Personal Thoughts

Now that I have had my OF for nearly 3 months now, I thought I would share a few thoughts I have about the machine.

First, I am not a professional CNC’er. I am absolutely hobbyist level and self-taught (well, mostly YouTube taught). This is not my first machine though, as I previously owned a ShapeOko3 XXL.

The machine itself is freaking fantastic. It is rigid in every dimension, and the lack of a tray means there is no sag towards the center of the work area. The accuracy is spot on, and I have even successfully re-carved a 3-dimensional model after removing and repositioning the stock. I re-zeroed it, and it was spot on identical to the first carve.

That being said, I really think abandoning the RPI controller should be considered. It simply is not mature and robust enough to deserve to drive a machine of this caliber. Laptops and desktops are cheap enough to get one more than good enough to serve as a dedicated driver.

The touch screen monitor is “neat”, but it really does not contribute anything to the workflow process. The Pi is underpowered to be an effective web server, and the wireless capabilities are seriously underpowered and useless. At this moment, I am unable for some reason to connect to my machine, even after a restart of the controller.

Not being able to connect to Dropbox or OneDrive is a real limitation. Fussing with trying to insert a USB stick into the rats nest on the back of the controller is not a plus in my mind.

I really, really, really like that my dust collection turns on and off with my router, and that the router turns on and off with the job. I don’t have to be right there when it finishes to turn it off.

I cannot say enough good about the machine. It is solid and accurate. The controller, however, desperately needs rethinking.

Just my $0.02.

(Edited for clarity)

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I knew going in that I wouldn’t be very happy with the controller as bits & pieces of its limitations were gradually being disclosed. The last straw was learning that you couldn’t simply pause the program, jog wherever you wanted to do a tool change, probe, and resume. Originally I thought I would give it a try, but just before receiving my machine I changed my mind and built a copy of the same controller I used with my x-carve. The controller is a DDCSV3.1 feeding a Gecko G540 stepper driver.

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I am also a hobbyist and this is my first machine, so I don’t have anything to compare the OF controller to. I personally think the issue is less with the controller hardware (RPI) but more with the software. There are lots of little annoying bugs and glitches. In the case of a bug I reported recently, first the OF support guys said “it’s not a bug, it’s how buildbotics set up their coding.” But then when I pointed out that the bug has already been reported by another user on the Buildbotics github, then they said that buildbotics is a separate company, they are tracking their bugs and we are tracking ours. This kind of stuff infuriates me. Either it is their code or it is not. In terms of wifi, I agree the internal RPI wifi is very weak and I had a lot of issues with it initially, until I installed a mesh access point right next to the controller. Again, this is something that OF could fix in software but they claim that would be too hard (for reasons I dispute). Re: accessibility of the USB ports, I installed a small hub that is mounted on top of my controller for easier access. Re: touch screen, I bought a compact keyboard and mouse that sits on a tray under my table top. I guess all of these things collectively could be reasons to switch to a different controller platform. I’m just not convinced that the RPI itself is the main culprit. Just my $0.02 of course!

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Hi Scott - thanks for sharing. I’m pretty much in your boat. Not my first machine and I do love the OF mechanics. The controller has areas that need improvement. I actually like the web interface, since I can load the my gcode straight to the controller from my primary workstation. With the X-Carve, I would always have to copy the file to the laptop I used to control the machine. Then go over to the laptop and do all my milling. Not a big, deal, but not requiring a second computer is a big plus in my book. Maybe a RPI 4 would be better and more responsive, but overall the UI needs work. The SW is far more buggy than I would expect from something that’s been on the market this long. I can’t fault OF completely - they are a downstream consumer of the controller. However, I do think the OEM should “own” all the components of the product when it comes to support. Even if they don’t make the part - it is theirs to support. Since the controller is built on a commodity RPI, I would like to see much better support for customization and 3rd part plugins like Octoprint supports. Despite being open source, it seems like Buildbotics intended the platform to be close to extension by design. All in all, I’m happy with the machine. And for a 1.0 product, it performs way better than a Shapeoko or X-Carve did upon their first release. Trust me - I’ve been there.

