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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm ordering the Avid Pro 4x4 machine. Reading about the control software ie: Mach 4 out on the internet, there are review sites that claim that LinuxCNC is comparable to the Mach series and better yet, free! I guess my question is whether those claims are valid. One issue that I have is Mach being tied to a particular machine. I have that scenario at work where one of my software packages are tied to the machine itself and I have had unmitigated hades when I set it up on a separate SSD drive in the same machine. Ended up having to get the software involved (God I hate trying to talk technicalities with someone in India who really doesn't have much command of the English language) and ended up uninstalling the software and reinstalling, generating a new key file and on and on.

I guess the reason I am a little gun shy is that to keep my CFO (wife) happy, I'm trying to minimize the up-front cost so I plan on using an existing PC until such time that I purchase one of those mini-PC machines and install a 40+ inch monitor. I'll have to add as I go.

Back to control software, is it worth the additional $200 up front for Mach 4 then going through the headache of changing PC machines at a later date? I know, Mach is in Maine not India but it seems that everyone is outsourcing to India or the Philippines for customer service. (Have you tried talking to AT&T? Gosh!)

I don't mind putting up an additional $200, just asking if the value is there.

M
 

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David
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I started with Mach4 on an old desktop computer for my CNC and unless that computer dies then I won't have those issues. I have read that ArtSoft isn't difficult to deal with if you do need to move the software but it's probably not a 10 minute process.

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LinuxCNC is quite capable and mature. Both LinuxCNC and Mach4 have specific hardware requirements. The Avid supplied controllers utilize an Ethernet SmoothStepper, which works very well with Mach4, but DOES NOT work with LinuxCNC.

LinuxCNC was originally developed to to work off parallel port, and still works that way, if you are using a computer with parallel port or a desktop you can put a parallel port card in. You will also need to build your own controller that takes the parallel port signal and connects to the stepper drivers. There are limitations to a parallel port, and how fast of step generation it can handle. A better solution with LinuxCNC is to use a supported card by Mesa that performs certain hardware step generation. The cost of this board is probably equivalent to purchasing Mach4. Again, you would need to integrate with a controller yourself.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
LinuxCNC is quite capable and mature. Both LinuxCNC and Mach4 have specific hardware requirements. The Avid supplied controllers utilize an Ethernet SmoothStepper, which works very well with Mach4, but DOES NOT work with LinuxCNC.

LinuxCNC was originally developed to to work off parallel port, and still works that way, if you are using a computer with parallel port or a desktop you can put a parallel port card in. You will also need to build your own controller that takes the parallel port signal and connects to the stepper drivers. There are limitations to a parallel port, and how fast of step generation it can handle. A better solution with LinuxCNC is to use a supported card by Mesa that performs certain hardware step generation. The cost of this board is probably equivalent to purchasing Mach4. Again, you would need to integrate with a controller yourself.
Now that's a valid reason to go with Mach4! Thank you!

I'm trying to learn. I appreciate it.
 

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I have been using ESS/Mach4 for almost 5 years and have zero complaints or issues. I have also purchased a UCCNC license and motion controller for a future build as people whose opinion I respect (such as Gerry) have good things to say about it. As long as you stay away from Mach3 or GRBL, I think most of the other choices can be made to work well. I know that both Mach3 and GRBL have their proponents, but I do not feel they are in the same tier of capability or reliability.
 

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How much of a learning curve is it to go from Mach3 to Mach4 for a gumpy old fart?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I'm not familiar with Mach 3 or 4, so I guess my learning curve is just moving into 4 from the start. I contacted the company after BalloonEngineer responded above. Since I don't have the computer it will run the software on yet, they told me to download the software play with it before buying the license so I can get a little used to it. I ordered the computer that it will run on today so it is coming together. I just wanted to know that it was worth the cost of the software when the "internet" touted other options that are free. I just wanted to make sure it was necessary and of value.
 

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How much of a learning curve is it to go from Mach3 to Mach4 for a gumpy old fart?
If you are just loading and running g-code, there's little difference in any control software. You just need to learn where the buttons are.
Now, if you want to start customizing it.... The learning curve is vertical, and you can't see the top. >:)
 

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Five minutes for a normal guy, so maybe four for you. :wink:

David
You mean four days or 4 weeks or 4 months, not minutes. You nerds don't understand how hard it is for us common mortals to do this computer stuff.
 
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If you are just loading and running g-code, there's little difference in any control software. You just need to learn where the buttons are.
Now, if you want to start customizing it.... The learning curve is vertical, and you can't see the top. >:)
I didn't think it did anything else than run the gcode USB thumbnails I plugged in the computer.

Give me a clue .... or is it best I don't know?
 
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The process of loading and running gcode is virtually the same, and display is similar. Mach4 is easier to customize or modify screens, but since Gerry has not chosen to develop any Mach4 screen sets, I run one of the standard ones. Most of the features of his Mach3 screenset are in the standard Mach4 profile I use.

