Machsupport Forum

Mach Discussion => Mach3 under Vista => Topic started by: ITGuy on June 08, 2015, 05:34:15 PM

Title: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: ITGuy on June 08, 2015, 05:34:15 PM
Hello Everyone,

I'm an IT consultant with a client who has just purchased Mach 3 and has asked me to supply a suitable PC. I'm looking for a recommended configuration rather than a minimum,so what works best; 32-bit vs 64-bit Win7 (can't do XP as the PC will be exposed to the LAN), parallel port vs external motion controller, minimum RAM and onboard video memory, etc.

It will be a dedicated PC used for a variety of 2D and 3D applications. I took a spin through the FAQ and most of the hardware recommendations seem to be a few years old, so I'm hoping 64-bit is more viable now than it used to be but I'm definitely open to real community wisdom! I know I'll have a lot of other questions, but I'll wait until I get the base PC figured and run through a few manuals and tutorials so I can understand what you guys are talking about!
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: Tweakie.CNC on June 09, 2015, 03:11:31 AM
If you are going to use the parallel port with Windows 7 then you are limited to a 32 bit OS.
An external motion controller will be necessary if you are planning on using a 64 bit OS and this (external motion controller) may be the best route to take as it will then allow use with Win 8 etc. and also future update to Mach4 if you are looking that far ahead.

Tweakie.
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: RICH on June 09, 2015, 07:41:44 AM
ITGUY,

How much communication is required of the PC that is actually running the machine to the LAN?
Can't you set up a XP PC that is secure via another router ?
Or how about a dual boot system IE; XP and  W7. Now  you be limited to 4 gb of memory.
Or how about running Mach3 using XP but reboot via an installed system on a USB drive, second drive for communications.

I personally would recommend a dedicated PC for the machine as it's business is to run the machine.
Maybe a little dated PC for some time period and then an upgrade later.

We are in what I call a transition period and I still see things as fuzzy and have no knowledge of when the transition will be complete.
When will Mach 4 be completed and choice of  external motion devices functional. Don't think anybody knows but it is not TODAY!

Let the comments begin..........,

RICH
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: ozwes007 on June 09, 2015, 07:52:49 AM
Windows Xp is fine on an exposed lan if you have half decent firewall, your not doing online activities so exposure wouldn't be a risk. We still use Xp in Blue chip companies.Windows 7 32 Bit with 4GB ram UAC turned off is always good. Most commercial systems would have sufficient Video, however depending on what 3d rendering you are going to do on the machine(e.g. AutoCad, Inventor etc) your Video Ram may need upwards of 2-6GB with NVidia Watercooled systems and i7 Minimum with the possibility of Xeon Processors if you are really serious(HP Z Series Workstations is a good place to Start).
My Advice would be to NOT run anything other than the CNC solution on the CNC driving Machine otherwise you WILL run into problems with conflicting driver software etc.
I supply HP, Acer, IBM and Fujitsu business solutions for business and I have been down this road before. Its cheaper in the Long run to use two machines. Your ROI is better as well.

Wes
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: ITGuy on June 09, 2015, 10:02:04 AM
Thanks All for the replies; much appreciated!

All things considered, I'd prefer a solution which can survive an upgrade or two, so I'm leaning towards Win7/64  with an external controller if possible. Win7/32  wouldn't be awful, as I can always reformat and reinstall when the time comes, but I'd still want to use an external controller to consolidate the startup pain.

As far as XP goes, my firewall is fine but end users are end users, so I'd really have to lock it down to avoid the malware they might ask for when nobody's looking. I want connectivity for program and OS updates, remote monitoring and admin. Isolating/locking down XP would also be pretty expensive for my client as they're paying me by the hour, so I'd need a pretty compelling reason to go that route.

Wes, I'm a big fan of the HP Z-series workstations and also more interested in time lost than money spent. I've got a few i-7's out there with 8GB RAM performing beautifully. I haven't had the need to add a discrete GPU to these PCs; can you recommend one, or should I wait and see how the integrated graphics hold up? The end products will be home d├ęcor accents (nic nacs. office desk stuff, coasters, etc) so no need for extreme tolerances; I'm sure AutoCAD would be huge overkill for their purposes if that helps.

