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Masso CNC G3 - Worth the price?

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Ed Page14/05/2021 07:37:06
13 forum posts
32 photos



This is a bit of a review / question, but of everything. Ok, so a bit of background, been a CNC machinist for 10 years, done 5 CNC conversions, all Mach 3 and 4. My current milling machine is Mach 4 running on a ESS smoothstepper. I could not get it to work properly for my lathe, it would not thread and even the ESS forum gave up on it. My mills movement runs like garbage on the latest updates, so I have to run it on an old one firmware version.

To cut the story short, anything PC based can go wrong and when it comes to restoring to its original configuration may be impossible. All the big companies, all the most successful CNC's have a version that works, a back up that will always work for that system, they never update it, instead they bring out a completely new system. So I wanted a non-PC based control, not many out there. I found Masso, all in one controller, no PC, lots of inputs, outputs, 5 axis support, even a popular Youtube channel, $650 USD. It's pricey, but sounds worth it. It has been in production for 4 years. Sponsored reviews however will only be positive.

I needed something reliable for threading, so I bought it, plus I was kind of in a panic since to get it threading. I'll try to make this review as fair and least biased as possible, but the bad bits are.... bad.

Postage was fast, took only 3 business days from Ozz to Canada. Well packaged, and the product is compact and well labelled. Wired up the power and screen, it required firmware from a USB, that which you download from their site. The firmware determines whether it is lathe, mill, plasma or how many axis, you pay for the number of axis. Installation was a piece of cake. Mine had a back-up battery error, so I opened it up, battery was good health, put it back together and never got the alarm ever again. The inside looks very well built, all of the isolators for the inputs are in sockets, so if you kill one it can be replaced. All input and outputs are on removable terminal blocks, overall the quality and feel was very good.

Setting up the motors, spindle, homing, speeds and accelerations was all very easy, no problems at all. A criticism is that the encoder input only accepts one index pulse per spindle revolution, so if you have a machine that does not have a 1:1 ratio on the encoder timing belt you will need to add an index sensor. Nearly all industrial machines I've worked on do not have a 1:1 ratio on the encoder. I used a crank position sensor for mine, thankfully I had a circuit made from another project, so it worked out.

Ed Page14/05/2021 07:37:14
13 forum posts
32 photos

I don't think it could be made any easier to get working, I believe even those with very limited knowledge could get it working within a couple of hours, those familiar to CNC an hour at most. There is a ton of information and guides on their website and diagrams for pretty much every servo and stepper drive out there. There are a few bits of information missing, or rather very hard to find. Those are things like input/ output voltage and current ratings or how fast you can pulse an output.

It boots up very fast, they say 10 seconds but it is faster than that. I will often switch it off to save power between breaks. There is no special shutdown procedure. They also say you can resume a program after a power cut within the 10 seconds. Programs can only be loaded through USB, it has to be formatted to FAT32 to work.

However, running it there are some issues. At first it ran good, parts kept good tolerances and it felt reliable. It supports threading but only G32, not G76. It also runs a very basic set of G-codes, and arc's require centre points, not an issue if you use CAM and the correct post-processor, which Fusion 360 does have.

It supports Feed/rev but that only works on linear movements, it will rapid on an arc, so you can only use linear movement, Masso doesn't seem at all concerned about fixing this issue, but it is a known issue. If you choose feed per minute then arcs will work.

It is very very very susceptible to noise which causes all USB devices to disconnect. Often switching my spindle motor on will disconnect them, which involves continuously plugging and unplugging them, ok if its not in a cabinet. The program continues to run but you cannot pause it when this is happening, fingers crossed it doesn't swarf. It is intended for all industries, if my 1HP motor unloaded will affect it then not sure how it could cope in an industrial machines electrical cabinet. You can attach a start and feed hold button totally separate to the keyboard, these will continue to work. So this doesn't make it unusable, but you will need to purchase a couple of buttons. It will be a problem if you need to change programs or offsets frequently.

The biggest issue. If you choose to do threading then it will loose its place over time. I have 40 parts to run, as in one of the pictures. 2.85" - 12 TPI thread. Every part it looses 8 thou in the Z axis. My machine is running metric, so that's exactly 0.2mm per run. Every couple of parts I have to reset the Z position, otherwise the tool will eventually crash.

It has some turning wizards, roughing OD, ID and facing including a threading wizard, these work perfect. You can edit the program on screen if it's no more than 50 lines long, which means unplug your USB and edit it on a computer instead.

