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Another learning moment

2497 Views 8 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  MikeSibley
I have seen several posts on the positives and negatives of using Mach 3/4. Some say it is wonderful, others say it is pain. Some machines use a controller, others use a computer. David was kind enough to tell me that the Axiom charges you annually for their software on their controller. I'm just thinking that at this current time, the Mach 4 (only one available now) is the best option. I just don't for sure it is the best option before I pull the trigger.

Another software concern is that I use Mac's exclusively here. I use a MacBook Pro, as does my wife, we have two 27" iMac's. I do have a windows computer or two and plan to update one for just using Aspire.

Mach 4 says that it works on Mac, and I have a couple of Macs, is it worth the potential of problems to use a iMac to control my new machine? I can add one of the windows machines to the mix for control of the machine as I have access to windows machines extremely cheap, like free.

An iMac is an all in one computer, not two different boxes so less clutter. But when they have a new software on a new platform (Mac OSX) there could be issues.

I check the forums in the early mornings as it is one of my highlights to learn from you, the gurus!

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The more questions I find about the complexities of CNC, the more I think that if I were buying one, the criteria would be, it is delivered fully assembled and software and computer ready to go. And I'd want lots of support available, as well as some classes or private instruction. They produce wonderful results, and have potential to pay for themselves fairly soon, allowing for what seems to be a substantial learning curve. I don't have the money to do one strictly for hobby purposes, much as I am tempted by the possibilities they offer.

I'm posting this short word document on making money with a CNC, and it describes what I'd put in place if I were going to pop for a machine. BTW, the best thing about a small business that makes even a little money, is the IRS Schedule C, deductions for business expenses.


Thanks Tom! I don't plan to make money, just have something to do in my retirement. I have learned from the COVID experience that I don't do well sitting around the house. If I make a few dollars that would be good, but I need to be doing something!

Hope you are good!

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I have a dedicated computer hooked up to each of my machines. No internet or any other programs on it. A cheapie with windows will do.
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I have a dedicated computer hooked up to each of my machines. No internet or any other programs on it. A cheapie with windows will do.
I guess I can look into the computer specs for the software (Mach 4) to make sure it fits the software's needs. It would probably be better to stick with windows even though I hate that operating system since the software was originally written for windows. I don't want to be out there looking for any new bugs in a new platform!
Some machines use a controller, others use a computer.
Controller can be a vague term when it comes to CNC, as people use it to describe a lot of different things.

Basically, every machine needs machine control software.
These come in many flavors.

Mach3 and Linux CNC are software controls, meaning they can run a machine directly from a PC with just the software, through a parallel port.

Both of these can also use additional hardware to generate step pulses, and provide additional I/O. The additional hardware will improve performance capabilities.

Then you have the software + hardware controls. Mach4, UCCNC, Centroid Acorn, EdingCNC, ...
These have a software program that runs on a PC, but also use additional hardware to control motion and handle I/O. Some of these do all the calculations in software, and some use external hardware to do the motion calculations.

Then you have the standalone all in one controls, which include a number of Chinese options (including Axiom), and the Masso. These don't require a PC at all. Some have their own displays, and some require a separate monitor.

All have their strengths and weaknesses, and the choice will often depend on what features one needs. The Software + Hardware options tend to have a lot more features, and have more customization options.

Mach4 is very capable, and a big step up from Mach3.
The people that don't like it are usually former Mach3 users. Mainly because it's very different from Mach3, and customization is more complex. But Mach4 is far more powerful, and provides much better motion than Mach3.

Since Mach4 is what AVID CNC sells, they also support it, and they provide excellent support. This is a big plus.

As for Macs. :surprise:

Mach4's system requirements do not mention macs. And I've not heard of people using it with macs. If they are, it's probably with Bootcamp.

My recommendation for running Mach4 would be to buy a new, mini PC running Windows 10, similar to this.

or this

Many people run Aspire on macs using parallels or bootcamp. You can then send your g-code to the mini PC via wifi.
I'd recommend joining the Vectric forum and asking any mac questions there.
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The reason that I asked about Mac is they mention somewhere on the Mach 4 site about Mac and use the OSX/Mac logo. You are right, I'd probably be better off with a dedicated PC.
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Since you are buying a new CNC from Avid I would go with Mach4. Avid has downloads for the configuration files for each of their machines and also have a special to them version of Mach4 for their machines. You will also want to download the post-processor from their site because it is also a special file to generate gcode for their system.

The computer you use for CNC control should not be connected to the internet, which causes a lot of problems that you don't want while the machine is carving.
Thank you sir!
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