The Breakout Board and Mach3 Toolsetter Screen Set
This is a companion article that goes with my YouTube video, posted here.
Easily, the most popular question I get is how I hooked up my Triple Edge Finder to my Xylotex Drive Box for use with my Shoestring Budget CNC Router. This article is part 1 of a series in which I’ll explain what I needed to buy, how I hooked everything up, what settings I used in Mach3, and how I use it in normal day to day operations. [expand title=”Read More”]
To get started, we’ll need to get the Triple Edge Finder itself, obviously. You can get yours over at The Maker’s Guide by clicking this link.
Next, we’ll need a way to hook up the Triple Edge Finder (TEF) to the computer and Xylotex Drive Box. We’ll do that through a Breakout Board (BoB.) Xylotex no longer makes a pass-through type of BoB, so a BoB will have to be sourced from another supplier. Jeff at Xylotex suggests you search for “D-SUB-DB25-Male-Female-Header-Breakout-Board-Terminal-Block-Connector.” He also recommends searching for that phrase with and without the dashes. As an example, he suggested this BoB here.
The BoB goes in between the drive box and the computer. It basically gives you access to the wires within the parallel cable that we’ll need to access. How you’ll connect the BoB to the drive box depends on how you currently connect your drive box to your PC.
If you’re using an older PC with a parallel port, and you have your drive box plugged into the parallel port with a parallel cable, you’ll need to get a second cable. There are a few options here. You can order a second 3 foot parallel cable through Xylotex. They’re only 3 feet long, though, and that just wasn’t long enough for my setup. I needed a 6’ long parallel cable. You can shop for them online, and they’re not expensive. I’ve also found them reasonably priced in small, local computer repair shops, and even in thrift shops. Here’s a link to an 8 foot cable that’s available on Amazon.
The main thing to remember in ordering a parallel cable is to get a DB25 Male to DB25 Female cable. A standard parallel printer cable WILL NOT work. Standard printer cables have a C36 connector at one end that WILL NOT fit your BoB, drive box, or your PC.
If you currently use a UC100 and USB cable or an Ethernet smooth stepper to connect your drive box to your PC, you will be fine with what you have, and shouldn’t need to get any additional cables.
With the cable situation sorted, we can move on to the next step – downloading and installing The Mach3 Toolsetter Screen Set for Mach3.
As described in the video, head over to the Mach3 Support site. There you will find the Mach3 2010 screen set and the Mach3 Toolsetter screen set. I chose to use the Mach3 Toolsetter as I like the interface better than the 2010 screen set, but you’re free to use either one. The remaining instructions, however, are for the Mach3 Toolsetter screen set, as I’ve never used the 2010 screen set.
Both the 2010 screen set and the Toolsetter screen set cost $20 each, and I really think they’re money well spent. Once your purchase is completed, the screen set will be emailed to you. Once you’ve downloaded the .zip file, extract it to a location that’s easy for you to find. I prefer to extract .zip files to the same folder they’re located in. They’re easier to find when they’re kept together.
Don’t forget to create a new Mach3 profile specifically for use with the Toolsetter. In fact, I kept the stock Mach3 Mill profile untouched and created a new profile for my CNC before I ever thought about getting a Triple Edge Finder. It’s just good practice to use a cloned profile and make any modifications in it. That way if the profile becomes corrupt for some reason, you have the original to create a replacement from.
In the video, I clone the factory Mach3 Mill profile. This was done on a computer that is not hooked up to a CNC. I STRONGLY suggest you DO NOT clone the factory Mach3 Mill profile to set up the Mach3 Toolsetter. INSTEAD, clone the profile you’re using NOW. If you clone the factory Mach3 Mill profile, you will have to set up Mach3 to work with your CNC all over again.
Bottom line: Clone the profile of the Mach3 profile you’re using now!
In the video, I named the new profile CNC Router, but you can name it anything you’d like. Just know that installing the Toolsetter into that profile will affect that profile only. The Toolsetter screen set will not appear in any of the other profiles on your computer. If you want to use the Toolsetter in any other profile, you’ll need to copy and paste the macro into that profile’s folder in the Mach3 folder, then activate it in the View menu in Mach3 like we did in the video.
Follow the Mach3 Toolsetter installation instructions in my video and you should be all set. Once the Mach3 Toolsetter is installed and we have all of the parts and supplies in hand, we’re ready to go out into the shop and start hooking things up!
But that’s in part 2 – Connection and Configuration.
Disclaimer: This is how I use the Triple Edge Finder with the Mach3 Toolsetter and my Xylotex drive box. I am well aware of the problems that have been reported in using the Mach3 Toolsetter with some systems. I have been using this system for over a year with no problems at all. Having said that I cannot and WILL NOT guarantee it will work on any system other than my own. Proper care, research, and due diligence should be exercised in this and any other modification to a CNC router. I am not and will not be responsible for any damages incurred by anyone attempting to copy these modifications. [/expand]