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post #1 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-17-2017, 08:08 PM Thread Starter
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Default Electronics advice

Hey everyone, new to this site and this is my first post!

I bought a cnc router table a couple years ago, all of the mechanicals and none of the electronics. I am a cnc machinist by trade and am making the fre extra pieces I need to finish up the build.

Im starting to look into the electronics and have it pinned down to 3x 425in/oz steppers with either a gecko 540 or tb6600's and an arduino uno. Smooth stepper is still an option I suppose, but for the price I think I'd go with the gecko.

Any advice, or pros and cons with any of this? Which way would you go?

Thanks in advance! Excited to get this sucker moving!

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post #2 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-17-2017, 08:59 PM
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Welcome to the forum, Kid! You might post some photos of your machine when you get the opportunity. What size is your CNC, what kind of drive does it use - ballscrew, rack & pinion, belt, etc.?

I built a CNC router last year, build is on this forum, and used the ESS and it has worked just fine for a little over a year.

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post #3 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-17-2017, 09:30 PM
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Originally Posted by kid_sublime View Post
Smooth stepper is still an option I suppose, but for the price I think I'd go with the gecko.
Welcome to the forum!

The ESS and the Gecko are not interchangeable- the Gecko 540 is a stepper driver (and I believe a much better one than the tb6600). The gecko actually is 4 separate stepper drivers in a single package. A stepper driver receives step and direction signals from the computer, and provides the power signals that actually make the stepper motor turn.

The ESS (Ethernet Smoothstepper for those of you not familiar with it) is a hardware step and direction generator, and allows you to connect your computer to the CNC via an Ethernet cable instead of a parallel printer cable. It actually emulates 3 complete printer ports. It does not connect directly to the steppers, but supplies signals to the stepper driver.

My machine has an ESS connected to a Gecko. Very good way to go.

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post #4 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-17-2017, 09:35 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by difalkner View Post
Welcome to the forum, Kid! You might post some photos of your machine when you get the opportunity. What size is your CNC, what kind of drive does it use - ballscrew, rack & pinion, belt, etc.?

I built a CNC router last year, build is on this forum, and used the ESS and it has worked just fine for a little over a year.

David
Thanks for the reply difalkner! I will be posting pictures in a few days, as I get it out of storage. It has a usable size of approximately 16x16. Has Thompson rod rails and Kerk lead screws. Single drive on X and Y. Just waiting for the last of the T Nuts to come in and the extrusion base will be finished. :-)

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post #5 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-17-2017, 09:39 PM Thread Starter
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Welcome to the forum!

The ESS and the Gecko are not interchangeable- the Gecko 540 is a stepper driver (and I believe a much better one than the tb6600). The gecko actually is 4 separate stepper drivers in a single package. A stepper driver receives step and direction signals from the computer, and provides the power signals that actually make the stepper motor turn.

The ESS (Ethernet Smoothstepper for those of you not familiar with it) is a hardware step and direction generator, and allows you to connect your computer to the CNC via an Ethernet cable instead of a parallel printer cable. It actually emulates 3 complete printer ports. It does not connect directly to the steppers, but supplies signals to the stepper driver.

My machine has an ESS connected to a Gecko. Very good way to go.
Thank you Mr. Engineer! I had no idea I was able to connect an ESS to a Gecko. The way I understood the Gecko was that its an all in one, breakout board with four drivers in one package. How did you handle the output from the ESS to the Gecko? Very possible I am misunderstanding the capabilities of the two. Thanks for the info!

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post #6 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-17-2017, 09:41 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you Mr. Engineer! I had no idea I was able to connect an ESS to a Gecko. The way I understood the Gecko was that its an all in one, breakout board with four drivers in one package. How did you handle the output from the ESS to the Gecko? Very possible I am misunderstanding the capabilities of the two. Thanks for the info!

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Ah, is it not a gecko 540? You got those Vampire drives??

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post #7 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-18-2017, 01:01 AM
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Originally Posted by kid_sublime View Post
I had no idea I was able to connect an ESS to a Gecko. The way I understood the Gecko was that its an all in one, breakout board with four drivers in one package. How did you handle the output from the ESS to the Gecko? Very possible I am misunderstanding the capabilities of the two.
In some ways the Gecko 540 can be considered to be like a breakout board, as it does supply some extra input/output pins. It connects directly to a parallel port cable, and many machines just have the computerís parallel port directly connected to the Gecko g540 as the main machine electronics component. With this setup there are just a few pins worth of additional I/O however, so you can connect 3 home switches for example, but not enough to handle limit switches on each end of each axis.

