Inventables Community Forum

GRBL... What is it? Would it help?

This could potentially be an Easel question, if it fits there better I apologize.

Boring information leading to question

I’ve read about and see all kinds of handy features accessed through GRBL, that can’t be done directly with Easel. I’ve searched and found all kinds of explanations about how to perform functions with GRBL and commands to type, etc. But no mention of what the heck it is or where to get it.
Perhaps its not available with the xcontroller that came with my machine, but whatever the case I’d sure like to know a little more.

What the heck is GRBL and where do I get it?
The biggest push I’ve had to find more info on GRBL is to change the home position of my machine, but I wonder…

Story that led to question

After changing bits on my first 2 stage carve today, my x axis was off by about .08 and y axis was off by about .11. I imagine this bump happened when I swapped bits. I dont think I was to strong on tighten, and try very hard to steady everything when changing but apparently not enough. Fortunately the project was a prototype on cheap mdf, but the re-zero process was a mess. I finally gave up and decided to just deal with the slightly offset xy.

If the machine gets bumped will the new home be incorrect anyway?

I know eventually Easel isn’t going to cut it for me, I already have a few gripes, so if there’s a chance I could learn a little AND solve some of these gripes at the same time, that’d be swell!

Grbl is the motion control software that’s running your X-carve. It’s what’s loaded on your X-controller. Easel, the sender (of which there are many), is your graphic interface to send commands to the machine controller running grbl.

All of those $$ settings are grbl settings.

What’s your $1 value, by the way? Change it to $1=255, it’ll hold your stepper’s position during a time change. That along with turning off your idle current reduction on the X-controller (switch 4 on each of the dip switches).

1 Like

Thanks for the link. What is a serial controller? I don’t know my $1 or any other $. I’ve never seen those entries anywhere, thats what I’m trying to learn how to do. Ill read the whole article and get back to you. Thank you!

A microcontroller that handles serial communication (USB).

In Easel, go to the console in the machine inspector and type $$ then enter. I don’t use Easel.

1 Like

@NeilFerreri1 is that because you started with something else, you graduated from Easel, or something else?
It really seems like, at least from this forum that a lot of the more experienced folks don’t use easel. Or maybe people that have career experience using something else…?
I’m only 30 years old, you’d think I’d know more about computer stuff. I don’t know why I’m so behind in technology.

My entry into CNC was with 3D printers, and the software for those seems to be light years ahead of hobby CNC routers / mills. My first grbl based CNC was a really shaky homemade drawing robot. I’m a middle school teacher and I told my students I was tired of signing their yearbooks. :grinning:
I was about to purchase a shapeoko 2 when I got wind of the split. I ended up preordering the Shapeoko 3. Right about that time, we won a Carvey from Inventables. I tried every grbl sender out there, mainly because I never liked the “black box” of Easel and Carbide Motion. I felt like when something went wrong, I never knew why. So I searched, and read, and tried things, and crashed the machine. I eventually settled on CNCjs (which I am now a member of the team, whatever that means) because I felt that I was in control and the UI is really slick. It does almost everything I need (plus a lot I don’t). Basically, I always want to know the how and why…Easel didn’t let me see that (easily, until I knew a lot more).
Easel, as a CAD/CAM, is absolutely fantastic for beginners…shockingly easy to use. Too easy, in fact, that I don’t use it for CAD with my students (unless it’s the best job for their end goal). Part of what I teach is CAD.
Most of what I do, personally, is with Fusion 360 coupled with Inkscape and I’m learning to like V-Carve a little…anyway, that’s all CAD/CAM. As a sender, I almost exclusively use CNCjs. Get into it before you get hooked on Easel like a bunch of the old-timers on here.

1 Like

Great information! Thats what bugs me about easel is it does things without me knowing why. Part of the reason I bought my x carve is because we got one with a grant at school (I teach Ag). I’ve never been formally trained in anything, including teaching, so I could be way off, but I have been reluctant to teach easel because its so simple. I dont feel like there’s much to learn. We got the x carve put together literally the week before being let out for covid so I’ve had lots of time to think on it. Anyhow, I use sketchup at a fairly basic level and really hoped easel would be similar to that. I need to put in some hours learning fusion 360 probably so I can teach that. Several posts I’ve read say there’s an issue between easel and fusion 360. Is the complication between the two something that would cause you not to recommend learning or teaching 360? Are you a CTE teacher or something else?

GRBL is the controller language, which define the rules your machine will follow like feed rate, acceleration values, length of travel per stepper pulse and many more machine parameters. Its something you set up “once”.

Easel allow three things:

  • Design (CAD)
  • Generate tool paths, gcode (CAM)
  • Send gcode to controller (gcode sender)

Easel is great in its simplicity and 3in1 package, the entire workflow may stay within Easel entirely.

Fusion360 is CAD & CAM only, and relies on a sender of choice or preference. This mean that when doing CAM one need to export gcode in a file format your sender of choice recognise. This may require a “translator” aka Post Processor to ensure the gcode commands are performed correctly by your machine. Gcode is not a finite format and variations are plenty.

