Post Processing vendors

Post Processing vendors

Postby TSM2018 » Thu Aug 23, 2018 3:21 pm

I feel like talking Post processors is entering a brave new world, so here is my question. I have been reading equipment reviews in husbands woodworking mags almost all my life; I think I have most of the fine woodworking magazine, Shop Notes, Woodworkers Journals, so I grew up on reading reviews of equipment.

Is there a digital machining magazine that has reviewed all the post processing software? DWC is using planet CNC USB, now, but from our own facebook user group, the users still have problems with it. I want post processing software with a great user group and support. I do know Artsoft has a Yahoo Group, but I haven't joined yet.

When you create a tool path with 6 cuts into MDF around letters and it is off 1/8" inch consecutively, and rebooting isn't working, I've got a problem somewhere, and third time of attempting to isolate and creating new tool paths hasn't worked.

I am considering a switch. But if I switch off of the mfg's cards and software... well its a heck of decision with no caffeine this early in the day. I purchased Bob Cad for the same reason initially, and then I switched to Aspire. The Aspire forum is a great resource. Bob Cad was a $600+ mistake, so this time I'm asking for opinions of a wider community.

Other criteria, is 4th axis support included or added on?

Thanks in advance for your advice.
Last edited by TSM2018 on Thu Aug 23, 2018 3:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Post Processing vendors

Postby TSM2018 » Thu Aug 23, 2018 3:22 pm

Does Aspire care what software I use to run G Code?
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Re: Post Processing vendors

Postby Adrian » Thu Aug 23, 2018 3:50 pm

Not sure I'm following your terminology but Aspire doesn't care what you're using (Mach3, WinCNC etc) to run the code the Aspire post processor produces. It's up to you to make sure you're using the correct post processor for the control software you're using.
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Re: Post Processing vendors

Postby ger21 » Thu Aug 23, 2018 4:41 pm

What you are calling "Post Processing" software is actually called the Control Software.

I doubt that the control software is the cause of your issues. More likely causes would be lost steps (due to an underpowered machine) or a mechanical issue.
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Re: Post Processing vendors

Postby Leo » Thu Aug 23, 2018 5:19 pm

I think it's somewhat common as the hobby world starts to get into CNC that operators don't really understand what is going on.

There are a few entities that need to work together.

1) the machine
The machine has motors on it to move the axis motions, and has a spindle
The machine is NOT smart, and has NO brains - it cannot do anything on it's on.


2) The machine control
This is generally a computer that the machine plugs into
The control has a printed circuit board that each axis motor is plugged into (hardware).
The control also has software, APP, Application, program - or whatever you want to call it. Mach3 is popular but there are others are well. Aspire, other software/CAM, ArtCam, Autocam, Delcam, or any other CAM - or CAD - it NOT operating software

3) CAD
Cad is specifically a "drawing" application - it does NOT generate and g-code or any other thing to run a machine. It IS the beginning of the process to design your creation

4) CAM
Cam is NOT CAD, though SOME CAM software has CAD ability build into it - like the good people at Vectric did for us. CAM, uses the graphical design that we made in CAD and creates toolpath on the model (even if only 2D vectors) created in CAD.

5) Post processor
It is NOT cad, or cam, or a machine control. It IS a converter. It uses the toolpath information from CAM and converts it into the language that the machine control software understands - very often that is G-Code.

So - the order of operations from IDEA to cut out finished part is this:

1) Design something in CAD (vector)
2) Create toolpath in CAM (graphical)
3) Post process (convert the graphical CAM into machine control readable code)
4) Load the machine code into the machine controller (computer at machine)
5) Setup and cut the part on the machine.

Those are 5 separate individual operations.
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Re: Post Processing vendors

Postby TSM2018 » Thu Aug 23, 2018 10:14 pm

Thanks Leo, I may not have the terminology correct, but I do understand the order of operation, I have read the Vectric book for Aspire(s), and recently re-read "getting started" volume as applicable. I printed my materials. Frequently I think of my router like a printer, since I have been using a computer since the mid 80s. A printer, router, knife, laser, they all do the same x,y,z motions from a very KISS perspective. You are very kind to respond, and that is a very thorough review of order of operation; you must have answered this question before.

