Official call for Feedback on new Board in development

Hello @all, Happy Easter weekend and welcome to a Forum-exclusive post :slightly_smiling_face:

As I’m sure some of you are aware, the team and I have been hard at work for quite a while now on a re-imagining of the LongMill control board. Andy’s provided some sneak peeks about it in one of his January blog posts: A Year in Review – 2022 | Sienci Labs

Now, I always aim to underpromise so we can really wow you guys (which is why I will be hesitant still to provide specifics on the new boards capabilities until more rigorous testing is completed), but there IS a key decision that I could really use your feedback on which is this:

We’re trying to decide on if we want to maintain the current design of the board being standalone or better integrating it with the machine

So this would be my question to you:

Why did you decide to mount your controller the way it currently is?
  • Simplicity
  • Space savings
  • Cable management
  • Aesthetics

0 voters

I’ve set it up so that you can vote for up to two options, and if there are more that I missed just comment below and people can ‘react’ to that comment as a way of voting for it.

Continued

The reason I’m seeking this out is that since our current box is standalone you technically get the choice to put it wherever you please, I’ve seen it mounted to:

  • The table-top, either screwed down or sitting, next to the LongMill
  • Hanging off the table’s side
  • Secured to the table underside
  • Somewhere else under the table

this always surprised me since the box has status lights to indicate power and function of the board as well as the play/pause/stop buttons so I thought everyone would be places their boards to be accessible. With the new design, there will be even more at play to consider (POTENTIALLY):

  • Allow for a good WiFi signal for remote connectivity (requires board to have a better ‘open-air’ line-of-sight)
  • New status LEDs to better monitor the machines state
  • Play/pause/stop buttons moved off-board to a separate control panel
  • More connections to and from the new board including USB, monitor, Ethernet, and more

With this being said, and given the current options, which design approach would you prefer if you had to choose in a new board design:

  • Stick with the standalone controller design so I can freely place the board where I want it (Pros: can hide away, your own wire management style)
  • Go with a more integrated design so that I don’t have to think about board setup and can just start cutting (Pros: better wireless signal (?), integrated wire management (?), better machine status LED visibility, better access to other plugs (?))

0 voters

Any feedback appreciated

You guys know we always try to make the best decisions for you - our community - and sometimes as much as we think we know what you’ll want we still need that extra bit of insight to make sure we’re going in the right direction. If there’s any other discussion to be had regarding this topic Id love to see it. Ask questions, tell me your experiences, and give me your opinions - that way I can feel more confident about the direction we’re going.

From my own thoughts, here’s my current pro/con list of the integrated design over standalone:

  • Pro: doesn’t require any extra space in any dimension (sticks out the same as the X-axis motor and should still fit on 12x30s)
  • Pro: with a fixed mounting location no more thought is needed on locating the board
  • Pro: paired with a (potentially custom) cable carrier, most of the wire management could all be done on the left Y-rail of the machine (stepper motors and limit switches)
  • Pro: mounting the board in ‘open-air’ will allow for better access to troubleshoot, configure new machine functions via the plugs, plug in a USB thumb drive, connect over WiFi, see status LEDs, etc.
  • Con: removes flexibility of board placement (though the unit could still be mounted elsewhere, it just won’t be as well-suited towards stand-alone mounting)
  • Con: the integrated design would only be compatible for MK2 LongMills, so anyone with an older version LongMill or 3rd-party machine would not get the same sleek look but would still be able to mount non-ideally
  • Con: if utilizing most of the plugs to/from the board, the wiring could start to become a rats nest (only applicable to those making larger customizations to their machines)

More pictures

Here are some further pictures to give you a better idea of the current design for the integrated option:

  • Edge lighting and Logo light up to indicate machine status, red spike shows where the board could be mounted with screws as a standalone option
    image
  • Open backside shows cable throughputs for motors and limit switches (top) and other Misc. board features (bottom)
  • Front-side has items like: probe, laser, USB computer control, USB thumb drive input, USB keyboard/mouse. Backside shows: Ethernet, HDMI, power in, E-stop plug-in
  • Removable access panel on the inside for easy access to motor and limit switches plugs without the need to futz about (all plugs were chosen to be oriented inward because this means that even when running the board in an enclosure you’ll always have access to the board from the work area of the machine). Enclosure bolts to Y-axis via t-nuts
  • Concept for custom cable carrier that attaches to the Y-axis rail and pivots open from above (with a flexible plastic hinge on the bottom) to hold and manage all the cables on the machine itself while still blending in (position can change, length can change, design can change)

