As many of you are aware, we announced our new PathPilot™ software last month and are expecting the official release in April. The Tormach engineering group has taken painstaking measures to develop this entirely new control architecture that is designed specifically for our products. There are many advantages for our customers as we roll out an in-house developed control program. Previously, Tormach machines used Mach3, which was “best in class,” but our customers have often been frustrated with the idiosyncrasies of Mach 3 and the Windows operating system. That’s not to mention the critical limitations that were encountered when paired with our 15L Slant-PRO lathe. In fact, the controller for the 15L Slant-PRO (released in 2014) was the first incarnation of PathPilot (albeit, in a CNC lathe configuration). Arguably, one of the most important reasons we’ve developed PathPilot is it liberates Tormach from reliance on third-party software support. By taking ownership of our motion control architecture, we can not only provide support, but if customers report a bug, we can fix it, instead of relying on another company to make fixes. In fact, there is a bug tracker system that we're already utilizing.
Aside from all the other bells and whistles that PathPilot is equipped with, it is also based on open-source software. The open-source movement is one that has helped drive the development of major software programs and systems, like Mozilla Firefox, WordPress, and Android. Utilizing public domain projects from organizations like the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) the software has been developed in projects like EMC2, LinuxCNC, and Machinekit, and now, we can collaborate with many developers and programmers throughout the community at large. Six Tormach staff members are among the approximately 60 people actively writing software for these projects. This means that if there are features that we want, we can write them, affording the opportunity to actively work with customers to tune our software to Tormach users. A Few Technical Reasons for the Switch to PathPilot from Mach3 PathPilot touts several advantages that span the user experience. One of the immediately noticeable improvements is the graphical interface, which provides an intuitive display that is also touch-screen compatible. The conversational screens are both written and supported by Tormach, and external programs (PCNC Config, Tool Assistant, etc.) can now be embedded in the GUI. The new software has a real-time Linux Kernel that allows motion control tasks to take priority over things like USB enumeration events, screen refresh, network activity, and other non-real-time processes that caused motion control problems on our Windows control. PathPilot also provides a smoother, more reliable motion thanks to the use of an FPGA card (33.3 MHz), which keeps jitter down to ~30 nS – much better than the old control solution which used software stepping and had a jitter of ~6000 nS. Trajectory planning and the G-code interpreter have both been improved with PathPilot. Now, warnings will notify users of arc radius errors or invalid G-code, and stop, pause, feed rate, and spindle overrides are instantaneous. G64 constant velocity blending taking a tolerance value, which leads to more accurate parts. These improvements also lead to faster program execution. The PathPilot software has been likened to an appliance type device that is a hybrid between the functionality of a Fanuc/Siemens style controller and the economy of a PC, making this machine controller fit right in with the Tormach business model and the company’s place in the market. To learn more about what PathPilot can do, attend the upcoming webinar. Check out NYC CNC's rundown of the Beta version of PathPilot: [youtube]dUJqcrYAFng[/youtube] What are your first impressions of PathPilot? We want to know what you think! Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.