So, how do I diagnose why 6 consecutive passes to cut a design to 3/4" deep are off by 1/8"? I stopped the machine, the big red stop button in mach 3, after the 3rd pass that isn't consecutive. The board is not moving, that would be the easiest; I know how to clamp a board, and I am standing there watching the magic. The board is not moving. I know this because I have a x,z intersection drawn on my router' table top to visualize if the board moves. Not everything in the world of using a CNC router has to be complex. I have reasonable skills when it comes to using a roofing square. Incidentally, I have three big red buttons, one on the box that holds the cards to the router, one on the pendant and one in Mach 3... so many choices... I know how to hit a kill switch.

TO BE CLEAR, So, I don't offend the gods and goddess at Vectric, I assume it isn't vectric.

It could be me, how I selected the options for my tool paths, It could be the router, it could be Mach 3, and any thing attached to the computer.

The mfg suggested upgrade to Planet CNC, but if I still have the problem after I spend $300 on an upgrade without all the headaches that something doesn't work, this is my least favored option. And certainly I threw money at the issue to get rid of the BC experience... but I need more information to determine if it is software, the user, or the router.

I spent the money on Aspire so I could do complex things, 3D modeling and nesting were high on my list. But in applying KISS to my thinking, I will work on something simple with repetitive passes to carve 3/4" into MDF and see if I can duplicate the problem.

Still, I am interested in other users criteria for selecting their control software for the people that are DIY CNC creators or people who moved off their mfg's Control software that came with the box... And certainly I'm not talking about $30k options for software, at that price range, I'm guessing but I think I get ATC, vacuum bed and 4'x8' capacity...
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Re: Post Processing vendors

Postby TSM2018 » Thu Aug 23, 2018 10:30 pm

>>I doubt that the control software is the cause of your issues. More likely causes would be lost steps (due to an underpowered machine) or a mechanical issue.

Ger, I have a Porter Cable router, Model 8902 running at 16,500 RPMs. Even, I'm not inclined to have an under powered router in our shop, and I don't make the purchasing decision. The DWC was a "gift" from husband--- he thought I should have one... this really meant I should figure out how to use one and make things he wants to add to his furniture builds when he retires. He is a fine cabinetmaker and has only been employed as a Cabinetmaker, and I get my exacting quality requirements from hanging out with him all these years.

A belt that is slipping or a cable that is hung up, could be an issue, but I checked those after the first time I got bad results. The carve worked April 2018, I just wanted to carve more, of the same thing and now having issues.

At the time of this purchase this was the top of the line router with this unit.

I do appreciate the help in troubleshooting - I am attempting to isolate, but a controller software jump may be the next option.
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Re: Post Processing vendors

Postby ger21 » Thu Aug 23, 2018 11:12 pm

When I say underpowered, I'm referring to the stepper motors and drives, not the router spindle.

In Mach3, go into the motor tuning, and reduce the acceleration settings by 25%, and see if that helps.

Changing the control will likely not help at all.
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Re: Post Processing vendors

Postby TSM2018 » Thu Sep 20, 2018 3:27 pm

This is my stepper motor.
https://www.automationtechnologiesinc.c ... 381-oz-in/

Would this be considered underpowered for Porter Cable 8902?

I have two pins missing on my Y axis DB-9 / RS232 connector. These two pins that are missing are where the resistor is soldered. This is probably the source of my problem, so I need to re-solder or replace my cord from the Stepper motor to the Gecko 540. They are missing on the connector, they are still inside the female plug of the Gecko540 - I will attempt to remove with a pair of fine narrow tip tweezers. Unit is unplugged right now.

I realize these are computers, and it looks like Ger21 is farther North then I am, my longitude (East/West) direction is in alignment with Chicago. Do Gecko drives need to be in controlled environments year round? I am not putting a 24x40 router in my home, but I am willing to disconnect the box and bring it inside a temp controlled space during the winter.

The repair looks pretty straightforward with this component: https://www.automationtechnologiesinc.c ... e-12-feet/
First I will verify 12 feet is long enough,
Referencing the tech sheet available under the stepper motor info, I will resolder the 4 wires in the same pattern they are now for cable to stepper motor
Buy some shrink tubing or liquid plastic tape after examining how it was done previously,
Put cable back
plug in

load mach 3, run job and test

Sound like a plan?




Or alternative is to resolder RS232 connection and find corresponding resistor.