I've also been impressed with HP's IPS monitors; would 1920x1080 be sufficient for creating these types of products?

Thanks again for all you help!


Bruce

Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: ozwes007 on June 09, 2015, 08:45:19 PM
Bruce, I have quite a few HP IPS systems in use ATM and they are excellent. The Graphics side of things is once again purely dependant on what other Cad/Cam system they are going to use. If it in any way uses 3D rendering you will have major issues with onboard Video. And 1024x768 is all that is required for Mach3 use. The CPU choice is purely for the CAD/CAM system you will use as Mach3 will work quite happily on an i3 with 2GB of shared memory.

Hope this helps

Wes
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: ozwes007 on June 09, 2015, 08:51:49 PM
Just a small note on ROI
If they have 1 person operating the CAD/CAM system and another operating the Mach3 system there gross production will more than Quadruple! You can run a Demo version of Mach3 on the CAD/CAM system to verify toolpaths(upto max Lines) and tooling etc, all the while your production doesn't stop except for tool changes and initial tooling setup of a new job. Your Labour hire cost is high on the CAD/CAM side and can even be part time or outsourced, however the production operator is usually lowered skilled and lower cost.

Just a thought

Wes
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: Chaoticone on June 09, 2015, 11:03:44 PM
Quote
You can run a Demo version of Mach3 on the CAD/CAM system to verify toolpaths(upto max Lines) and tooling etc,

If the PC is not actually connected to a machine you should be running in simulation mode (no motion device selected), not demo mode, which does not have the 500 line Gcode limit.

The required Graphics processing power (as far as Mach is concerned) is dictated by the size and type Gcode files you will be running in Mach. You do not need a high end gamer card but one with a gig of RAM would not be money wasted if there is any possibility the machine will ever run large Gcode files.

Brett 


Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: ITGuy on June 18, 2015, 11:18:31 AM
Looks like my last reply didn't get posted (user error I'm guessing!), sorry to leave everyone in the lurch.

Thanks again for all of your advice; things are starting to take shape.

We've purchased a 48"x48" Zenbot router and Gecko g540 control box which we're going to connect to an HP Z230 PC, i7 8GB RAM and NVIDIA Quadro k620 2GB GPU. I'm leaning towards the Ethernet Smoothstepper over the UC100 USB motion controller so the PC doesn't need to be close to the table.

Any thoughts or caveats I should consider?

Thanks,
Bruce
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: joeaverage on June 21, 2015, 03:06:35 AM
Hi Bruce,
I run Mach3 on a dual core Atom no probs. I am using PP's currently so 32 bit OS.
Mach3 is a pretty basic program and does not require or even benefit from a powerful cpu, neither does it benefit from a ' you beaut' gpu provided the
supplied gpu is adequate to not steal time from the cpu.
If you use an external motion controller then the demand on the cpu is even less.
I don't have a firewall as my platform is never connected and runs ONLY my machine. It is becoming somewhat tiresome to transfer code by memory stick
it must be said but then I've never had a fault with the controller either.
My advice is sell your customer a cheap and cheerfull platform and leave him budget for more tooling.

Craig
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: garyhlucas on June 21, 2015, 12:19:04 PM
When you say the PC doesn't need to be close to the table, you do realize that CNC involves a LOT of personal interaction between the operator, the PC and the machine.  This is like sitting in your office and sending a report to the networked printer down the hall.  The operator has to fixture parts, pick up the origin, install and/or change tools, check clearances at holding points, sometimes halt the program and move the holding devices, on an on.
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: ITGuy on June 22, 2015, 08:45:43 AM
Thanks Gary, I'm not planning on putting the PC in a different room, I'm just looking for a little more freedom on setup. I'm not sure where the table is going to go yet, and am hoping to keep the cable off the floor.
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: ITGuy on June 22, 2015, 09:33:27 AM
Thanks Craig, I don't mind spending a little more of my client's money if it means better performance and less downtime, which I generally get from a mid-range workstation vs a desktop for an extra $100 or so (plus $150 for the GPU in this case). My client wins in employee satisfaction/productivity and lower IT consulting costs. My users won't mind tinkering with the software or the router, but as far as the PC goes, they just want it to work and stay out of the way, so although they're similar to the members of this group, they're not as tech savvy which needs to be accommodated.

Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: joeaverage on July 03, 2015, 04:10:59 AM
Hi  ITGuy,
how did you get on? Did you find a combination to suit the customer?
Can't help but think you can spend as much as you like on a computer but the slightest hitch with competing software/graphics/LAN/anti virus
and you end up with a stall at best and a CRASH at worst. A crash can be very expensive, thousands... and if an operator happens to be in the firing
line injury is assured.
I suffered a crash in exactly that manner, namely a 3d redraw was sufficient to starve Mach3 and an axis stalled, on resumption it crashed and bloody near
taking my hand as well. My limit switches were poorly configured and response was to slow anyway. Since then I have made it a rule that NO other
software be installed let alone running while my machine is energised. LAN, firewall, antivirus nill/nada/zip, I mean nothing that may even remotely
interfere and have never had a problem since.

Craig
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: ITGuy on July 03, 2015, 11:14:14 AM
Thanks Craig, I'm still waiting for them to find some space on the shop floor and choose an external controller. I'll definitely minimize the software on the box but hadn't considered an AV scan bringing it to a screaming halt! I might dedicate some cores to the production apps to avoid unwanted interference. Are you sure your problem was a resource issue and not a corrupt buffer or something like that?

Bruce
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: BR549 on July 03, 2015, 12:08:02 PM
Just a note. ANY function outside of MACH3 CAN(but not always) interfere with Mach3 being able to maintain sync with the pulse ouput. It all depends on how loaded the CPU is when the outside event occurs. ANY program that is running either in the foreground OR background can cause this problem. Eventually even a low cpu load can be effected. It all just DEPENDS.

That is why it is recommend to ONLY run MAch3 and NO background or monitoring programs when controlling a machine.

Just a thought, (;-) TP
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: ITGuy on July 03, 2015, 12:45:03 PM
OK, so what I'm hearing is that Mach 3 doesn't need much as far as resources go, but if it doesn't get what it needs, it fails horribly. Dedicating a CPU core or two to Mach 3 should get around any CPU bottleneck issue, and I assume it's ok at allocating enough RAM for itself; any other runtime events I should be considering?

Bruce
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: joeaverage on July 09, 2015, 04:10:05 AM
Hi Bruce,
you are obviously way more knowledgeable than I about dedicating cores and similar and that may prove to be an excellent solution.
My experience is not so much that the CPU gets overloaded but rather it gets a stream of high priority interrupts with certain processes
or apps. What reading I have done suggests interrupts are an important mechanism that Windows uses to communicate between threads.
Further those interrupts are assigned a priority by Windows with little or no control by the user.
Competing interrupts screw with the pulse stream generated by the Mach pulse engine. Admittedly I still use a PP and of course have made myself
vunerable to this problem. From what I have heard in the forum is that an external controller relieves the CPU of demanding interrupt timing and
much improves Machs ability to run smoothly.
Are you of the opinion that a dedicated core is less suspect to competing interrupts than a multiple cores running the same thread?

There are some questions I have about external controllers as well. I understand that Mach becomes a trajectory planner and sends via a buffer
by USB or Ethernet to the controller. What I want to know is wether the contents of the buffer have to be flushed thru to the controller before
the controller can signal back to Mach some external event like a limit switch or probe switch event. If that is the case then the latency of USB
could be significant if you were expecting a critically timed event signal. It may be for that reason that Ethernet controllers seem to enjoy a better
rep than USB amongst our most experienced users.

Craig
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: ozwes007 on July 09, 2015, 08:50:36 PM
Dedicating a CPU to Mach 3 probably won't be of any benefit. I have set Mach3 at highest priority in the past and it makes little if any difference. The main issue with Mach3 is the memory use. If you can force it to run in memory AND use the best memory you can get without pageing out you will find it works fine. Watch for Video Memory buffers and such as well. I have an i5 System with 4GB memory in Vista running antivirus, networking(WiFi), Video and at times Various programs for calculating different engineering work. This does not cause problems, However!!!! do not run anything while you are cutting, watch for timeouts on system components. As you would be aware in the BIOS or now days the UEFI there are time out periods in there that need to be overridden. Also watch for little things like "allow the system to switch of this device" settings within the actual configuration in PP,USB,Video,etc etc. these will destroy parts. I think the biggest thing to worry about with using Mach3 is making sure your setup is bulletproof to start with.


