Bringing my Novamill back to life

All info relating to the Denford Novamill CNC Milling machines

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Alastair
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Bringing my Novamill back to life

Post by Alastair » Thu 08 May , 2014 21:21 pm

So, I’ve been wanting a CNC mill for ages and a few weeks ago managed to get hold of a Novamill for what I think and hope was a sensible price. The machine appears to be in good nick but obviously hasn’t been used for a few years. It is complete with control box, cables and training panel but does not have any documentation or software with it. I’ve attached a few photos.

I’m pretty good with electrics / electronics / computers although have no experience of CNC milling…but I’m hungry to learn!

I’ve read a ton on this site (and others) but I’m still a bit confused where to go now, I’m keen to get started and left wondering what my next steps should be. This is where I’m hoping you guys will be able to help me. So, some questions if I may:

1. Since I don’t have any software I think I need to address that as an early step because that will influence what I do hardware-wise. Reading the forums Mach 3 (I see Mach 4 to be released soon) seems to be a popular choice but I’m not wedded to that idea and would welcome views if Mach would be a good choice or on any other alternatives?

2. I notice my machine was built in 1996 (quite old) and has the smartstep/3 stepper board - is this too old to be realistically usable?

3. I know some of the Denford guys watch the forum – I’d love to know a little more about the history of this machine, any info you can give very gratefully received.

4. Although I have no software to run the mill, is there any “self-test” type routine that can be run so I can find out if everything works OK to at least a basic level?

5. Inside the control box there is a circuit board on the left (see photo) with a ribbon cable attached to it – can anyone help me understand what that board is and what it does? It looks like something that’s been installed after manufacture.

6. Firmware: on the back of the control box, the plate says software version 2.96 yet inside the box there is a label over (what I guess is) an EPROM that says 2.1 – what do you think the software version is? Does it matter? Perhaps the V2.1 label on the ROM is just a red herring.

7. If I was to go down the new software, new breakout board, new stepper drivers etc. route, What hardware would you recommend? Would you recommend new stepper motors too, or to keep the originals?

8. I’ve explained to my wife that this purchase is an essential addition to our modern lifestyle but she’s struggling to see the benefit. Any tips on how to handle this delicate discussion?

I have a potential budget of a £200-£300 to spend on any upgrade but obviously would be happy if I can get away with less!

Many thanks
Alastair
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JohnShep
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Re: Bringing my Novamill back to life

Post by JohnShep » Wed 02 Jul , 2014 2:14 am

just tagging on as I am in the same boat :wink:

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Re: Bringing my Novamill back to life

Post by angel-tech » Wed 02 Jul , 2014 8:27 am

i've converted quite a few of these to mach3, if this is the route you're going down give me a ring and i'll talk you through it.

07791011037

Tom.

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Re: Bringing my Novamill back to life

Post by Martin » Wed 02 Jul , 2014 9:48 am

It must have had a software upgrade at some point. The EPROM is version 2.1 which would work with VRMilling Version 2 & 5 but you would need a licence.

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Re: Bringing my Novamill back to life

Post by TDIPower » Fri 04 Jul , 2014 11:28 am

Yep as Martin says it would run on VR 2 or 5.

The later having the ability to import DXF files and doing the post processing within the program. So I think its called 2.5D milling, 2D milling but with the option of multiple depths rather than full on 3D milling.

Most people only want to do 2.5D but Denford do do a full post processor to generate the G codes for 3D milling.

Where are you? I don't think Denford would mind if you were local and I were to plug in a licenced computer to your machine to prove it works. At least then you know if you just need to buy the software from them.

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Re: Bringing my Novamill back to life

Post by TDIPower » Fri 04 Jul , 2014 11:53 am

Just a few other points which you probably have picked up on from reading on the site. I noticed the laptop in the picture, you really need a PC with 'proper' RS232 built in, you may be able to get it to run from a USB to RS232 but to eliminate connectivity issues an 'Old School' PC should be used.
I'm running Denfords' current post processor 'Quick CAM Pro' and 'VR5' on old Laptops with Pentium 4 1.5ghz and 256mb RAM at work to control a couple of micromills. It takes a few minutes for it do the post processing, I don't use the VR (virtual reality) bit as Id rather see the real thing moving. But on a higher spec machine (I was running on Dell Intel i3 8gb machines but can't have these tied up any more) the post processing is seconds and the VR bit runs quite well if you were to find a need to run it.

Once you have a proven machine, the VR software is really straightforward. You will just need to get your tooling sorted and get machining.

What program will you be designing in? If you don't have a design software then you will be needing to learn how to write G code programming (I only started to have a look at this a couple of weeks ago). You can write it notepad, save as an FNC file and then open it in VR to run the machine.

Pete

Alastair
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Re: Bringing my Novamill back to life

Post by Alastair » Sun 20 Jul , 2014 17:14 pm

Hi All,

Many thanks for your thoughts and replies. It took a long time (not a complaint) between posting my original questions and there being any kind of response here so I continued reading and went ahead anyway based on what I'd learned from around the web.

