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Mach3 and THC Clarity?

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Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by ForceDesigns » Sun Nov 04, 2018 1:40 am

I am pretty new to the plasma game. Having a ton of fun at it, but would like to ask a couple of questions related to THC and Mach3. I have searched high and low on this forum and the great oracle, Google, but haven't found the answers that I need for my setup.

I am having an issue with my Proma 150 setup and feel that the system can be configured to solve the problems. When cutting 16 ga, which is my normal thickness for now, the torch dives if THC is on at the start of the cut. Now mind you, I realize that this is because it has pierced too long before going into the cut. That being said I have pierce delay set at 0. I am using sheetcam by the way. So to solve this particular issue I just turn it on mid cut. There has to be a way to do this in the software. This is where my questions come in.

1. Can M10 and M11 only be used for outputs and not to turn THC on and off? I have the macro setup to look for the led, and then turn that button on/off depending on what I need/call for using sheetcam. However, it does not function using MDI so basically dead in the water there before even getting going. Tried those two because there isn't supposed to be a delay.

2. How can I setup a "brain" to use S codes to turn THC on and off? Because this doesn't cause the same stop motion that a M code would, it seems like the best solution. But there seems to be very little info on how to set that up.

3. Can Mach3 not lock movement from external sources somehow for a few seconds into the cut? Or is there a different way to lock movement for perhaps 2 seconds after the cut starts? Ideally just before it ends too, my torch always dives at the end of a cut as well after it crosses the starting arc.

I am trying to solve this issue because I've got a much better IPT-60 machine torch when compared to my hand torch and want to preserve the Temco consumables as much as possible. Plus the results from my home built table have been amazing with the new blowback consumables, until they start to wear out due to warping material. Cut a large 46" wide sign and almost lost the sign because it warped and my THC wasn't on for a portion of the cut (I hadn't turned it on and the material warped). My consumables were basically shot after that. I know that some of these questions have been asked a lot, just can't find the exact answer that I am looking for.
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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by acourtjester » Sun Nov 04, 2018 9:02 am

Have you tried to increase the time delay on the Proma itself, I would try about 1.5 seconds, this will allow the arc voltage to stabilize before the THC starts correcting to the set voltage.
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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by ForceDesigns » Mon Nov 05, 2018 9:31 pm

acourtjester, thank you. I must have missed that setting when going through the THC manual. I adjusted it as suggested and will report back.

I was also able to get the macros to work. I used M998 and M999. But, as suspected, the delay is enough to cause me issues. The torch was diving due to the pauses. Really hoping that someone is able to help me figure out the s code method, that would really be great.
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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by East German » Tue Nov 06, 2018 6:58 am

Hello

Do you have in the spindle setup everything to zero. With 16 GA 1.29 mm you need no plunge delay!

See the pic!

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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by ForceDesigns » Tue Nov 06, 2018 1:52 pm

I thought I responded already. No big deal.

I should have been more clear. My settings actually call for no pierce delay in the 16 ga material if that is what you mean. The delay is caused by the M code being called in the G code. It causes a slight pause in motion as it is processed. There are ways to use brains to perform the same function using an S code, but I have not been able to figure that one out yet. When I do, I plan to post it here to help others if they want it.

I am using a cheap proma 150 thc with a razorcut 45 and ipt-60 machine torch and an ethernet smooth stepper with mach3. So that setup style (read as cheap setup) might be more common among the other DIY people.
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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by East German » Wed Nov 07, 2018 2:02 am

I think you should use a different postprocessor. The CANDCNC plasma rev11J is very good you should test it, everything is adjustable and there are no breaks.

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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by ForceDesigns » Wed Nov 07, 2018 7:54 am

I don't believe the issue is with the post processor. I am still fairly new to this game so it is very possible I am wrong. But the post processor does not affect what mach uses to turn the THC on and off. The function within mach3 is what causes the delay. I wrote two macros that perform the function. Is that how you do it? Or is there another way?
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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by East German » Wed Nov 07, 2018 3:50 pm

Hello,
I use the above postprocessor with G28.
This works great.
The original THC on from function of Mach 3, I do not use.
I turn on a relay with the M 10P2 and M11P2 from Sheetcam. The relay disconnects GND from the Proma or at the PriceCNC THC is switched off.

