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Outstanding Satisfaction: The Most Loved CNC Controls in 2016

Aug 26, 2016   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, GCode, Products, Software  //  15 Comments

Here’s the second installment of our 2016 CNC Control Survey Results.  In this article, I want to explore Customer Satisfaction.  Respondents were asked to report their Customer Satisfaction towards their control with the following respones:

  1. It Rocks! (Scored as 1.0)
  2. Works Fine (Scored as 0.0)
  3. Not Very Happy (Scored as -1)

A perfect score would therefore be 1.0, meaning every respondent said, “It Rocks!”

Here are the results:

CNC Control Customer Satisfaction Most Loved

The Most Loved CNC Controls for 2016…

Here are the results:

  • Pathpilot/LinuxCNC/EMC2 took the gold crown with an amazingly high score of 0.54.  Over half the respondents told us that, “It Rocks!”.  It’s safe to say this is the most loved control among the many we surveyed.  I am not surprised to see how much share it has gained.
  • Number 2, and not far behind, was Heidenhain.
  • Siemens did extremely well, especially considering they’re #2 on market share, and ranked #3.

In the next tier down we find Haas and Yasnac almost tied.  Below that are Mazak, Fadal, and Prototrak.

Fanuc, #1 for Market Share in the High End category ranked way down 2nd from last, only beating out Fagor.  It seems that while the control is popular, it’s users are not overly fond of it.  Mach 3, the most popular among the Low End controls, also deserves mention.  At 0.26, it’s Customer Satisfaction score was OK, but not great.

Unfortunately, we did not receive enough responses to calculate a Customer Satisfaction Score for every control in the survey.  It would’ve been interesting to know, for example, how Mach 4’s Satisfaction compared to Mach 3’s.  I made the decision not to present scores for controls that had fewer than a threshold number of responses just to make sure the results had enough inputs to make them relevant.

What’s Next

This concludes the blog posts on the Survey Results, but I have quite a lot more data to present.  In particular, I want to drill down on the Top 3 things users liked most about their controls as well as the Top 3 areas they disliked the most.  Those results should provide some real color around why these various controls ranked as they did for Customer Satisfaction.  However, that’s premium content.  It will only be available if you subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

There’s actually quite a lot of interesting premium content that’s available Free to our subscribers.  I will publish the last of the CNC Control survey information as a PDF document in the premium content area as soon as I finish analyzing the data.  If you’d like to make sure you get access to it, just sign up for our weekly blog newsletter–there’s a form right down below here to enter your email.

Tell us what you think of these Customer Satisfaction results in the comments below.


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Outstanding Satisfaction: The Most Loved CNC Controls in 2016
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  • I’m interested to know where flashcut came in the survey, I’m curious to know why it doesn’t have a bigger following or is that because of the ‘closed’ loop nature of the product.

    • I’ve heard nothing but good things over the years about FlashCut, but there just weren’t enough responses from people using it to cover it here.

      • I know, I just wish it were a little less expensive to get going. I’m a big follower of David Decaussin and he really recommends Flashcut so it must be good. I would love to have a go with it at some point. Maybe they should donate a controller to cnc cookbook, you could do a review…

        • Ron, if you add up what all the components will cost for an equivalent system, they’re not all that high. But they do require you to buy a turnkey solution and not mix and match.

  • There’s a joke about Linux users that goes something like, “How can you tell if someone is a Linux user?” with the answer: “Don’t worry, they’ll tell you as soon as something remotely related comes up”.

    In other words, since Linux is, despite things you’ll hear, not an out of the box experience that then allows you to use everything you’ve been using, Linux users invest a lot of time and effort to get their system running right (don’t ask me how I know). According to tons of psycho-social research, that makes them more loyal to their system than if it really was an out-of-the-box, plug and play system that required minimal effort to get running.

    Where I’m going with this is: I wonder what percentage of the “I love it/it rocks” votes come down to it being Linux, and requiring a higher level of user commitment to make it work. Substitute “LinuxCNC” in the above joke.

