Studio of Bill Ooms

Bill Ooms

Building A Computerized Ornamental Lathe

Stepper Control Computer

Having chosen the software to drive the stepper motors, we now can configure a computer appropriate to run the software. The operating system will be Ubuntu Linux 10.04 (that's the most recent version operating system that works with LinuxCNC). Good news -- it's free! I know all you Windows users (or Mac users like me) will complain about having to learn something new. Just get over it. Ubuntu is easy to learn and before long you'll be liking it more than Windows 7 (I know, that's not saying much).

For the computer hardware -- use some OLD (and I really do mean OLD) PC. If you don't have one laying around, you can usually get one for free by asking around. Our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore sells old computers with a flat panel display for $50.

You MUST have a parallel port (one of those old 25 pin connectors). That's one reason for choosing an old computer. Some PCI parallel port cards will work with LinuxCNC (see the LinuxCNC forum for recommendations).

Note: Many newer computers (especially ones with multi-core processors) WILL NOT WORK!

My recommendation -- build your own computer with hardware that's proven to work well! You can build your own computer for well under $200. If this intimidates you, watch the short videos on Newegg. Here's the list of what I'm using:

As mentioned on the preceding page, installing Ubuntu Linux and LinuxCNC is very straight-forward. Once you install that, be sure to do any updates that are available. There are a few special things you'll want do do as well:

It is my intention to use this little slave computer for the sole task of running LinuxCNC and controlling the stepper motors. I have a small flat-screen display connected to it where I can see the display while using the lathe. I don't really want to have to use the keyboard or mouse, but I need the mouse occasionally (like to shut down the computer). Having said that, there are a few things you can do to make this little slave machine easy to use: