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Topics - Chet

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I want to purchase the Shapeoko 3 to replace my homemade CNC router.
I'm already comfortable with my design software and the use of Mach 3.
I've seen YouTube videos of Shapeoko being used with Mach 3, but precious little 'user friendly' documentation/notes.
I understand that an external driver board is necessary for this to happen.
Would one of you successful Mach 3/Shapeoko users please share your setup, including the driver board?
Also the relevant driver settings to calibrate Mach 3 for the Shapeoko motor and pulley system?
It will be much appreciated!

I've been using Mach 3 for many years with excellent results.
But recently the program is failing and I cannot figure out why:
1) My programs appear to  run normally, but at a random point the Y-axis will shift and then keep using the shifted point as it's new location.  For example, if a cut is supposed to end at 10", it will shift up roughly .25" and shift the whole pattern up .25" and continue to cut with the .25" error.
2) The program code continues to show the correct numbers, but the program is referencing a different number.
3) I've also noticed that the first cut on the X-axis also involves a Y-axis shift, but settles down after the first line of code.
Attempts at a remedy include:
1. Using a new copy of my CNC program (I learned early on to make multiple copies) but that does not solve the problem.
2. Using a different cutting program, but the problem still occurs.
3. Added a power line backup unit (UPS) to catch any power line glitches, but that did not solve it.
Your suggestions are welcomed!
I was considering replacing the Y-axis motor, but the randomness of the problem "seems" to preclude that.
And, if you're wondering, I am running Mach 3 on a dedicated XP computer.

General Mach Discussion / Need serious help with z-axis...
« on: May 03, 2012, 11:49:54 AM »
I've asked this group for help on this issue before and have implemented the many suggestions. Thank you!
However I'm still getting the random loss of Z-axis positioning. (Typically plunging deeper into the cut than specified.)
Typically this will occur anywhere from a 1/2 hour to 2 hours into the cut. (I typically do 5 hour cuts...)
It never appears to happen with the rough cut, only the finish operations.
Because it is ONLY the Z-axis, I am unsure what to do next...
These trial & error cuts are making me crazy...!!!!!
I've just reloaded the Mach3 program I use, so that should be OK.
The HobbyCNC driver seems to be OK...
I've just replaced the Z-Axis motor from HobbyCNC with its identical match...
The actual machine code appears to be fine...
The previous project cut just fine.
Any really good thoughts on a possible remedy?
I'd toyed with electrical interference on the mains, but then why only intermittently on the Z-axis?
How would you troubleshoot this situation?
Many Thanks!

General Mach Discussion / More Z-axis difficulties...
« on: April 14, 2012, 01:23:41 PM »
It's been an interesting week. The computer I was using to run Mach3 and my
HobbyCNC driver board had a motherboard and power supply failure. Was able to
get a used HP COMPAQ DC7 in its place... Everything computer-wise seems to be
back in order.
HOWEVER I am running into Z-axis slippage(?) that I can't seem to troubleshoot:
My foam patterns take roughly 5-1/2 hours with both primary rough and secondary
finish cuts.
The primary always seems to run fine, but at variable places along the secondary
finish cut, the Z-axis looses its place and plunges the cutter twice as deep
into the pattern.
I did notice a 'stall' on the Z-axis when I did a fast move with Page UP and
Shift keys just now...
This may be indicating an intermittent problem with the motor itself?
I've already lowered my motor tuning lower than earlier working speeds.
In fact I recently had to replace my X-axis motor (425oz bipolar) for slippage
But I thought these motors were supposed to be pretty hardy...
More info...
I did a REF HOME for machine coordinates before starting the pattern.
I found my start point on the pattern and zero'd the X, Y, & Z coordinates, but
then went to the Machine Coord to see what that reading was: X .4133, Y .3504
and Z -0.6799
After the rough cut, the machine was supposed to relocate to the original X 0, Y
0 start point with the Z being at 1.5 for the tool change...
But when I brought the Z axis down to 0 to check the Machine Coord now read
-2.0334, instead of -0.6799
So is it motor slippage, or something else going on????
Not sure how to proceed...
So I decided to try just the finish cuts and eliminate the tool change.
But even that failed... each X-axis pass had the Z-axis plunging deeper...
(Yes, the Z-axis is rigid to the motor and table...)
Thanks for any insights...

