DAGU: The Standalone CNC Controller

CNC

In terms of user interfaces, 3D printers are far, far beyond the usual CNC machine. It’s difficult to find a new, commercial 3D printer without some sort of display, set of buttons, and an SD card slot for loading G Code and running a printer. For CNC routers, though, you’re usually dealing with a parallel port interface connected to an old computer.

DAGU hopes to change that by providing a huge 240×128 LCD display, a bunch of buttons, and an SD card slot for loading G Code directly from an SD card. This is a fully functional controller, able to deliver 3.5 A to each stepper motor winding.

Right now DAGU is in the prototype stage, but already there are some really interesting features: the interface allows for a basic preview of the job before it begins, and should be somewhat affordable. At least as cheap as using an old computer for CNC control, anyway.

Video demo of the use and operation of DAGU below.

Comments

  1. JRDM says:

    For CNC routers, I think the computer is intended to be the user interface. I like the idea of running “headless”, but most 3D printers with a screen just have character LCD panels. Some have a graphical panel much like that one, but with maybe a quarter of the screen size.

    • juno says:

      True, but it’s handy to be able to run it standalone without a computer. Especially if it’s a job that takes a while or one that you ran before and doesn’t need you constantly inspecting progress.

      I hope this gets adopted.

  2. Phil says:

    The one time I want it to be a kickstarter…

  3. TwoSquirrels says:

    Before this gets out of the development phase, an RJ45 10/100 port would seem to be mandatory. The sneaker-net with the SD card is nice, but not as nice as a Cat5 connection. Of course wif would be even better and then a Tablet could be used as the display to keep costs down.

  4. themip says:

    Wonder why they still fiddle around with ATMegas.

    There are some promising embedded ARM Cortex based CNC projects around (e.g. http://www.cnczone.ru/forums/index.php?showtopic=3334) for those who don’t want to use a full-blown LinuxCNC.

    • gannon says:

      Like the Smoothieboard! The code is still coming along, but it’s setup to be really easy to expand. Looks like the kickstarter boards are just about done being shipped, so we should see it available in stores soon.

      • JRDM says:

        Yeah, the Smoothieboard seems very interesting. They don’t seem to have made any progress on the smootiepanel display counterpart though.

        • JRDM says:

          I was at the MRRF this weekend. The guy behind the Smoothieboard was there, and he showed the board for a panel in the works, newer than what is on his site. It looks like the LCD will be as big or bigger than the RepRap graphical LCD, still mono only. He has an edge connector to plug in a Wii nunchuck as an input or control device. How well that would work, remains to be seen, but it doesn’t take much board space, it would probably be empty space anyway.

          Another option is to use one of the CNC capes for Beagle Bone. One person at MRRF had four different capes to show, and I know of at least one other that he didn’t have.

      • daid303 says:

        Except from what I heard is that the software on the Smoothie is overdesigned and slow. Slower then the current Arduino based solutions…

  5. matt says:

    When did a low res phone sized LCD start qualifying as being “huge”?

  6. Jan Lukeš says:

    I’m sold.

  7. MarkS says:

    Rather than the 2560 I’d prefer a stm329F. The discovery board has an LCD. The timers on the stmF4 parts are super powerful for driving motors like this.
    They mention 5 motor drivers at 3.5A. I hope they’re on sep boards – unless they’re as reliable as geckos – you don’t want to replace the entire system if one channel blows.

    Kind of reasonable at 28 USD http://www.st.com/web/catalog/tools/FM116/SC959/SS1532/PF259090

  8. voxnulla says:

    I think using a old machine to control a CNC is a nice an environmentally sound way of doing it. Granting an old piece of hardware a second life is basically a good thing.

    • one says:

      Except an old machine draws 50-200 Watts, so it’s not friendly at all, nor portable.

      • voxnulla says:

        Even if an old machine would run at 200watts, that’s nothing next to the draw of the CNC machine. But on it’s own, the destruction cost of said machine, adding the saved cost in energy producing a dedicated controller is plenty friendly. But I don’t even care so much about the energy used. I’d rather see these materials be useful longer because there is a big difference in scrapping tech today or next year in terms of recyclability efficiency.
        Also, most CNC machines are not that portable themselves.

        • pcf11 says:

          Yeah when I read portable I had to laugh. Personally I like the economy of using an old machine. I can pick an old PC for nothing, or next to it. Like you said the power draw of a CNC machine can be so high another couple hundred Watts isn’t going to matter much.

  9. al says:

    Would think this would be a welcome addition to any multi user cnc machine space. Build at home, come in and upload your work and start working. Like already mentioned a wifi connection would be nice, or a usb port for upload off a stick.

    • Smorges Borges says:

      This has many uses but I don’t think that scenario is very typical. The speeds and feeds of these machines tend to be pretty experimental. Even with a lot of experience I find myself tweaking those when I design a new part. Or I might decide the part needs to change because I want the cutter to overlap more or less, etc.

  10. Smorges Borges says:

    This is a very interesting platform. The blog says they *may* sell it separate from their machine, so that isn’t a given, but I hope so. I’m glad it isn’t another touchscreen.

    Reprap users don’t have the risks of machine crashes like router users do. I think that is a pretty big difference, and can drive different approaches.

    A lot of the commodity CNC drivers are absolute junk. Just grep for TB6560 and power up sequence to see what I mean. If only they’d add a couple of bucks to the design it seems they could solve a lot of issues. So I hope this can solve some of those issues, and do so at a great price point.

  11. Thebes says:

    Its very interesting. Should be much lower power draw than a smooth-stepper / laptop combo, or worse yet the antique pc with serial port.

    One of the issues with old pc’s is that they don’t have the video power to deal with huge g-code (jewelry waxes etc) and so can’t preview in certain popular cnc control packages. I wonder how this stand alone device would do with that?

    I would really like the power savings here as I’m offgrid and often need to run my genset to deal with the extra draw of such things costing ~$0.50/kwh. I note that others have suggested the power savings would be minimal compared to a cnc router… perhaps so for a large servo router, but not a stepper mini-mill with a small spindle, my current old pc draws more than the stock Taig spindle and a stepper controller. Cutting detailed waxes can take hours, sometimes over a dozen hours for a single model.

    I’m a bit skeptical that the display would be sufficient.
    I’m glad that they’ve thought of 4th and 5th axis options.

  12. rasz_pl says:

    That screen takes me back 20 years :/
    This is one of those times when pee would do a lot better (with off the shelf DVI monitor).

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