Running LinuxCNC tool stack vs X-Controller with all the fixings (Happy Thanksgiving)

I bought a 1000 mm X-Carve way back in June of 2015 and took over a year to assemble it. I’m only mentioning the delay in assembly because it explains why it has received so little use and maybe explains why I’m not very experienced yet. Now that I’ve got it fully operational I’m getting my fine tuning steps applied and I’m learning as I go along. I’m anticipating that I’m going to outgrow the capabilities of the current hardware/software which is the Arduino w/grbl shield and Easel very quickly or at least get bitten by pitfalls or limitations of that pairing which will drive me to an alternative. One such limitation is the ability to do gradients or smooth curves easily. I see now as of writing this it is possible with converting to greyscale and exporting as SVG, but that wouldn’t be ideal in all cases.

I think what I want to do is go the route of LinuxCNC with custom hardware to support it, but I’m not sure about this now that the X-Controller is available. I think I might be in a state of confusion as to what hardware is comparative to the alternative(s). I don’t know what the sum of all parts in the X-Controller could be compared to in LinuxCNC world mainly because I’m not really knowledgeable with this stuff yet and would appreciate some help.

I’m impressed with the number of System On Chip single board computers that are available to choose from including Pandaboard, Wandboard, UUDO Quad, UUDO x86 Quad, LattePanda, Beagleboard, and Raspberry Pi 3. My laptop is super old Intel Core Duo 2GHz, 2GB RAM, 500 GB SSD (probably the only reason this computer is able to run), on Win 7 and the graphics card doesn’t even support rendering preview for Easel so it will likely fall on its face for anything CAD related. Its time to upgrade to something, but probably doesn’t need to be overkill to run the X-Carve. I probably don’t even need something that is CAD capable, but I don’t want to burn bridges. I would probably also need advice on what is necessary to run the X-Carve and possibly leave the capability of leveraging a touch screen or terminal like idea so I don’t need to donate a laptop to run it.

As far as cons of going with LinuxCNC I’m aware of a few known issues that would deter most. I’m ok with customization and picking pieces to assemble, configure, and wire with all the joys of all that. I’ve been running Linux in the home since 2004 and I can handle building software from source code.

I found a post by Jeremy Cook that was quite helpful in identifying some of the software necessary. I think no matter what I do I’ll probably have to pick from one of these software titles and spend the money there. I was thinking I’ll select a software title like Blender or Sketchup to do the modeling and design work and export that into CamBam then take it to LinuxCNC from there. I’d like to hear if anyone has had experience with that combo or what they think.

I’ve read posts by quite a few folks, but nothing with quite enough information to get started from as I had hoped. I was interested in joining that Google Hangouts group that used to meet on weekends, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere. I don’t know if @JohnScherer is active these days in this forum, but I’d appreciate any feedback he would have.

I run Linuxcnc with my X-Carve via a Gecko-540 controller. It’s a hard to beat combination. Computer running Linuxcnc is an ancient HP PC, it’s fast enough and has the required parallel port. If you can’t get a PC with a parallel port, add on cards are available. A better solution is a MesaNet card which Linuxcnc supports.

I haven’t used Easel so I don’t know how it would work with my hardware. I use either CamBam or Fustion-360 for the CAM side of things.