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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by tcaudle » Wed Nov 07, 2018 7:56 pm

Problem: any M code in a line of Gcode cause a pause while it executes . Solution : Use M10 and M11 to trigger an external output and enable /disable your THC M10/M11 causes no motion delay. Problem 2 Promo THC has no external enable/disable. Solution 2 : get a THC that does have an external disable pin.

on the POST You are (mostly) right. Its not the POST but the way MACH handles MACros. The Listed POST (I wrote) does use the M10 and M11 properly so it would work to drive external disable circuit. It also has lots of other embedded codes specific to our DTHC hardware to do all kinds of settings .

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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by ForceDesigns » Thu Nov 08, 2018 7:10 am

Thank you tcaudle and East German. With that extra bit of information I will configure my THC so that I can disable the arc ok signal using m10 and m11. If that doesn't work I will find a THC that can accept an external enable/disable signal. I'll report back.
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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by ForceDesigns » Wed Nov 14, 2018 11:40 am

Well, I thought that if I disabled the arc ok signal that it would stop the outside up down commands from being acted on. But in my initial test, it killed all motion. That being said, my z axis also gave out. Used a open builds z axis with a plastic lead screw nut. It stripped out. So I am trying to get that fixed now, tonight hopefully so that I can do some more testing.
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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by ForceDesigns » Sat Nov 17, 2018 10:45 pm

Well, I stumbled across a solution that might help some others. What I suggested did not work. If you turn off ARC OK, it disables mach3 motion period. So instead, I just went back to direct connecting to the ethernet smoothstepper and continued trying to find another solution. The relay is still hooked up, which means it is configured in mach3. So I thought maybe that could be used. Wrote about the dumbest Brain out there. If output 2 is triggered, invert the signal, then invert the signal again and send to THC ON on the same rung. So when output 2 is triggered, it kicks on the THC. Now to do some test cutting.
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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by robertspark » Sun Nov 18, 2018 4:16 am

Stripped plastic nut:
Bear in mind that thc up and down motion in Mach 3 is without acceleration, acceleration is infinite (nearly).
What it does is say you have a THC speed set at 300ipm the motion controller will output a pulsetrane that will generate 300ipm to the drive.

So the axis will go from stationary to 300ipm instantly.

The reverse is also true.... It will stop (or could change direction) going from 300ipm up to stop or 300ipm up to 300ipm down instantly.

The "instantly" bit is not quite true...... But it's damn close and some setups will be worse than others....

Most people will be using step and direction drives with stepper motors (some servo drives you can set the acceleration profile within the drive so let's forget about those). This means that "instantly" is actually the time it takes for 1 step at your chosen velocity, because the drive will go from rest to being given a pulse train which would generate 300ipm in the time it takes for 1 step (this is because it's not the first step but the second one to arrive that is the problem)

This is called "jolt" or "jerk" and can be mathematically calculated as inches/s/s/s (ips^3) or mm/s^3.

Put simply the bigger the number the more stress you put on the component (and the shorter it will last).

In mach3 (or mach4) there is no fix for this (other than using a servo drive with integril acceleration built into the DRIVE).

Say you have the following pulsetrane in time segments at 300ipm:
DUDUDUDUDUDU......
To lessen the jolt / jerk force significantly all it would take is to ignore the second step and the jolt effect is half
DUDDDUDUDUDU...
Which is essentially what acceleration does..... Although it varies the time profile more linearly to your motion controller kernel speed step interval.
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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by Rodw » Sun Nov 18, 2018 4:34 am

If you are not wedded to Mach3 and Windows, you could consider migrating to LinuxCNC as there is a full featured config for the Proma THC and a parallel port and you will have control over the acceleration profile used. Having said that, acceleration is king with plasma.

Head over to the LinuxCNC forum and make yourself known. I've no experience with the Proma or the config but those that use it like it. I just mention this becasue it might provide a low cost (Free?) solution that uses your existing hardware.