Bill - that looks pretty sweet. Looks Mach 3-esque?

-Tom

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Thanks Tom. Just a stand-alone controller, sort of like a light-weight industrial style CNC controller.

…is that a Breaking Bad reference?

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This PI problem is a real head scratcher. I am a first time CNC’er. Have read way to much in the past few months for and was getting ready to push the button on the WoodWorker. I am not computer literate. Have ran cabinetware and cabinet vision but that is the extent. This seems so technical maybe I should start from scratch???

You need a certain level of computer literacy to run the program(s) to create the g-code program for the controller. That’s going to be the case for any CNC router. Coming from a point of not having had any previous CNC experience is a good thing, and that’s the case with many of the people who purchase the Onefinity. You will have no pre-existing expectations of how CNC controllers work, so it will all be new to you. The beauty of the Onefinity compared to others is that you will only need to learn the controller interface & v-carve (or similar). You will NOT need to be a mechanical wizard like you would with other machines to keep them running. Onefinity is working hard to fix any controller glitches they find, and improving the interface. You’re definitely not alone in being a first-time CNC’er.

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Scottc - I don’t have mine yet (woodworker), but one of the reasons why I bought this brand of CNC is that a laptop was NOT required to run it. Yes, laptops are cheap enough, but the ability to use a USB is great for me (I can’t extend my wifi to my Tuffshed that is in my backyard. When you say your dust collection and router turn off and on with the job what do you mean? I have a Festool vac and I was planning to plug the router into it which does that, but does the controller somehow does that too? They were originally supposed to be shipping mine this weel, but it looks like they are several weeks behind now.

The DB25 port allows using controllers to manage power to external devices. I used a IoT power relay to control my router, and a current switch to control my dust collector with the router.

There is a thread elsewhere with all the necessary connections and links to the parts.

I fully agree with the plaudits on the mechanical design of the Onefinity, but I have a different opinion of the RPI control. I’ve had mine for 2 weeks after a couple of years working with an MPCNC and a 5’X10’ Avid. This machine is a great compromise between costs and functionality of both.

Onefinity uses the RPI3, which is a very high performance 4 core processor. It is not the speed of the processor that matters in this case, but the maturity of the Buildbotics platform and this implementation. I use several RPI systems for home and business, and all of them run web servers. But none of my systems are forced to reside inside a faraday cage and expected to connect wirelessly. The simple solution to the wifi connection problem is to plug in a wifi dongle (https://www.amazon.com/Edimax-EW-7811Un-V2-Compatible-2-6-18-4-14/dp/B08F2ZNC6J). This is high performance and exists outside the metal cage. In saner times they can be had for under $10.

You can then use the clunky interface on the software to download gcode files, or you can do like I did and set up a Samba share so that I can directly transfer files from my PC to the controller. I’ve done this for ages with my 3D printers and CNCs. I can post instructions if anyone is interested.

That said, the Buildbotics option needs to progress some for accessibility and control. The good news is that the hardware follows the internal architecture of most 3D printers anyway, with the system uses an AVR processor for the actual gcode translation. This means that LinuxCNC or Octoprint could work on the same platform.

As for the touch screen, I’ve gotten used to controlling my other machines with my cell phone or a tablet through the web interface and this has not changed with the Onefinity.

I think it would be a serious step backwards to force the use of a general purpose computing platform like a laptop running
Windows to control this system. Shades of MACH 4 (shudder). With RPI level of compute capability there is no need to regress.

However, I’ve not yet delved into tool change flows and it would be really nice to have multiple zero sets for several smaller projects.

In the worst case, Buildbotics is open source and I may help them with development.

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Oh, PLEASE do Randy! I just now revisited this on my 3D printer, but with no success. All I would like to do is transfer files to it from my primary laptop without involving Octoprint or other 3rd party apps. Not even sure it’s possible with my hardware.