Fusion360 is a very powerful package, and can do really complex things in both CAD and CAM, but the learning curve is a little steep.
Designing in F360 can be relatively easy enough, getting the hang of how to use CAM efficiently do take a little time, trial and error :slight_smile:
But when you get past that its a very potent tool :slight_smile:

1 Like

If you have homing switches installed and you do a homing cycle before setting your work zero, you simply re-home again if the machine is bumped. Work-zero is stored as an offset to machine zero which homing establish.

Homing syncronise machine space with model/design space.

2 Likes

Here’s my take on this stuff. I started out drawing in 2d with a simple CAD program called MacDraft. Around 20 years ago I saw an ad for a 1000 dollar cnc mill. I bought it. At that time there were expensive industrial programs to run cnc machines and simple proprietary programs that came with the machine. I bought a book and started to write my own Gcode. Over the next 5 years or so, hobbiest cnc started to become a thing and I built my own cnc router from hardware store materials. Resources started to become available in the new market. I bought a BobCad software program and that converted drawings into Gcode to run on the proprietary software I was still using. Then I purchased a commercially made cnc router and that came with Mach3. Mach3 is the controlling software that uses a parallel port on a PC ( or usb adapter now available). Along the way I bought into Rhino3d which was THE program of the time used by a lot of folks. That allowed me to draw in 3D. I had no classroom experience doing that, so I learned the rudiments by following their tutorials. Between Rhino and Meshcam, I was creating and making the stuff I wanted.

One day during a cold winter, I heard about a the Shapeoko2 and thought it sounded like a cool project that might be just what I needed to have a larger work area. Much to my dismay, it was a little on the flimsy side and used GRBL to control it. It got mothballed pretty quickly. Fast forward to Xcarve. After a few years I heard about x carve and decided to upgrade the S2 to current X carve specs. It was better but not perfect. I bought some upgrades along the way and that has improved things a lot. It’s still not as perfect as I’d like. That would require lead screws I think for my applications.

Anyway…the point of all this is that you need to learn how to draw and you need good programs to convert your drawings to Gcode. I am still drawing in Rhino and using CamBam for Gcode conversion of DXF files. For 3D I’m using Rhino with Meshcam. Quite frankly fusion360 looks way more complex than Rhino, as I downloaded it and am trying to learn it. Rhino seems more intuititive to what I’m used to though. As a beginner, I bet most will struggle through all of the programs. I haven’t used Easel for anything myself, but it is an easy place to start and seems like it would require a lot less effort than more complex programs.

One thing I found you can do with the X carve is make your zero on the drawing as the place where you home to. That way any screw up, you can home back to zero ( home). GRBL isn’t perfect and strange things can happen, so having a real world physical zero location that won’t be impacted by a power failure or idiosyncrasy of the controller or software makes me sleep a lot better.

Also, you can turn off the 4th dip switch on the x controller for each axis and change one of the $ settings, and your motors will hold still when you change bits. I did this last year.

1 Like

I finally am getting somewhere, thank you for the help. Here’s my $$

  • ok
  • $132=100.000
  • $131=750.000
  • $130=750.000
  • $122=50.000
  • $121=500.000
  • $120=500.000
  • $112=500.000
  • $111=8000.000
  • $110=8000.000
  • $102=188.976
  • $101=40.000
  • $100=40.000
  • $32=0
  • $31=0
  • $30=1
  • $27=1.000
  • $26=250
  • $25=750.000
  • $24=25.000
  • $23=3
  • $22=1
  • $21=0
  • $20=0
  • $13=0
  • $12=0.002
  • $11=0.020
  • $10=115
  • $6=0
  • $5=0
  • $4=0
  • $3=3
  • $2=0
  • $1=0
  • $0=10
    I don’t know if any of that helps the issues but I finally found it, thanks to you, so here’s the proof!

@Wylie check this post.

1 Like

Set this to =255

Open Easel Machine Inspector, in the Console window write $1=255 and press Enter.
Restart controller, check parameters again ($$) to verify the change.

$1 define the amount of milliseconds a stepper need to be at idle before current reduction kicks in (to save power, but less current = less holding torque)
So any value between 1-254 = time in ms, 255 = infinite time which is what you want.

1 Like

Thanks folks, I changed the $1 and the dip switches and it made a huge difference!

Wylie, I didn’t read this post of yours. I also didn’t mention in my earlier post that all of that cnc history I wrote occurred while I was a Tech Ed teacher. If you are a teacher, you should be able to get the educator’s version of Rhino3d for a substantially lower cost. You can download it first to do a trial too. The thing about Rhino, is that the toolbars are placed on the windows and not hidden away in drop downs. It might be an easier approach to 3D than what I see with Fusion. I’m not sure Fusion would be as popular if it weren’t free. That’s my take on it though. Just my 2 cents.

https://www.rhino3d.com/

Martin, somehow I missed your earlier post also. Not sure why I didn’t see that but thanks! I’ve got plenty to look into for a while! Lots of good suggestions to look at