As Pete noticed, I have access to a slightly tatty but perfectly serviceable laptop, It doesn't have a parallel or RS232 port. I found that I could either spend £50-£100 on a second-hand and somewhat out of date old desktop computer, or I could go down the Ethernet route with a Smooth Stepper card. I chose the Smooth Stepper which cost quite a bit at £107, thinking that I'm future-proofing myself to some extent. It's a lovely piece of kit and was very easy to set up.

To go with this I bought a cheap Chinese parallel breakout board on eBay for £5.50 which seems to do the job well and includes 0-10v support for the variable speed spindle drive. I considered many (more expensive) Break out Boards but found it hard to see why it was necessary to spend more than a few quid.

I then took off the original controller board and mated my new kit with the existing stepper controller board through a 96-way DIN connector (£3.50).

After a lot of reading-up and measuring and head-scratching it all seems to work well with Mach 3. To be honest I'm feeling quite pleased with myself.

I still need to spend a bit more time getting friendly with Mach and I'm not 100% sure I've got all the settings optimised yet but I'm learning a lot as I go.

Next steps...start machining. Can't wait!

I'll post a couple of photos too to help anyone going through the same agony. Any questions? Please ask.

Alastair
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Re: Bringing my Novamill back to life

Post by TDIPower » Mon 21 Jul , 2014 12:32 pm

Nice to see you got things moving. Ive only been on here a short time and was a little frustrated about a lack of others putting in their 2p. But pleased with the amount of info there is if you can dig through it all.

I was fortunate that I have always kept a couple of old school PCs kicking about (nearly binned several times) I still have a brand new pack of DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.11 disks 'just in case'. I was quite literally about to skip them all when I was offered my CNC machines (I knew they would come in handy!!)

I do get a little frustrated at how high spec PC's need to be for modern software to do what was done on much lower spec machines and a bit of user knowledge in the past.

Pete

AndyC
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Re: Bringing my Novamill back to life

Post by AndyC » Wed 23 Jul , 2014 20:01 pm

Hi Alastair,

thanks for posting what you've done, it looks very neat. I'm in a similar, although not identical position.

I have a micromill that uses the same Denstep board, and I've bought the same breakout board. I have a PC with parallel port, so this is where we differ.

From your pictures it clear how you've connected the pulse and direction of the 3 axes, plus the homes and stop switches, I like how you've wired the latter to the 96way connector, I was going to wire direct. What's not so clear is power, grounds, and the spindle wiring. I'm not sure whether to power the breakout from the USB port on my PC, or from the TB10 connector on the Denstep board. Can you share what you've done any why.

I'm looking to use LinuxCNC, but could be persuaded to use Mach3, what I don't know is how to set up the timings for the driver, still, that's a problem for another day.

Regards,
Andy

Alastair
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Re: Bringing my Novamill back to life

Post by Alastair » Mon 28 Jul , 2014 8:56 am

Andy,

Sorry for the slow response - for some reason I don't get email notifications when there is a change to this thread, despite subscribing by email.

My reasons for taking the power from the stepper controller board are:
a) Both 5v and 12v are there anyway and I preferred the control box to be as "self contained" as possible. Plus 12v is not available from USB anyway.
b) The gnd, 5v & 12v are presented on dedicated screw terminals....maybe I'm old-fashioned but somehow I prefer to use the screw terminals rather than solder onto the 96way connector, just feels more solid that way.

Spindle wiring:
- The 0-10v to control the speed comes from the 0-10v output on the breakout board with the PWM signal to drive this coming from the parallel port. you need the 12v supply from the stepper board (or elsewhere) to give you the 0-10 output. This 0-10v output is taken directly to the spindle control board.
- For the spindle on-off control, I used the relay on the BO board to pull the coil on the Spindle Go Relay (SGR) to ground, I hooked this through pin c6 (User Output bit 0) on the 96-way which is connected through to the coil of the SGR relay - this may vary from machine-to-machine.

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Re: Bringing my Novamill back to life

Post by AndyC » Mon 28 Jul , 2014 22:45 pm

Hi Alastair,

Thanks for the reply, I had a bit more of a play this evening. I'd already got the 3 axes moving, but nothing else due to the lack of a 12V supply. I was using the 5V from the USB, tonight I swapped over to the 5V supply from the Baldor board, this also worked fine. Sadly when it came to wiring in the 12V supply it seems to be dead. I'm not sure what to do now, I can either try and fix it, but without a schematic that might be more trouble than it's worth, or maybe add an external 12V supply.

Andy

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Re: Bringing my Novamill back to life

Post by AndyC » Tue 29 Jul , 2014 22:50 pm

Thanks again Alastair, you saved me some head scratching.

I removed the Baldor board with the intention of trying to fix the 12V supply at work, then whilst driving in it dawned on me that I could just use the 24V supply already in the housing. So instead of playing electronics I decided to make a plate that sat where the Denstep had previously sat that I could mount the breakout on to. That worked OK, I shortened the wiring to suit, wired in the 24V, spindle relay and 0-10V, and with a bit of jiggery pokery it now homes, moves, spins, and cuts 2.5D air :)

The one bit of knowledge I'd missed was that the spindle PWM was on the parallel connector pin1.
breakout fitted.jpg
all wired up
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I still need to sort out the timings and speeds as well check the accuracy, but that's more about missed steps and backlash rather than any gross calibration error.

