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JMSY-563; No. of Pages 7 ARTICLE IN PRESS
Journal of Manufacturing Systems xxx (2017) xxx–xxx

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Journal of Manufacturing Systems
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Technical Paper

A modular-architecture controller for CNC systems based on
open-source electronics
Jorge E. Correa ∗ , Nicholas Toombs, Placid M. Ferreira
Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Open control architectures regain relevance with the new revolution of open source electronics. This
Received 23 November 2016 paper presents the general ideas, examples of implementation and latest advances of a new, open archi-
Received in revised form 21 February 2017 tecture controller for CNC systems based on open source electronics. The multiprocessor and distributed
Accepted 3 March 2017
architecture of this controller leverages the power of platforms like Arduino or TI Launchpad to realize
Available online xxx
CNC systems of increased computational resources, closed-loop position of the tool, smoother motions
and higher feeds. Additionally, this work demonstrates the first steps in the development of virtual
machine as a new software component of the architecture. A “tight binding” between the real and vir-
Open architecture control
Modular control
tual machines will delineate the path for realistic, machine monitoring, remote operation and process
Open electronics planning environment.
CNC © 2017 Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of The Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

1. Introduction open OAC was developed by the US National Institute of Stan-
dards and Technology (NIST) initially named the enhanced machine
Capable of interpreting and precisely executing commands controller (EMC) and later changed to LinuxCNC [7]. The control
containing numerical information, the past 50 years have seen architecture of LinuxCNC consists of a motion controller (EMC-
NC machines become platforms for automating processes like 3- MOT), a discrete I/O controller (EMCIO), a task coordinating module
D printing, laser cutting, machining, assembly and many other (EMCTASK) and a GUI user interface. LinuxCNC is implemented
applications. With a booming industrial-automation market and on a real-time extension to the Linux kernel and it uses differ-
hundreds of controller manufacturers, incompatibilities between ent off-the-shelf ISA/PCI express bus-based cards to interface with
products became a challenge to the integration of new manu- the hardware. Systems based on computer cards require hardware
facturing units outside the scope of these controllers [1]. This modifications of the PC, which restricts the hardware modularity of
motivated the development of vendor neutral, open architecture the controller and they can be difficult to update because of compat-
controllers (OAC) around the world; e.g. OMAC in the United States, ibility issues with new mother board technologies. Although some
OSACA in Europe and OSEC in Japan. These controllers promised the advances at the research and development levels had been made in
integration of independent application program modules, control open control and modular architecture controllers (MAC) [8,9], the
algorithms, sensors and computer software/hardware developed idea was ahead of its time because of flexibility of vendors, liability
by different manufacturers. and standardization issues.
OAC is a base of communication protocols and system capabili- The open-electronics ecosystem, provides affordable micro-
ties that enable reliability, stability and modularity in both software processing and sensing technologies that have the potential to lead
and hardware [2]. The underlying idea was to decentralize the con- the way for intelligent servo-controlled machining tools. Guided by
trol task into modular algorithms (i.e. the operating system [3], the declining cost of microprocessor-based developing platforms
the motion interpolation [4,5], and the servo-control algorithms (Arduino, Ti LaunchPad, Teensy, Beaglebone), some of the NC appli-
[6]), while maintaining an open flow of machine states (e.g. posi- cations (CNC routers, laser cutters and 3D printers) have rapidly
tion, velocity, acceleration, temperature, forces). One of the first migrated from a proprietary hardware to open source hardware
systems. However, most of these controllers (such as GRLB, RepRap,
Smoothie) resemble a monolithic architecture (the interpretation
and the interpolation algorithms execute in the same processing
∗ Corresponding author. unit) that focuses on generating the sequence of output pulses to
E-mail addresses: (J.E. Correa), acute stepper motors in an open-loop configuration as oppose to
(P.M. Ferreira).