When connected this way (computer to Gecko 540 via parallel cable), the computer is doing all of the very time sensitive step and direction generation (it takes many thousands of pulses per second being generated to coordinate the movement of a cnc). Trying to do this and simultaneously update the screen, translate the gcode into steps, read data from the gcode file, etc. is a lot going on. On the older (slower) computers that still have printer ports, this could lead to issues. In addition, there are limitations on how long of parallel cables can be used.

As I stated above, the ESS connects to the computer via an Ethernet connection instead of a parallel port. It is a small circuit board and contains its own micrcontroller. This means that instead of the computer generating all of the tens of thousands of individual step and direction pulses, this function is offloaded to the dedicated hardware on the ESS board which was specifically designed and programmed for this, and doesnít have to do anything else. In fact, it is so efficient at this ask, it actually pretends to be 3 complete parallel ports. One parallel port can be used to connect directly to a Gecko 540, leaving two parallel ports worth of pins for additional i/o, if you look at the build of @difalkner you will see that he controls relays for his cooling pump, all his limit switches and more, using some of those extra I/O pins available vis the ESS.

The are separate devices, but can work together to make an effective cnc control system, but the ESS is not required to use a Gecko 540, and cannot be used instead of the G540.

There are other available components that are alternatives to both of these parts, a UC100, UC300 or UC400 are similar to an ESS. There are other stepper drivers than a G540 such as the Leadshine mx3600 or 4600 or you can use separate, individual drivers for each stepper. Lots of options.

I chose to use both the ESS and G540 and have been very satisfied.

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post #8 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-18-2017, 08:04 AM Thread Starter
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In some ways the Gecko 540 can be considered to be like a breakout board, as it does supply some extra input/output pins. It connects directly to a parallel port cable, and many machines just have the computerís parallel port directly connected to the Gecko g540 as the main machine electronics component. With this setup there are just a few pins worth of additional I/O however, so you can connect 3 home switches for example, but not enough to handle limit switches on each end of each axis.

When connected this way (computer to Gecko 540 via parallel cable), the computer is doing all of the very time sensitive step and direction generation (it takes many thousands of pulses per second being generated to coordinate the movement of a cnc). Trying to do this and simultaneously update the screen, translate the gcode into steps, read data from the gcode file, etc. is a lot going on. On the older (slower) computers that still have printer ports, this could lead to issues. In addition, there are limitations on how long of parallel cables can be used.

As I stated above, the ESS connects to the computer via an Ethernet connection instead of a parallel port. It is a small circuit board and contains its own micrcontroller. This means that instead of the computer generating all of the tens of thousands of individual step and direction pulses, this function is offloaded to the dedicated hardware on the ESS board which was specifically designed and programmed for this, and doesnít have to do anything else. In fact, it is so efficient at this ask, it actually pretends to be 3 complete parallel ports. One parallel port can be used to connect directly to a Gecko 540, leaving two parallel ports worth of pins for additional i/o, if you look at the build of @difalkner you will see that he controls relays for his cooling pump, all his limit switches and more, using some of those extra I/O pins available vis the ESS.

The are separate devices, but can work together to make an effective cnc control system, but the ESS is not required to use a Gecko 540, and cannot be used instead of the G540.

There are other available components that are alternatives to both of these parts, a UC100, UC300 or UC400 are similar to an ESS. There are other stepper drivers than a G540 such as the Leadshine mx3600 or 4600 or you can use separate, individual drivers for each stepper. Lots of options.

I chose to use both the ESS and G540 and have been very satisfied.
Awesome info Engineer! So are you making your own parallel cable that connects to the pin out on the ESS?

Thanks
-Josh

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post #9 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-18-2017, 09:02 AM
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You could make your own cable. The 3 parallel ports on the ESS are 26 pin headers like on a PC motherboard. I purchased a short cable using flat ribbon cable that went from the header type connector to a female 25 pin centronics connector (like a printer cable). I used a male/male gender changer to plug this into my G540.

When I built mine I bought the parts from Soigeneris, they had the best price at the time.
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post #10 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-18-2017, 09:51 PM
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You guys are talking way above my intelligence level. Glad I bought a plug and play. Ya'll got my admiration!!
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