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Use of Open Source Distribution for a Machine Tool Controller



William P. Shackleford, Frederick M. Proctor


In recent years a growing number of government and university labs, non-profit organizations and even a few for-profit corporations have found that making their source code public is good for both developers and users. In machine tool control, a growing number of users are demanding that the controllers they buy be ``open architecture'', which would allow third parties and end-users at least limited ability to modify, extend or replace the components of that controller. This paper examines the advantages and dangers of going one step further, and providing open source controllers by relating the experiences of users and developers of the Enhanced Machine Controller (EMC), an open-source controller. We also examine some implications for the development of standards for open-architecture but closed-source controllers. Some of the questions we hope to answer include: How can the quality be maintained after the source code has been modified? Can the code be trusted to run on expensive machines and parts, or when the safety of the operator is an issue? How much help can the users and developers expect from each other? Can open-architecture but closed-source controllers ever achieve the level of flexibility or extensibility that open-source controllers can?
Proceedings Title
International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE) Photonics East Conference
Conference Dates
November 5-8, 2000
Conference Location
Boston, MA
Conference Title
Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE) Photonics East Conference


computer-numerical control, computer-numerical control, Linux, Linux, open architecture, open architecture, open architecture control, open architecture control, open source, open source, real-time control, real-time control


Shackleford, W. and Proctor, F. (2000), Use of Open Source Distribution for a Machine Tool Controller, International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE) Photonics East Conference, Boston, MA, [online], (Accessed July 13, 2024)


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Created November 1, 2000, Updated February 17, 2017