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Do I need a computer for my CNC Router? Yes!
Cant I just plug in my existing computer? No?
Are there specific requirements for the computer? Yes!
Yes a computer is definitely required for operating your CNC
Router. The computer is where your software in this case
Mach3 resides. It also acts as your visual interface to monitor
Your machines position, movements, and change settings.
Why cant I just plug this CNC router into my exiting computer? Your CNC Machine has some
Very specific requirements and needs to be isolated from unnecessary hardware and software programs. The computer that is connected to your CNC machine is a dedicated machine used for the control and operation of the machine only.
The data stream being sent from your computer -
The software and hardware that make up your CNC system has some very specific requirements and can only run on certain systems. Here is list of computer system requirements for a CNC system running the BladeRunner and Mach3 components:
Mach3 / BladeRunner Controller Computer Requirements:
Min Pentium 4 PC
2.4 to 3.4 GHz Processor
512M to 1G RAM
20G Hard drive
1280 X 1024 SVGA (no shared system RAM)
1ea 25 pin LPT (Parallel) Port
1ea 9 pin SERIAL(COM) Port
Windows XP SP2 or SP3
Optimized Windows setup
No automatic updates running
Disable Remote Assistance
No Virus Checker or background file checkers
No unconnected Ethernet cards (disable if not connected to a cable/hub)
Turn off all non-
Thing that wont work:
Any Windows 64 bit install
Laptops (even with a parallel port)
When your setting up your system you basically have one machine which runs the machine and you have another machine which could be your normal home or work machine in which you have your art and design software installed. You create your art, object, or design on our regular computer and then move it over to the machine computer via memory stick or network to be processed and cut.
There are people who have a luck running other operating systems and there are advancements in the software and hardware that are in the works to allow more “modern” computer systems to run the machines and eliminate the need or serial and parallel ports but at this moment the requirements to the right are the tried and true most reliable options.
The machine computer does not need to be a high end high speed computer because you are only using it to run the machine and not the art or design software.
Inexpensive older Dell computers work very well. You can find them on Ebay by the hundreds. We found a Dell Optiplex 755 with an 80G Hard drive, 2G or ram with windows XP and a 19 monitor for $168.00 Look around on Craigslist and other classified sites and your likely to find systems like this for even less.
Options like Solid state drives and faster processors are nice and you will see faster boots but are unnecessary. Feel free to build a super fast PC if you would like it wont hurt anything as long as it meets the minimum requirements to the right.
Save your money when it comes to the machine computer and go with a basic setup. Spend or invest your money in upgrades to your current computer or a new one that you will use for your art design and graphic design work. Those processes are were a high end computer pay off. Having the machine and design computer networked makes life easy when it comes to moving files back and forth.
For this build we choose an Optiplex 755 in the small form factor version. The full size tower and the small form factor units seem to work just fine. There have been reports that the micro or ultra small form factor units have some compatibility issues with Mach3 due to the motherboards and the way they process signals on the serial and parallel ports.
If you have questions about computer compatibility check to forums and the CandCNC website.