Sherline's P/N 8540/8541 CNC mill includes a computer, keyboard and mouse. The 4-axis driver box and power supply are built into the couputer case and the Linux operating system and EMC2 control software are pre-installed. (Click on photo to view a larger image.)

Sherline CNC Systems

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Introduction—Why Sherline chose Linux and EMC2 as our operating system and control program

Sherline uses the highly reliable open source Linux operating system and the EMC2 g-code control program. This is provided at no charge with each Sherline CNC system or 4-axis driver box. The instructions provided cover the use of this software. When deciding which operating system and control program to use for our Sherline system I chose the EMC program because it was better than those that were available at that time at a cost affordable for the home shop. I chose this combination for three reasons:  

1) When Linux is controlling the EMC (EMC2 is the latest version) program that is all it's controlling, which isn't the case for Windows based CNC programs. At that time, CNC programs for Windows would stop cutting in the middle of a program and pause for a few seconds while Windows did some internal housekeeping chores which produces an unwanted machining mark on the part. To eliminate this problem, they buffered the computer output, adding more hardware and several hundred dollars cost to solve a problem that is not present with Linux. You also have to purchase Windows OS from Microsoft. Again, Linux and EMC2 are free. USB and serial ports are too slow for cnc applications.

2) The EMC (Enhanced Machine Controller) was originally developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and cost millions of dollars to be developed. When the government felt it no longer had to protect itself by having its own program, EMC was made available to the general public as an open source program; however, it wasn't a program the average person could use. A group of very dedicated engineers and intelligent hobbyists had already spent years working on it when I teamed up with them. With their help I felt I had a program that was superior to any Windows program when I bundled it with our CNC systems. Linux and EMC may be free to Sherline's customers, but I personally spent much time, money and effort testing and customizing it. Even though we pass it on to you at no charge, it sure wasn’t “free” for us.

3) At the time I chose the EMC program I felt it had a much better method of handling cutter offsets (g41, g42) than any program available to the home machinist/hobbyist. Others have caught up, but again offer little or no advantage to offset the additional cost to the customer.

I’ve purchased several million dollars worth of CNC machines over the years running in the factory downstairs, and I couldn't tell you what operating system they use. Why? Because it doesn’t matter. What is important is whether it runs the control program as advertised, and Linux does just that when teamed up with the EMC.

If you still aren’t convinced, you do have the option of purchasing a Windows based control program from other suppliers to run your Sherline CNC machines. There are several available that work with our P/N 8760 driver box, and Sherline has now partnered with Flashcut CNC for those looking for a high quality, very capable Windows-based CNC system. Technical support on the machines is still supplied by Sherline, but CNC technical support on the Flashcut CNC components is provided by Flashcut themselves.

—Joe Martin

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