Do CNC owners need to be concerned about ambient temperatures for COLD below freezing temps? I did take my computer out prior years, but now my Gecko box, and I'm disassembling my stepper motors to bring the RS232 connections into 65 degrees farenheit temps.
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Re: Post Processing vendors

Postby TSM2018 » Thu Sep 20, 2018 4:26 pm

>> Do CNC owners need to be concerned about ambient temperatures for COLD below freezing temps? I did take my computer out prior years, but now my Gecko box, and I'm NOT disassembling my stepper motors to bring the RS232 connections into 65 degrees farenheit temps.<<<

Correction, I do NOT want to disassemble my stepper motors - so I'm guessing computer boards do not like cold temps, and I'm not going to heat our shop to 55-60 degrees farenheit during the winter, we only heat it when human beings are going to use the shop for an extended time...
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Re: Post Processing vendors

Postby ger21 » Thu Sep 20, 2018 4:43 pm

I have two pins missing on my Y axis DB-9 / RS232 connector. These two pins that are missing are where the resistor is soldered. This is probably the source of my problem, so I need to re-solder or replace my cord from the Stepper motor to the Gecko 540.


NO!. If the motors are turning, then it's wired correctly.

Cold is not a problem for electronics, but heat can be. G540's are known to overheat of they don't have a fan blowing on them.

Cold can increase friction when oils and grease get thicker.
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Re: Post Processing vendors

Postby TSM2018 » Fri Sep 21, 2018 5:57 am

I would not generally use the CNC in the winter. It's just too cold here in the winter months to be in the shop.

I ran a canned toolpath with it right after we bought it (Sept 2014?), and it ran fine, and then I started sincerely using it in April 2018 after I felt like I was through my initial learning curve using Aspire. The CNC router was working with expected results. I was traveling, other life stuff , and then on 8/1/18 I started working with the CNC router again.

Motors are running. They sound fine, nothing unusual about these stepper motors.

I open Mach 3
I load a saved file from the toolpath I created in Aspire.
Because I am having problems with the CNC I manually draw an intersection of X,Y on my MDF board using a square. (I do not use the top edge of the board as my 0,0,0 datum position because my Rockler clamps are in the way, and I'm not investing in a vacuum system, or any other cool tools until I know I can get my CNC issues resolved.)
I use the pendant to jog to x,y,z at said intersection and zero out the x,y,z axis in Mach 3.

With the file loaded, I manually raise the Z axis and jog with the pendant or key board and move the gantry through the file to make sure I'm not going to hit any clamps with my router bit during this operation.

(Then, and wait for it)... I tell Mach 3 to return to 0,0,0, the machine does not return to 0,0,0. It is off and because Mach 3, does tell me with its tiny little steps on the screen, I can see a measurement that is off when I manually move it back to 0,0,0, and we are talking .75x to .80x inches on the X axis. The result if you actually run a tool path, the router loses its place. Is this a new user issue because of my instructions in my toolpath? a Mach 3 issue? or a hardware issue?

After trying to run the same thing and ruining about 6 pieces of MDF and the time I spent watching the router until it failed - I decided to make everything small and test my theories.


To eliminate software issues created by the user, I just created a toolpath for a piece of Aspire clip art, I tiled a square rosette 3 times, made it smaller, to to see what happens - the result: machine is still off. Hopefully this eliminates me from the equation. End result is that the router is a square rosette for item 1, and a rectangle carve for tiled item 2 and 3 and on the screen in aspire it is the exact same toolpath. I didn't design it, I just ran a finishing toolpath. We are talking about a rosette that is measuring about 1" square, and I'm using a Whiteside SC64 bit - brand new bit, never used before.

I have never unplugged the DB-9 connectors from the Gecko540 drive since we purchased it in 2014. I have only brought the computer out of the shop in the winter. Its first owner had it in his basement; I create way too much dust with this CNC router, I'm not having this in our home.

Is the problem with the hardware, software, or the user?
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Re: Post Processing vendors

Postby ger21 » Fri Sep 21, 2018 12:30 pm

Could be 100 different things that cause lost steps or position.

Try this first.

In Mach3, Config > Motor Tuning, reduce the acceleration and velocity settings by 25% for all axis. Be sure to Save the new settings.

Then restart Mach3, and see if the machine will then return to zero after jogging away.
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Re: Post Processing vendors

Postby Leo » Fri Sep 21, 2018 1:07 pm

What feedrate are you using?
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Re: Post Processing vendors

Postby TSM2018 » Fri Sep 21, 2018 6:20 pm

Hi Leo, here is a screen snip of my WhiteSide SC64, ignore typo in my notes, it is an 11 degree bit. I am using 1/4" cherry wood for my tiny test.
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WS SC64.JPG
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