Lastly it picks strange numbers to go to. For example my servos are set at 0.01mm per step, so it should be able to hit 20.01, 20.02, 20.03 etc.. For some reason say I want 20.02, it might go to 20.01 instead, but on the next run it will manage to hit 20.02. I bored out some 40 parts from 50 to 60mm, about 500 passes total, did not loose position at all. My check pass would vary up and down by 0.03mm, adjust it for the final pass and I would always hit dead on tolerance, without the check pass it would vary up and down. That could be down to variances in material hardness, or even the machines hardware.

So overall I would not recommend this controller, I wrote this review because I think it's unfair for anyone else to make the same mistake as me. On paper it looks very good, the quality looks excellent, the graphical interface is clean and easy to use. Anything requiring units per minute and non-synchronised movement it will work perfect, so for milling it would be just great. As for the lathe it is a complete disaster. Should not be released in this state.

I will try for a refund, and base my final score from that.

I hope my review passes the forums rules, this could be an expensive mistake for me and possibly others.


Lastly, is there any particular controller anyone recommends that supports threading for lathe? Ideally non PC based. I've only ever heard good things from Linux CNC, I just have no knowledge of Linux. I would also be curious to know if anyone has use those generic Chinese controls.

Edited By Ed Page on 14/05/2021 07:39:26

David Colwill14/05/2021 09:42:01
778 forum posts
40 photos

I moved from Mach 3 to Linux because of the threading issues. I found Linux a pain to get going on but it has been great now I have it running.

There are a few Chinese controllers out there and I was tempted.

The super cheap CW20t was very tempting but I seem to be sorted for now.

I have two lathes on Linux, one running off a parallel port and 1 off a Mesa 7i96.

Both work very well.


Martin Connelly14/05/2021 10:10:16
2137 forum posts
222 photos

Out of curiosity I have looked at the Masso offerings in the past week. I have also looked at various other off-line controllers but the Masso caught my eye because it had MDI but most off-line controllers do not seem to do it and I use it a lot. It looks good on paper as you say but the price for a 4 axis mill didn't give me incentive to move away from Mach3. A second controller would also require a second license. I have seen reviews of Mach4 where the reviewer gave up on Mach4 and reverted to Mach3 because Mach3 was stable. I also use Mach3 on my lathe and have no issues with the version I have being stable and threading perfectly.

My lathe has a large motor and chuck and together with a little signal conditioning board close to the index detector gives stable index pulses. I use Smoothstepper motion controllers and very old laptops running XP (I tell them they are desktops, they don't know better and so I don't have some of the feared issues of laptops). If the old laptops die I know that as long as I can pick up old and cheap laptops with a USB port I can continue with the system I have. I also use servo steppers with the driver error signal feeding back to Mach3 so missed steps would trigger an error and stop the CNC program. If you are not happy with the look of Mach3 you can use something like Machscreen to create your own screen sets or modify the existing ones. The laptops are not internet connected so no chance of anything changing them unless I introduce it on a USB stick. I can revert to a clean install of XP from the various installation disks I still have. Mach3 folder is backed up as well.

The biggest threat to my system is the Smoothstepper failing. If I can't get a direct replacement then I need to find something that works with the single index pulse in the same way. I have used a board that read the pulse and gave spindle speed feedback but would not synch for threading. That wasted some time!

I am of the view that if it isn't broken then don't fix it but keep your eyes on new developments for when it does break.

Martin C

Alan Jackson14/05/2021 10:40:22
258 forum posts
146 photos

I may be old fashioned but I have never had a problem with Turbocnc with a lathe and threading. It works with an old Dell laptop which needs a printer port and operates on DOS only. I am not a professional at this, it is only home workshop and probably quite slow compared to modern versions. It can deal with curves, feed/rev, G33, G76. tapers etc. It only works with one pulse/rev but it is reliable. The screen only shows G code but you soon get the hang of it.


Edited By Alan Jackson on 14/05/2021 10:41:04

mgnbuk14/05/2021 12:18:03
1188 forum posts
71 photos

Nearly all industrial machines I've worked on do not have a 1:1 ratio on the encoder.

Really ?

Every industrial CNC lathe I have worked on since 1978 has had a 1:1 drive spindle encoder or resolver. Standard encoder used by Fanuc, Siemens etc is a 1024 line encoder driven 1:1. Without the single reference point provided by the encoder Z channel you don't screwcut, as the control cannot calculate the synchronisation between spindle position & axis feed to pick up threads & generate the correct pitch.

