There’s an often held belief that you can’t do CNCs without a parallel port on your PC and cleverly timed move instructions. That may have been the case back in the day, but we’ve had the nineties guys, USB is all the rage!
So we’re building a USB CNC controller board.
We’re quite lucky that these cheap little 5V 28BYJ48 steppers have already been stepped down. They’re supposed to be 1/64 but inside they’re geared down again. There are loads of places all over the internet which say that they’re stepped down again by 1/32 – meaning you need 64 * 32 = 2048 steps for one complete revolution.
If that’s the case, we should be able to get pretty precise movement, even with a massive gear/cog riding on the shaft, and without having to bother with the complexities of micro-stepping. There’s only one way to be sure – and that’s spin one around and count the steps!
In-keeping with our NC drill software, we’re looking to build a USB controller which we can give a number of steps and have the motor(s) play out those steps. We’ve no idea at the minute how many steps we may need to move up to (depending on how many steps per revolution these motors actually need) so we’ve allowed for a 4-byte value to be sent to our trusty 18F2455 PIC microcontroller.
We’re using (as ever) a generic HID device interface and sending data in 8 byte packets.
- The first byte (byte zero) is our “command byte”.
- If the value is one, it’s a command to set the x motor step count
- If the value is two, it’s a command to set the y motor step count
- The second, third, fourth and fifth bytes make up our 4-byte value (0-2,147,483,647)
- The sixth byte (byte 5) is a direction – one is anit-clockwise, zero (or any other value) clockwise.
After sending the x-axis step count (or the y) the controller board stops all motor activity (since if the motors are spinning when new values come in, the x- and y- axis will go out of alignment with each other, as the earlier axis will be ahead of the later one).
Only once the command byte 254 is sent do the motors actually spin up.
For as long as the x/y step count has a value greater than zero, the motor(s) are given a signal to move them onto the next step. The step-count value is decreased by one each time one of the axis motors steps. Once both motors have a step-count value of zero, a flag is set to tell the PC that the motors have stopped spinning and the head is now in it’s correct position.
Here’s a video of some early testing: