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Thread: Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

  1. #1

    Default Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

    From this other long thread (that I don't want to hijack too much), I want to make a Propeller version of the Thing-O-Matic controller (Arduino based).

    This is all new to me, but I think this is the concept:

    As I understand it, you can use software such as MACH3 on a PC to generate gcode that tells the tool exactly what to do. You then copy the gcode onto an SD card and stick it in the Prop controller. The Propeller will then send signals to the stepper controller to move the tool around.

    The Thing-O-Matic just does 3D printing, but I'm hoping the Zen kit I've ordered will also double as a basic CNC machine for soft materials.

    But, instead of just doing what the Arduino unit does, I'd like to add in extra functionality...

    What makes sense?
    VGA/KB/Mouse interface? - use a computer monitor to see what's going on and manually control
    (or does TV/KB/Mouse sound better?)
    Network interface? - use a PC web browser to to see what's going on and manually control

    Or, does a little, say 3.5" touchscreen interface make more sense?
    Is sound output important?

    I think you could use a PC to control the system and not use the Propeller at all.
    But, the Thing-O-Matic people seemed to think that a microcontroller based approach is better.
    I'm hoping that more people feel the same way...

    Maybe there's only a handful of people out there thinking about this too, but I'd like to hear any opinions on the right direction.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

    Hi Rayman.

    MACH 3 don't need Micro-controller Hardware. All that needs are Stepper controller's that are Parallel port driven from PC and has only signals to it - Forward/Back,.Step's, Half/full step's.
    Other that software are KCAM4.
    It is that ones I look on.



    Quote Originally Posted by Rayman View Post
    From this other long thread (that I don't want to hijack too much), I want to make a Propeller version of the Thing-O-Matic controller (Arduino based).

    This is all new to me, but I think this is the concept:

    As I understand it, you can use software such as MACH3 on a PC to generate gcode that tells the tool exactly what to do. You then copy the gcode onto an SD card and stick it in the Prop controller. The Propeller will then send signals to the stepper controller to move the tool around.

    The Thing-O-Matic just does 3D printing, but I'm hoping the Zen kit I've ordered will also double as a basic CNC machine for soft materials.

    But, instead of just doing what the Arduino unit does, I'd like to add in extra functionality...

    What makes sense?
    VGA/KB/Mouse interface? - use a computer monitor to see what's going on and manually control
    (or does TV/KB/Mouse sound better?)
    Network interface? - use a PC web browser to to see what's going on and manually control

    Or, does a little, say 3.5" touchscreen interface make more sense?
    Is sound output important?

    I think you could use a PC to control the system and not use the Propeller at all.
    But, the Thing-O-Matic people seemed to think that a microcontroller based approach is better.
    I'm hoping that more people feel the same way...

    Maybe there's only a handful of people out there thinking about this too, but I'd like to hear any opinions on the right direction.
    Regards
    Sapieha
    __________________________________________________ ___
    Nothing is impossible, there are only different degrees of difficulty.
    For every stupid question there is at least one intelligent answer.
    Don't guess - ask instead.
    If you don't ask you won't know.
    If your gonna construct something, make it as simple as possible yet as versatile/usable as possible.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

    Ok, I see it now, MACH3 is a GCODE interpreter. So, I think what I want to do is have the Prop controller do the same things that MACH3 does.
    I'll take a look at KCAM4.

    I suppose another approach for the 3D printing parts is to use the Thing-O-Matic software to generate the gcode and have the Prop process that...

  4. #4

    Default Re: Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

    G-code pretty complicated. I wrote an interpreter a few years ago that implemented most of the codes, but ran out of Propeller memory before it could be finished. Still there was enough to do some X/Y table printing, etc... The PC application would read the G-code and send it to the Propeller an instruction at a time. Sadly all of that work was lost in one of my computer disasters. Here's a video of the system running: http://www.youtube.com/0x5555#p/u/10/p3lZaYeUGFg

  5. #5

    Default Re: Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

    Too bad you lost it, looks like you had it going there... Maybe gcode is more complex than I was thinking...

    Given that, and the fact that controlling the steppers needs a lot of I/O pins, I guess I'll need a 2 Prop solution.

    One Prop will take in gcode commands via serial port (either from PC or second Prop) and control steppers.
    Optional second Prop will be used for human interface.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

    I used single pin control EasyDriver modules with one Propeller.
    They only have 2 speeds, but that choice left me with plenty of Propeller pins.

    I found the PC side g-code application but it needs to be rewritten for current platforms.
    As is, it needs some MSCommLib.dll stuff. It's more than a 5 minute job. Here's a snapshot:
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version

Name:	GcodeClientSnapshot.jpg‎
Views:	345
Size:	42.3 KB
ID:	78623  

  7. #7

    Default Re: Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

    EasyDriver won't work for me because it's rated for 750mA max and the Zen steppers are 1.7A.
    As I read it, you need 2 pins, 1 for direction and 1 for step. So, essentially that's the same as the driver board I'm getting.

    So for 4 axes, that's 8 pins. Then you also want to monitor limit switches and proximity home switches and an E-stop switch.
    Also, it seems people want to enable the axis motors with a dedicated pin.
    Also, there's sometimes a spindle motor relay to control.
    We'll probably want to monitor and control the temperature of the 3D print head...

