April 18, 2006

Light blogging tonight

Dissecting the Robot Arm controller that I got at auction. A reader had asked if I was going to use it to control the servo motors in the robot arms. No. I have the manuals for the software and this system dated from the years when you "taught" a robot its moves with a small control box and you would sit there and step, step, step, change direction, step, step -- DANG! back up -- step, step until you had it doing what you wanted. You then saved this file and ran it until you had a new task and then it was another several days reprogramming it... Since I will be taking the robots apart and using their guts to drive my Milling Machine and the 4*8 foot table for my Plasma Cutter that I plan to build this summer, I will be using the Industry standard G-Code programming language. The flow chart is as follows: Artwork - either CorelDraw or AutoCAD Lite. Save as DXF or HPGL file. Conversion to G-CODE - MACH3 from Art of CNC MACH3 will take the generated G-CODE and spit out step and direction signals from the PC's Parallel port. It can handle up to six axes but I am only using three with an occasional 4th for the mill. The first CNC machine I am building is a 2*4 foot wood router table. This will be powered by stepper motors and a controller from Hobby CNC. The servos will be driven from Gecko Drives - these pack 1,600 watts (about two horsepower!) of control into a nice small package. What prompted me to select these programs and hardware is that there are some DIY-CNC forums and the people who create these products are there, every day answering people's questions. The support is amazing. In the case of MACH3, the programs author (Art Fenerty) is more than happy to take suggestions for future versions and bugs are quickly replicated and squashed flat. IN the case of the Gecko drives, Mariss Freimanis is on the lists and more than happy to walk people through their use. So the long winded answer is that I am going to salvage what I can from the 1,200 pound, 30" by 30" by six foot tall box and turn around and use a simple low-end PC and about $400 of software and $400 of Geckos to turn my artwork into motion. It might be fun to restore the box to working as an historical piece but not for me -- there are power supply components, connectors, relays and contacters, DIN rails and such to salvage and if not used for these projects, they will certainly come in handy for some future adventure... Posted by DaveH at April 18, 2006 9:47 PM
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