Wes
Let us know how you Go
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: ger21 on July 09, 2015, 08:59:47 PM
Quote
If you can force it to run in memory AND use the best memory you can get without pageing

It also works fine on my 1Ghz Pentium III with 256MB of RAM, even with very large files (500,000 lines). Personally, I think you can throw your memory theory out the window.

Basically, if you're using the parallel port, then you just need a PC that Mach3's parallel port driver gets along with.
With a motion controller, it should run on just about anything.

The only issue that occasionally comes up is with onboard video or very low spec video cards. And I mean very  low spec.
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: ozwes007 on July 09, 2015, 11:39:21 PM
You are correct Gerry regarding older systems like yours. They had Error correcting built into the memory and did not utilise low level interrupts to put everything to sleep. My Old HP machine was P III and worked brilliantly. However the new machines are worse than laptops in regard to turning of stuff in the background utilizing "shared" interupts. IT's so they can reduce power usage and be better for the environment ;-). Also today's ram is not error correcting as it used to be, although all Server boards have the ability to use error correcting ram. Hence the reason newer systems will produce problems that old systems wouldn't normally see when used in this way.

Wes
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: joeaverage on December 21, 2015, 04:14:02 AM
Hi ITguy,
how did you get on? Did the customer buy the solution you advised and does it work as you hoped?

Craig
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: ITGuy on July 05, 2016, 10:05:52 AM
Wow, time flies; thanks for checking in!
This project got pushed down the list over the last number of months but the PC is in (HP Z230, i7, 8GB RAM) and I managed to cobble together a box for my Ethernet Smoothstepper with a decent power supply along the way.

We started again a few weeks ago and ran into all sorts of problems and bizarre behaviour; we'd get the router to move for a couple of minutes, but as soon as we encountered an error, we were dead in the water until I reinstalled Mach 3 and the ESS plugin from scratch.

Fast forward to yesterday, after a lot of testing, I determined that the Zenbot table doesn't like the Mach 3 defaults and the Zenbot provided XML doesn't play nicely with the ESS plugin, so I manually entered the parameters from Zenbot's ports and pins config and home/limits config, and set A as the slave for Y, suddenly I have almost a functional CNC machine! X and Y behave beautifully, no problem finding home or running g-code, but the Z axis if still giving me grief. When RefAllHome with Machine coord selected, the Z axis moves downwards looking for the home switch which of course is at the top of the Z-axis travel.

Later today I'll go over the Z config, comparing the Zenbot parameters to the Mach 3 parameters to see if I can clear it up, but if anybody has any ideas, I'm all ears. It sure feels good to finally be able to prove that I'm talking to the router finally and not running around in circles!
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: Christopher on July 19, 2016, 02:14:39 AM
Hi:) In config ports and pins at the Z Axis under direction active change the check mark or Red x to the opposite of what it is and that will change the direction of the motor or change the wires to the stepper motor for direction or if it is Ac servo change the two outside wires will change the direction of the motor keeping in mind that the wiring of the encoder could be the problem. ;D
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: Christopher on July 19, 2016, 02:45:46 AM
In motor home and soft limits there is a place to reverse the direction right beside the Z limit on the left side of the page. Hope this help there is always a fix in this program or a way around the problem.
Title: Re: Minimum PC requirements vs real life (Newbie)
Post by: ITGuy on July 19, 2016, 09:31:06 AM
Thanks Christopher,

As it turns out, vibration from the Z axis stepper motor and gravity are the only reason the cutter was dropping; I could move the cutter up and down without too much difficulty even with the Gecko controller powered on. We finally took it apart and discovered that the shaft wasn't being engaged by the controller. The DB9 connector on the Z axis cable was wired wrong, with the black wire hanging and the green wire on pin 3 instead of 8. Either this created a problem for the G540 or Murphy's Law is just not finished with me yet; After re-wiring the DB9 connector and swapping some things around, I found that nothing connected to the Z-axis serial port would spin. About 30 seconds after that the controller shut down for good.

Right now I'm waiting for a replacement G540 and an extra serial cable to be safe. Hopefully things will start to make more sense in a few days. ... And I thought computer hardware was a pain!!

Bruce