    • Some might be, but I suspect the largest proportion of LinuxCNC users are running PathPilot which is plug and play. For every individual who is loyal because of time invested, there will also be those who were frustrated at how much trouble it was. Among those attempting to make LinuxCNC work from scratch, I have certainly met some of those. All things considered, I doubt the result is skewed by these factors. It looks to me like a genuinely very nice system, especially the PathPilot variant.

      • I’m in the midst of converting a manual mill (Grizzly G0704) to CNC, and among the things I need to resolve is building a PC for it. My current CNC system is small scale: a Sherline/A2ZCNC mill driven by Mach3 running on a 12 year old, XP box (which does virtually nothing else). Perhaps PathPilot is worth looking at for both systems. I’ve run Ubuntu linux a couple of times on different machines, but never EMC, or LinuxCNC, and never heard of PathPilot.

        • PathPilot is Tormach’s customized and polished-up version of LinuxCNC. It only runs on their hardware (unless you know a lot about LinuxCNC and then you can make it work) So if you are looking for a PathPilot-like controller then it’s LinuxCNC

    • On the contrary, what I like most about LinuxCNC is how easy it is to get it working on a simple hobby level machine, exactly like the G0704 and Sherline milling machine that you described. I made a time lapse video with the entire time it took to build my CNC Mini Lathe (based on a Sherline lathe). The 15 hours are compressed into 15 minutes. I did quite a few fussy things and could have had it wired and working in a few hours. In the video, I power it up for the first time, install Linux and LinuxCNC off the flash drive (it’s one simple install for everything including web browsing, etc.), and in about 20 seconds (60:1 speed time) I’m running LinuxCNC, and I’m turning a pawn a few seconds later. Now, it’s even easier. Pretty much, select a default configuration for your stepper based machine, let the configuration routine know the microstepping rate and the screw pitch, and you’re good to go. It’s not all that much more difficult to get a LinuxCNC machine running with servos if using Mesa Electronics cards. I just can’t imagine Mach being easier. Best of all, even though LinuxCNC is easy to configure, if you have something complicated like a tool changer or bar feeder, LinuxCNC is capable enough to accommodate whatever you’d like to do, and all you need to do is edit some files. There’s no compiling code or anything like that, and the online user support is terrific – friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, and responsive. And I wasn’t even one of the fan boys who voted up LinuxCNC in Bob’s survey. 🙂

      I’ve heard the Linux jokes. I guess I have a different sense of humor. The real joke to me is trying to run a realtime machine control system under Windows. Now that’s a joke.

      • Liberty4Ever, I like LinuxCNC a lot, but it’s a mistake to joke about running realtime machine control systems under Windows. It’s not a joke at all. In fact, there are many industrial grade systems that are built on Windows and work great. Okuma is one example, but there are many more.

        The real joke in an era of cheap hardware is to cheap out and try to run the system through the antiquated parallel port instead of using a proper motion control board. If you use a board, the OS doesn’t have to be real time and everything works better than without. Even Tormach added a Mesa board to PathPilot rather than just try to run LinuxCNC staight through parallel.

        • Bob, did you ever do a review like this about motion control boards? I need to cross that bridge ASAP and would like to find out which are the good ones.

          My 12 year old XP box is using parallel port control, through a Xylotex motor controller. It works largely because I methodically took everything off the system that used any resources, down to not letting it go into screensaver mode. It’s completely firewalled so that nothing interrupts it, nothing ever “phones home” to see if there’s an update. It’s as close to a single purpose embedded controller as I can get. The only thing I’ve run on it except Mach3 is a dirt simple text editor for editing flat ASCII files.

          My new system is still in the concept phase. I have the stepper motors and controllers, still never powered on.