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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by robertspark » Sun Nov 18, 2018 5:11 am

The smooth stepper is quite limited in its options for THC and the proma THC is not a good THC system (yes they have sold thousands.... Same with the model T.... Didn't mean it was great just economic and provided a means to an end (cost effective)

Yes I had both at one point

http://sandbox.alistairkearney.com/foru ... Config.jpg

The way to improve the situation is as follows:
You have (only) 1 M11/M10 output with the smooth stepper

The proma has limited settings and I/Os
You input voltage to it (50:1 or raw)
It outputs THCup THCdn and ARCOK.
ThCup and THCdn are output of arcok is active and the voltage is too high or too low around the setpoint on the print of the proma which is the hysteresis setting within the primary (minimum setting + and - 1v around th3 setpoint adjustable in 1 v increments (ie 2v, 3v etc hysteresis )

1 volt is plasma height is between 1/32 and 1/64" (~0.5mm) so having a 2volt hysteresis (minimum) bumps these to approximately double.

Also the proma uses relays to convey the arcok, THC up and DN signals.... Which have a delay too in response.

Less of an issue with thick steel because your feedrate is lower and voltage would be more stable but using a high powered torch to cut thin stuff means the voltage can fluctuate faster and THC response is needed to be quicker (imho)

With the smooth stepper you need to decide what annoys you most..... Divots in the middle of the cut or divots at the end of the cut.

Divots in the middle:
This is brought about by mcodes which are not run in sync with the motion.... Basically anything that is not M11/10 (mach3) or m62/63 (mach4/linuxcnc)
So if you run code snippets to turn the on and off before corners or at small arcs (<1" radius) then anything but M11/10 will create a divot in mach3/mach4/linuxcnc

Divots at the end of the cut:
M5 torch off is not a macro which operates in sync with the motion (as stated above only M11/M10(mach3) and m62/m63(mach4/linuxcnc) are period!) So the motion will decelerate before m5 is implemented.... Meaning you will have overburn unless you have a means to reduce the torch output.
You can do what the laser users do and use M11/M10 to fire your torch ..... But you will need to allow for extending your gcode motion past the endpoint and using M10(mach3) where you want to stop firing the torch and continue the motion at the same federate onwards. So the torch does not slow down.

Again the smooth stepper is limited by only having 1 M11/M10 macro in sync with motion available...... Decision time...... What do you want to prevent..... You can only do 1 of them..... Both will require external hardware (simple hardware and cheap / similar.... In fact exactly the same hardware just wired differently ..... But two circuits) I will post some schematics later if you are interested
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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by robertspark » Sun Nov 18, 2018 5:23 am

Rod, I think he's spent a few $$$ on the proma, smooth stepper, mach3 licence and c25 to consider that there are other ways of doing plasma (I did the same and I'm sure 100's will continue with that path to find the same potholes I did....).
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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by Rodw » Sun Nov 18, 2018 5:41 am

robertspark wrote:Rod, I think he's spent a few $$$ on the proma, smooth stepper, mach3 licence and c25 to consider that there are other ways of doing plasma (I did the same and I'm sure 100's will continue with that path to find the same potholes I did....).
Possibly Robert, but by all accounts LinuxCNC does a much better job getting the Proma to work and a standard parallel port is only a few $ even if he has to throw the smooth stepper away. Not to mention that LinuxCNC is actively developed and is not an aging, obsolete piece of software... But then the Proma may not be good on thin materials so there is probably not an easy or cheap solution to cut what the OP wants.

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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by robertspark » Sun Nov 18, 2018 5:59 am

Rodw wrote:
robertspark wrote: ... by all accounts LinuxCNC does a much better job getting the Proma to work and a standard parallel port is only a few $ even if he has to throw the smooth stepper away. Not to mention that LinuxCNC is actively developed and is not an aging, obsolete piece of software... But then the Proma may not be good on thin materials so there is probably not an easy or cheap solution to cut what the OP wants.
Agreed.... But the op may not have a parallel port or a pc that can drive the parallel port fast enough (ie a decent servo loop time). The smooth stepper (and to an extent Mesa 7i76e ) masks a poor pc with real time performance because the servo loop is within the external hardware.

Uccnc does a good job with plasma (but then you require a uc100, uc300eth or uc400eth) and a uccnc licence....

