MechMate CNC Router Forum

Go Back   MechMate CNC Router Forum > Electrical & Electronic > 70. Control Systems
Register Options Profile Last 1 | 3 | 7 Days Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Reply
 
Thread Tools
  #1  
Old Tue 13 November 2007, 23:17
Gerald D
Just call me: Gerald (retired)
 
Cape Town
South Africa
Smoothstepper USB to parallel converter

This would work with the classic BOB's it does not replace the BOB. SmoothStepper home page

From:
http://www.machsupport.com/forum/ind...7&topic=4583.0

The SmoothStepper is a new USB-based controller that is meant to be a replacement for the parallel port. It was designed to emulate the parallel port (electrically and physically), which allows for a seamless integration into existing setups. New designs will also benefit from the very precise, fast, and clean step rates that the SmoothStepper produces. The SmoothStepper plugin uses the same XML data that is used to configure the native parallel port version of Mach. Except for a few unique parameters (such as maximum step frequency), all of the SmoothStepper's setup parameters come from the same setup dialogs that the parallel port version uses, such as Ports and Pins. Even oddball setups that use something like pin 17 for the X Step signal are handled with no problem. The SmoothStepper looks and feels just like the parallel port. Existing breakout boards should interface with the SmoothStepper without any issues.

The SmoothStepper is powered by a Xilinx FPGA for very high performance. In the current design, the maximum step rate is 4 MHz , but there is no reason why this couldn't be increased to 8 MHz or more if necessary. Data is sent from the PC to the SmoothStepper in very fine segments, making it very suitable for "3D" work. The USB chip is an FTDI FT245R. FTDI provides a Microsoft WHQL certified driver for all versions of Windows (http://ftdichip.com/Drivers/D2XX.htm). Driver installation is straightforward.

With the SmoothStepper, there is a single plug-in file that contains both the FPGA firmware and the Mach plug-in software. Each time you start Mach, the firmware is downloaded to the device in the blink of an eye. Because it is all contained in one file, there is no chance of a mismatch between the plug-in software and the FPGA firmware. Upgrades are as simple as selecting a different plugin version. Upgrades will be free.

The SmoothStepper has two parallel port interfaces on it. The first port is configured with pins 2 through 9 as outputs. The second port is a bidirectional port, allowing pins 2 through 9 to be either inputs or outputs. The connectors are 26-pin low-profile headers, and depending upon the application, may be either male or female (but not both). With male connectors on the top side of the board (component side), ribbon cables can connect to a breakout board or a DB25 cable. With female headers on the bottom of the board, the SmoothStepper can plug directly onto a breakout board that has the same connector spacing for a neat cableless connection. Be on the lookout for breakout boards that will have this capability. The output drive from the SmoothStepper is suitable for driving opto-isolators directly (for example Geckos), so if you are on a budget, you could connect it directly. The SmoothStepper is 3.625" x 2.75" (92mm x 70mm) in size, allowing it to fit nicely in space-limited cabinets. When I get some time in a few days I will post a picture of it.

In addition to the two parallel ports, the SmoothStepper has pluggable screw terminals for two encoder inputs with index. One of the two inputs is differential, and the other is single-ended. These inputs could be used as additional discrete inputs if they are not used for encoders/MPGs. The intended purpose of the differential encoder input is for synchronization to the spindle in threading applications. I have designed the pieces required for this function, but have not begun integration of them yet. It will be a priority to complete threading before the SmoothStepper is released. There is also an expansion connector that will give the SmoothStepper the ability to expand its capabilities in the future.

Read the link for more current info.

SmoothStepper home page

Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old Wed 05 March 2008, 01:30
Gerald D
Just call me: Gerald (retired)
 
Cape Town
South Africa
Posted by Greg Cary on another forum this morning:

Greetings,

It has been a while since the last update. I know it has taken a long
time to get this to market, but I'm going as fast as I can.
Once I get the hardware manufactured, I think it will progress a
little faster since I can concentrate on just the FPGA design and the
plugin software.

