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[ Introduction ]

Introduction to Projects

EazyCNC
and
TOAD4

Executive Summary

EazyCNC is a brand new CNC controller system that interpretes standard G-codes and controls stepper motors through a USB interface.

TOAD4 is a self contained four axis CNC controller with spindle control and touch probe interface.

Because EazyCNC and TOAD4 are based on USB and runs on variety of operating systems including Linux, Windows, Mac OS X and Android it makes it possible to take advantage of todays super cheap mini laptops and tabloid computers that lack the parallel ports traditionally associated with hobby CNC systems.

Tabloid computers are especially attractive because of their solid state construction and touch screens which makes them especially suited for workshop environment.

At this stage the project is offered for enterprising builders in the form of a printed circuit board (PCB) and free software.

If you are not interested in building stepper motor controllers from ground up i.e. soldering components and tinkering with electronics, then this may not be for you.

If you just want to control stepper motors from your PC, then you maybe better of with ready made offerings such as Gecko drives and Mach3 or EMC2.

On the other hand if you are interested in tinkering with electronics and/or software then this project offers an excellent platform for such experimenting at a reasonable cost with its open architecture and documentation.

Of course you need to be aware of the regulations,risks and dangers involved and capable of managing them, read the disclaimer

The software is be available for download at no charge, weather the software will be Open Sourced or paid for is not yet decided.

To program the firmware a PICKit2 (available form Microchip) is required.

Full Disclosure

EazyCNC is a brand new CNC controller system

The two most common hobby CNC 'platforms' are EMC2 and Mach3.

EMC2 is based on a Linux kernel patched for realtime use and Mach3 runs on Windows using special drivers to get realtime performance. Both are most often used to generate step pulses through a parallel printer port to clock any one of the multitude of stepper driver boards available.

EazyCNC takes a slightly different approach.

EazyCNC has grown out of the desire to utilize modern hardware and software technology. This means the use of USB interface instead of the ever more rarer parallel port and getting rid of the associated necessity to do hard-realtime control on operating systems not specifically designed for it.

For the past umpteen years computers with parallel port have become less and less common whereas all modern computer hardware support USB interace and therefore EazyCNC is based on that. This approach requires that the stepper controller is has some 'intelligence', which in turn makes makes it possible to off-load the most critical realtime functionality to the stepper controller. Having the hard-realtime functionality outside of the computer gets rid of the special drivers and kernels which has made it possible to write EazyCNC using Java technology, which in turn makes it possible to run EazyCNC on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux PCs and even on Android tablets.

To control the machining EazyCNC uses a subset of standard G-code that tries to be as compatible as feasible with both EMC2 and Mach3.

At this stage EazyCNC is offered as a free software, free as in free beer, not Free as in Freedom. In the future the software maybe Open Sourced or turned into a paid-up supported product.

TOAD4 is a self contained four axis CNC controller with spindle control and touch probe interface

The goal has been to provide a compact and simple, yet powerful all-in-one solution for the most popular hobby CNC applications, as opposed to a collection of stepper motor driver boards, power supplies and breakout boards.

Because EazyCNC and TOAD4 are based on USB and runs on variety of operating systems including Linux, Windows, Mac OS X and Android it makes it possible to take advantage of todays super cheap mini laptops and tabloid computers that lack the parallel ports traditionally associated with hobby CNC systems.

Tabloid computers are especially attractive because of their solid state construction and touch screens which makes them especially suited for workshop environment.

At this stage the project is offered for enterprising builders in the form of a printed circuit board (PCB) and free software.

If you are not interested in building stepper motor controllers from ground up i.e. soldering components and tinkering with electronics, then this may not be for you.

If you just want to control stepper motors from your PC, then you maybe better of with ready made offerings such as Gecko drives and Mach3 or EMC2.

On the other hand if you are interested in tinkering with electronics and/or software then this project offers an excellent platform for such experimenting at a reasonable cost with its open architecture and documentation.

The hardware is fully open and if enough participants emerge then a production batch of PCBs will be manufactured by Olimex, bringing the board price down.

So far two prototypes have been built, and three more are in the pipe.

The software (EazyCNC and TOAD4 firmware) will be available for download at no charge, weather the software will be fully Open Sourced or not is not yet clear.

To program the firmware a PICKit2 (available form Microchip) is required. Pre-programmed chips are available but as firmware evolves this can be more costly than a programmer.

A complete firmware to enable to board to work with EazyCNC is available for downloading. For those who want to use the board for 'hacking' enough example source code will be available to get you going with your own firmware.