0278-6125/© 2017 Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of The Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

Please cite this article in press as: Correa JE, et al. A modular-architecture controller for CNC systems based on open-source electronics.
J Manuf Syst (2017),

the PLC and the sequence. the servo control software packages [12]. thus capturing the physics of the machine puting resources. multi-processor architecture controller for multi-axis control. executes in a micro-controller and drives each axis indepen- is to provide researchers and enthusiasts with a new control archi- dently with a velocity close-loop control. the maximum interpolated cations. to the OAC paradigm. The control architecture is a component been previously demonstrated [15]. and hardware. this work is the first one controller. Software (a) and hardware (b) architecture of the controller. The executive program is a PC-based appli- through closed-loop configurations. open. flexibility. and the servo control. No. creating an 2. be fed as the reference to a closed-loop system. servo-control algorithms. [10]. the executive program or operating system. are coded in a and rates of execution of the different programs is presented in our general manner that the architecture is modular in both software previous work [15]. the interpolation program is a micro-controller pro- This paper presents the general overview and latest advances of gram in charge of the online coordination of the axis. http://dx. Next generation of open elec- The open CNC architecture controller in this paper consists of tronics in CNC should leverage the power of multiple-processing four control programs executed independently on different pro- units to perform tasks requiring increased computational resources cessing units. Its purpose turn. the motion interpolation. This limits the com. process planning environment in CNC. Controller overview opportunity for easy automation of new manufacturing processes and custom-based CNC solutions. 1. better control of the position of the tool program and the PLC. shows a diagram with the software (Fig.jmsy. A detailed discussion on the communication protocols troller (PLC) and the servo-controller algorithms. the programmable logic con- interrupt. smoother motions and higher cation in charge of managing the non-real time services of the feeds. Correa et al. The rates of execution of tecture for the rapid design of CNC systems that will allow them to the algorithms are adjusted according to their priority and worst- experiment with these platforms and create special purpose appli- case execution time [18].1016/j. Additionally. / Journal of Manufacturing Systems xxx (2017) xxx–xxx Fig. A modular-architecture controller for CNC systems based on open-source electronics. remote operation and in open electronics.2017. online machine monitoring [11]. dimension and feed words. For example. Examples of the main programs are presented in Fig. 1(a)) and a pos- the Texas Launchpad [13] and Arduino development platforms sible hardware (Fig. modularity and overall performance. The four major programs of the architecture: the machine frequency cannot exceed the execution frequency of servo-loop executive. This means focuses on the executive program The OAC in this work offers that each of the components has a unique Finite State Machine increased computational resources and flexibility of reconfigura- (FSM) that ensures the coordinated execution of the tasks in the tion of manufacturing units. better integration with CAM the interpolation program or motion controller. The interpreter Please cite this article in press as: Correa JE. When executing a NC program or a manual command in demonstrating the first steps towards incorporating a virtual from the graphical user interphase (GUI). in servo control of CNC systems.013 . an OAC based on open electronics would represent a step forward in the flexibility and openness of this systems. of Pages 7 ARTICLE IN PRESS 2 J. Because the interpolation and servo-control algorithms have CNC machining center. 1. The calls the RS-274 interpreter service to parse the instructions into “virtual machine” has a replica of the interpolation.doi. feed rate a new. J Manuf Syst (2017).17].G Model JMSY-563. acceleration and deceleration. and the controller.04. namely.E. based on open electronics. Free from proprietary hardware implemen. architecture. 1(b)) architectures of the controller to a 3-axis [14]. et al. tation. the discussion on this paper base-approach aimed to achieve software modularity. the executive program representation of the machine [16. We envision that this strategy will delineate The OAC paradigm regains relevance with the new revolution the path for realistic machine monitoring.