The advantage is the quality and speed of carve, especially 3D. Mach4 just has a better 3D motion planner than Mach3 and better CV algorithms. I have friends with expensive Legacy machines that run Mach3. They spent weeks and did hundreds of test cuts trying to get smooth performance in a test piece for a door carving. Played with feed rates, plunge, chip loads, spindle rpm, etc. But it always had little overshoots when going downwards and clipped edges coming up. I ran their exact same gcode file on my machine and it cut perfect. First try. Exactly like the Aspire preview, and what they were trying to accomplish. Same feed rates, plunge rates, etc. Their $16k welded steel machines (Maverick 3x5) with Nema34 steppers running Mach3 just could not cut as nice as my bigger (4 x 5), aluminum extrusion (stiffer!), Nema23, under $3k DIY machine running Mach4. Both their machines and mine use the same ESS motion controller.

IMHO, Mach3 is deprecated, has not been updated since 2012 (and never will be in future), and has trouble with newer versions of windows. If you have a Mach3 machine you are happy with, not sure I would upgrade, but it’s a no-brainer to go Mach4 on a new build.
 

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I didn't know Mach3 vs Mach4 was controversial. But I'm new to this CNC stuff. I use Artcam to design and make the Gcode. My choice was Mach3 to run the Gcode via USB to a Chinese 3 axis CNC router.The old PC I use has Win10 64 bit OS. This setup works great for my projects. The only problem I run into is operator error.
 

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If you are just loading and running g-code, there's little difference in any control software. You just need to learn where the buttons are.
Now, if you want to start customizing it.... The learning curve is vertical, and you can't see the top. >:)
Haha! I like that, gonna have to borrow that at some point, Gerry. ;)

You mean four days or 4 weeks or 4 months, not minutes. You nerds don't understand how hard it is for us common mortals to do this computer stuff.
Nah, 4 minutes should do it. Piece of cake, a walk in the park, like falling off a log... ad nauseam 😁

David
 

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So as an interested bystander, is it possible to download and practice using a program such as Mach 4 without have a CNC connected? That may seem ridiculous but if you wanted to see 1st hand how hard it would be to run where pr how could you do this without access to a CNC? Hope this makes some sense.....like maybe a simulator?
 

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So as an interested bystander, is it possible to download and practice using a program such as Mach 4 without have a CNC connected? That may seem ridiculous but if you wanted to see 1st hand how hard it would be to run where pr how could you do this without access to a CNC? Hope this makes some sense.....like maybe a simulator?
i agree Steve. practice runs on the control sofware may be limited to getting familiar with the features/buttons on the control screen, and reading the manual for the respective machine responses. but, it will gain you some familiarity you didn't have before.

doing a "test run" with the drawing software (CAD) can be much more beneficial, as you can visualize the work as it is performed, and, even generate toolpaths. some have simulate features that can catch some errors. Although you can expect some need for tweeking when the time comes to do the cutting...
 

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I think if you purchased the Avid CNC to make things as a hobbyist then Mach is fine. If your looking to turn your new found hobby quickly into a business then it may be wise to invest in a better controller. Perhaps even if you plan to stick with hobby level stuff you have the time to change to a different controller as your not stressed about downtime.

I was a Mach user for a few years but decided to make the change as I wanted standardization. I own a few different machines (router, lathe, mill), while Mach gives me the ability to control all of them with the same control system, I wasn't getting the support I enjoy and since then moved to Centroid for all my controllers and am a happy customer.

One of the advantages from changing the controller is you will fully understand the system. If your Avid with Mach springs a loose wire for the proximity switches, do you know how to trace it down and put it back in the correct input (as an example). With Avid CNC you build the system so you understand the mechanical but when changing the controller you can understand the electrical and diagnose any problem that may occur.
 

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Mike, I'm wondering now, when you ordered your machine did you get the plug and play controller with it? If you got the plug and play controller I would go with the Mach4 software because they have worked out the compatibility for their system right down to the configuration file and post processor. If you did not get the plug and play controller and plan on building the controller yourself then you have several choices, Mach4, UCCNC, and Centroid would be my choices. I would stay away from the free control software and controllers because they are somewhat limiting. Just make sure the components you buy for the controller are compatible.

If I remember there is an offline demo mode in Mach3, not sure about Mach4.

John, from what I hear Mach4 is a lot smoother than Mach3 but there would be a slight learning curve. Also, before I changed to Mach4 I would make sure everything in the controller is compatible with Mach4, some of the components they use now might be different versions, call Avid and check with them first.
 
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One issue that I have is Mach being tied to a particular machine.
If you buy the license from Artsoft, you'll have an account at their website where you can log in and generate your own license files. As a hobbyist, you can generate a license for up to 5 PC's I think. And if you have 5 PC's die, you can contact Artsoft to get more licenses. Their website doesn't explain this nearly as well as it should, and it probably costs them business.
 
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