Vote on Tuesday 9/27 for Mach3 and Pendant

Hey everyone,

This is just an announcement that we will be having a vote at the 9/27 Tuesday meeting to purchase a hive copy of Mach3 (a program that controls the CNC).

The vote will be for $300. This includes money for the program ($175) as well as funds to also buy a pendant, or other controller to remotely control the CNC.


I know I will be out of town. I vote yes.

I also will be out of town.
I also vote yes.


I did some digging and it looks like Mach 3 supports a Xbox controller pretty well.
I think a wireless one would be better than wired.
Apparently you need to get a “windows Xbox controller” to get the USB receiver. There are some on ebay but I would just as soon get one from Amazon that we could return if needed. Looks to be about $30.

I’m on the fence about Mach3 or Mach4. They claim Mach4 is faster/better/stronger (cue six million dollar man music). Of course it’s $25 more.

We can get trial versions of it to test if someone wants to help evaluate it.

I would also like to get G Wizard to help with speeds/feeds but that may be another vote since it runs $79/year.

I’ve sent both Mach3 and G Wizard questions about nonprofit/makerspace discounts.

So if we’re talking about spending $300, what is this relative too?

To be exact I’m trying to get a handle on what this means for the overall budget, and or the funds on hand for the Hackerspace and what this means for the rest of the year. Is there a wiki or something that details our fixed expenses, income, etc?

I ask because $300 when you’ve got 30K in the bank is very different from 3K or $300.

If we spend $300 for this, does that mean forgoing other projects?

Also what currently controls the CNC system, and is this an incremental improvement, a minor patch, or what is the rationale for wanting to buy this program? What are the other options for controlling the CNC machine?


Basically we need to get a “Hive” version of the control software for the big CNC.
The current version of Mach3 does not belong to us.
The pendant part is a handheld controller that lets you jog/move the CNC while you setup your workpiece.
The pendant that was at the Hive does not belong to us.

This part of the whole graduation of the Hive from user contributed/controlled items to more Hive owned/controlled items.
As our membership and scope grows, we need to start to have Hive control to maintain continuity.

The idea of loaner stuff sounds great until something breaks or the owner needs to take it back. I’m all for loaner stuff to see if it is useful or if people will use it, but once it becomes more permanent we need to have the Hive purchase (or at least talk about how to handle it).

I was reminded by Dave that he loaned us a 12" and 24" scale for the DRO project on the mill a while ago.
I installed them (along with a 6" on Z) and they seem to be working fine. Especially when I moved the power away from the outlet the mill is on.

I hate scope creep and this request would push the proposal over the requested $300.
Mach 3: $175 or Mach 4:$200
Xbox pendant: $30
(I’m leaning for Mach4 but we can discuss if the vote goes through)

replacement scales:

Total: $130

So I would like to propose a different vote to reimburse Dave for the two digital scales (I’ll ask for $150 in case of shipping). We would buy them and give him the new ones since his are installed on the mill. I won’t be at the meeting next week so I’m not sure if someone else could bring it up. I don’t think Dave is in a big rush, I just don’t want to wait too long.

For Kevin’s question “What are the other options for controlling the CNC machine?”–the smoothstepper control board on our machine is designed to work with Mach3, so switching to other software such as LinuxCNC would require a hardware change.

Thanks Dave that gives a great deal of background on the rationale for the CNC purchase. Is there any place I can look for information on the budget and things like that? I’m mostly curious so I can make an informed vote.

FWIW, it appears that Mach3 has support for gamepads in general, so it might be possible to use another controller. OTOH, the Xbox 360 controllers are very nice.

Oh, one draw back to using a wireless Box 360 controller is that they generally slowly drain over time. I believe this is to support the automatic turn on when you turn on the xbox.

In practical terms this means that the controller would need to be hooked up to a USB port when not in use to keep the battery charged. In the battery is not charged, you can hook it up and work almost instantly, but that defeats the purpose of it’s being wireless. Not sure how often it would get used but it would take one person not remembering to hook it up to the charger and it would probably be drained by the time the next user is ready to use it. At which point you’re back to using a wired controller.

So as useful as a wireless controller is, the wired one might be a bit more idiot proof.