This software component is the the drives. Executive program Aided Manufacturing (CAM) software has been tailored to pro- cess planning and NC-code generation of general purpose machine The executive program is a PC-based application program with tools. a dimension word and a feed word.2017. J Manuf Syst (2017). } . et al. Interpreter trolled mechanical system with a 3D representation that includes the full definition of its links and joints. The interpreter is programed with the help of Lex and Yacc • Link: A link refers to a component (one or more faceted solids) for the generation of the lexical analyzer and parser. In this production. the machine to that state.doi. and handle troubleshooting services. Correa et al. virtual of atomic actions. in general. ent architectures) or linked as an object in the compilation of the nication bus to transmit the messages from the executive program executive program. lar manner. corresponding action.1. Finally. processing servo control).} | block seq_word prep_word dim_word feed word { process_block (). primary commu.E. The virtual machine in this architecture has exact replicas graphic user interphase GUI. the PLC routines and the man. acters or numbers) for the subsequent use of the Yacc parser. cate the servo-loop configuration parameters. Each axis. In the latter. No. and setting of motion and servo-loop configura. and (b) communi. A modular-architecture controller for CNC systems based on open-source electronics. Lex is used to with a coordinate frame attached to it.e. only the sentation of the machine tailored for remote monitoring. type of motion. can be compiled as a standalone (for the integration with differ- The hardware architecture uses a serial-port. Because G-code (RS-274). the supervisory control can execute a user command or a tion parameters. process parameters among others) and the set of the grammar descriptions in the parser is associated with a cor- of atomic actions (a linked list with the ordered sequence of actions responding C action aimed to the generation of the of the desired such as “straight transverse”.org/10. Traditionally. A link has a list of coordi- convert G-code input strings in the file source to tokens [20] (char. Both word. “tool change”) required to state vector of the machine and the set of atomic actions to bring arrive to said state. For • Joint: A joint describes the relative motion between two links by example. Virtual machine servo-control units via Inter-Integrated Circuit protocol of commu- nication (I2C). the interpreter operates in inter- to the interpolator and the PLC. The interpreter machine. The main entities of this hierarchy commands for moving the tools and auxiliary functions in CNC [19]. A production rule can be the interpolation and PLC transmit the motion instructions to the terminal or non-terminal in which case it has a sub-grammar with servo control units. http://dx. 2(a) shows the finite state machine of the interpretation pro- gram. based on the parsed state vector of the machine. This component can also be executed in parallel with operating system of the controller and it has a user interface to set the physical (lower-level) components of the architecture provid- the servo-variables. In the example. This section delineates the ideas behind the implementation of a virtual machine to the open-architecture. while (b) coordinating the execution of real time numerical control program completely in computer software. the interpreter program is able to maintain the G-code responding motions and automatic routines thus creating a tight references (modal and non-modal preparatory words) and check binding between the physical and virtual representations of the for syntax errors and conflictive preparatory words.013 . send manual commands. Embedded inside the GUI. machinery. nate frames (shape transforms) defining the pose of its joints. the block “N10 G01 × 10 utive program which. servo variables and automatic motion routines from the interpolator and PLC to the 3. of Pages 7 ARTICLE IN PRESS J. seq_word : {. the entry production “block” Central to the executive program is a virtual representation triggers the action “process-block ()” which generates the linked list of the machine (See Sec.jmsy. shares its communication structures and protocols of manual instructions and overrides. are: Fig. It is hierarchically organized The code interpreter is an executive program service which in a structural and control basis with exact replicas of the control translates the part program and manual commands into internal algorithms of the architecture. For example. For the sake of brevity. the left recursion indicates that a block can PLC for the generation of the coordinated motion of the axis and have more than one block with a sequence word. $2). There is a secondary bus of com. accurate simulation of the