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Messages - Steve Stallings

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Mach4 General Discussion / Re: Mach 4 / PMDX-422 Setup for Dummies
« on: February 27, 2015, 07:47:14 AM »
Art's video about configuring his Darwin parallel port driver is here:


Keep in mind that a large part of this video is specific to Darwin
plug-in configuration dialogs which will be different from those
for the PMDX-422. There is much more configuration in the Darwin
plug-in than in the PMDX-422 plug-in because Darwin has loads of
optional features.

The PMDX plug-in configuration philosophy is to not duplicate any
of the configuration setup that is available directly within Mach4
so there is no guessing who is in charge of a particular setting. In
the rare cases, such as motor reversal being the same thing
in reality as direction signal polarity, we make sure that the
selections made in either place show up in both places.

Mach4 setup has a more generalized concept of access to motors
and signals than was used in Mach3. Motors are identified by number
and then assigned to a plug-in and signal. Signal names are determined
by the plug-in and do not have to be in the old "port" and "pin"
style inherited from the parallel port model, though we still use
that model for the PMDX-422 since it mimics a parallel port.

The portion of Art's video which relates to selecting the Mach4
motion device and configuring things in Mach4 itself begin at about
16:30 in Art's video.

Mach4 General Discussion / PMDX-411 SmartBOB-USB in a DB-25 shell released
« on: February 26, 2015, 06:53:53 PM »
New product! The PMDX-411 squeezes a SmartBOB-USB inside the connector shell of a male DB-25 plug.

Now you can instantly convert most parallel port devices into a USB device controlled by Mach4.

The PMDX-411 is available now and costs $119 by itself or $309 in a bundle with Mach4Hobby.

See details here:


Mach4 General Discussion / Re: Mach 4 Feature Request
« on: February 22, 2015, 12:39:32 AM »
Tormach, EMC, LinuxCNC, Mach3, Mach4 etc.

EMC was developed by NIST, an agency of the government of the USA.

Most developments of US agencies, including EMC, are public domain.
They are not and may not be copyrighted. Anyone is free to use them
as they see fit.

The various versions of Mach, and many other CNC control systems are
derived from the public domain version of EMC.

Tormach's version of LinuxCNC is derived from LinuxCNC, which does
claim GPL copyright. Tormach has indicated that they intend to comply
with those GPL requirements. Indeed, some of the work that they sponsored,
updates to the trajectory planner, have already been integrated back
into the LinuxCNC repositories. Some other parts of their product, like
the PathPilot GUI, are possibly only partially covered by GPL. Tormach has
indicated that they want to contribute technology back to LinuxCNC but
wish to do so in a fashion such that other vendors cannot directly
copy their PathPilot GUI.

Tormach's other changes to the LinuxCNC code base may or may not be
integrated back into the main LinuxCNC repositories depending on how
the community feels about them. None the less, they will be available
under the terms of the GPL license.

Tormach is offering their implementation of LinuxCNC as a product that
is supported by them provided that you have purchased their equipment
and do not modify the software. If you utilize it on other hardware or
modify the software, then you must support yourself.

The Tormach implementation runs on a Linux distribution controlled by
Tormach and requires specific Mesa interface hardware to run. If you
want to design screens or write scripts, this is outside the realm of
things that Tormach will support. If you want to run on a different
distribution of Linux, you are on your own. Obviously it will not
run on a Windows based machine.

Mach4 is derived from prior versions of Mach and is a descendant of the
original EMC released by NIST. It runs on modern Windows machines and
can be extensively customized by both vendors and users.

LinuxCNC's motion control is tightly integrated with the real time
operating system and motion control devices must be able to communicate
with the operating system software in real time if you are using their
standard control model. This is possible in Tormach's case because the
Mesa hardware that they chose is plugged directly into the computer's
internal card slots.

The Mach family uses a looser integration of the motion controller, or
parallel port driver, with the operating system software. This allows
the use of external devices that communicate with USB or Ethernet and
which can tolerate communication delays of up to a couple of seconds.
Not that a delay that long is desirable. Vendors supporting Mach4 are
trying to shorten that delay as much a possible, perhaps to as little
as 1/10 of a second. Still, that requires that the motion control
device be intelligent and capable of responding to limits, probing,
threading and similar tasks itself rather than depending on the host
based software.

Windows cannot be relied upon to respond like a real time control
system. The parallel port drivers have effectively been a simple real
time operating systme which runs Windows as a task. This is becoming
nearly impossible with modern versions of Windows. No 64 bit versions of
Windows allow this, and the 32 bit version Windows 7 is the last one on
which a parallel port driver has been implemented successfully.

The Mesa hardware which Tormach is using requires real time management.
Because of this it is unlikely that a plug-in for Mach4 will be attempted.
It may be possible, but it would end up behaving like other motion devices
under Mach, ie. loosely coupled.

The jest of these observations is that Tormach's version of LinuxCNC and
Mach4 are really two different animals, each with their own place.

