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Some links about me. Many of my 3D designs are free. I also post on Google+ and in another blog, oz4.us
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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Replacing LinuxCNC with a Smoothieboard for CNC milling. Not as easy as for 3D printing!

I was running LinuxCNC for the last years and I wanted a smaller setup, with room for improvement. Since I had a Smoothieboard around, which is a very capable 32 bit ARM controller for 3D printers, I thought it would be a good idea to give it a try.
A bulky, obsolete but usual milling setup with a PC running LinuxCNC (a parallel-port is required),
versus a Pipo X8 which is interfaced to a Smoothieboard (hidden in the CNC driving box itself).
But the move is not a piece of cake when you expect a drop-in replacement. In fact, I must admit this board is somehow hostile as a firmware for milling in its current status (Smoothieware), even though the hardware is fully capable (Smoothieboard). In this post, I wanted to share my experience so far. Sure I could have asked for help (and yes, I did RTFM eventually). But it takes time, it will not solve the issues below and I think most people would have done like me: just try, then investigate.

With time, I think it may be sorted out, probably with help from others if they are welcomed (and hopefully without breaking more mill bits). But my expectation here was to benefit from Smoothie as much as one can benefit from it for 3D printers. Even though my current overall hardware setup is much convenient and lighter, the milling process ends up requiring more manual and careful operations than before. More annoyingly, I would end up having to tweak and modify an existing CAM tool just to handle the specific "milling behaviors" of this board. I would think that the reciprocal would benefit everybody though.