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Author Topic: Smooth Stepper "External EStop Requested" after "Tool Path Display" Motion !  (Read 20062 times)

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I have just found that if I load up any job in Mach3 CNC Controller Software (Version : R3.042.040), communicating through the Smooth Stepper Board (Beta2_V015ogx2), that after it has been displayed in the "Tool Path" window, if I manover the job image around with my mouse in any circular direction, i.e. side to side, up and down etc., for a certain amount of time, that as soon as I let go of the image by releasing the mouse button the Mach3 CNC Controller Software immediately gives an "Extrenal EStop Requested" Error Message, and releases it control over the SS Board ! I then have to press the "Reset Button" to regain control over the SS Board and the system !

If however I perform the same routine with the SS Board not connected, the above problem does not surface, but as soon as I reconnect the SS Board the problem is back !

I have tried this under both Windows XP and Windows 7 platforms, a well as on two different computers, being a Desktop, and Laptop, with different processors, and performances !

Anyone know of this problem, and the likely cause of the SS Board giving an "Extrenal EStop Requested" Error Message as described above, and any suggested fixs ?

With kindest regards.


Offline Jeff_Birt

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The problem is that the current version of mach does everything, including redraw the image in a single thread. If you have a largish file it can take a whole lot of processor time to redraw it and that can cause mach to fail to communicate to things like the SmoothStepper in time. Of course if you don't have the SmoothStepper hooked up than Mach can't fail to communicate with it. :)

There are a few things you can do you can decrease the SmoothSteppers controller frequency, this increases the amount of buffering it can do. You can also increase the watchdog timeout. If your PC has a built in video chipset adding an external video card may improve things as they are faster (generally) and have their own built in RAM.
Happy machining , Jeff Birt
Dear Jeff,

Thanks for the reply !

The file that I referred to is the standard "Roadrunner", which by all means is not at all that large on size or complexity !

Ignoring the desktop unit as this was by no means powerful !

However the laptop it was tested on was a Toshiba Satellite with an AMD Athlon X2 Dual-Core QL-65 2.10GHz 64 Bit Processor, with 4.00GB (3.75GB usable) Ram, and incorporating an ATI Radon 3100 Graphics card  !

(1) So if this is the case with the above, what do you recommend as a computer minimum requirement and specification, especially if files are going to be 3D surfaces which will be much larger than the standard "Roadrunner" file used in the above testing ? Please Advice !

(2) Do you know if the current development of the next version of Mach3 is doing anything to overcome this problem by maybe separating the processes, alleviating the current Mach3 software doing everything, including redrawing the image in a single thread. ? Please Advice !

Your feedback and comments would be greatly appreciated !

With kindest regards.

Also, sorry Jeff !

I forgot to mention that at the time of performing the above test the Mach3 software was performing no other functions or motion control over the systems, apart from it having engaged the three stepper motors, by the pressing of the standard reset button !

We then simply loaded up the standard "Roadrunner" file, an were quickly rotating the image, up, down, an side to side with the mouse !



Dear Joe,

I unfortunately share your problem.

In my case the E-Stop appears when loading a file, or sometimes by switching the screen.

The first time i had that problem was when using plugin version 17. no difference between .bd  or .d

I wrote the problem already to my german supplier, then, as i didn't get an answer, to greg. It seems he adviced my supplier to answer me, what he did.
I only wished the mail had a little content concerning my problem :-(

Loading Mach3 with plugin v15.********* does not cause any error, excepting some little bugs...

I really want to use the new plugin, as it works great. But reactivating the system after loading a file can not be the right procedure.

Hope someone can help us.

Best regards,
Hi guys,

Jeff hit the nail on the head.  It didn't occur to me for a while but then I remembered that the watchdog timer is probably causing the problem.  Here is how you can figure it out.  Watch the blinking red LED when you manipulate the toolpath.  If it stops blinking, that means Mach is no longer communicating with the SmoothStepper.  Each time the red LED blinks, the plugin is sending a message and the board is responding.  I believe Mach4 will solve this problem since it will give lower priority to the graphics and more priority to the communications with the external device.  Increasing the Watchdog Timeout setting in the SmoothStepper's Config is about all you can do for now, besides letting go of the toolpath more often.  I think it depends a lot upon the graphics because it doesn't do it on my computer.

Hi greg,

I am very pleased to hear from you.
This is the kind of information i hoped to get.

I'll try to change the timeout setting in a first step. 
The second step would be to change the graphic device. Maybe a more powerful one will help me get the newest version running  :)

Best Regards
Hi Matthias,

I don't know why the plugin would matter.  I will give this some more thought.  With respect to the graphics, I would not necessarily expect a more expensive card to be better.  I will see if Brian knows what it might be.




Generally graphics only become a issue when you have large gcode files trying to buffer for the toolpath display. You can solve this by disabling the toolpath display on the settings page, not Ideal but it should at least help with your issue.

matthias - What are the specs for the machine you are running into the problems?
« Last Edit: June 20, 2011, 09:54:27 AM by AndrewM »
Hello all together,

I actually tested Greg's idea and changed the timeout of the watchdog from 0.5 to 3.1 (max possible).

The problem is solved  :)

I had only a few minutes to test the effect but it seems to work fine. No more e-stops, fluent motion  :)
Even when loading big files the behaviour is absolutely normal.

Mach3 runs on hp d510SFF Desktop PC.
2.8 GHz 1GB RAM, onboard graphics.

The onboard graphics is the point I was aiming at when talking about a better hardware...  I'm relieved it was not necessary

The machine itself is driven by ac-servos manufactured by Berger Lahr, nowadays known as Schneider Electric Motion.

Greg thank you very much for the detailed help. I only wished the so callled german support would act like you did.  ::)

Best Regards