I personally really like the idea of the pendant way better, having learned on one. It was really really nice to use. as far as budget goes, Jim Dallum is the person to email (current treasurer). I know he is working to get open finances going., Like everything at the hive though, its a work in progress. IIRC, as of like July 29th we had 18 or 23k in the bank. I can’t remember how much etc.

Just my 2 cents. If you are looking to do things cheaply then the XBox controller is the way to go. The CNC pendant costs more (still cheap) but is designed specifically for this task and has more customization features which come in useful. Batteries last a very long time and are AA. I’m probably a little biased because I bought the pendant that used to be down there when a few others thought it was a waste and said we could use the keyboard. I’m guessing that now it’s not there others are seeing how useful it was.

Also Andrew I do not see where anyone responded to your budget concerns. Voting yes for this should have no impact on other Hive ventures. I’d say our reserves are closer to your higher figure than the lower one.

Thanks Tiffany/Coy that gives me a much better idea of how things stand. I believe you’re correct, $300 is a pretty minor expenditure if the Hive has several K in the bank (exact numbers are not necessary). I’ll see if I can talk to Jim at a meeting or something. Mostly I’m just curious, I’ve been looking through the wish lists on the wiki, and wondering why some of the things on there have not been done. Which is not a critizism, I realize it’s a do-ocracy, I’m more wondering how I can help, and how to be most effective.

Hey Andrew,
Your enthusiasm sounds great and is much appreciated!


I’ve only been at the Hive for about a year or so but I can give my perspective.
In general someone needs to champion something and then present it to the group.
I get the feeling that if it is a general group benefit, or boring day/day stuff, then it tends to go through.
Debate tends to happen if the thing is super specific to a few people, or others don’t see a benefit for the population. (and sometimes people just like to challenge things for no reason :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:).
If something interests you; then go ahead and do some research, find a few options, think about how it would fit into the space and who would use it. Present it in a meeting and let the discussion happen.
Fortunately we have some money in the bank but there is still responsibility to the group.

Good times,

I keep informal notes on what Jim presents at board meetings. We have a bank balance that is in the ballpark Tiffany mentioned. We also have had some incoming payments, balance transfers, and often some expenses that will be remunerated.

Perhaps more important, and worthy of discussion, is are we bringing in more than we spend? Yes. Averaged over time, we are gaining money, not losing it. However, our income vs expense has been slim, a few hundred dollars. So, we should all be keeping an eye on this, as our trend of being in black could always go red. Jim did state a couple months ago that he’d like to see less expense vs income, and I’d agree.

But yes, $300 is either liquid or will be amortized very quickly.

No $10,000 purchases now, though. Let’s enjoy the Laser, CNC, Lathe, etc :slight_smile:


I vote yes… and just to make it clear, I think the Pendant is definitely the way to go. There is so many more features you get access to when using them, it doesn’t even come close. For example… you can look at the part and pendant while moving it to make sure it is at the exact spot (by the digital readout) that you want… with a controller, you’d have to look away at it and hopefully would be near the screen to see it.


I have an extra 360 controller I believe if one is needed, unless the niece and nephew grabbed it but I can likely come up.with one. I vote yea to all noted things including reimbursement of dave. Thank you all for kicking butt on this! I am shooting to be at the hive Saturday afternoon to clean up things and possibly do a lil lathe work if you will be there Brad.

I vote YES.
I also think that buying a CNC pendant is probably worth it. Since it may not be clear what a “pendant” is…


So I’m not sure how the vote went last Tuesday, I was out of town.
I’m assuming it went through? The wiki isn’t clear.

I think we should keep Mach3 and not upgrade to Mach4. Mach 3 is working now and I don’t think there is motivation for someone to create new profiles and setup stuff.
Looks like Lorin can get a discount so it would be $125.

I’ve gotten mixed input on the pendant.
Some people like the idea of an Xbox controller but I think people have used the dedicated pendant and like it. So I’m leaning to get it on amazon for $100.

That still leaves us with a surplus of $75 and we can get a year of Gwizard for $64 after a 20% maker discount. (Gwizard is a speed/feed program to help properly run the CNC).