly better and you just plug in and off you go.
     
    #14 Jonny Norris, Nov 18, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2015
  15. Paruk

    Paruk Master
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    For hobby work it can be something, but then, it's a bit high priced for that. Tweaking around on cheap stuff as a hobby is one thing, tweaking around on (semi)-pro stuff is another story. For that kind of money one should have a no problem-and-go piece of equipment.
     
  16. Mark Carew

    Mark Carew OpenBuilds Team
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    More then a chance to vent and rave, in truth the helpful postings here (no matter how hard they may be to take) are only going to help us refine and point us all in the right direction when it comes to selecting the right and best performing controller boards for Builders particular budget.
    Weren't we all? I think I helped develop 25% of that software myself through support tickets ;)
    @Prauk true on the pricing, China labor makes it hard to compete with at times and from what I have known PlanetCNC is making these in house.
    Sorry to hear your not getting the support your asking for from Planet CNC we have never had a complaint about their support and in factwe receive just the opposite feedback as most users receive reply's that Andrej gets them up and running quickly.
    I have heard great things about the Gecko drivers as I have a lot of friends that use them and like them, and of course Mach3 is a staple and an oldie but goodie I have used it for years but to be honest for me the PlanetCNC software is much nicer to work with.
    All this being said I am glad to see you have settled on a control system that works for you.

    I agree @Jonny Norris Its completely new being able to tweak each driver independently, which I think would be nice if your building a machine with unique axis (say rotary style axis of say a robot arm that you needed to fine tune motion for each axis) that could benefit from this feature. I had one connected last night and it was pretty cool seeing all the available options. I really like the live temperature feed.
    You have good ideas with the dsp and chopper mosfets that I am sure Andrej would love to hear about so I will point him in this direction. Its this kind of collaboration that does challenge us to make better higher quality components for the benefit of everyone

    I am thinking that parts of this thread may be better hosted under the related topic of Controller Boards, and we can start to work together on finding control solutions that wont break the bank but have good performance to help new Builders looking for driver boards.
    Thanks again for your help guys and I look forward to Andrej joining in as well
    Mark
     
  17. Jonny Norris

    Jonny Norris Veteran
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    yes It does seem orientated towards smooth motion, over accuracy. an alternative to dsp which would suit this approach would be to make it a closed loop stepper servo driver which would allow the settings that dsp would otherwise override.

    geckos do seem to be a popular choice though may not be favoured by budget builders with its resonably high retail price over say cncdrives uc100 or uc300 motion controller with there being good quality non motion control type fully isolated bobs out there at around £40 and coupled with uccnc software brings the total to around £140 or £160 with uc300. I have a partner company that uses geckos and I actually find the cncdrive setup to produce slightly smoother motion with the softwares toolpath smoothing though currently doesnt support 4th axis. so a little compromise there, but nether the less a competitive system at around half the cost of the gecko.
     
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  18. Mark Carew

    Mark Carew OpenBuilds Team
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    These post were moved here from the OX thread to create a place to discuss the pros and cons of today's stepper motor controller/driver boards to help in finding the right board for a Build.
     
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  19. Paruk

    Paruk Master
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    I paid for my Gecko G540 about US$ 275 (new) and practically received a BoB (included in the drive) and 4 motor drivers for that money. A BoB of good quality does around US$ 50 so that leaves US$ 225 for 4 motor drivers, being US$ 56.25 each. Mach3 is US$ 175 and a parallel cable is US$ 20. Total price for a complete operational set US$ 470, buying a more or less industry standard solution. Mach3 and Gecko have excellent proven support and fora all over the web.

    Now we take Planet CNC.

    Mark 2/4 board costed me US$113 plus US$79 for the controller license, totalling US$ 192. Proper USB cable another US$ 10 and 4 motor drivers at US$ 26 each. Total price for a complete operational system US$ 306. No industry standard, 1 guy operation from Slovenia. Solution wasn't running smooth at all and extremely slow. After trying for almost 1 year Andrej offered as solution to buy another controller Mk3 because that one was able to run 3D work in a smooth fashion. Bang! another US$ 175 (after a 30% discount of him). So that would bring my price to US$ 481, not even having better drivers and no guarantee things would run smoother with 3 D work.

    So conclusion of this; if I would have bought Gecko and Mach3 right from the start, it would have set me back US$ 470, giving smooth runs from the start and not much further tweaking. The Planet CNC option would have set me back US$ 481 to achieve less than the same, lots of tweaking all the way and into the future and still no reliable motor drivers.

    Again: One could go for the Planet CNC option if being a true hobbyist and with seas of time to tweak and play around. But having that time and attitude there are lots of cheaper solutions available, just as good or even better and also on USB. But if you want to have your machine to do some serious cutting and carving, stay away from it. Mach3 and Gecko does work surprisingly well and way more reliable.