Steve Stallings

Mach4 General Discussion / Re: Current Status of Mach4 Lathe
« on: February 16, 2015, 11:21:23 AM »
... a word of caution here. Lathe functions in Mach4 depend heavily on features of the
plug-in and/or the interface device. As of now (February 2015) the lathe functions for
the PMDX SmartBOB devices have not yet been implemented.

I think the videos that Brian posted were for a machine running a Vital Systems HiCon
board. For anything else, I would ask before purchasing.

Steve Stallings

Mach4 General Discussion / Re: Newbie Port configuration question
« on: January 27, 2015, 11:13:08 PM »
Darwin manual in PDF - download link

Darwin plugin configuration for Mach4 - YouTube video

Darwin plugin advanced Laser functions - YouTube video

Mach4 General Discussion / Re: Pc requirements
« on: January 20, 2015, 07:29:27 PM »
From the MachSupport web site:

Mach4 Recommended Requirements:
PREFERRED: 32 or 64-bit Laptop or Desktop – Using an External Motion Controller

    Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8
    An appropriate external motion controller
    Mach4 Plugin for the selected Motion Controller
    2Ghz CPU
    1GB RAM
    Video Card with 256MB RAM(Large G-code files, especially 3D files will require a video card with 512MB RAM or higher)

*Use of Parallel Port for machine control only with desktop style computers with 32-bit versions of windows 7 and below.
32-bit Desktop – Parallel Port Recommended Requirements

    32-bit version of Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7
    Mach4 Parallel Port Legacy Plugin (cost applicable)
    2Ghz CPU
    1GB RAM
    Non-integrated Video Card with 256MB RAM(Large G-code files, especially 3D files will require a video card with 512MB RAM or higher)

... somehow the link got corrupted, so try again


Mach4 General Discussion / PMDX-407 and PMDX-410 for Mach4 now available
« on: January 06, 2015, 11:01:03 PM »
PMDX is now shipping two new boards in our line of
SmartBOB-USB products for Mach4 users.

The PMDX-410 SmartBOB-USB is a motion control engine
for use with existing breakout boards or with driver
boxes such as the PMDX-340 or the GeckoDrive G540. It
is derived from the PMDX-422 but omits the relay and
the terminal strips for the pins that are part of the
standard parallel port. These signals are served by
the 26 pin ribbon header which is used to connect the
parallel port signals to the mating ribbon header or
DB-25 connector on the companion device.

The extra signals available from a SmartBOB-USB, above
and beyond those in a standard parallel port, are still
made available on a pluggable terminal strip.

The PMDX-410 is priced at $129 each and can be bundled
with the Mach4Hobby software for a $10 discount.

The PMDX-407 is a basic spindle speed control interface
that mounts on top of a PMDX-410 or PMDX-422 and provides
an analog speed control voltage for VFDs or other spindle
drives. There is also a set of RUN contacts to turn the
spindle on and off. Optical isolation is provided between
both output circuits and the control circuits that come
from the SmartBOB.

The RUN contacts can directly switch 120 VAC to control
small contactors such as the PMDX-ContactorMD20-120. Using
a contactor to control the AC mains input to a DC spindle
driver provides failsafe operation of those DC spindle drives
that do not have an electronic input for real on/off control.
This includes the KBIC motor controller from Penta used on
the Sherline machines and also those found on most imported
mills and lathes with DC spindle motors.

Direction control of VFDs is optionally available by using
the relay on the PMDX-422.

The PMDX-407 is priced at $38 each.

You can see these new products at: HTTP://www.PMDX.com

Steve Stallings

Mach4 General Discussion / Re: Mach4 Printer Port Discussions
« on: December 31, 2014, 02:15:23 PM »
Timing out and then playing dead is part of the normal response to not being licensed.

To see if your Mach4Hobby license is recognized, click on the Help button on the topmost
bar on the Mach4 screen, and then select About. You should see a dialog box that states
which version of Mach4 you have and displays your license status and PCID.

To see if your Darwin license is recognized, click on the Help button on the topmost bar
on the Mach4 screen, and then select System Information (not About). You should see
a dialog box that shows Plugins and Devices on the left side. Click on Plugins to expand
the list of plugins. Find and select mcDarwin. The right window will now show all the
propertied of your plugin. At the bottom of this list should be a line that shows:

Feature M4_DARWIN       LICENSED

When Darwin is installed and running you should be able to click on Configure on the
topmost line of the Mach4 window and select Plugins, and find Darwin PP Driver in the
chart. In the right hand column of the Darwin entry there should be a Configure
button that will let you set up and test the Darwin driver.

Steve Stallings

Mach4 General Discussion / Re: MesaNet Products plugin
« on: December 12, 2014, 07:57:24 PM »
For Mach3 someone wrote, or at least started a driver, that was bit banging like
a parallel port but with more pins. I have not ever heard of a driver, Mach4 or
Mach4, that attempts to take advantage of the smart features of the Mesa

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