Welcome to the end of the post, have a great weekend :cowboy_hat_face:

1 Like

@chrismakesstuff The new design is looking good, Chris. I voted to keep it stand alone and would mount it under my table again. Space, for me, is really at a premium. Plus, as I have the Mk1, any benefits to integration would not come to me.

FWIW, if I were to upgrade to the new controller, it would be strictly for the greater reliability/consistency it will bring.

4 Likes

Having an early MK1 my control is mounted to the table on the left side so I can see and access it more easily. I would rather maintain the option of mounting where I wanted even if replacing my controller. If I were to gain external E-stop and controls I would mount under the table. Still wouldn’t want it integrated into the machine.

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I have a full enclosure on my LongMill and mounted the controller outside so it’s not exposed to as much dust. That and I can reach it without opening the doors. The enclosure keeps the dust and fumes from the laser contained. With a LongBoard mounted to the machine, and possibly shorter cables I would need to extend them all.

5 Likes

I have the original (MK1?) 30 x 30. I control it primarily with a headless Raspberry Pi using UGS. (gSender headless has not been super successful, that’s another story.) I don’t connect the board to wifi, I don’t use a USB stick, I’ve never pushed the start/stop/pause buttons on it. I do use a Z-probe, and I am interested in upgrading with the laser at some point. Honestly the only thing I need to see on that board, and only maybe, is the power light. I mounted my board on the side of my table because that’s where my RPi is, and I can keep my probe and everything nicely connected and also mounted to the side. The e-stop button is on the top of the table right in front in case I need it, but really that’s the only thing I need up there. Otherwise it’s all hidden, and I like it that way.

Even if the board had the RPi built in with headless gSender, I still don’t think I’d want it mounted right on the rail. Off the side keeps all the chips off it so I don’t have to keep dusting it, and it keeps it along with the probe all together. I’ll never connect a keyboard or monitor to the thing, there’s no room for any of that in my shop.

If wifi “line of sight” is a concern, perhaps the ability to connect an external antenna would be interesting; or use a USB wifi dongle that could be attached to a cable and placed differently.

5 Likes

Hi Chris, I like the standalone configuration. Gives you more opportunity for placement and access if you desire. I would like the wifi addition. Also maybe cable management raceways or tubing can be developed to improve the overall look of the finish installation. I used over the counter loom, but that still looks a little tacky.
Thanks for all you guys do.

Tom

3 Likes

For me, having it as a stand-alone enclosure works best. If a new model came out with a new expansion port for a wired “remote panel” with all the enhancements (LEDs, Wireless connection, control buttons, USB port, etc.), I would definitely be interested so I could totally isolate the Longboard.

2 Likes

Take my inputs with a ‘grain of salt’ as I don’t actually own a LongMill, but I have toyed with all the issues you are facing in modding my ShapeOKO. In a perfect world: I would opt for a separate controller with connectors for all wiring (not hard wired) that I can position/re-position if the need arises

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Hi Chris. I favour the standalone design. I have my MK2 controller mounted on the side of the table. Design features I would like to see in the future are:

  • wifi connectivity
  • ability to plug a controller into the Longboard for jogging and probing. I presume this would require feedback to Gsending on positioning. A Sienci developed app that could run on iOS or Android tablets or phones would be a great choice. I suppose this could work through Gsender instead of directly with the controller. Something less clunky than the various hacks, and more standard across users.
1 Like

I also voted to keep it stand alone. The option to place it where I need it is very important. Especially with the plasma. If it were mounted to the frame, I would take it off on get it further away. I do not use the buttons on the longboard. If you move them off board, I would not connect them. I use a laptop set on a docking station at my Longmill. I connected a touch screen monitor to the doc. That is the only controls I use. Maybe 1 time I hit the red panic button.

