Grote CNC Freestafel Midlife Update

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This page is a means to collect and share information collected about updating Grote CNC freestafel.


Our Grote Cnc Freestafel could use an upgrade. The software is installed on one computer and there is no installation software so if this computer crashes we are without. A project to look into possible replacement of parts of the system is probably sensible. The problem we are facing is that there is no pressing motivation since the machine is working fine as it is now. It is nice that you can import or create designs on the CNC computer. Best to see if we can work to a similar but better workflow.

Current State

Ok.. but.

  • The software crashes on large imports.
  • The software randomly does it wrong (e.g. skips something or has the height too low) - and right again on the next/previous runs.
  • No possibility to do 3D toolpaths.
  • Certain workflow can be quit laborious.
  • No height sensor (only tool length sensor)
  • Steppers on one axis can get out of sync
  • Step-count can get out of sync with physical position
  • E-Stop wiring should be replaced & better isolated.

On the other hand - the worflow of an adhoc `Draw something and cut' is really rather easy.

Current Software


German/English software without any development or support.

Het document [manual] geeft een goede introductie.

Current tool path generator

Build into XpertMill.

Current Driver

Build into XpertMill.

Current Hardware

Handig om te weten is

  • amsp/vermogen power supply en voltage. Want die is her te gebruiken. Waarschijnlijk 48 volt x 12.5 Ampere ?
  • van alle motoren; NMEA classe of amps/voltages.
  • Drie fase gaat de kast in.

Driver board.jpg

Ok.. we need better pictures ;-)

  • Homing switches: X, Y, Z: nu microswitches; alleen de 'top left, highest' kant.
  • Limit switches: geen
  • Veel ruimte voor extra draden / homing switches
  • Een tool height sensor (microswitch)
  • 1x relay 220 voor ventilatie
  • 1x ??? voor aan/uit zetten van airflow.
  • Debiet regeling airflow gaat buiten de computer om.
  • 1x relay voor spindel. Er zit geen VFD of iets anders op de spindel, gewoon aan/uit.
  • Stop knoppen zijn een lus.
  • Heeft alleen de X twee stappen motoren ? Of heeft de Y dat ook -- van invloed op het aantal stepper drivers dat we nodig hebben.

Possible Future State

A shiny happy CNC machine with lots of possibilities.


  • To find an affordable workflow to get from design to toolpath.
  • Possibility to change toolpath while working on the cnc computer.
  • Without illegal software (e.g. non licensed versions of Fusion 360, etc).
  • A lot of import options like ai, svg, dwg, dfx or GCode (from programs like Inktscape).
  • 3D instead of 2.5D it is now.
  • Future prove.
  • Plasma cutting.
  • Control things like air assist & vacu-fix / hoovering.
  • Control spindle speed.
  • possibility to add extra axis.

Possible Future Software

So in general there is

  • CAD - the design bit - drawing it (and outputing, say, an SVG, DXF or STL model)
  • CAM - getting that design into something that can be manufactured. So how does the cutter move. This requires knowing things like the dimensions of the cutter (so it can be `half a diameter' offset) and knowing if something is an inside or an outside curve. (and outputting a bit of gcode; 3MF for a 3D printer).
  • Control - Next is getting that 'toolpath' to the hardware (with coordinate system management, hight adjustment for tool changes). Can be as simple as inserting a SD card on our 3D printers
  • Driver - And then drive the hardware to the actual job (can be as simple as the panel on our 3D printers).

Our current software does, for simple things all 4 in one go. And for complex things - can combine all 3 steps. So you are telling it things like cutter size, length and if it is an inner our outer curve `late' in the process.

This lets you experiment and tweak. But this type of software is rare.

In industry - it is traditional (as you make lots of them identical things) to do this early in the process (were people are expensive) - and allow little control/deviation when at the machine (as you do not want experiments here - but are focused on production). So you dis-encourage tweaking and changes once you are 'at' the machine. And there is a lot of high quality software to support us here.

Obviously - in a makerspace - the latter is not quite ideal for us - even though there are more software options.

So the trick is to find a middle ground.


Inkscape is a professional vector graphics editor for Linux, Windows and macOS. It's free and open source.

[link naar Inkscape website]

Usability: high.. can create dfx, gcode, etc. But


Complete CAD programme.


Fusion 360 Alternatives SolveSpace is totally free and available on a variety of platforms, including Windows, Mac, and Linux. In terms of features, SolveSpace is remarkably similar to Fusion 360 and stands up relatively well as an open-source alternative.

[link to SolveSpace website]

Usability: no review yet. Only cam.


Blender is the free and open source 3D creation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, video editing and 2D animation pipeline.

[link to Blender website]

Usability: medium.. good for modeling, but you still need a way to convert to cam. There is BlenderCam, but there is not much development at the moment (unfortunately).


F-Engrave is a text or image to g-code program (for both engraving and v-carving) that is written in python. Uses CXF and TTF fonts. Imports DXF and Bitmap images.

[link to F-Engrave website]

Usability: medium.. nice program but no whole solution.

G-code Ripper

G-Code Ripper is a g-code reading and manipulation program written in python. Read, Scale, Rotate, Split, Wrap G-Code.

[link to G-code Ripper website]

Usability: medium.. nice program but no whole solution.


Toolpath generator - takes 2 and 3 shapes and turns them into a GCode toolpath.

Requires you to provide things like tool dimensions, cutter sizes, max speeds, RPMs, etc.

Very easy to use; very good quality.

Possible Future Driver

Drivers is maybe not the correct word to describe this section. This is more ‘send to’ driver software. Our current software is not 'just' a driver. it is the whole chain.


Mach3 turns a windows computer into a CNC machine controller. It has enough features and is tweakable.

Mach4 is the newer version for better use with very large files.