I was hoping to have the hardware ready for sale in about two weeks.
It is looking like it might push out a few days since I'm still
waiting on a few parts to be shipped. I think I will open it up for
pre-sale in about a week, right after I get some documentation
written. The price will be $155 USD. Those that have signed up on
the Warp9TD forum will be sure to get top priority, though I don't
think there will be a shortage of boards.

The plugin is not quite complete yet, but it is very usable. Some
beta testers are using it as their primary controller for making
parts. Importantly, I need to polish it up so that installation is a
breeze. I know many of you are eagerly awaiting this device, so I
won't hold back sales if it isn't 100% complete. But it is up to you
if you want to wait longer -- until the consensus is that it is complete.

The design goal of the SmoothStepper has been to emulate the parallel
port, while at the same time improving it to some degree.
Unfortunately it will take time to duplicate everything Art and Brian
have done over the years. Some of it is more difficult because its
brains are in a remote device that doesn't have all the same resources
that a PC has. There are a number of things the SS will be able to do
much better. Obviously its ability to pulse at very high frequencies
with a minimum of jitter will be its biggest selling point.

I'd like to introduce another feature of the SS that I have briefly
mentioned in the past. The SS has an expansion port that will be
capable of adding large amounts of I/O. It will be able to talk to a
serial device through either an SPI or I2C protocol, or simple shift
register logic. You will be able to write a simple C/C++ program that
can interface to the SmoothStepper plugin and access this port. I
haven't tried other languages yet, but I don't see any issues with
that as long as it conforms to the C calling convention. The free
Visual C++ Compiler from Microsoft can be used to compile the
software. Your program will send commands to the SmoothStepper, which
in turn will execute them as basic read and write commands for the
selected interface standard. Data will be returned to your C/C++
program, where you can process it and place the results in Modbus
memory for Brains to act on. This is primarily directed at OEMs that
will design and sell I/O add-ons, but there is no reason why a
hobbyist could not do this as well. The command structure will be
simple enough that you will barely need to know C in order to write
the program. It will be that easy. I will publish some documentation
in the near future, outlining the various functions that are
available. Right now there are a couple of OEMs that have designs in
the works.

The first plugin that will be introduced will be for Mill. I am
working on the additions for Turn and THC, but it probably won't be
released until 2 to 4 weeks after Mill. The hardware is the same for
each.

Thank you for your patience. It has been a long road but I think the
SmoothStepper will finally make it to the stage.

Thanks,

Greg Cary
Warp9 Tech Design, Inc.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old Fri 25 April 2008, 11:48
Gerald D
Just call me: Gerald (retired)
 
Cape Town
South Africa
Using the 7.2 gearboxes and smallish pinions means that we want get up to higher frequencies, and we want to get there smoothly. Folk who have put scopes onto the pulse stream that Mach3 puts out of the parallel port say that the pulses are unevenly spaced, particularly at the higher frequencies. The few reports I have read on the SmoothStepper say that it lives up to its name and some people are reporting large increases in speed.

The SmoothStepper is now in limited production. Have ordered 4 for Cape Town and hope that the wait list is not too long.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old Fri 25 April 2008, 15:10
javeria
Just call me: Irfan #33
 
Bangalore
India
G' there is still no option to set backlash on the smooth steppers yet, do you think that will be a problem or is it ok for a mechmate, I know we are not precision machining though
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old Fri 25 April 2008, 17:25
Gerald D
Just call me: Gerald (retired)
 
Cape Town
South Africa
We do not have backlash with our MechMate spring-loaded rack&pinion drives. (On lathes and milling machines with screw drives they need the backlash compensation). Besides, the SmoothStepper hardware will not change for that, it will be a firmware change.

Using Mach3 through the parallel port now, we do not have any backlash settings.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old Fri 25 April 2008, 17:44
J.R. Hatcher
Just call me: J.R. #4
 
Wilmington, North Carolina
United States of America
Send a message via Skype™ to J.R. Hatcher
Mach 3 does have compensation for backlash. I had to set it up for my lathe.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old Fri 25 April 2008, 17:53
Gerald D
Just call me: Gerald (retired)
 
Cape Town
South Africa
Correct JR. The issue here is that Mach3's compensation feature is nullified by the current firmware in the SmoothStepper. The lathe people cannot use the SmoothStepper yet.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old Fri 25 April 2008, 19:00
J.R. Hatcher
Just call me: J.R. #4
 
Wilmington, North Carolina
United States of America
Send a message via Skype™ to J.R. Hatcher
You probably already said that and I missed it. sorry
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old Sun 27 April 2008, 00:12
javeria
Just call me: Irfan #33
 
Bangalore
India
Got it.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old Tue 06 May 2008, 23:44
dmoore
Just call me:
 
I was doing some research on the max frequency with Mach3 along with pinion/gearing on the mechmate (which by the way, don't put 20 tooth pinions together with 7.2 Geared OM's, that combo is 42kHz) and I ran accross this post on the Mach3 support site:

http://www.machsupport.com/forum/ind...ic,6702.0.html

"What you need is a higher kernel speed with a smooth pulse, 45Khz may well be the max you are going to get out of your parallel port, I know it certainly is on the Lathe I have. You should however be able to do one of two things. First is your drives will probably have electronic gearing, this allows you to send a lower pulse rate out of the parallel port and the drive multiplies it for your encoder/motor. The drawback to electronic gearing is you can get cogging at low speeds, this may or may not be a problem but it is not ideal and it is why I have limited my gearing 2:1. The best option is to get a SmoothStepper, there is a waiting list for them at the moment and at present the sync for threading is not done and that is the only reason I dont have mine on the lathe yet. The smoothstepper has external pulse generation and can pulse up to 4MHz which is almost 100 times faster than the parallel port at 45KHz. So if you get 30IPM theorectically you could get 3000IPM with no electronic gearing.

Hood"
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old Wed 07 May 2008, 00:57
Gerald D
Just call me: Gerald (retired)
 
Cape Town
South Africa
When a SmoothStepper is inserted between your PC and the BreakOutBoard (BOB, or PMDX122), the Mach frequency setting must be dropped to its lowest - 25kHz. (Picked that up on the SmoothStepper forum, I think)
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old Mon 21 July 2008, 17:38
Robert M
Just call me: Robert
 
Lac-Brome, Qc
Canada
Send a message via Yahoo to Robert M Send a message via Skype™ to Robert M
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gerald D View Post
Have ordered 4 for Cape Town and hope that the wait list is not too long.
Hi Gerald,
Did you ever received & tested yours ?
Robert
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old Mon 21 July 2008, 23:34
Gerald D
Just call me: Gerald (retired)
 
Cape Town
South Africa
Not received yet.

It is being discussed on a couple of forums, and the reports are very positive, even though all the firmware is not yet fully developed. (For example, the soft limits are not working yet)
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old Sun 17 May 2009, 09:24
Gerald D
Just call me: Gerald (retired)
 
Cape Town
South Africa
Okay, I will admit it, I am lazy. (Well, it is Sunday afternoon, after a big lunch) . . . . . . . . . .

This week I have to install / setup a SmoothSteepper with Mach3 and a PMDX-122 for the first time. What is a lazy guy's guide to "download this from here" ; "install this there" ; "sit back and watch the blinken lights" ?
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old Sun 17 May 2009, 09:37
Gerald D
Just call me: Gerald (retired)
 
Cape Town
South Africa
The web site has said this for more than a year:

"Documentation


Here is the first draft of the SmoothStepper User's Manual.
It still needs a lot of material, but it covers installation of the driver
and PlugIn quite well.