    I think it adds up to a lot of pins... I could try i2c expansion, but I'm not totally sure that's fast enough...

    I see there are 3.4 MHz I2C I/O Expanders from Microchip.
    I'm pretty sure that would be fast enough. But, jazzed has me worried now about how much memory a gcode translator will take up...

  8. #8

    Default Re: Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

    I emailed a copy of my Propeller G-code interpreter to a forum participant once.
    I've asked via PM if he could send back a copy if he has it. We'll see.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

    The standard toolchain for the thing-o-matic is replicatorg - http://replicat.org/. It uses skeinforge (http://fabmetheus.crsndoo.com/) to generate the g-code. skeinforge is included as part of the replicatorg download.

    I got my thing-o-matic built and running just a few weeks ago. Pretty cool except for that arduino.

    The thing-o-matic gets the gcode from either the USB or the sd card. I've only used the USB so far with no problems.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

    sssidney, thanks, I was just reading about Sanguino3G at the replicat.org website.
    If I'm reading it right, RepicatorG does a lot of the gcode processing on the PC and sends simplified commands over USB serial link or SD card.

    Perhaps a better approach for me (at least for 3D printing) is to process this binary code instead of text gcode.
    Then, I think I can use the Makerbot software directly...

    I'm not sure if that approach is workable for regular CNC work though...

  11. #11

    Default Re: Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

    So the code stored on the sd card or that is send over the serial link is actual the S3G that is created by replicatorG...

    http://replicat.org/sanguino3g

    It would be interesting to write a small PC program to interactively fire these commands at the thingomatic.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

    A shift register would be fine for monitoring the limits and e-stop, as well as the drive enable pins - None of those have to be set or read particularly quickly (at least, not as quickly as the step & direction pins). Even those, for a typical machine, likely won't be as demanding as you'd think. My machine is 8000 steps per inch, and the motors get useless at a little under 180 inches per minute, which is only 24,000 steps per second. A PASM driver would have no trouble hitting that, and I doubt it'd give a shift register much trouble either.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

    Thanks Jason. Good to get some real world input... I'll assume your system is better than mine and use 24kHz steps as upper limit to what I need.

    A shift register with latch is another option... That could also achieve 24 kHz. I'll have to think some more on the best approach for a 1-Prop system.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

    My motor drivers were set to use 1/8th micro-steps, but I just recently reduced them to 1/2 steps (for better repeatability), so the step rate comes down correspondingly. So now they're actually 2000 steps per inch, or a max of 6kHz. My point is that micro-stepping may factor in to your design - If you want to support micro-step setups, you'd need to support correspondingly higher step rates.

    I've seen drivers that support up to 256 micro steps. For a cutting machine that doesn't make much sense, as the small steps aren't likely to overcome the static friction required move the head, but for a printer the forces involved are much lower - micro-steps might be useful. Blah blah blah...

  15. #15

    Default Re: Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

    I have a feeling I'll be dropping back on the microsteps as well... I find it hard to believe the motors can actually deliver on the 1/32 microstep option of the controller... But, I have to decide via switches what I want. But, here's a question...

    If I set the hard switches of the controller to say 8 microsteps and then give 8 pulse bursts in intervals to move the head, is this equivalent to single stepping?

  16. #16

    Default Re: Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

    It's equivalent in that it'll move the same amount. The microstep case will likely move smoother, producing less resonance, though it'd depend on how fast you sent the pulses - if you sent them essentially "all at once" it'd probably be identical. (look at the "Step Response" graph on this page: http://www.euclidres.com/apps/steppe...r/stepper.html if you're unfamiliar with stepper resonance).

  17. #17

    Default Re: Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

    After more research it seems that Mach3 is a very popular tool... Perhaps another avenue is to create a plug-in for Mach3 using their SDK that redirects parallel port output to an FTDI serial link. Then, Mach3 would talk directly to a Prop chip.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

    Ray - what did you think of replicatorG/skeinforge?

  19. #19

    Default Re: Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

    That's what I plan to use for 3D Printing. I've heard it's a bit hard to use, but I like that it's all free. I just need some Prop code to interpret the binary gcode.
    I'm hoping they've posted the Arduino source code somewhere. With that, it should be trivial.

    Maybe I will make some kind of Windows test app to shoot codes to the. It'll probably be weeks until I'm at that point, but then I'll see if I can find "real" Thing-O-Matic owners (like you) to try the Windows app...

    I'd like to use Mach3 for CNC milling though...

  20. #20

    Default Re: Propeller gcode interpreter for CNC and 3D Printer

    A couple of potentially useful links:

    http://www.contraptor.org/arduino-gcode-interpreter

    http://www.dakeng.com/CNCconvert.html

    I am VERY close to ordering a 7" Zen myself...
    www.mikronauts.com / E-mail: mikronauts _at_ gmail _dot_ com / Products and Projects:
    RoboPi: The most advanced Robot controller for the Raspberry Pi (Propeller based)
    SchoolBoard ][ Solderless Educational Development Board (Propeller, FPGA, more)
    Advanced prototyping & Parallax Propeller boards - Follow @Mikronauts on Twitter

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