A Tormach in the Clouds?

Until very recently, Tormach strongly discouraged connecting their CNC machines to the network.  That’s all changed with the introduction of the new Tormach Path Pilot CNC Controller.

As Tormach says in their recent article:

Prior to PathPilot, our technical team strongly discouraged any networking of Tormach machine controllers. Background network activities that are inherent to a non-real time system like Windows OS would result in intermittent signal timing interrupts and interfere with the motion-control process. Our “best-practice” advice was to transfer G-code files to the controller using a USB flash drive and load these files out of controller memory and never directly from the flash drive.

While I’m sure there were plenty of folks that connected anyway (I know my Mach3 machine was connected to the network, but I was using a Smoothstepper to keep the machine stable for motion control), most were heeding Tormach’s advice.  After all, who wants a controller hiccup to trash their part?

Path Pilot makes this possible through a couple of mechanisms.  First, it shows up on your network as a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device.  As such, you can make it look just like a disk drive to any PC on the network.  Save or copy a file to that folder and it’ll be waiting for you on the Tormach when you’re ready to cut the g-code.

The other thing about Path Pilot is it runs Linux and is configured for real-time operation.  It also includes a Mesa motion control board.  These boards really add a much higher degree of performance to any PC-based controller, much as the Smoothstepper has done for my old Mach 3.  I’m a big believer in these kinds of boards and very happy that the new CNCCookbook Tormach Mill and Lathe both work that way.

The Path Pilot can be connected either through a standard CAT 5 cable or via a wireless network adapter (WiFi).

Tormach is also looking into the possibility of supporting third party software like Dropbox.  I am all for the latter as my lathe currently lives with the local Tormach Dealer, Santa Cruz Electronics.  Being on their network wouldn’t help me get files from my CADCAM workstation at home (I use a USB key), but having Dropbox would make that simple.

If you don’t have a Path Pilot yet, check on getting one.  I love mine.  You can either contact Tormach or my pals at Santa Cruz Electronics.

Great stuff, Tormach!


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