RiceCNC was developed to fill a niche in the market to bring the power of the Apple Cocoa GUI to the world of machine control. Since Mac computers do not have a parallel port compatible with many hobby and intermediate machines, an embedded micro-controller board solution was required. However, now that many PC manufacturers are dropping the parallel port, several CNC software companies are being pressured into adopting a similar solution and RiceCNC is emerging as a leader in this area.
The current focus using µP boards to support low-cost 3-phase BLDC servo motors may fill a larger niche than the Mac GUI. For this purpose, however, the firmware could communicate to a PC host just as easily as with a Mac host. Thus, it could be mutually beneficial to partner with a company doing PC application development.
Feature requests include:
1. the lowest cost-of-entry system,
2. high power stepper motor support,
3. high power servo motor support,
4. low cost servo motor support,
5. 3D CAD system integration, e.g., STL and DXF file import and
6. wired and wireless jog controller pendants
Currently under development is support for low-cost 3-phase BLDC servo motors via the new TI 8305 high power 3-phase motor driver board. Three-phase servo motors have long been preferred for professional systems due to the reliable, fast, smooth, quiet and powerful response relative to stepper motors, but the high cost has made them prohibitive for small machines even with recent price reductions.
Three-phase BLDC motors are now available in wide range of speed and power. High power BLDC motors exceeding 2.5 kW can replace AC motors currently in use with higher efficiency and with no minimum speed. Low power and low cost BLDC motors have been developed for the model aircraft industry. The high pole count model motors can be adapted to run open-loop in positioning systems just as the hybrid stepper motors typically are now but with quieter and faster motion.
Texas Instruments and ST Microelectronics are fiercely competing for the motor driver and µP market with low-cost, high power and resolution system solutions. Both companies are releasing hardware faster than the open-source community can support. This is a great time to be an embedded software developer and RiceCNC is uniquely positioned to bring the power of the µP board revolution and the Apple Cocoa GUI to the machine control market.
Future Development Plans