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I also like the stand alone. I would think vibration and movement would not be good for the controller if mounted to the machine. Keep it simple, works for me.

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I have had my MK1 for almost 3 years now. If I was upgrading in the future I would still prefer the controller to be a stand alone. I have carve over 300 projects and my concern would be the dust. Even with good dust collection there is still dust build up on the rails. Having my controller mounted below the table surface keeps it out of the dusty area. I see how having a ready to go mount is great but may not be suitable for us who are using our machines continuously. Perhaps an option for those to choose?

2 Likes

@chrismakesstuff , Nice to see this interaction, it is surely appreciated. I am currently on my third controller, one was replaced long ago after assembly, can’t remember why anymore, Sienci did the trouble shooting and sent me a new one. Second was replaced when I had a X Driver fail. My thoughts like most is separate but replaceable drivers would be a good improvement. Like most, I do nothing with the box itself other that make sure the red lights come on when I hit the switch.
Bill

2 Likes

I was an industrial electronics designer for nearly 40 years. My principal, KISS (keep it simple).

I don’t recommend WiFi. This is an industrial noise environment, EMI & ESD.

I avoid USB, period. USB is for a quiet office environment. In rare cases USB can be the cause of a ground loop, since the cable connects the ground of your computer to the ground of the Longboard. Even a slight difference in potential on the grounds can be a big issue, aka smoke.

I highly recommend wired Ethernet. The transformers provide electrical isolation and noise suppression.

Having gSender connect to the Longboard with wired Ethernet would solve a lot of disconnects.

I like the PLAY/PAUSE/STOP buttons moved off-board to a separate control panel, and should include the new status LEDs for machines state. Please add Power.

IFF you want to add the kitchen sink, make the new Longboard with a fanless computer with wired Ethernet, HDMI for a touchscreen monitor and USB for a wired mouse. gSender would reside in this new controller. Download the gcode via wired Ethernet and then run gsender on the controller. That would eliminate any need for a workshop laptop/Raspberry Pi.

Just my thoughts. Looking forward to the finished product.

Roland Portman

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MK1 here. Voted for standalone and upvoted tge “enclosure” installation comments. Having a tight fit enclosure precludes nachine mounted, and remoting keeps it clean and cool.

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I prefer the stand-alone because I don’t want the electronics exposed to the constant vibrations produced from the machines movement and from the cutting. Have you considered something like what Masso(dot)com(dot)au offers? No computer required, MPG compatible, you could include your controllers, but for 4 axis.

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Hi all, thanks for the already great feedback :space_invader:. Just to add some clarification in case it wasn’t clear in the original post, the plan for the new LongBoard is already underway to be designed as a Fanless PC setup (as an optional add-on, but we suspect most people will choose to get it). This is why I mention having to do cable management on HDMI, USB, etc. and mentioned locating the board in a more accessible location to insert a USB thumb drive

This means no computer would be needed to run the new board - dust and heat (to a certain degree) shouldn’t be an issue with our new motor drivers as much as with the current ones - joystick/MPG options are on the table

Also to add to the dialog on dust and vibration - machines like the Shapeoko already run with electronics integrated to the machine

@gwilki can you clarify on the space usage? The integrated design would not take up any more space that the X-axis motor stickout already takes up

@R.Portman @RustyR

2 Likes

I also highly recommend wired Ethernet.

I like the PLAY/PAUSE/STOP buttons moved off-board to a separate control panel

Dust is a big issue. I don’t want it on/in the controller. Heat dissipation on driver transistors?

My space is odd and constrained so positioning it outside is weird but effective.

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I placed mine just under the rear right side for several reasons:

Dust protected area under the mounting table.

Proximity to the required PC and keyboard to run GSender and the machine.

What I would add is a wireless hand control with mouse stick so I do not have to access the PC keyboard during setup, that is a pain.

1 Like

My thoughts are I prefer stand alone, buta remote screen that could be mounted on head would be great. What functions were you looking at incorporating into the new screen? Would it be compatible with my machine?

Might want to have both options going forward and phase out whichever one loses popularity.

1 Like