General Mach Discussion / Computer Catastrophe... Best Solution?
« on: April 06, 2012, 05:20:16 PM »
It's been an interesting couple of days...
This morning I discovered that my desktop XP computer was still trying to turn itself off from the previous day's CNC router work.
The drive light would periodically flash, but there was no way to get any keyboard control.
I did a hard restart, but there was no restart...
The drive light would simply light up, but the computer never initialized...
Today it won't start at all...
Now I must consider my options:
Using my alternate Laptop using Windows 7 would require a CNC motion controller board according to Mach3 recommendations...
But these boards appear to be plug-ins requiring their own power supply.
Plus they are a tad pricey!!!
Alternately, buy a cheap new desktop and get a USB to printer port converter to drive the HobbyCNC driver board...
I'd love to retrieve the custom Mach3 settings I'd had on my old computer, but no, I did not back them up to a different storage medium... (sigh...)
I'm pretty sure I've got them written down somewhere, but where...
I need a pretty quick solution to this problem, as my business is now shut down.
What would you do?
Besides having backed up your critical files on a different storage medium...

General Mach Discussion / Strange shift in Z-axis during machining
« on: April 04, 2012, 08:47:07 PM »
About 4 hours into a 5-1/2 cut, the Z-Axis shifted an additional 0.1875 inches down.
This was not mechanical slippage, as the pattern continued to be cut correctly, just at a deeper depth.
It sounds like the zero Machine Coordinates for the Z-axis somehow shifted to my depth of cut - 0.1875
A 2nd attempt to cut the pattern turned out without any problems.
Anybody have a thought on this?
Especially on how to avoid this anomaly in the future?
(I tried to include a photo, but can't seem to figure out the system here.  Yes, the photo was small enough in size...)

General Mach Discussion / Mach3 momentarily losing its place...
« on: December 06, 2011, 03:13:17 PM »
I've run into a new problem with my Mach3 which is running my CNC router.
For a period of 15 minutes or so, the cut became totally distorted with all X, Y, and Z axis movement shifted...
But it then resumed cutting correctly!!!!
The only variable I can think of was the use of a nearby portable electric drill...
I'm going to try and attach a photo of the problem.
Any insight will be appreciated!

Page 62... Article on Pro Fabbing.
Reviews Tormach PCNC770 as a desktop work station.
The Tormach gets a rating of OK for hobbyiest use as it doesn't seem to hold tight tolerances.
However, quoting, "...which comes prefigured with the industry-standard Artsoft Mach3 software...

In spite of my best troubleshooting techniques, I'm getting a random limit switch activation.
Not frequently, but they happen.
This is a problem because I typically leave my machine running by itself for extended intervals of time.
If Mach 3 generates a limit trigger, I lose all of the time I didn't know the machine was stopped.
I'm cutting foam, and the sound of the vacuum cleaner drowns out everything else.
A member here, TJ, suggested the following:
"Do you have an extra output pin available for use??? IF so If you buy a C37 relay board from CNC4PC ($15.00) It would take about 15 minutes and whatever alarm you want to use and have what you need.
Set up the pin and port for Enable1 . When Mach is active the relay will open turning off the alarm. When ever the systems Estops the relay will close and turn on the alarm.
You would use the Normally CLosed (NC) side of the relay."
So.... anyone here familiar with the step-by-step to make this happen?
If I pick an output pin on Mach 3, can I pick it up on the HobbyCNC Pro board?
Will it be visible as an active output on the Diagnostics's tab?
I'm open to experimentation, but if someone here knows the process already, I'm ready to learn...
Thanks, Chet

For some reason I've started getting false Limit Switch Emergency Stops.
They don't occur at any particular frequency, nor any particular place.
This is a new problem in an operation that's worked well over the past two years.
AND secondly, is there a pinout from Mach3 so an audible alarm could be triggered if there is an Emergency Stop?
That would sure be handy!
I typically let Mach3 run without constant monitoring, and an audible alarm would let me know something was triggered...

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