I plan on adding wiring diagrams, schematics, etc., but it will take some time to
get that finished.

I have created a forum area for suggesting improvements and reporting problems.
Please feel free to post constructive feedback.

SmoothStepperUserManualV1.0.pdf"

was hoping that when the time came to install our SS's their would be a more final document......
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old Sun 17 May 2009, 10:24
Gerald D
Just call me: Gerald (retired)
 
Cape Town
South Africa
At that time the manual said:

"Please use the lockdown version or a newer version of Mach with the SmoothStepper. No other versions are supported at this time. There are many functions that will not work with older versions of Mach. Please note that the development version of Mach does not have the same meaning as it has in the past. Very few features are being added, and those features are not major ones. In general, the development version is the bug-fixed version of the lockdown. Aside from bug fixes, a typical feature that would be added is access to internal Mach variables so that an external device (such as the SmoothStepper) can perform threading. Because the SmoothStepper is requiring access to more of Mach than it is currently set up for, you really should use the development version."

Oof! lockdown versus development versions of Mach3.....that brings back bad memories. Have had so many bad experiences with different versions of Mach3 that we stuck with one that worked reasonably well and gave up chasing the new versions every week, or even day, or even hour! That was about 2 years ago and now I am having visions of having to go through these loops again.

Is everyone happy with very recent versions of Mach? Are there ones to avoid?
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old Sun 17 May 2009, 10:45
Gerald D
Just call me: Gerald (retired)
 
Cape Town
South Africa
Over at the Mach Site it says:
The Changelog shows recent changes in 2009, but the archive does not list them:


10/19/2007 12:00AM 9,193,176 Mach3VersionR1.84.002.exe
10/19/2007 12:00AM 13,313,606 Mach3VersionR2.00.077.exe
10/19/2007 12:00AM 13,313,552 Mach3VersionR2.00.078.exe
10/19/2007 12:00AM 13,314,336 Mach3VersionR2.00.079.exe
10/19/2007 12:00AM 13,312,565 Mach3VersionR2.00.080.exe
10/19/2007 12:00AM 13,312,592 Mach3VersionR2.00.081.exe
10/19/2007 12:00AM 22,369,576 Mach3VersionR2.01.000.exe
10/19/2007 12:00AM 22,370,297 Mach3VersionR2.02.exe
10/19/2007 12:00AM 22,373,822 Mach3VersionR2.03.exe
10/19/2007 12:00AM 22,094,943 Mach3VersionR2.4.exe
10/19/2007 12:00AM 22,989,939 Mach3VersionR2.42.exe
10/19/2007 12:00AM 22,930,841 Mach3VersionR2.45.exe
10/19/2007 12:00AM 23,162,688 Mach3VersionR2.46.exe
10/19/2007 12:00AM 23,302,839 Mach3VersionR2.47.exe
10/19/2007 12:00AM 23,302,824 Mach3VersionR2.48.exe
10/19/2007 12:00AM 23,285,672 Mach3VersionR2.55.exe
10/19/2007 12:00AM 26,001,511 Mach3VersionR2.56.exe
10/25/2007 12:00AM 26,001,800 Mach3VersionR2.57.exe
11/10/2007 12:00AM 25,704,741 Mach3VersionR2.58.exe
11/27/2007 12:00AM 25,707,429 Mach3VersionR2.60.exe
12/03/2007 12:00AM 25,731,233 Mach3VersionR2.61.exe
12/11/2007 12:00AM 25,734,092 Mach3VersionR2.62a.exe
12/13/2007 12:00AM 25,736,781 Mach3VersionR2.62b.exe
03/26/2008 12:00AM 25,736,924 Mach3VersionR2.63.exe
12/30/2007 12:00AM 25,823,923 Mach3VersionR3.00.exe
01/08/2008 12:00AM 26,316,560 Mach3VersionR3.01.exe
01/15/2008 12:00AM 26,163,894 Mach3VersionR3.02 .exe
01/17/2008 12:00AM 26,121,475 Mach3VersionR3.03.exe
01/25/2008 12:00AM 26,103,901 Mach3VersionR3.031.exe
01/28/2008 12:00AM 26,103,733 Mach3VersionR3.032.exe
02/04/2008 12:00AM 26,104,854 Mach3VersionR3.033.exe
02/11/2008 12:00AM 26,122,599 Mach3VersionR3.034.exe
02/11/2008 12:00AM 26,122,896 Mach3VersionR3.035.exe
02/15/2008 12:00AM 26,122,919 Mach3VersionR3.036.exe
02/23/2008 12:00AM 26,123,084 Mach3VersionR3.037.exe
03/20/2008 12:00AM 26,121,190 Mach3VersionR3.038.exe
03/26/2008 12:00AM 26,121,171 Mach3VersionR3.039.exe
05/03/2008 12:00AM 26,349,841 Mach3VersionR3.040.exe
05/03/2008 12:00AM 26,349,836 Mach3VersionR3.041.exe
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old Sun 17 May 2009, 23:48
Gerald D
Just call me: Gerald (retired)
 
