G'day from Australia - Mesa board selection advice. Please help.

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06 Sep 2020 07:34 #180904 by harmo
Hi Everyone,

I'm an IT guy who for reasons too convoluted to explain is now trying to complete the electronics chain for a DIY CNC router.

I've looked around at things like the Smooth Stepper, and the UCNC, PlanetCNC et al options, but I'm trying to do this with Linux since that's what I'm used to. Now I know LinuxCNC isn't going to work with many of those other control boards and so I looked at Mesa's offerings.

I'm a little confused by the sheer range. But perhaps I've even more confused by the lack of information that Mesa provides regarding their various cards. I've tried contacting the Mesa team, and have had no response...

Does anyone have any suggestions/experiences for cards (or combinations) that do the following:

1. Runs off an ethernet interface (so I can patch this into existing network wall ports).
2. Can run 6 closed loop stepper motors, in a 5 axis (5 +1 slave) configuration. The motors are all identical kits, namely:

www.omc-stepperonline.com/closed-loop-st...otor-and-driver.html

3. Can interface with a VFD + Spindle. I currently have a 2.2KW Huanyan VFD + Spindle, but I may be able to get a hold of an Invertek VFD

4. I'd like enough I/O options to run the usual home/limit switches, stop buttons, and a pendant/MPG.

Literally any advice would be appreciated. I'm honestly surprised this information is so hard to find. If I'm looking in the wrong spots, please let me know. If you need more info, I'm happy to supply it.

Hope you're all well in these crazy times,
Hamish.

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06 Sep 2020 07:44 #180905 by Clive S

I'm a little confused by the sheer range. But perhaps I've even more confused by the lack of information that Mesa provides regarding their various cards. I've tried contacting the Mesa team, and have had no response...


Not sure why you say that as Mesa is very very helpful on this forum PCW and all the manuals are on there site.

Have a look a the mesa 7i76e which might give you what you need you can add daughter boards to it as well.

You really need to connect the PC via Ethernet directly to the the 7i76e with a static ip address and not going though any hubs

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06 Sep 2020 08:21 - 06 Sep 2020 08:26 #180908 by Aciera
Warning: Spoiler! [ Click to expand ]


And this
wiki.eusurplus.com/downloads/7i76E.pdf

Peter (PCW) is indeed very helpful here and in other forums.
Last edit: 06 Sep 2020 08:26 by Aciera.

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06 Sep 2020 09:37 #180924 by Mike_Eitel
7i76e is fine but normalyhas only 5 step/dir available. Maybe you can ask Peter if there is a posibility to use the pinheaders to get more. Means that you have to be polite with him ;-). But this is no problem as you surely remarked that everybody has a very high opinon of pcw, as he earns that on every single day of that list...

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06 Sep 2020 10:42 #180946 by rodw
Hi there Harmo. I'm based in Brisbane so don't hesitate to reach out if you get stuck.

Unless PCW has other ideas, I think I'd get a 7i76e and add a 7i78 4 axis step/dir card. This will plug into one of the 25 pin connectors on the 7i76e. That will give you 9 axes plus 32 inputs, 16 outputs, 2 MPG's, spindle control.

There is also the newer 7i95 which gives 6 axes but has less I/O and I don't think it has spindle control built in and will be similar cost.

So when you set this up, you will need one dedicated ethernet card for the Mesa card and then use a USB dongle or a second NIC for network.

Also for a (very) compact PC you could look at the Odroid H2+ which has 2 NIC's. There is a source I used in AU.
jiffyshop.com.au/SBC/odroid-h2/167-odroid-h2.html

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06 Sep 2020 12:08 #180969 by harmo
Hi Clive,

Thanks for the response. I never wanted to come across as unhelpfully critical, merely that compared to the competition where a handful of boards is the norm, Mesa's range seems prodigious. Throw in all the permutations you can have with a daughter board or two, and that's simply too many for me download all the manuals individually, read them, remember which bit did what, and meet all the usual life commitments of work, family, and miscellaneous trouble making :-)

I get that the information is there, but Mesa's site could make that clearer and far more accessible to newbies. Relying on forums and volunteers (however amazing for doing it, thanks) seems like a poor business strategy to me.

In fact, in my email to them, I suggested they they augment their site with an online wizard (select number of axes, number of inputs, preferred interface, preferred logic voltage, VFD brand/logic voltage, number of limit/home switches) to help narrow down the search, Alternatively a lower-tech option would be simply add a catalogue of known-working combinations, that details the resulting system (for instance, boards 1 and 2 will result in an 8 axis system with VFD/laser control, and 32 inputs with 5/12/24V logic inputs... oh and here's a list of suggested limit switches, VFD models, and laser modules that we've tested and know work well with this setup.

Imagine that for a moment... wouldn't that help Mesa to sell more cards, grow the LinuxCNC community, and that in turn, help technical development too?

Some may see this as lazy, but I create things like "self-help" guides and videos in my workplace to free my IT team up from repeated requests, and anything that helps people to get what they need in little time, or better yet, on demand, is a good thing.

Thanks for the heads up re: direct network connection. I came across that in my research on this forum, and although I can see how a poorly configured network device may interfere, or extreme latency may be an issue... I'm surprised a hub/switch would cause problems. Not sure what's going on there. I only want ethernet connectivity so I can patch the CNC into a wall port in the workshop, and have the computer in the office overlooking it. I can patch one wall socket directly to another, so it won't have any intervening network devices causing problems.

Thanks for your time, and I hope I never came across as rude.

Kind Regards,
Hamish.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Mike_Eitel, Clive S

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06 Sep 2020 12:29 #180982 by Mike_Eitel
Most people's are blende by ethernet theoretical speeds. And as things mostley work somehow they never have to look in the details. Fx. A switch has to decide if a message arrives on one physical port on with physical port it should send it out. Some do much more before send it.. Or if there is traffic on several ports, a cheepo one has not the resources to send it. Or one other device is always using broadcasts. And there are often network organizing protokolls on their way...
So in realtime world you avoid lots of trouble by using a one to oneconnevtion ;-)

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06 Sep 2020 12:29 #180983 by Mike_Eitel

Mike_Eitel wrote: Most people's are blended by ethernet theoretical speeds. And as things mostley work somehow they never have to look in the details. Fx. A switch has to decide if a message arrives on one physical port on with physical port it should send it out. Some do much more before send it.. Or if there is traffic on several ports, a cheepo one has not the resources to send it. Or one other device is always using broadcasts. And there are often network organizing protokolls on their way...
So in realtime world you avoid lots of trouble by using a one to oneconnevtion ;-)

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06 Sep 2020 12:30 #180984 by Mike_Eitel

Mike_Eitel wrote:

Mike_Eitel wrote: Most people's are blended by ethernet theoretical speeds. And as things mostley work somehow they never have to look in the details. Fx. A switch has to decide if a message arrives on one physical port to witch physical port it should send it out. Some do much more before send it.. Or if there is traffic on several ports, a cheepo one has not the resources to send it. Or one other device is always using broadcasts. And there are often network organizing protokolls on their way...
So in realtime world you avoid lots of trouble by using a one to oneconnevtion ;-)

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06 Sep 2020 13:09 #180994 by harmo
Hi RodW,

How are you going up there in Queensland? I hope everyone there is coping in all this insanity. I really appreciate the offer of help. While I hope I don't need to pester you, it's nice to know it's there.

Also, thanks for the info re: 7i76e + 7i78. I'll look into that. So far I have been looking for a "simple" solution, so I started by looking at a single card like the 7i95, and I must say that the info isn't always clear on what each card DOESN'T have. I must've missed the lack of VFD control part on the 7i95. Thanks for setting me straight!

While I've read about a few boards, there are always the niggling questions like:

"Is this the best combination of Mesa cards in terms of both cost, and/or performance?"
"Has anyone used this particular combination before? Is it going to be reliable?"
"How sure am I in my interpretation of the facts presented?"

I'm a little ashamed that I don't find answers to these questions easily, and I keep hoping that someone will put a card comparison tool on Mesa's site with nice little tables showing what is and isn't included. I'm honestly starting to doubt myself. o_0

So I'm sorry if my neuroses lead me to asking simple questions with obvious answers. I've never built a CNC before, and while I'm no stranger to plugging boards together, I just want to get this right before I order it.

The ODroid looks amazing, but at this point, I have a few too many PCs laying about so I should put a couple of them to work before buying any more.

Anyway, I'm a long way from a finished CNC at this point, so any sage wisdom advice, recommendations, or just stuff I might want to avoid, is always welcome.

I'll keep you posted,
Hamish.
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