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PC Operating system for Mach3

Discussion in 'CNC IN THE HOME SHOP' started by slow-poke, Jun 19, 2017.

  1. slow-poke

    slow-poke Canada Active Member Active Member

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    I should receive a Mini-ITX PC tomorrow that I will use to run Mach3 for a CNC conversion of my mill.

    From what I have read Win7-64 does not support a parallel port. So either XP, or Win7-32. Is there any advantage or disadvantage to either one (when used with Mach3)?
     
  2. DAT510

    DAT510 United States H-M Supporter - Premium Content H-M Supporter-Premium

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    I'm running Win7 - 32bit with Mach3 without any problems. I think the biggest advantage with Win7 over is XP is MS is still supporting Win7.

    Though, I don't use the parallel port. I use a UC100 that allow me to drive the BOB parallel port via usb. http://cncdrive.com/UC100.html

    I've found the UC100 allows me to better utilize my PC, than when I was using the parallel port. I've read Mach3 recommends limiting the software on the PC running Mach3. A friend much more experienced with Mach3, than I am, told me it is/was because of signal timing issues with the parallel port. He told me the parallel port sends the signal in realtime and the BOB reacts in realtime, without buffering. Having other programs running on the PC can cause the timing of the signals sent by the parallel port to be delayed or "not timed properly" causing steps to be mis-timed. On my old setup, a couple of times I tried doing other things on the pc, while machining something and ended up messing up the parts. Only to have them run properly after when I didn't try to do anything else on the PC while the program was running.

    The UC 100 Buffers the commands and has it's own timing circuit, so there's no syncing issues. Since upgrading to it, it's allowed me make better use of my PC, than having it as a "dedicated" CNC pc. I also know there are ethernet based BOB's that allow you to connect to you system via ethernet though I don't have any experience with those.
     
  3. jbolt

    jbolt United States Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    When I did my first conversion everyone I talked to said not to use the parallel port and start with a motion controller due to timing issues.

    I started with a UC100 and win XP. The UC100 is okay but I had to many communication issues with the USB interface causing faults mid program. That could be a number of things including the PC hardware and age. It became enough of a problem I switched to the Ethernet Smooth Stepper (ESS) motion controller. Leaps and bounds better. I moved the UC100 to my other cnc machine with a different pc and win 7 with the same issues. Another forum member has had the same problems with the UC100 and is in the process of upgrading to the ESS.

    As for XP I would move on to at least win 7 as XP is no longer supported and re-installs are getting harder to do since MS no longer has a path to reactivate a fresh install.

    I have moved on to win 10 on both my cnc machines. I'm running my mill off a Dell i3050 micro mini desktop pc. $150 with win 10 installed and works perfect with the ESS.
     
  4. Stonebriar

    Stonebriar United States Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    I run Mach3 on a windows 10 box, but I don't use a parallel port.
     
  5. slow-poke

    slow-poke Canada Active Member Active Member

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    Thanks to everyone for commenting.

    I'm going to try Win7-32. This is a Mini-ITX board that will be dedicated to the mill so I won't be using it for anything else and I will run it as bare bones as possible. I will start with the parallel port and see if it behaves. If not I will get a motion controller board.

    Update (July2-2017)
    • Installed Win7-32, seems to run well so far.
    • Installed Ditron magnetic scales and wired them to the parallel port via a RS422 converter chip. Appeared to be missing the odd pulse when really cranking fast so I performed most of the PC optimization I found here: http://www.machsupport.com/forum/index.php?topic=6346.0;wap2 this seems to have fixed that. This is a great upgrade for manual operation.
    • Added a HALL effect sensor to the spindle, so I can now measure spindle speed
    • Installed a 2nd parallel port in anticipation of more I/O in the future, had to play with the IRQ's to get it working, for some reason the first IRQ address assigned (0x014) although shown as not conflicting caused weird stuff to happen, I was not able to change the IRQ, likely because ACPI is enabled, and the procedure to disable ACPI did not work. So I ended up installing another parallel port driver (with no actual hardware) and assigning 0x014 to it, Windows then assigned a new IRQ to my actual 2nd parallel port (0x1000 this time) and this appears to work. I then deleted the "fake" parallel port.
    • Waiting for my steppers to arrive.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2017
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  6. f350ca

    f350ca Canada Active User Active Member

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    Im using windows XP with a parallel port on a plasma table and have no issues. The computer isn't connected to the internet so I can't see any problems with it not being supported anymore.

    Greg
     

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