Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mach Screenshots/Ports and Pins

Here are some common screenshots to double check Mach settings for you Industrial CNC Router. If your machine was working and then stopped, it is usually one of these settings that have been changed. Most of your basic settings can be found under "Config/Ports & Pins" in the title bar. I'll start with those.

This screen is the "Motor Outputs" screen, which controls the movement of each axis (X, Y and Z) You'll notice that the X, Y and Z rows are enabled. Also note the "Step Pin" and Dir Pin" columns below for the appropriate pins. Make sure "Step Low Active" is enabled. If your settings do not match you won't be able to jog your spindle.

The next important tab in Ports and Pins is "Output Signals" This controls the Spindle On/Off operation. You should only be concerned with one row, Output #1. Proper settings are below.

You should be aware of the "Input Signals Tab." This is where input from the machine to the computer is controlled and enables your limit switches and e-stop function. These functions can provide interference, and the e-stop is typically bypassed, so there's no reason to leave it on.

I would suggest disabling everything in here as you can set limits more easily with the soft limits function in the software. Note that I have none of these rows enabled and pins are set to 0.

Reverse Axis Direction

If any axis on your Industrial CNC Router is moving the wrong way, changing direction is very simple. In Mach3 Go to CONFIG/HOMING/LIMITS and find the row for the axis you would like to change.

In the first column on the left, labelled REVERSED, simply check or uncheck the box, whatever is the opposite of the current setting.

That axis will now move the opposite way. See picture below:

Installing Configuration File

This post is to deal with the settings files that Industrial CNC sends to every customer; the configuration file (an .xml file)

There is no reason for you to open the file. I say this only because many people have called to say they can't open them.

Here is exactly how to deal with these files:

From the e-mail containing these files, click on the download link for the file.
Select Save, when the window comes up asking where to save it, select Desktop.

Make sure you have already gone to the Mach3 website and downloaded Mach3. Here's the link (go to downloads) (scroll down and click on the "Mach 3" link under "Lockdown")

You can also purchase a license from Mach3 on the same page.

In Windows Explorer Drag the .xml file into your Main Mach3 Folder.
(to find this, right click on the windows start button and choose "Explore"
A new window will open with folders on the left side of the screen.
Find the Folder labeled "Mach3"
and double click it.)

The right side of that window will now be the inside of the Mach3 folder. Then, click the middle button in the top right corner of your screen (in between the - and x buttons, and you should see your desktop beneath that window.

Drag the two files from the desktop to the inside of the Mach3 folder.

You should now be ready to control your Industrial CNC Router!

Crop Circles

We get an occasional calls from Industrial CNC customers to tell us that the router is cutting "crop circles" This means usually perfect circles that are not included in the gcode.

This is usually from a customer using their own post processor with their own settings.

This has been solved every time I've heard of it by simply changing one option in Mach 3 under Config/General Config. Go to Motion Control, then IJ Mode and change the radio button selection.

See picture below:

Computer Requirements

In order to ensure communication with your Industrial CNC Router, the following requirements are necessary:

32-bit version of Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 Operating System

1Ghz CPU


Non-integrated Video Card with 32MB RAM

Basic Computer Skills (ability to copy/rename files, browse directories, etc)

Desktop PC (if using the Mach3 Parallel Port Driver - laptops are not supported because the power saving features of the chipsets disrupt the pulse stream, PCMCIA and USB parallel adaptors will *not* work.)

Also note that it is important that your parallel port puts out 5V rather than 3.5V. This is more likely to be a problem with newer computers.

USB to parallel adapters do not work.

It is recommended that you dedicate your PC to the CNC Machine, networking, antivirus software and internet do not help and can interfere with performance.

Motor Tuning

For your Industrial CNC Router to cut accurately, the motors need to be tuned. Basically this means that every step sent from the computer to the machine needs to translate correctly to the units you measure with (inches or millimeters.) When motors are tuned properly the machine will cut the distance your job requires.

You will start out with your X and Y axis at around 2,000 steps per unit. And your Z axis at around 4,000 steps per unit. These are ballpark numbers, so some tuning is required. Fortunately Mach has an automated motor tuning feature that will make this easy. Go to the "SETTINGS" tab and you'll find it right over the RESET button.

Note: You will need either a digital movement gauge or a tape measure before going further.

Click on the SET STEPS PER UNIT button, and a pop up window will appear asking which axis you would like to calibrate.

Select an axis

Another window will then pop up asking how far you would like each axis to move.

Enter a number (inches)

Be advised that when you enter a number it will then move the spindle that distance (or what it thinks is that distance.) The longer the distance the more any inaccuracy will be noticeable, so use a large number but make sure the spindle is far enough to the the left or front that it can travel that distance.

As soon as the movement is done, another window will appear to ask you how far the machine actually moved.

Enter in the actual distance it moved. Make sure to add the diameter of your bit.

Mach will then suggest a number for your steps per unit. Accept it and Mach will automatically calibrate the axis to that setting.

You can also change the setting manually by going to Config/Motor Tuning

You can also change your travel speed here by adjusting the sliders on the bottom and right side of the chart.

Switching from Millimeters to Inches in Mach 3 Software

Here are the steps to switch from Millimeters to Inches using Mach 3 Software for your Industrial CNC Router.

1) Switch from "Program Run" tab to the "Settings" tab. Select "Inch" by pushing the "Units" button,

2) Return to the "Program Run" tab and select "Config" from the title bar, and then "Select Native Units" from the drop down menu. 

3) A warning box will come up, click "OK" 

4) Another box will appear. Select "Inches"

5) Go to "Config/Motor Tuning" and verify that X, Y, and Z are tuned for Inches.

Setting Your Soft Limits in Mach 3

When you're getting started, in order to make sure that your Industrial CNC Router doesn't run into the side of the table, it can be a good idea to set up limits in your Mach 3 software for safety. In this post, I'll you how to set your soft-limits, which means that the software will stop the table automatically before this occurs.

Please make sure that your motors are properly tuned before setting the limits or they won't work properly.

1) The first step is to go to CONFIG/PORTS and PINS/INPUT SIGNALS. Make sure that all of your limit switches are disabled. (a red X for each row) See below:

2)Jog your Router to its home position. (We'll call the end of the table with the inverter and cabinet the front) Jog your spindle as far as it will go to the left, front (stop at the edge of the table)and all the way up on the Z axis.

3)Select the button beneath the DRO's (Digital Read Out) marked MACHINE COORDINATES
A red border should appear around the button (see picture below)

4)Select the Vertical REF ALL HOME button to the left of the DRO. This should set all axes to 0. (see picture below)

5)Go to Config/Homing Limits. Enter in the cutting area dimensions for your Router. Make sure to use Zero as one dimension and the width/length as the other. Note that the Z axis is set opposite. See below:

6) Select the SOFT LIMITS button to the right of the MACHINE COORDINATES button. It should now be bordered in green.

7)Select MACHINE COORDINATES button again, so that the red border goes away, leaving the SOFT LIMITS button on (Green)

Your soft limits are now operational.