Computer and Electrical Issues Encountered while Setting up a Zen Toolworks CNC Router and How They were Fixed

Although ZTW makes a good router frame, especially for the prices they charge, they do take some work to get running correctly.  Setting one up takes both mechanical and electrical skills as well as the willingness to lean to use a new CNC program.  That being said, here are some things I ran into while setting up my kit.  Maybe you’ll run into some of the same stuff and this can help you.

Computer Issues – Although this can’t be blamed on ZTW or Mach3, the first computer I tried to use for this build crapped out on me.  It was pretty old, but the requirements to run Mach3 aren’t that high by today’s computing standards.  I bought a used computer off Tigerdirect that would fit my needs for $109.97 plus shipping.  As it had a copy of Windows XP included (and a warranty) I was very happy.

Initially I tried to use a USB to parallel port adapter with my notebook.  This didn’t work well as noted in the Mach3 documentation.  There are just some issues with doing this, I’ll leave it at that.  In my opinion, it’s probably better to just buy a cheap computer as mentioned above.  It’s a lot less hassle, and having a dedicated machine is really convenient.

Another issue having to do with the Mach3 software package, is that there are a few settings that need to be changed before you can control it.  Set it up like in the document listed here, and you should be good to go.  There’s another document that has the Y and Z axes set up incorrectly.  What’s confusing is that you’ll get a light to come on with each, but little or no voltage, as shown below.  It’s easy to blame the controller board (TB6560 in this case), but the software may need another look.  I was convinced the board was defective, but after a few changes, everything worked very well.

When things are set up, your lead screw may seem a bit tight.  The assumption I made with this is that things were out of line somewhere.  After trying to move things, the stepper would move intermittently if at all.  After some adjustment, I thought that maybe the steppers were underpowered.  As it turns out, depending on the DIP switch settings on the TB6560 driver board, the motors may not be getting full torque.  With both DIPs on (as they come), torque is only at 25%.  Adjust this as seen in this document (page 4) and things should improve.

I’ve listed how I actually connected the wire leads in this page.  Use this document to tune the motors to the correct revolutions/step.  I used it to also setup my outputs and such, and it gave me the problems outlined above with only one axis working, so be careful there.  Once you have everything setup, you should be able to jog the motors (press the “tab” key to see your jog screen on Mach3).  The next step for me will be learning to use G-Code to control the machine automatically, so look for a post on that soon.  Update 11/15/2011: I’ve been using it with Gcode quite well for a while.  Check out my attempt at hard drive clock engraving or even how you can cut wooden gears with it!

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  1. Pretty much the same issues as discribed on your posting. Im using a cambell card and things behave the same. Made a cnc in bogota colombia.