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Smoothieboard – The future of CNC motion control
Easy to use open source G-code interpreter for all 3d printers, laser cutters, mills, and other CNCs. Modular, powerful, and smooth.
What is it?
An awesome CNC controller board. (It drives robots!)
The Smoothie project is about creating a platform for controlling digital fabrication machines and to make that platform as useful to as many people, projects, and use cases as possible.
Smoothie firmware can run :
- 3D printers
- Laser cutters
- CNC mills
- Other types of machines with minimal effort
By combining all of the jobs into a single modular firmware Smoothie allows different communities that would otherwise be working apart to share a common basis and to add their specific uses on top of it.
By making one board that can run all of these different machines Smoothieboard creates a hardware platform that different projects can share and build upon. In the smoothie community progress on one aspect of the project benefits all of the different communities using the platform.
While most current Open Source Hardware electronics use 8-bit AVR microcontrollers ( such as those used by Arduino ) Smoothieboard runs on a more powerful 32-bit ARM microcontroller ( LPC1768 Cortex-M3 ). This allows for smoother and faster step generation, as well as more precise math, deeper planning, and leaves room to add more features. It’s all Open Source but it’s also recent technology to help you get the most out of your machine.
Fun and easy to use
Because so many individuals worldwide work together on this project lots of efforts have been put into translating the power of the 32-bit chip into features that make smoothie much easier to use than conventional firmwares.
No recompilation is needed when changing any parameters: simply plug the board in over USB and you will get access to a configuration file to modify. It’s as simple as that. Updates, reconfiguration, and playing g-code files all happen over USB. And you still get your classic serial console over the same cable.
While Smoothieboard is more powerful and offers more functionality than other motion controllers its price remains in the same range as “classic” controllers with more minimal characteristics. This is so that many people can get one, use it, and add awesome things to the project.
We want everybody to be part of the revolution!
Want to know the real reason that Smoothie is so great? The secret is the community. Smoothie is Open Source, warmly welcomes contributions, and is designed to make those contributions easy to design and implement. Over the past years hackers from all around the world have come together to help and support each other and newcomers, talk about Smoothie’s future and design, and build a competent and welcoming community.
You can contact the community:
- On IRC, for instant-help at any time (#smoothieware @ irc.freenode.net)
- Via the mailing lists for longer questions and discussions (http://groups.google.com/group/smoothieware-support and http://groups.google.com/group/smoothie-dev)
You can contact the lead development team for questions about this Kickstarter or about the project in general:
- On IRC (arthur-_ and Logxen in #smoothieware @ irc.freenode.net)
- Via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Great board design
The board has been designed to be as useful as possible. This means a no-nonsense approach to board layout and functionality:
- Stepper motor drivers are cooled by the PCB with wide copper areas which allows you to get more out of your board than with normal off-board drivers.
- All main connectors are on the borders of the board making it easier to plug in and leaving the board less clogged with cables.
- All pins are broken out to make it easy to add things to your board and to make it easy to support new uses
- Stepper motors current setting is controlled digitally. Forget about turning minuscule potentiometers with a screw driver; Just set your current in your config file.
The firmware is modular: it has been designed so that if you need to add functionality it is easy, fun, and clean to do so. New code is added in the form of a new module so there is no need to go digging deep into smoothie’s internal organs. Hooks have been prepared and all you need to do is to plug into the right ones. This makes adding new functionality very fast and we feel it is the main reason why the Smoothieware code base is getting so much love.
Do all the things!
If you are doing something out of the ordinary like inventing a new cool machine, adding something awesome to an already existing machine, or if you need to test a new idea and you need it to be as painless as possible then Smoothie was made for you.
Smoothie is friendly. It talks the same language as the classic RepRap firmwares ( Marlin/Sprinter ) and as good old GRBL. This means all of your host software, your slicing software, and your CAM software will work out of the box if you were previously using other open source firmwares.
More than 200 beta boards were manufactured at the beginning of the year and enthusiasts from all sides of the community have been using them for months now. This has allowed the firmware to mature a lot. It also means that lots of small mistakes in the board layout have been located and have been addressed in the current design.
The smoothie project is also about building great collaborative documentation for both users and for developers that is beginner-oriented and as exhaustive as possible. A lot more than is usual is there already on http://smoothieware.org and more is added all the time.
Smoothie also features an Ethernet connector and all the circuitry needed to use it. While the code is not finished yet, a web-based control interface is planned which will allow you to control your machine over the network without the need for a host computer!