Mach3 was primarily designed for the parallel port which has become obsolete. Still hobbyists standard. And drivers for usb or ethernet available. Also lots of tutorials on YouTube.

[link to Mach3/4 website]


Machine control software. Works with the UC100, UC300, UC300ETH, UC400ETH and AXBB-E motion controllers.

Controls machines upto 6-axis. Executes RS274 G and M codes. Unlimited number of user text macros with flexible script engine. Up to 400kHz operation. (selectable 25kHz, 50kHz, 100kHz, 200kHz, 400kHz with 20us, 10us, 5us, 2.5us and 1.25us pulse widths.) Note: Maximum step frequency depends on the motion controller device used. Exact stop and constant velocity interpolations with highly configurable advanced look ahead function. G54..G59 work offsets and G52/G92 temporary offset. Realtime 3D toolpath viewer. OpenGL screen optimised for fast screen update rates with low CPU/GPU usage. Built in visual screen editor which allows the screen to be fully customised by the end-user.

Please note that the UCCNC software is licensed per motion controller. One license key works with one motion controller only. The license keys are tied to the serial numbers of the motion controllers and are not tied to the computer in any ways which means that the license keys can be installed on any number of computers.

[link to CNCDrive website]


LinuxCNC controls CNC machines. It can drive milling machines, lathes, 3d printers, laser cutters, plasma cutters, robot arms, hexapods, and more. Runs under Linux. Accepts G-code input, drives CNC machines in response. Active user community. Several different GUIs available. Compatible with many popular machine control hardware interfaces. Supports rigid tapping, cutter compensation, and many other advanced control features. Full source code available under the terms of the GNU GPLv2 (General Public License version 2).

[link to LinuxCNC website]

OpenSCAM / CAMotics

With CAMotics, you can simulate 3-axis GCode programs for CNCs and visualize the results in 3D.

Cannot make toolpaths by itself. But useful as a lot of the workflows in this page require making a toolpath without the machine.


Universal Gcode Sender

A full featured gcode platform used for interfacing with advanced CNC controllers like GRBL and TinyG. Universal Gcode Sender is a self-contained Java application which includes all external dependencies, that means if you have the Java Runtime Environment setup UGS provides the rest.

[link to Universal Gcode Sender website]

Hardware 'mix' of sender and driver

Tools such as are a mix of both above CNC players and below Driver electronics - usually combined with stepper controllers and VFD.

Version with pendant and ethernet --

Bit higher end: and perhaps easier for our situation. And a cabled variation showing all the extra sundry - but a bit simpler.

Example with the 'other' bits one generally needs (we'll need one or 2 steps heavier for the X axis).

Review/comments: I(Arie) had a look at several of them. They do raise some questions.. we probably need a slave axis. Can they do this? And if so, can you home them separately to square the gantry? (DW: the single axis models can drive two drivers -- but not home them independently).

Probably no possibility to adjust/create gcode.

Possible Future Hardware

Ethernet SmoothStepper ESS / USB SmoothStepper USS

ESS and USS SmoothStepper motion control boards for Mach 3 and Mach4.

[link to ESS and USS website]


Works with UCCNC, Mach3 and Mach4 softwares.

[link to UC400ETH website]


MAch3 Ethernet Interface Motion Control Card Board NVEM CNC Controller 6 Axle For Engraving Machine CNC Controller board.

[link to Aliexpress]

Review (Arie): I have this board for a while now. Easy to set up. I/O easily implemented. Slave axis possible but no independent homing on slave axis unfortunately.

Other Chinese Clones


We hebben nog twee of drie spindels - en dan is dat type op. En die zijn niet erg ideaal - wat ze draaien snel (ontworpen voor aluminium - de oorspronkelijke taak van dit apparaat).

Dus mogelijk ook meenemen - nieuwe spindle met VFD.

Liefst met het soort ER25 of soortgelijk collets/spanklauwen die we ook in de hout/metaal draaibank en abene gebruiken.

User Survey


Mail: Voor de CNC midlife update zijn we geïnteresseerd hoe jullie tot een eindresultaat komen. Dan moet je denken aan: -Design.. welk ontwerp (cad) programma gebruik je? -Hoe zet je het om in g-code? -Gebruik je nog regelmatig andere software? Zou je erbij willen zetten wat je zoal hebt gemaakt en of het een succes was?

Van de laser enthousiastelingen en nieuwkomers zouden we graag willen weten hoe we de cnc frees voor jullie aantrekkelijker kunnen maken?

Software In Use

  • Inkscape
  • Fusion 360
  • Draftsight (mac)
  • Vcarve
  • Eding
  • OpenSCAD
  • Slic3r
  • Cura
  • Visicut
  • Mach3

Makerspace Contact Amsterdam

Contact Amsterdam gebruikte nooit Linux CNC, maar zij hebben zelf software gemaakt, die ook open source is. Hun eigen machine draaien zij met een arduino mega, en universal G code sender. De frees strategie doen zij in grasshoper met Bark beetle patch, die is ook open source, en zeer eenvoudig te programmeren


Most makers, who use any cnc device on the space and filled in the survey, use or have used Inkscape to generate mostly 2D related stuff. For 3D Fusion 360 is used by several members. Most don’t bother to generate gcode because XpertMill, lasercutters, 3D printers have (proprietary) software that does this for them. Most export to dxf or svg format which these software packages can handle.


  • 2D machine - two axis machines like a lasser cutter.
  • 2.5D machine - two axis machines with a third up/down axis like a plotter or plasma cutter.
  • 3D machine - three axis machine like a 3D printer or a CNC router. 3D in this regard says nothing about the end product but something about 3 axis of movement.
  • 4/5 axis - an extra (mostly) rotating axis.

Ok enough of this. There are others who already did this better: [CNC Cookbook]