trajectories down to the basic step of agement of the virtual machine. as a test bed for different This production results in updating the member “sequence” of the control algorithms. “arc feed”. with services such as the interpolation.. process non-terminal production “seq word” is shown in the example.2). in charge of: (a) execut. coded in C++. planning environment and. The Yacc-generated parser contains the programing machine (a C type structure with information on the position of the rules (grammar) that make syntactic sense of the RS-274 code. Computer 3. handled by out coordinating with programs of the architecture) and standard hardware interrupts in the servo-controllers. / Journal of Manufacturing Systems xxx (2017) xxx–xxx 3 uses this information to generate the desired-state vector of the number “05”. parsing and interpretation of and mimics the hardware characteristics of the machine.04.G Model JMSY-563. in turn.1016/j. The virtual machine is an object-oriented model of the con- 3. and modular repre. the atomic actions are sent to the exec. of this. the virtual machine receives the desired state vector according to the value “number”.2. a preparatory the execution of the automatic motion routines respectively.} | T_N number { update_verctor(seq. When active. of the control algorithms of the architecture (interpolation and ing the non-real-time services of the architecture i. after the execution of the block. hierarchical. input modes (user input blocks). compiled mode (all the blocs are parsed with- the interpolator to drive the position of the axes.} . preted mode (each block is feed individually upon completion of munication in charge of: (a) transmitting the train of pulses from the previous one). send them to the interpolator and F300” corresponds to the production rule: block : {. execute Numerical ing a convenient tool for real-time monitoring of automated CNC Control (NC) programs. In this a simi- atomic actions from the executive program and simulates the cor. the block “N05” returns the character token “T N” and the means of a joint transformation (either a rotation or a translation Please cite this article in press as: Correa JE. machine is an object oriented. 3.

The simulated machine tool along the required trajectories. e. / Journal of Manufacturing Systems xxx (2017) xxx–xxx Fig. in a virtual machine. The virtual machine representations of the machine. This is used by the render service to populate the scene services. algorithm (See Sec.2017. Fig. constructor. explained in detailed in reference [4]. Fig.doi. et al. A basic interpo- ing uses the control algorithms and physics of a specific system to lation algorithm uses the set of atomic actions (generated by the simulate the machining processes rather than recreating them for interpreter from the part-data program) to obtain the tool path as a general purpose CNC machine. each equivalent to one basic length-unit (BLU) of and inertial loads within the safety range of the machine. The total number of pulses add to the position of the A second three-axis. 2. planning environment. This object contains the graph of the information form a commercial CAD software such as Autodesk mechanism (with the links as nodes and the joints as arcs) used Fusion 360.013 . ing service after a number of iteration. the interpolation. The output of the instance. with machine assembly at its configuration given by the joint trans- forms. 3(b) shows a rendered image with the simulation results of a 2D-machined trajectory. to “virtually machine” the workpiece. The interpolator coordinates the motion of the axes to drive the resentation of the tool from that of the workpiece. To demonstrate the potential of tightly-bound vir- this area include the implementation of efficient algorithms to sim- tual machines and controls. to parse the mechanism information from a human- joint limits. graph of machine to find the sequence of shape-joint transforms of • Machine: A mechanism with its associated control and operation each link. the program spans the for the kinematic and rendering services. This implementation interpolator in this paper is based on a software Digital Differential required a loader method. The material is removed by driving the 4. as in traditional CAM software. material removal and interpolator is transmitted to the servo controllers in a sequence of accelerations are kept below critical values to keep the machining reference-pulses. virtual machine was coded in C++ and axis. 3(a) shows a three-axis virtual machine. Virtual machin. the feed. A modular-architecture controller for CNC systems based on open-source electronics. 2(b) shows the surface is shown in the detailed view of Fig.smd) was created to load the machine geometry and assembly produce functional motion. this implementation uses Fusion 360 ulate the material removal process that account for the dynamics CAM trajectories and an internal reference-pulse interpolation of the drives and the material properties of the workpiece. finite state machine of the interpolator program.5 GHz. Such a binding is key aspect in the program has been successfully tested for interpolation frequencies implementations of a real-time monitoring application and process higher than 40 kHz in an Intel Quad core CPU @ 2.04. readable text file (see appendix). J Manuf Syst (2017). while intersecting and subtracting the solid rep. Correa et al. Following steps in Fusion 360. 4 shows the openGL rendered machine with it link and joint transforms. 3(b).1016/j.jmsy.G Model JMSY-563. After loading the geometries. along the Z-direction). speed. Please cite this article in press as: Correa JE. creates a tight binding between the real and the virtual lation algorithms before rendering the scene. Fig. No.g. For a combination of linear and circular segments. This are the first steps towards the integration of a virtual coded inside the application user interface (API) of Autodesk machine to the open architecture of this paper. The velocity of interpolation The fact that these services are exact replicas of the control pro- is modified by changing the number of iterations of the interpo- grams. The interpolation service coordinates the motion The information flows through the virtual machine services in of the axes by updating the joint transforms and calling the render- the exact order than it does through the physical architecture.E. and the servo-control. using the Fusion 360 joint definitions. The standard machine data file • Mechanism: A collection of links and joints working together to (.. A simplified finite state machine (FSM) diagram of the architecture. the machine. The openGL. Interpolator machine along the interpolated trajectories. embedded inside the machine-object Analyzer (DDA) technique. for higher graphics performance. Fig. The associated services are the joint model. and the frequency of the pulses represents their velocity. of Pages 7 ARTICLE IN PRESS 4 J. PLC and rendering services. 4).

the ISR cal. A virtual machine implementation in openGL. The implementation of this algorithm to the control architecture of this paper is discussed in our previous work [15]. Fig. / Journal of Manufacturing Systems xxx (2017) xxx–xxx 5 Fig. are generated in Inkscape [21]. 3. 5. The trajectory is interpolated with reference pulses of 8 kHz and sampled in real time through a serial communication interrupt (c). Con- while a timer interrupt controls the execution of the servo-control ventionally.doi. ence pulse interpolation.1016/j. The software DDA interpolation routine. was programmed on the boards Arduino Mega 2560 and Texas Instruments Launchpad C2000.04. 5 shows the interpolation of a 2D trajec- tory on the Arduino Mega 2560. a set-point external interrupt in the Arduino Nano and 2 ␮s. Servo control The servo-control algorithm was programmed on the Arduino culates the output voltage to the motor driver proportionally to Nano with the microprocessor ATmega328 and the Texas Instru. A virtual machine implementation in Autodesk fusion 5(c) shows the NC trajectory sampled in real time by a serial communication interrupt while interpolating at a frequency of Fig. The graphics software Inkscape [21] was used to trace the vector trajectory from a bit-map image (Fig. in the TI Launchpad C2000. The output volt- Please cite this article in press as: Correa JE. Fig.2017. In a single iteration of the servo-loop interrupt. No. A vector trajectory (a) and its G code approximation (b) tain an open flow of information during interpolation. ments Launchpad C2000.jmsy. 5. of Pages 7 ARTICLE IN PRESS J. this increments a counter whenever the interpolator requests a pulse allowed servo-frequencies of 10 kHz and 30 kHz respectively. for linear and circu- lar motions. A zoom view of interpolated path is shown in (d). Fig. Correa et al. the maximum interpolated frequency should be below loops. 4. An interpolation example of a 2D trajectory using linear and circular refer- 8 kHz. The interpolator inter- rupt service routine (ISR) has a maximin execution time of 72 ␮s in the Arduino Mega and 4 ␮s in the TI Launchpad C2000. A modular-architecture controller for CNC systems based on open-source electronics. the execution frequency of servo loop interrupt. Here. the instantaneous error count (proportional controller in positon). 5(b)). 5(a)) and to generate the G-code approximation (Fig. 2(c) shows the finite state machine The servo-loop ISR exhibited a maximum execution time of 76 ␮s of the interpolator program. http://dx.013 . this corresponds to maximum interpolating frequencies of 13 kHz and 230 kHz respectively. This test demonstrates the ability of the architecture to main. Fig.G Model JMSY-563. J Manuf Syst (2017). et al.E.