Cape Town
South Africa
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gerald D View Post
Is everyone happy with very recent versions of Mach? Are there ones to avoid?
Any volunteers?
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old Mon 18 May 2009, 00:25
MattyZee
Just call me: Matt
 
Adelaide
Australia
Hi Gerald.

I have been using R3.041 for the last 12 months without any issues. Not on a MM but on my homemade design. I don't use all functionality of Mach3 though, i simply use VCarve to generate toolpaths and cut them. No spindle or dust extraction control. Not even any limit switches. But motion is fine.

hope that helps.....

EDIT: woopss. thats not new. sorry Gerald. i guess you prob more concerned about R3.042 or later?

Last edited by MattyZee; Mon 18 May 2009 at 00:28..
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old Mon 18 May 2009, 01:08
Gerald D
Just call me: Gerald (retired)
 
Cape Town
South Africa
Matty, thanks, I am still interested because I think we have an older version than that!
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old Mon 18 May 2009, 03:01
Greolt
Just call me: Greg
 
Victoria
Australia
I use the release candidate and have had no issues.

Greg
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old Mon 18 May 2009, 04:15
Gerald D
Just call me: Gerald (retired)
 
Cape Town
South Africa
Greg, I presume that is R3.042.027 which is just under a month old? That sounds like good news! (Hope you are using feedhold, because we always seem to have hassles with that)
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old Mon 18 May 2009, 05:49
Greolt
Just call me: Greg
 
Victoria
Australia
I do use feedhold occasionally but my expectations may be a little different to yours in that area.

If I need an immediate stop, I use stop, or even estop. I use feedhold if possible when I need to retain confidence in the position integrity.

I try my hardest to not get into a situation where I need an immediate stop, but then don't we all.

Greg
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old Mon 18 May 2009, 06:50
sailfl
Just call me: Nils #12
 
Winter Park, FL
United States of America
Greg,

It was not an immediate stop that I needed. I wanted to stop the cut long enough to add a hold down bracket. Once the bracket was in place, I wanted to continue. Pause then restart. But I could not start back up.
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old Mon 18 May 2009, 18:03
Greolt
Just call me: Greg
 
Victoria
Australia
Never had a problem doing that.

Normally I will pause, then retract the Z a bit so that it is not rubbing. On restart it returns to Z cutting depth and continues on.

What version of Mach are you using?

Greg
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old Tue 19 May 2009, 03:28
sailfl
Just call me: Nils #12
 
Winter Park, FL
United States of America
Greg,

I have old 2. I downloaded the newer stuff. I just have to load it on the machine.

It could have just been a fluke.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Register Options Profile Last 1 | 3 | 7 Days Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 20:40.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.