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I Need to Choose a Motion Controller
« on: January 12, 2017, 01:53:22 PM »
I'm seriously considering making the move from Mach3 to Mach4. I'm currently using the Gecko 540 so I want to stay with the 25 pin parallel port type connection. I see two choices for a motion controller that will work with Mach4: The PMDX-411 or the PoKeys57CNCd25. Is there any preference of one over the other? I'm pretty tech savvy but some of this electronic stuff is over my head. I want something that is powerful enough for hobby type work but not too complicated to set up.

Thank you for your assistance.

Re: I Need to Choose a Motion Controller
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2017, 04:17:13 PM »
Hi brittf,
I am not familiar with either controller, I use an ESS but have had occasion to read the manuals for both.

I was very impressed with the PoKeys offering because it offers MODBUS type functionality, that is to say it
can communicate certainly 16 bit and probably 32 bit numbers over its Ethernet connection in addition to
all the physical pins.

I am a recent convert to M4 so please understand that my opinions/assertions are subject to revision by others
with greater experience than I.

Historically SmoothStepper and PMDX were invented/developed at a time when all users were PP. As a consequence
their pinouts and so on reflected what their customers already had ie PP cables/BOBs etc. They retain that character
today. The ESS has 26 pin headers which with a ribbon to db25 cable is identical  to a PP.

PoKeys has a slightly different origin as an I/O interface. The I/O is communicated to the host PC over TCP/IP. Additionally
analogue data once converted to digital can be communicated. The 57CNCdb25 is a conveniently connectorised version
of their 57E. Both can be used for M4 but the 57CNC is the more amenable to use because of its connections and pinouts.

All three devices (ESS, PMDX-411 and 57CNCdb25) are really good value for money with the flexibility of the Pokeys
offering making it very attractive.

Note also that Cslabs, Hicon, Gallil and Kflop also make controllers with many nice features but in most cases much more
expensive than those above.

All in all Mach4 users have a stable of good suppliers to chose from and any devices from any of them will work. If there is
a specific feature you require then go for it.

My wife left with my best friend...
     and I miss him!
Re: I Need to Choose a Motion Controller
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2017, 06:14:15 PM »
Hi brttf,
I have just been reading up on the 57CNCdb25 unit you mentioned and it looks good. I was confusing it with the 57E and the 57CNC
which are not the same.

The 57E and the 57CNC are Ethernet connected whereas the 57CNCdb25 is USB connected, Ethernet has lower latency and is preferred
but USB works well. The Ethernet boards have ADC converters built in and communicate the digital value as registers over TCP/IP whereas
the 57CNCdb25 does not.

The 57CNCdb25 is very well priced, looks like it would be easy to convert to from PP but does miss on the potential of the 57E/57CNC.
If you value the future 'expansion' potential then the 57E/57CNC are the way to go despite the initial setup being somewhat more

My wife left with my best friend...
     and I miss him!
Re: I Need to Choose a Motion Controller
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2017, 08:19:59 PM »
Hi brittf,
thinking a little more about your question...

You could use the Darwin PP plugin for Mach4 for a licence fee of only $25. Being PP requires 32 bit OS Windows 7 or
earlier. Plug your 540 direct to the PP. Cheapest excursion into Mach4.

My wife left with my best friend...
     and I miss him!
Re: I Need to Choose a Motion Controller
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2017, 10:23:52 PM »

Thank you for the time, research and thought you put into responding to my question. I truly appreciate it. I took a look at the other PoKeys products that you mentioned. I'm new to the CNC world and just don't have the knowledge and sophistication to make something like that work which is why I'm leaning towards a DB25 solution. In the future I may change out my system to something better and that will support stepper motors with higher amperage. But until I become more confident in my CNC capabilities and start running into the limitation of my hardware I'm going to stick with what I have.

It sounds like, from your vantage point, I should be fine with either of the two motion controllers but that you might be leaning towards the PoKeys solution.

I'm running a new Lenovo computer without a parallel port. It came with Windows 10 but I rolled it back to Windows 7 Professional 32 bit. I've thought about buying a parallel port card for it but that is just another piece of hardware to slow things down and is tired technology.

Again, thank you for the time and effort you put into responding to my question.

Re: I Need to Choose a Motion Controller
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2017, 11:04:21 PM »
Hi brittf,
you're welcome of course. As I said earlier I'm a Mach4 newbie as well. I chose the ESS as much for anything as I sort
of understood how it worked from both reading and video prior to purchase.

Having now used Mach4 and started to write my own customisations and so on I realise that some of the features of
controllers/plugins which I had only vaguely understood are becoming clear. If that had been the case my decisions might
have been different. Not that I'm in any way unhappy with the ESS.

I would recommend you consider the amount of IO that each solution offers. The 57CNCdb25 and (subject to better advice)
and the PMDX-411 offer the equivalent of one 'ports' worth of IO, exactly what you would expect of Mach3 and one PP. If
you are going to buy a controller you might consider trying to get more IO for future expansion. Buying 'model X' only to
find some months down the track that you want to ditch it in favour of 'model Y' wastes money which I really REALLY hate!

If that makes sense to you then the ESS and 57E/57CNC should figure in your consideration. One thing which I recently tumbled
to was that while Mach4 allows only one motion controller active at a time it is possible to have multiple IO boards active.
I am a long way short of exhausting the three 'ports' of the ESS as yet. If I do I will probably go for a 57E as the additional
IO particularly for the built in ADC and MODBUS functionality but retain the ESS a the motion controller.

My wife left with my best friend...
     and I miss him!
Re: I Need to Choose a Motion Controller
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2017, 11:28:08 PM »
The original poster asked about upgrading a system based on a Geckodrive G540.

The PoKeys and PMDX interfaces inside a DB-25 shell will support everything that
the G540 is capable of doing.

The PMDX-411 is very easy to install and set up. No need for .NET or C runtime
libraries. As a USB device there will be no network addressing or firewall issues to
worry about. Firmware updates are managed from within the PMDX-411 Mach4
plugin automatically.
Steve Stallings
For PMDX product support, please use PMDX forum or direct email for quickest response. We do not use this forum as our primary product support site.
Re: I Need to Choose a Motion Controller
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2017, 11:06:58 AM »
I was in the same boat, Gecko 540 and wanted to move to Mach4.

I actually bought both the 57CNCdb25 and the PMDX-411. I've ended up using the PMDX-411, it was just more reliable. Also, while the PoKeys support was fine, Steve at PDMX is a level above but to fair it's comparing very good with very very good.

I'd also caveat that I started with the 57CNCdb25 so by the time I moved to the PMDX-411 I was a bit more experienced so that may have been part of the difference. Also, both units have had several revisions of drivers since then so that may make a difference.

Finally, Craig's advice above is very good. With both devices you have limited IO pins. I'm able to do what I need (basic homing and a touch plate detector) with the units but if I was doing it again I'd probably go for a unit with more IO. There's nothing to stop you connecting a 25 pin printer type cable to any other device although it might need a bit more experience if you're not to familiar with the electronics side of things.