    On an extra note about Planet CNC stuff.
    When I wanted to switch the router on and off with the software and using the Planet CNC controller for that, it turned out I needed extra hardware and boards to make that happen. Bringing the cost of ownership even further up. The same solution in Mach3/Gecko G540 costed me not more than a couple of $ for a simple relay and some wire to make it happen. Lots of extras can be added to Mach3/Gecko for very little money, where Planet CNC will keep adding considerable amounts for the same. So, even for some serious playing and tweaking I would 1st go for the Mach3/Gecko solution which in the longer run turns out to be cheaper and more reliable.

    Choosing for Mach3/Gecko over Planet CNC is a logical and sound decision. I wish I would have had that information when I started more than a year ago and save me lots of trouble and money. Hope it will help others that starting now or looking for better solutions.
     
  20. davidbrowne

    davidbrowne Journeyman
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    I think if we could define a systematic method of testing these solutions and have a cost vs performance chart,
    it would certainly help with decisions. New builders need to see this sort of information so they know what they're in for.
    I use the ox as a hobby machine, therefore I must budget accordingly, I cannot afford a profession device when I have much greater priorities for my hard earned cash.
    When I first ventured into this, driver boards didn't seem to figure much into the cost, but now I realize that missing steps, can not only destroy your project, it totally destroys enthusiasm as well. Had I known from the start, I could budgeted better, and saved a lot of heartbreak.
     
  21. dddman

    dddman Master
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  22. JustinTime

    JustinTime Master
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    One reason many may choose the Planet CNC first is the need for a USB controlled system since many have newer computers which don't have a parallel outlet. Going the Mach3 route, which I did too, requires an extra computer, which I had to buy along with a monitor for another $100. So you'll have to add that to your total of $470.
     
  23. Paruk

    Paruk Master
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    That's a fair point you make. However, it is often possible to get an old computer and monitor for free or nearly free if you look around a bit. Lots of them lying around with people almost forgetting about them. So I would say, make a provision for it in your budget but try to get a freebie.
     
  24. Paruk

    Paruk Master
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    I think one has to look through the first impression of things being more expensive than others. In this case, more expensive turns out to be cheaper on the longer run with added reliability as a bonus and as an other extra, cheaper ways of extending the functionality of your machine (camera, laser pointer, mist, pressure valve, relays for switching on/off peripheral extra tools etc.). Having a limited hobby budget, my choice would be clear.
     
  25. Paruk

    Paruk Master
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  26. dddman

    dddman Master
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    Why?
     
  27. JustinTime

    JustinTime Master
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    For one it says in the heading '3D printer'! :ROFL::ROFL::ROFL:

    Also, these drivers are very low amp driver. Best suited for NEMA 17 steppers.
     
  28. John Meikrantz

    John Meikrantz Veteran
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    It's fine - there is a more current version of the CNC Shield that you can get from the original designer - he also sells on eBay under Protoneer. This is the main site with good info on the board: Arduino CNC Shield – 100% GRBL Compatable | Protoneer.co.nz

    Check out some of the latest posts in the Ooznest thread - latest build is using that exact set up. The DRV8825s can drive 2.5a, so probably good for smaller (< 270 oz or so) NEMA 23s. I think a couple of other Ox builds are also using the CNC Shield.

    -- John
     
  29. OldDogSleeping

    OldDogSleeping Well-Known
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    That's my build; to be honest I think the DRV8825's are only borderline capable of driving NEMA 23s. While they can theoretically drive 2.5a, the thermal design of the modules is not good, you'll note I have mine adjusted to 1.5a. They can be made to work, I am after all using them, but it's too easy to stray beyond their limits. Having been into electronics for a long time, I fortunately have the test gear to monitor what's happening when they didn't work well straight out of the box.

    The biggest problem is a long (non adjustable) blanking time on the pwm current regulation, that when paired with a low impedance motor like the NEMA 23, makes it difficult for the module to regulate the small currents used in microstepping.
     
  30. John Meikrantz

    John Meikrantz Veteran
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    That's a great point - drivers do need to be matched appropriately with motors. The data sheet for the DRV8825 recommends heat sinking for 2.5A operation, but I think thats pretty standard with a lot of drivers. The Pololu sticks (and the xPro) are set to use mixed decay mode, which works pretty well in most scenarios. On the xPro, there is a solder jumper that you can use to set fast decay like the mod you did with your drivers. Biggest problem I see is that people tend to use the "default" grbl settings, which are not optimal. Right now I am using 233oz. motors that are rated at 2.5a, and they run very smoothly. Automation Technologies has a beast of a NEMA 23 that is rated at 425oz. and only draws 2.8a. People tend to overpower the Ox design, and use much larger motors than necessary. The DRV8825 and A4988 are used in a lot of smaller CNC designs (Shapeoko, Carvey, Xcarve, original Ox, C-Beam Plate maker, etc.) and are probably the standard for grbl based control. The TinyG uses similarly capable drivers with good results for a lot of designs as well. One of the cool things about the CNC Motor Shield is that you can use it with an Arduino Due running G2 to get a good look at difference in motion control between grbl and TinyG.

    All that being said, if I was going to build a larger machine, and use rack and pinion or long screw drives, I would probably head towards a G540 or similar design. Currently starting to experiment with Beaglebone/LinuxCNC/TB6600 drivers.
     

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