Thanks also to Denford for allowing us to discuss butchering and recycling their machines on this website, it's a nice thing to do.

Andy

minimad30
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Re: Bringing my Novamill back to life

Post by minimad30 » Sat 26 Dec , 2015 12:25 pm

I am trying to replicate your success but I am having issues with controlling the spindle. I have got the relay wired up to the war and i can turn the spindle on via mach3. The issue is when trying to wire the spindle controller to the 0-10v output on the board. When I do that it trips a fuse in my garage!! Something is clearly wrong but I can't see how my setup is different from the two examples in this post.

Any help would be appreciated!

Thanks

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Re: Bringing my Novamill back to life

Post by moray » Sat 26 Dec , 2015 12:54 pm

Are you using an isolated supply for the 0-10v?

The type of speed controller used, the control voltage is at mains voltage, so if you don't use an isolated supply, you're essentially connecting a live wire to ground.

minimad30
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Re: Bringing my Novamill back to life

Post by minimad30 » Sat 26 Dec , 2015 15:25 pm

From what I could see from this post both members have used the internal 12 or 24v power supply from the denford board? I have read previously that some boards require an isolated power supply but I'm sure I am using the same breakout board as described in this post. I haveprobably wired something incorrectly but I can't see from the pictures what I'm doing wrong.

Thanks for your post!

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Re: Bringing my Novamill back to life

Post by Alastair » Sun 27 Dec , 2015 10:33 am

Hi Minimad,

When you say in your original post " it trips a fuse in my garage" - do you mean an RCD keeps trips? If so, this sounds like a possible wiring error on the high-voltage side of the spindle motor wiring, or maybe an issue with the way you have something earthed.

I did have problems getting the 0-10v speed adjustment working with the spindle...in my case it turned out that the cheap-and-nasty eBay breakout board was faulty (you should be able to check if you have access to a multi meter) . I got it replaced and everything was fine.

I'm happy to answer specific questions or supply extra photos/diagrams if it helps.

Good luck!

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Re: Bringing my Novamill back to life

Post by minimad30 » Sun 27 Dec , 2015 11:23 am

Hi Alastair,

Thank you for taking the time to reply! Yes meant my garage rcd. Obviously something is grounding.

I have done some testing using my multimeter, the two wires from the spindle board - red and blue have 180v when connected to a breakout board or the original board. What is odd is that on the breakout board (cheap eBay number) the 180v is live on the 12-24v input connections beside the 0-10v connection?? Surely this is a board fault?

I will try to add some pictures of my connections but I don't think they are wrong. Am I correct in thinking c6 goes to one side of the relay connection and ground on the other side? This enables the Sgr relay. I have noticed there is an additional relay to the side of the Sgr which isn't doing anything? I've seen it light up green before but I've no idea what it does?

Any help is appreciated!

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Re: Bringing my Novamill back to life

Post by angel-tech » Sun 27 Dec , 2015 11:49 am

YOU MUST drive this 0-10v input from a DC ISOLATED source. If you connect either of those two wires to ground you will fry something.

Opto isolation is not the same as DC ISOLATION.

DO NOT make this mistake, as you will fry either the sprint board or the breakout board, sometimes both.

On mycncuk forum, one guy was advised by a seasoned cnc converter that the opto isolation of the cnc control board would be suitable for isolating the spindle drive 0-10v signal. This ended in tears, and he destroyed literally every electronic device connected to the system costing a hell of a lot of money.

Make sure you do this properly, as this is dangerous place to be. Keep your fingers away from these wires as you'll certainly feel it if you touch them.

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Re: Bringing my Novamill back to life

Post by minimad30 » Sun 27 Dec , 2015 15:36 pm

Hi,

Thank you for the warning, I'm lucky nothing has blown yet! Still have all axes moving which is the most important bit!

I have tried using an isolated 12v supply and the same thing happens. I am beginning to suspecting board is busted! I have a decent spindle board from diycnc which Iv wired upbuti can't getthe spindle to turn. probably my settings but I'd rather not have to use that board as alistair has made it work with the cheap board.

Is there not a pin on the 962way connector which takes a pwm signal??

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Re: Bringing my Novamill back to life

Post by moray » Sun 27 Dec , 2015 15:54 pm

Sounds like the 12V supply you tried, isn't insulated, or you're wiring it in so it's connected to gnd/0V at some point.
The supply to the 0-10V should have no connection to anything else, as it will be at high voltage relative to all the other control voltages.

The usual way to provide a suitable feed for the 0-10V output, is to use an isolated DC-DC converter. A 1W converter can be picked up for a few pound, and will do the job quite easily.

And I wouldn't be ruling out nothing being blown up yet. Until you've proven that everything is still working how it should, there is a chance that something has been damaged.

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