I am interested in giving the new MACH4 a spin. (Pun intended.) Not that I am so excited about plunking down $200 for a single computer license. The days of the MACH3 single license but multiple copies for a single hobby user are still here but it doesn’t work that way for MACH4.
I currently have three CNC machines in my single shop and a computer for each of them. It’s perfectly “legal” for me to load MACH3 on each computer under one MACH3 license.
I have purchased three very nice refurbished PCs from Newegg for $80.00 (yes eighty) each and dedicated each to their own CNC controller.
The same setup with MACH4 would cost me $600.00 just for the licenses. As I have told my friend José, “No way!”
MACH3 has been ripped-off so many times, I completely understand the reasons. Also most hobbyist don’t have three PC’s and three controllers in their shop. One solution could be to put the MACH4 computer on a cart and just wheel it to each controller. A serious alternative for a hobby user. I only run one machine at a time anyway.
I am willing to pick one machine and controller to be a test system with MACH4. In reality I don’t believe I will see any real earth shattering improvement in my CNC operations. However, there is a very good chance that MACH3 may go into a totally unavailable and unsupported hibernation. Probably never to awake again. I think it has already entered into the sleeping den.
MACH3 retirement is a matter of economics and competition to MACH4 growth.
MACH4 will really need to interface to an external pulse generator for best performance. There is a parallel port plug in (+$25.00) but MACH4 will then perform no better than MACH3.
One of my controllers has been running with MACH3 and a USB Smooth Stepper (USS) made by WARP9 Tech. A very nice combination. Unfortunately, there is not yet a plug-in for MACH4 and the USB Smooth Stepper. There is already a second edition Ethernet Smooth Stepper (ESS) plug-in available. Figures I would have the USB version. The USB driver is still a few months away. Warp9 says the issue is the USB has a smaller internal memory for the driver to load into. They have to build tighter code.
I am giving some thought of buying an ESS and building a standalone LAN to Parallel converter to use with my two other controllers that have parallel only inputs. CNC4PC offers a version of this already built.
I could also add a Smooth Stepper ESS internal to both my other controllers and just ad an RJ45 jack to their panel face. But all that can be an option later. The truth is MACH3 actually does everything I need, probably forever with the machines I currently have and use.
My interest in trying MACH4 is because it is there and it will certainly be the software of choice in the near future. As a person who is often asked for advice, I need to have first-hand experience. Or maybe it is just because I want to try it… Ha!