I remain surprised how many still fall into the mach3 trap.... Considering I think it's now 8 years since it was last developed (and mach4 is still beta "ish".... Especially for thc integration and plasma .... Before I get shot over its mill/router/lathe which is more developed..... I've come to realise no software is good at all CNC..... I use uccnc, mach3, mach4 and dabble with linuxcnc when time permits (plasma, airscribe, laser diode, mill, router, lathe, cameratrace (scanything)).. And use stand alone for the 3d printer)

It's all about research ..... But you cannot research what you don't know or understand when you start out ... All you want is motion and a finished cut object to hold in your hand.... At that point you wonder why it doesn't quite look as good / accurate as you thought it would and go hunting for solutions
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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by robertspark » Sun Nov 18, 2018 6:09 am

ForceDesigns wrote:. ...Cut a large 46" wide sign and almost lost the sign because it warped ....
Stuff like this I would maybe think about from a different perspective.... You have a home shop after all.... It's not about spitting out widgets, it's about small volume quality.....

Time is on your side...

Maybe allow the plate to cool between some of the cuts

Letters or artwork for example where the cuts are in close proximity maybe add a motion delay snippet between those parts to allow for the material to cool and allow less warpage.... Especially if you have an air (non water) table.... Go for a coffee.... For the cost of a few minutes you can reduce material warpage expecially if you are cutting with a high powered machine
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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by Rodw » Sun Nov 18, 2018 7:02 am

robertspark wrote: Agreed.... But the op may not have a parallel port or a pc that can drive the parallel port fast enough (ie a decent servo loop time). The smooth stepper (and to an extent Mesa 7i76e ) masks a poor pc with real time performance because the servo loop is within the external hardware.

Uccnc does a good job with plasma (but then you require a uc100, uc300eth or uc400eth) and a uccnc licence....

I remain surprised how many still fall into the mach3 trap.... Considering I think it's now 8 years since it was last developed (and mach4 is still beta "ish".... Especially for thc integration and plasma .... Before I get shot over its mill/router/lathe which is more developed..... I've come to realise no software is good at all CNC..... I use uccnc, mach3, mach4 and dabble with linuxcnc when time permits (plasma, airscribe, laser diode, mill, router, lathe, cameratrace (scanything)).. And use stand alone for the 3d printer)

It's all about research ..... But you cannot research what you don't know or understand when you start out ... All you want is motion and a finished cut object to hold in your hand.... At that point you wonder why it doesn't quite look as good / accurate as you thought it would and go hunting for solutions
Yes there are no easy solutions. Plasma is a challenging problem.
The Mesa 7i76e ethernet board is a class above the smooth stepper: 5 stepgens at 10 Mhz, spindle control, spindle encoder input, 2 x MPG inputs, 3 x ADC, 16 outputs and 32 inputs for a few bucks more than a smooth stepper.

Nothing can mask a poor performing LinuxCNC PC as it has to operate in real time so the PC will either work or it won't before you open LinuxCNC. LinuxCNC fires its servo thread 1000 times a second. If the hardware is too slow to support this, you need a different PC. The ethernet boards require the RT_PREEMPT Linux kernel which is more resource hungry (but a cheap Celeron is all you need). Apparently the PREEMPT_RT core is coming to the mainstream Linux distros in the near future. Mach v's LinuxCNC are very different philosophies. The main difference is that the Smooth Stepper is a Motion controller and Mach surrenders to it. LinuxCNC is also a MOTION_CONTROLLER and it outguns the ESS by a country mile as its a fully resourced PC probably runnnig at > 2 GHz. Plus most of the experimental features I've been using and the bugs identified along the way are now embedded into the LCNC core and plasma support is emerging quickly.

Not to mention that LinuxCNC can do high performance THC in software provided it can read the torch voltage somehow. Thats where the $69 Mesa THCAD board comes in. It converts torch voltage (divided or raw) to a frequency which you connect to an Encoder input and is a robust solution designed for the noisy plasma environment. Converting the encoder count back to a voltage is trivial in LinuxCNC

Anyway we are a bit Off topic. Yes the OP could abandon Mach3, stay in Windows and try UCCNC or he could try a free open source Linux solution for <$30 for a good parallel port card and give his Proma one more try in a better environment; or he could stay on ethernet and run a mesa 7i76e or the cheaper Mesa 7i96 and a THCAD board.

If he chooses to stay with his Proma and Mach, sounds like it will be a struggle to make it all work and keep working. Giving a Parallel port LCNC config a try is probably one of the better options given the cost of adopting UCCNC to stay in Windows. After all, if his Proma won't do it on thin material, there are options that won't cost the earth in the LinuxCNC ecosystem.