And with the powerful 32-bit hardware we can keep adding features without running into walls!
Come meet us!
The project was started in the end of 2010. The original intention was to make 8-bit firmwares more modular. But it was realized that 8-bit Arduinos are too limited for that and Simen Svale Skogsrud, author of GRBL ( a cnc firmware for Arduino ), suggested porting it to a 32-bit microcontroller platform which were getting cheaper and more common.
The modular Smoothie system was coded for the mBed platform and GRBL was ported on top of that. A few months later Smoothie was driving a laser cutter.
In 2011 Smoothie got out of the mBed nest by using the GCC4MBED project. Several people built breadboard Smoothie CNC controllers: http://smoothieware.org/smoothie-on-a-breadboard using inexpensive LPCXPresso boards. The code was committed to Github where contributions started coming in. This is also when the community started growing.
There was a lot of interest in a dedicated board for Smoothie and, in 2012, the first design was proposed and a prototype made. At the end of the year a batch of 200 beta 4-axis boards ( the black, square board ) was manufactured and tested by enthusiasts from around the community.
During that test period the firmware received more users and matured a lot. Lots of features were added, bugs were ironed out, and in a few months many people were using Smoothieboards to run their 3D printers.
A few months ago the final design was put together and prototypes were made and tested again (the green rectangular board featured on this page). Now we are ready for some help getting a production run started and so here we are on Kickstarter!
Here are a few examples of the things you can use Smoothieboard to drive :
- A ShapeOko mini CNC router. Simply plug the 3 stepper motors into the board and you are good to go. You can also easily control your spindle and/or your air compressor with solid state relays.
- You can find extremely cheap ( $800 shipping included ) 40W laser cutters on ebay and other such sites. These can cut 8mm wood or acrylic. The electronics they come with are not not the best and the electronics only work with even worse software that it comes packaged with. Swapping those out for a Smoothieboard is very easy and gives you a much easier to use machine.
- Smoothieboard also makes a great upgrade for your 3D printer: you can obviously convert a RepRap but it can also get you more from other machines like your Up! or Makerbot.
- All of the above have small stepper motors which Smoothie can drive directly. While you can’t drive larger machines directly Smoothie can easily be wired to external stepper drivers allowing you to drive any machine including large CNC mills, plasma cutters, pick and place machines, or bigger laser cutters.
NXP LPC176x Microcontroller
- 96MHz – 120MHz 32-bit ARM Cortex-M3 Core, 64KB RAM, 512KB Flash
Allegro A4982 Bipolar Stepper Drivers
- up to 24V 2A 16x microstepping, digital current control
- 3 to 5 drivers depending on chosen configuration
Up to 6 FETs
- 3 support up to 24V 5A and 3 support up to 24V 12A to control external devices like hotends, fans and heated beds.
- 3X boards have two small mosfets, 4X have two big and two small, and 5X have 3 big and 3 small.
Lots of room to expand: 4 thermistor ports, 6 endstop ports, SPI, I2C, UART
Robust host options: USB, MicroSD slot, ethernet
- File based configuration ( no recompilation required )
- File based upgrades ( binary files provided, no compilation needed for upgrades )
- Simultaneous file and serial access over USB.
What you get
If you order a -C variant with premium connectors you will get all of this (with quantities adjusted to match the chosen configuration, 5xC shown):
Nota Bene: The production boards will be black unlike the green prototype PCBs shown.
If you order a normal board without the -C it comes with a basic connector kit to get you started (with quantities adjusted to match the chosen configuration, 5x shown):
Board Types :
- The 3X and 3XC boards are adequate for lasercutters and small CNC mills like ShapeOkos. They have 3 stepper motor drivers, two small mosfets, and do NOT have Ethernet support (unless you want to source the parts and solder it up yourself of course 🙂 )
- The 4X and 4XC boards are perfect for single-extruder 3D printers, lasercutters and CNC mills. They have 4 stepper motor drivers, two small mosfets, two big mosfets, and an Ethernet port.
- The 5X and 5XC boards are good for dual-extruder 3D printers and complex experimental projects. They have 5 stepper motor drivers, 3 small mosfets, 3 big mosfets, and an Ethernet port.
- Unless you choose the -C variants ( 3XC, 4XC, 5XC ), which all have nice connectors pre-soldered, you will receive an unsoldered, basic connector kit. This comes with enough parts to get everything to work just fine but will require some soldering on your part. You choose!