This paper provided readers with a general purpose. In this example. However. comprised of 40 arc segments with regions of low and high curvature. No. proportional to the resolution of the PWM signal and is inversely open architecture for the design of CNC system based on open elec- proportional to the execution frequency of the servo-loop interrupt. Preliminary experimental results The architecture in this paper is simple. 6(a) and Preliminary results demonstrate that such an architecture can have (b)) was conveniently designed for the integration of the Arduino practical implications in the development and prototyping of new. The frequency mismatch between servo and interpolation updates resulted in a trajectory data acquisition delay of 200 steps. The follow- ing error was our first choice for criteria used to evaluate the system against as the architecture has not been tested in a real machining scenario.E. and the NC schemes for special purpose applications and research. The purpose of this was to test continuity and smoothness of the motions. 6.1016/j. tronics and detail information to experiment with these platforms. This is a synchroniza- tion error due to the speed of the communication interrupt rather than an accuracy error of the servo-controllers. we caution against its use on larger machinery. More- LS7366R 32-bit quadrature counter from US Digital. The reference. Fig. 8(a) and rithms on different electromechanical systems.jmsy. 7. The experiment shows that the following error in the system is around 12 steps corresponding to 12 ␮m. 7. This solution is tailored to compact We conclude that this implementation can be deploy in high per- applications with basic level of performance and high flexibility. tations of the microcontroller. These values correspond to a BLU of 1 ␮m. performance and availability of open source elec- age to the motor drive is sent in an 8-bit Pulse Width Modulation tronics has grown considerably over the last years and begs the (PWM) signal in the Arduino Nano and a 16-bit PWM signal in the consideration of their use in manufacturing and numerical control Launchpad C2000. Conclusions and future work The price. hardware modularity is important for the reconfiguration of new controller (SC) breakout boards.pulses are interpolated at a frequency of 3. 3-axis CNC systems as example of the proposed controller. J Manuf Syst (2017). an interpolation or servo-control algorithms. this paper is an counter (interfaced via SPI communications) offloads the compu. This kind of software and Arduino Mega 2560 interpolator is connected to the X and Y servo. et al. This component-based approach offers the possibility of adding micro- Fig. With a strong Do It Yourself (DIY) movement. example of how to construct CNC systems with open electronics. Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design (a) and circuit board assembly (b). and in the Texas Launch- Please cite this article in press as: Correa JE. The position and resolution of each platform is automation. the stages are driven along an level of performance and high flexibly. The quadrature over. / Journal of Manufacturing Systems xxx (2017) xxx–xxx Fig. Correa et al. Fig. Servo-controller breakout board In the absence of machining forces the combined position- ing error of the system is 6 steps (equal to +−6 um).04.013 . A modular-architecture controller for CNC systems based on open-source electronics.2017. produced by the control in different interpolation scenarios. This value error can be reduced by implementing higher order control law such as a proportional-integral (PI) or a feed forward controller. arbitrary 2D piecewise trajectory. The open control (b) show the interpolated and the encoder feedback trajectories of architecture was implemented in the Arduino platform for a basic a test NC program. formance table top CNC systems. of Pages 7 ARTICLE IN PRESS 6 J.G Model JMSY-563. A plug-on servo-controller breakout board (See Fig. processing units and axis of motion without modification of the tecture to a two-axis CNC machine tool.doi. The rotary encoders on the stages manufacturing units. In the photograph. 7 shows an experimental implementation of the open archi. modular and open. 6. The flexibility of the architecture makes it a have 2000 pulses per revolution and the leadscrews have a pitch convenient testbed for the implementation of new control algo- of 2 mm. http://dx. Nano with the PWM driver MC33936 from NXP USA Inc.5 kHz and the position updates from the interpolator and servo-controller are received by the exec- utive program at frequencies of 100 Hz and 20 Hz respectively.

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