"One Perfect Part at a Time"


CNC Control Penchant (and a new pendant)

The switch to Linux CNC was not without some trepidation. I left a machine control system (MACH3) that has worked well for me for over a decade. When something old still does its job very well there is no need to make a change. (It’s a shame human corporate careers don’t follow that philosophy. 🙂

The truth is , MACH3 is still a perfectly fine CNC machine control program. It’s a tool that just keeps working. The problem I have been bemoaning is the computer operating system with which it must operate within, has left it in the dust and moved on to a better social life.

Yes, I have kept the old OS on my old machines, but as I add additional machines and CNC computers to my shop, the old OS, which must have a license to prove it is legal, is no longer provided or can be installed on new hardware. The MACH3 license is a site/owner license so I can run as many copies as I need. The problem is the computer operating system.

So now my go-to is the Linux OS and CNC software called LinuxCNC (a.k.a EMC2).

I am very fluent in the Linux OS, as I have been working with it almost since it was first created. No, I am not a guru, but let me say, “I know the language.” That helps a lot.

I feel sad that I can not highly recommend Linux CNC to every (hobbyist) as a replacement for MACH3. It definitely CAN be a replacement for those folks where editing and rewriting software at the program level and working with Linux at the system command line level, are no problem.

There exists a large amount of documentation. However, Linux CNC is still evolving and I have to be… Continue reading

LinuxCNC – Tool Change (part 2)

LinuxCNCYowza! More to the tool change than I realized in LinuxCNC. The tool change routine exists in the latest available stock version of LinuxCNC but it is poorly implemented for a manual tool change on a hobbyist machine and unworkable as is, for an automatic tool changer.

The good part is that the bones are there. It is up to the user to hang some flesh on those bones.

LinuxCNC will respond to the tool change code installed in the Post Processor I mentioned in a previous post, by stopping for a tool change. But that is all it does. Stop at the safe move height.

None of the axes will manually move. They remain disabled. Any fooling with the pause or start buttons which will get manual control back, will also set the G code file back to the beginning. Bummer.

With the age of EMC, EMC2, and LinuxCNC (all the same) I would think a MACH3 type of manual tool change would be fully implemented AND FUNCTIONAL in the stock release. Such is not the case.

My normal MACH3 operating method on my Taig micro mills and HB2 is to wait for the auto stop for the tool change. (Stock LinuxCNC only does this.) Then I manually run the spindle up to provide room for the manual tool change. (ER16 collets) Then move X/Y to find a place to touch off Z height. Do the touch and set Z to zero for the new tool. Then move back to a safe Z height.

When I resume the run, the program picks up where it left off and moves to the new cutting location and continues.

I found the solution in the LinuxCNC Wiki. The issue has been recognized for a very long time. That itself, is a… Continue reading


LinuxCNCI did my homework with a lot of investigative reading and “Live DVD” testing. Today I made the commitment and installed LinuxCNC and the Debian real time Linux on the computer that operates my HB2 CNC router. It totally wiped out the Windows 10 OS (operating system) that was on that computer.

It was one of those “Popeye the Sailor” moments for me where he says, “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more!” Then Popeye gulps down a big slug of spinach. For me it is a big slug of Linux. Ha!

There were several reasons and the big one was Windows 10 habit of constantly changing the operating environment. Random reboots made, and make, me very gun-shy of putting any trust in MS for stable machine control using Win 10. Windows 10 wants to run my life, not my machine tools.

The next reason is MACH3 prefers a 32 bit operating system and Windows has moved beyond that. MACH3 works fine with an external pulse generator running on 64 bit hardware, but it is still like kicking a dead horse to get it to stand up. It ain’t gonna git up an go anywhere… It’s just too old.

The final reason is a high profile CNC vendor has switched to (their own) flavor of LinuxCNC and tossed MACH3 out the door. They did not move to MACH4. That tells me a lot. You know I am talking about Tormach.

I am fluent in Linux so the OS doesn’t bother me at all. I just thought MACH3 offered more features than LinuxCNC back in the day. It has a heck of a lot more configuration settings than LinixCNC. That’s for sure! It had to be “better”.

Actually MACH3 has and still does perform very well for me.… Continue reading

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