          If it seems everything I’m describing is old, that’s because it is. I started doing CNC milling as a hobby about ’05. Over the years, I upgraded things, but I think it has been at least 5 years since anything major has changed. (The control PC I was using died a few months ago, so I replaced it with a similar machine we had lying around and swapped hard drives to make it easier.)

          The last time I looked at Linux for control, the program was EMC and that was about 10 years ago. I’m sure it has grown up since then, and, no, I don’t have anything against it.

          • I have not surveyed motion control boards, but perhaps it’s time. I wonder whether there are enough readers that use them to produce a decent sized result though.

            Back when I ran Mach3, I used a Smoothstepper. It wasn’t perfect, but it fixed a world of sins for Mach3. I was able to run pretty much whatever I wanted on the crappy laptop and Mach never seemed bothered by it.

            All that said, my PathPilot controls are noticeably smoother and respond much faster. Of course the other thing about running Linux is you’re less tempted to try to make CADCAM or something run on it, so it winds up closer to that dedicated appliance you’ve made your Mach3 machine into.

        • I was being a little snarky, but I was serious about liking the fact that LinuxCNC is very good about running simple stepper based hobby and small shop machines via the parallel port (old fashioned as that seems) while also accommodating fast FPGA based motion control boards on PCI cards for industrial strength CNC machines. Actually, one of the more problematic aspects of the way LinuxCNC has developed is the nowhere man’s land between the simple and complex. Tormach did a great job when they hired a LinuxCNC developer to create PathPilot. It’s what I, as an end user, want LinuxCNC to be. The simple MESA Electronics I/O hardware is not expensive nor is it difficult to install, but it does require standardization to operate with PathPilot. On a couple of upcoming CNC projects, I’m very tempted to adopt the Tormach I/O standards that will allow me to run PathPilot. The LinuxCNC development team has been reluctant to force even these weak standards on users, so we don’t benefit from turnkey systems like this in the mid range, but I hope Tormach’s PathPilot will be adopted as a de facto standard and we can have a nicely integrated conversational programming environment like PathPilot.

          BTW – a microcontroller in a box to generate precise timing pulses to offload the realtime aspects from Windows does not compensate for all of Windows’ shortcomings as a CNC machine controller. There is still much to legitimately complain about when Windows locks up, a new version of Windows is incompatible, it decides to do a mandatory software update when you want to run the machine, etc. That being said, I have a good friend with a REAL machine building business, and he has a couple of Milltronics VMCs running their proprietary system under Windows with apparently few problems. As a machine designer, it sounds like a house of cards, crippled from the outset with inherent problems better avoided, but they did make it work so kudos to them. Meanwhile, I have relatively slow stepper based machines using low power Atom based motherboards, and I delight in watching YouTube videos while machining using good old realtime LinuxCNC. (Not recommended)

          • I’m running XP on my shop box, so I can still tell it, “when I want your opinion, I’ll beat it out of you”. XP is probably better in that regard than any newer Windoze.

            ALL updates are turned off, I don’t even have an Acrobat reader on it, and I went through the startup options carefully, disabling everything that wanted to run in the background. Obviously, it’s not on any network. When I bring CAM files to it, I bring them on a thumb drive.

            I’ve had the experience at my previous employer of running a very long test (this was electronics manufacturing, not CNC machining) and having the test barf and damage what we were testing. All because IT department thought the computer should go do other things while we were running tests.

  • I for one, Bob would be very interested in a motion control board review, especially in regard to compatibility with linux cnc. As a beginner I became very interested in the windows/kflop option and have bought all of the componenets to do that build. However, I have since read much about linux cnc and would like to experiment with that system also. Going back to my ‘as a beginner’ statement I think the issue is that there are so many choices that to have 2 or 3 options clearly laid out would probably have helped a lot. I realize it is a baptism of fire but I think the cnc world would gather many more enthusiasts. As an example I would not only commend this site but mention the g0704 ‘electronics’ page where Hoss just lays down pretty much all of the control options. Obviously keeping it up to date is an issue but I think many would be interested and contribute.

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