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Getting started with Mach 4
« on: February 17, 2017, 10:44:15 AM »
I just purchased and installed Mach 4, Gecko g540 and PMDX 411 motion controller.  I now find that I am having a hard time getting started with Mach 4.  I started looking at the video tutorials and the first couple I looked at were aimed at Mach 3, not 4 and the screens looked entirely different.  I've looked at some of the manuals and can't get a good context on what I am reading.  I have not actually plugged the motors into the Gecko thinking that I need to understand a bit better how this all works before I do that.

My questions is:  What is a good way to get started? I feel like I am going in circles because there is soooo much info out there and always feel like I am walking into the middle of an on-going conversation.  Can someone help me / direct me to a more orderly way of approaching this?

Side note, I am upgrading from Chilipeppr and tinyG, so I've had  a smidgen of success with CNC'ing.  I upgraded because I thought my growth path would be better with the "big boys toys"
Re: Getting started with Mach 4
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2017, 01:20:23 PM »
I know that this can be daunting since I knew absolutly knothing about CNC, Bobs, drivers, etc. when I jumped in a few years ago.

With Mach4 each vendor is responsible for communicating with Mach4 and most have setup programs and profiles to make that easy.  I'm sure you've read the install manual for the 411 which has an installer as well.  Since they follow the old parallel port scheme you can plug into and wire the G540 using the same connections as you would using Mach3. The only major difference is referring to motors as Motor 0, Motor 1, Motor 2 rather than X,Y and Z.

I assume you have an appropriate power supply for the G540.  Wire it per the diagram on the gecko website.  The motor wiring will already be taken care of and you can do the limits and other wring after you get the motors turning.

Follow the instruction for installing the 411 and then fire up Mach4 and configure your motor steps per unit and acceleration.

I think that would be a good beginning. 


Re: Getting started with Mach 4
« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2017, 01:24:23 PM »
Also, at the top of the page for 'Mach4 General Discussion' there is a Videos button that contains only Mach4 related videos.  Daz does a great job of dumbing it down for novices, specialy with his quick tips videos

Offline Chaoticone

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Re: Getting started with Mach 4
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2017, 03:57:37 PM »
Good advice RT,

Not that you need any of the following crchisholm, but if others view this topic it may be helpful to them. The things I see that makes it tough for some are listed below.

I would add that being able to at least read Gcode and understand what it is telling the machine to do (even if you have to use a reference manual to translate it) really is not an option. Many think because they have CAM software that will generate Gcode they can skip this bit. Nothing could be further from the truth unless you have someone to train you in defined instances/ work flows. Not understanding Gcode and having CAM software is the same as having a calculator and not understanding math.

Understanding electronics, or anything electrical is a big plus. If you understand how your hardware works, what happens when you send X volts to pin X of X component has X effect or does X then the rest of it comes much, much easier. A ryme I made up years ago.......

It all boils down to IO
Some high, some low
Some fast, some slow
It all boils down to IO

With any type of automation, controller, PLC, CNC,etc. (even a simple relay) all any of them can do is receive inputs, do some magic using those inputs and send outputs. This is all it is at its foundation.

The only thing any software can do is change bits of data, 1s to 0s and 0s to 1s. You have to use hardware to convert the 1s and 0s to anything we would find useful in the outside world (like voltage) and convert things we find useful to 1s and 0s (the only thing the software understands). Some hardware will receive input signals and convert those signals to data and send that data to the control. Other hardware will receive data output from the control and convert the data into useful output signals. Some hardware will do both.

Understanding how the hardware you are using works to some degree is mandatory. To what degree you will need to understand it depends on what you are doing but it is impossible to know too much about it and very easy to know to little. Read your hardware's documentation and if some things don't make sense google the word, phrase, etc., talk to friends about it, read books on the topic, search and/or ask on this and other forums etc. until it does make sense. Once you understand how the hardware works, what makes it tick...... controlling it is pretty straight forward.
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Re: Getting started with Mach 4
« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2017, 05:01:59 PM »
1)make sure the PMDX plugin is loaded into the plugins folder of Mach4Hobby.
2)create a personalised profile in Mach4 probably copying one of the standard profiles
3)open Mach4 with your personalised profile and configure PMDX plugin in Machs Plugins as enabled, restart
4)open Mach4 and configure PMDX as your active motion controller
5)open PMDX plugin config dialogue and assign motors, axes and pins per PMDX/G540 instructions
6)the only input you require initially is a Estop. Read and re-read G540 and PMDX manuals until you have got
the Estop right, nothing useful will happen until and unless this is correct.

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Re: Getting started with Mach 4
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2017, 07:11:37 PM »
All very good advice and I have been reading a lot.  I got a bit lost on the steps per unit and thus my post.  I am use to pretty straight forward steps per revolution and steps per mm, but that section of the manual left me dizzy ( and not understanding how it got that complicated).

Having been a 3D printer for a number of years, I think I may have a head start on understanding some of the hardware, and I'm also an electronics geek, so that part is not completely foriegn to me. 

I have downloaded every manual I could find on line and am managing to piss my wife off by "yes dear'"ing her while I read and not hearing her.

The gcode, I will definatly admit has been my black box thing.  It seemed to work as the software created it so I didn't get into it.  I have already figured out I probobly can't get by with that on the cnc.

Joeaverage, the EStop is on its way from Amazon.  Nice big yellow box with a nice big red button.

I could not even imagine trying to learn this stuff before the Internet and without this kind of support.  Thank you all.
Re: Getting started with Mach 4
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2017, 07:20:30 PM »
Reinstalled mach4, wired and installed the g540 and the PMDX 411.  Everything seems to be working and now I just need to do all the configuring of both mach4 and PMDX.  

Another question though.  My cnc is an ox I got from SWM3D and it had a spindle and VFD as part of the package.  I am wondering if the VFD will work with the g540  / PMDX / mach4 setup. Here is the VFD...


This device only has two wires to th motion controller:  signal and ground.  The g540 diagram shows a three wire interface: ground, signal, and positive.  I was thinking I might get by with only the signal and ground but not sure if that will work or if there may be some other reason not to do that. I'm sure there is another spindle and VFD in my future but would like to let the dust settle befor jumping on that.

Offline DazTheGas

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Re: Getting started with Mach 4
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2017, 11:24:11 AM »
The spindle controller that comes with the SWM3D kit is exactly what it says not a VFD, it requires a pwm signal between 3.5-12V / 1K-10KHZ (12v giving you the full 12000 rpm)

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Re: Getting started with Mach 4
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2017, 12:05:14 PM »
So that's a "no go", right?
Re: Getting started with Mach 4
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2017, 12:09:03 PM »
if so, can you point me in the right direction for a good (but not break the bank) VFD and if I have replace this 12000 spindle, that as well?  BTW, I am a great fan of your videos.
(suck up that I am)