Can't help with a non-PC hobby lathe control - Masso is the only one I have seen & only know of that because it appears to be the only CNC offering from Sherline now. The Chinese controllers that closely mimic Fanucs are appealing, but for the price I would be concerned about support. Zapp Automation in the UK handle a range of them, but Mrs B would not be impressed if I approached the domestic accounts to fund one. I did download the manuals for one of them (Newkye IIRC) & the cycle operation descriptions appeared to have been scanned from a Fanuc manual ! The built-in PLC also appeared to offer very similar functionality and programming to the Fanuc ladder arrangement. The biggest difference is that the Chinese controller was not closed loop, with step/direction outputs and no axis (other than spindle) feedback provision.

My current project at work is retrofitting a replacement control onto a Gildemeister lathe that was originally controlled by a Fanuc 3T Mate. The bespoke interface between the control and machine (not a PLC) died & it was not much more work to replace the control with one with a built-in PLC than fit a stand-alone PLC in place of the old interface. Control of choice for this machine is a Fagor 8055TC due to price - at £6500 + Vat for the control hardware + 2 MPGs, it is the least expensive, known make, fully featured, industrially rated conversational turning control I could find. I retrofitted another (larger) machine several years ago with a Heidenhain conversational turning control (other machines at work have versions of this control) & the hardware for that was around £15 K. Kind of puts the cost of a Masso into perspective - but the biggest noticable difference for the money with the industrial controllers is that they work reliably in an industrial environment ! They are also exculsively closed loop, with either analogue or digital control - no step / direction option - so "proper" servo drives required for the axes.

Nigel B.

Another JohnS14/05/2021 12:43:53
832 forum posts
56 photos

Ed - thanks for the write-up.

I've got 3 CNC machines here (although one is a little Sherline lathe, was going to CNC an Emco Compact-8 but never got around to it so sold it on)

All 3 machines have small dedicated PCs running LinuxCNC with Mesa cards. Only a trackball-mouse as input, no keyboard. Right now, no network. I take stuff via USB from my office to my workshop. Machines boot on power, so I turn on power to the machine, it boots. All 3 computers have identical hardware.

Two have been running for years, no issues, although work/life has taken me from the workshop quite a bit over the last year or two. The Sherline lathe is the one that has not had much time; currently no spindle encoder. (was thinking of just taking a MASSO one from Sherline and using that) so not a lot of experience with a dedicated lathe, unfortunately.

LinuxCNC did go through a bad spell - real-time modules changed, and the new one is not (from what I understand) that great with the old parallel port one-byte-at-a-time protocol.

I think that, our small club here in Ottawa, of those with working CNC metal working machines in their workshop, 100% are LinuxCNC.

Each to their own, of course, there's no 100% correct solution to anything.

Rod Ashton14/05/2021 13:19:31
340 forum posts
12 photos

Take a look at Planet CNC.

David Riley14/05/2021 16:37:03
11 forum posts

Re-mgnbuk, According to **LINK** Zapp automation closed down last year due to Covid.

mgnbuk14/05/2021 17:48:36
1188 forum posts
71 photos

Zapp automation closed down last year

That would explain why when I search for Zapp Automation I get to Motion Control Products

For the project I mentioned above I used Kinco brushless servo drives purchased from Zapp to replace the dead Siemens DC drives originally fitted (any day I can ditch Siemens stuff is a good day ! ), so the loss of support would have been a blow. But Gary seems to have restarted as MCP, based in Bournmouth now, not Poole. Glad he is still on the go - he was always quick to get back WRT technical queries.

The Chinese controls he can get are shown here.

Thanks for the clarification.

Nigel B

Ed Page14/05/2021 19:48:28
13 forum posts
32 photos

Thanks for the replies everyone!

Nigel B, I am mistaken, most are 1:1, there have been a few with Fanuc controls I've worked on that have had a much smaller encoder pulley, the Siemens have always been 1:1. I guess it all depends on the setup, an index pulse isn't needed at all if the encoder is powered by the backup battery.

I've looked into the Mesa and LinuxCNC, the 7I96 seems to be the winning solution so far, sounds to be the most popular choice too.

Planet CNC does sound pretty good too, and it will run on most platforms.

Only Chinese control I've run was a GSK, but they are a premium full machine control, very similar to that in the Motion control products link.

I would be curious to know if anyone has had luck with those you see on Amazon.

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