Learning CNC

Sherline’s CNC system includes a mill, lathe or both, stepper motors, and computer with pre-loaded software. All you supply is the monitor. (Your computer may look different from the one shown above depending upon current availability of cases)

Sherline has taken some of the hassle out of learning to use CNC by supplying a system with a computer pre-loaded with the operating system and software. The driver board and power supply for the stepper motors is installed right in the computer box. Just plug the cables in, boot up the machine, read the instructions and start learning to use CNC to help you make parts. Sherline’s system uses Linux for the operating system and EMC for the program to run your g-code. You can generate your g-code by writing it yourself or by importing it from a separate CAD/CAM program of your own choice. The instructions, however, suggest that before you start generating fancy 3D programs in some third-party software, you should become thoroughly familiar with exactly what g-code is and how it works. If you are starting from scratch, this won’t be an easy task, but without this knowledge you will be severely limited in what you can produce with CNC machines, large or small. If you don’t understand the code, you may find it impossible to analyze why your fancy program-generated code won’t run.

That is why Joe Martin took the time to write some very comprehensive basic instructions on getting to know CNC and g-code. The links below will take you to these instructions. Much like learning any foreign language, there is no shortcut. You just have to get in there and learn it. Some will find it easier than others, and the more quickly your old high school trigonometry lessons come back to you, the easier it will be. Even if you don’t intend to buy a system, you might find it interesting to read these instructions to bring yourself up to speed on what actually goes into making parts with computer-controlled machines. Here are the links:

CNC Instructions

Linux (Ubuntu-Lucid build) O/S version 6.00
(Installed starting December 28, 2011)

Version 6.0 PDF (for computers that come with Ubuntu Linux and EMC2 (Also for versions supplied by Sherline on CD with 8760 driver box)

Linux (Ubuntu) O/S version 5.00
(Installed starting September 17, 2009)

Version 5 PDF (for computers that come with Ubuntu Linux and EMC2 after 9/17/09)

Linux (Debian) O/S version 4.51*
(Installed starting January, 2005)

Version 4e PDF (for computers with floppy drive)

Version 4f PDF (for computers that replaced floppy drive with USB flash drive)

Linux (Redhat) O/S version 2.18*
(Installed from inception through December, 2004)

Installation Guides

Quickstart guide (6.0) to hooking up and starting your computer

Installing and reinstalling Linux and EMC takes you through the installation process

EMC-related updates

Changes and updates that have been made to the Linux and EMC programs

*Functionally there is little difference between EMC version 2.18 and version 4.51; however, the 4.xx (Debian) version is more installer-friendly than the older (Redhat) version and will work on a wider variety of hardware. It also has a drag-and-drop file feature and more choices on the graphic interface in Linux.

Version 5.00 (Ubuntu) is easier to install and has a more Windows-like interface. The main differences in the instructions refer to how the programs are opened and how files are transferred, so if you are just reading them to learn about CNC and g-code, it won’t matter too much which version you choose to read. This version includes EMC2 instead of EMC, which is similar but includes a lathe program as well as a mill program.

6.00 (Ubuntu) includes several new sub-routines and an even more Windows-like user interface.