I would also like to be able to transfer files to my off-line controller. I’ve used USB jump drives on this controller for 4 years, but a wifi transfer option would be nice. That’s one thing I left behind when I built my custom controller.

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Okay, this is how to set up a samba share for the Onefinity/buildbotics system. There is one oddity in using it: instead of the software looking at the current contents of the “upload” directory, it apparently looks only when it is started. This means that the controller needs to be restarted after uploading the file. This is not that bad, but is something that can probably be easily changed. I may look into doing it as part of the open source effort if it becomes too bothersome.

This assumes that you know how to ssh into the system. If not, find the IP address and use Putty to open it. username and password are “bbmc” and “onefinity” by default.

First, set up Samba (a file sharing capability between PCs and linux/unix). This is a good guide: How to Setup a Raspberry Pi Samba Server - Pi My Life Up. In step one, you do not need to do the “upgrade” step.

In step three, don’t bother creating a directory. The directory used by bbctrl (the buildbotics software) uses “/var/lib/bbctrl/upload” as the shared area already.

In step 4 and 5, this is what I put in the smb.conf file:

[Uploads]
comment = Onefinity Share
path = /var/lib/bbctrl/upload
writeable=Yes
only guest=Yes
create mask = 0777
directory mask = 0777
browseable=Yes
public=Yes

In step 7, I used the username “bbmc” and the normal password “onefinity” to set up the share.

After Step 8, samba should be running and you can see the share by going to your PC and clicking on “Network”. It should show up as “Onefinity” and when you open it should have a folder called “uploads”.

Before you can upload files, you will need to set appropriate permissions on the RPI. Using the command interface do the following:

cd /var/lib/bbctrl
sudo chmod a+w upload

It may ask you for the password, which is “onefinity”.

You should now be able to store the completed gcode files in this area directly from the PC. I often just use it directly from Fusion 360 (my normal tool).

Remember that you’ll need to reboot the controller after upload (at least for now).

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Does it need a restart or will it refresh on reload of the browser or clicking the folder icon and canceling?

I’ve tried refreshing the page, downloading another file (with folder icon) and deleting a single file. None of these result in the software refreshing the file list for some reason. Should not be a hard thing to fix, but I don’t think they’ve considered shared download folders before.

I’ve been considering using Samba as well - thanks for the instructions - they will save me a ton of time figuring it out on my own.

I don’t know why they would be caching the files like that - more importantly, uploading a file from the browser should refresh the entire list - that is super strange.

-Tom

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Just wanted to chime in, as I feel the same os some here. The hardware actually isn’t bad, other than the enclosure design and lack of wifi. I solved this by adding an external antenna (mounted to the Pi3 board directly (not USB). But the software is old and kinda crap. I’ve reviewed the code on github, and it was fine for small hobby level stuff, but in-use, it’s slow, and unresponsive.

I’m honestly surprised OF didn’t go with something like the Acorn controller. I use this on my converted Grizzly mill, and it’s fantastic. After fighting Mach3 for years, I moved over and haven’t looked back. I’ll probably be grabbing another board and license for my OF in the future. Yes it requires a dedicated computer, but it’s controlled via Ethernet (no Parallel needed), so any modern system will run it, and it’s hardware processing so that system doesn’t even need to be powerful.

The tiny touch screen on the OF is simply unusable, at least not without a complete UI change. So much so that I simply connect from my other shop computer via the local web server and control it that way.

The potential is there, but execution is lacking compared to alternatives. The machine itself, fantastic, but Buildbotics, gets a thumbs down from me.

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The Acorn is Centroid’s 4 axis controller correct? I remember coming across this when searching for digitizing probes with ready software options.

Yes it is. Been running it for a few years now; feel free to PM me if you have any questions.

My guess – complete speculation – the desire to have a controller that doesn’t need an external computer?

-Tom