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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by robertspark » Sun Nov 18, 2018 8:11 am

Sorry when I mentioned "servo thread" I meant "base thread"

Servo thread 1msec
Base thread 25uSec

Mesa hardware will mask a poor real time pc because it does not require a base thread and it is done internally. If you use an lpt solution then you need a fair performing pc as both threads are important.

Mesa hardware is well beyond the smooth stepper in I/O capability and providing open hardware.

I gave up on ESS because of the painfully slow development and reliance on the developer to develop the plugins capabilities dispite on paper it being able to step / sample at 4mhz. The other thing you realise (or I do now) is that you buy the solution on offer today as it is ... Warts and all..... Don't bank on the expectation as to what it could be with development and improvement. If it has glitches then you accept those glitches as it is.... That company could shut up shop tomorrow or no longer support whatever you just bought just before they offered their newest latest and greatest bug free offering that solves all the issues your just finding out about (only to find a load of new ones when you buy the newer offering or upgrade) unless of course you have the means and time to develop its internal code to remove those glitches you are finding (in steps linuxcnc...... Note factor on "time".... When maybe all you want is a part out of your machine now!). I love linuxcnc ... Just the factor is on time with too many other projects and toys on the go plus work kids wife and life).
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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by Rodw » Sun Nov 18, 2018 3:45 pm

robertspark wrote:Sorry when I mentioned "servo thread" I meant "base thread"

Servo thread 1msec
Base thread 25uSec

Mesa hardware will mask a poor real time pc because it does not require a base thread and it is done internally. If you use an lpt solution then you need a fair performing pc as both threads are important.
Intersting with all of your experience, you continue to point out the weaknesses of the ESS/Mach3 ecosystem.

With a Parallel Port solution, the steps are generated in software so yes you need a lower latency machine as its runs an extra, faster thread to handle step generation. There are many systems out there with latency down in the 5-10 uSec. With software step gen, the requirement to run PREEMPT_RT linux kernel is dropped so the OS will run much faster to start with. Low latency does not mean high cost! There are many systems out there running on older Dells and HP devices using the parallel port. Even Mesa themselves recommend a parallel port system as your first venture into LinuxCNC. Also Unlike Mach, LinuxCNC is not fussy about which parallel port you use provided it is a "true" parallel port not one of the more recent emulators based on serial ports. It does not like laptops as they are high latency due to power saving features that cannot be disabled in the BIOS.

So if the OP has a non-laptop PC with a parallel port on board, the chances are there is a path to better performance system that retains his Proma in the mix is available without further investment. He can even test this environment by booting from a USB using the Linuxcnc .iso without installing Linux onto his machine.

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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by East German » Sun Nov 18, 2018 4:16 pm

Hello

I use old Dell PC with serial port for years, which runs without problems with Proma and Price THC.

I wanted to know if it goes with ESS too. But I had some problems with it.

Disconnection ... Flickering of outputs and much more.
I finished the test with ESS and stick to the serial port for plasma.

At the router it runs smoothly because I use it!

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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by robertspark » Sun Nov 18, 2018 5:10 pm

Rodw wrote: Intersting with all of your experience, you continue to point out the weaknesses of the ESS/Mach3 ecosystem.
Is that good or bad?

Yes I would suggest anyone thinking of attempting linuxcnc tests their systems latency with a bootiso
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robertspark
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Re: Mach3 and THC Clarity?

Post by robertspark » Sun Nov 18, 2018 5:17 pm

East German wrote:Hello

I use old Dell PC with serial port for years, which runs without problems with Proma and Price THC.

I wanted to know if it goes with ESS too. But I had some problems with it.

Disconnection ... Flickering of outputs and much more.
I finished the test with ESS and stick to the serial port for plasma.

At the router it runs smoothly because I use it!

Peter
Peter the ESS can run fine with plasma.... Forget using a USBSS though..... Too much noise.

However ..... The ESS is just a motion controller..... You still need a good breakout board .... Good as in optoisolated.

Also the ESS can get upset if it's power supply is unstable. And plasma is a very high noise environment if you have certain types of plasma cutters and your earthing is not good / correct.

(Many ways to skin a cat this is just one of them from a recognised information source)
https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&sourc ... sr7LTEJbwL
UCCNC,
Sheetcam
Hypertherm Powermax 45 (nonXP)
Neuron Lite THC
Hobby user (4x4 home table)

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