In order to control the motion of machines and help produce machinery, we at Leading Edge Industrial utilize the performance software, GRBL, in coordination with our machine controllers. Simple to use, precise, and constant, GRBL is a breakthrough in the machinery industry worth considering when completing projects that require motion control.
What is GRBL and How Does It Interact with Our Machine Controllers?
GRBL is an excellent software program that parses a G-code command and then moves the machine in accordance with that command. At Leading Edge Industrial, we apply GRBL software to help control the motion of our machines. To demonstrate where GRBL fits in with our machines, a list of steps is detailed below.
- In order for us to use GRBL software, we must first start with a design that was created in a CAD (Computer-Aided Design) program like Autodesk Fusion 360, SOLIDWORKS, or CATIA. (step 1)
- After making a design, the CAD program compiles a G-code file using a post-processor found within the CAM (Computer-aided Manufacturing) workspace (Note: Not all CAD programs come with built-in CAM-capabilities. The programs listed in step 1 have built-in CAD/CAM capabilities. For those that do not, a stand-alone CAM program, like Mastercam, can be used to generate a G-code file from a CAD model). A G-code file is simply a numeric control “language” that helps convey to the machine the actions that we need to be completed.
- With a G-code file established, we can now transfer that file to a GUI (graphical user interface), like our LEAD Controller Software. This specific software allows our G-code file to be transmitted to GRBL. (step 2)
- The LEAD Controller Software (similar to Universal Gcode Sender and SourceRabbit) uses serial communication (an interface that streams data), to send the G-code file line by line to the GRBL. (step 3)
- GRBL then takes each line of the G-code, parses it, and ultimately moves our machinery in accordance with the file—producing the desired effect. (step 4)
What are the benefits of GRBL?
With the power to analyze G-codes to control the motion of machines, the GRBL software is extremely valuable. Additional GRBL benefits include an extremely simple user design, and a wide adaptation of use, including machines like laser cutters, hand drillers, and numerous others. GRBL also makes use of optimization C code (a programming language), which helps control precise timing, and its constant acceleration management provides stability and reliability to projects that mandate motion control.
What are the limitations of GRBL?
Though GRBL is an excellent software, it is not without limitations. In order to use GRBL, a GUI is necessary to cover some of the limits of the software, which can be frustrating to those who desire consolidation. GRBL also suffers from mild backlash issues, in which minor momentum can change the positional accuracy of a machinery piece (by trivial amounts). GRBL software also lacks more complex functions like canned cycles, arithmetic, and tool databases.
An exceptional tool to help manipulate the motion of machinery, GRBL software is widely expanding in usage and popularity. At Leading Edge Industrial, we are aware that GRBL has limitations, so we are currently developing a software controller that will include a tool database for mill and lathe machines. This technology will handle some arithmetic in the background, as well as show the GRBL settings along with their descriptions. Finally, this software will allow users to see any errors that were generated from the G-code, along with a brief description of the error in real time. Controlling the momentum of machines can be difficult, but GRBL software can help make that process easier.