Touchscreen only interface

We are likely going to get 2 XL’s (XXL?) for use in a youth maker-space-type program. For ease of use, I am considering using a cheap sub-$100 windows 10 tablet running carbide motion as a touchscreen control and integrate it into the Shapeoko enclosure we’ll create. This would be the only control used 99% of the time. I intend to set this device to auto login to our domain and mount a network drive via wifi, ban all other programs from running and start CM on boot.

My very limited understanding is that using the touchscreen of the device would provide all the interface needed to control the machine. I intend to have our kids save cut-ready files to a network drive and then using wifi select files from the location to then carve. If we get fancy, I could also expose a USB port or two to the outside and allow USB drive access as well.

Any concerns with this approach in general based on something I don’t understand about the workflow?

It works, but navigating file dialogs can be a pain — I usually reach for a stylus for that.

Turning on tablet mode doesn’t help that as much as it ought to my mind — but I haven’t investigated beyond trying since I usually reach for the stylus rather than troubling with it — remember, rather than a native toolkit, Carbide 3D is using the cross-platform QT (which translates to lowest-common denominator — I understand the reasons for the choice, but I don’t like it, and I really wish that we could afford to use native toolkits on both platforms, or something I find more palatable such as GNUstep).

My suggestion would be to get a stand-alone track/touchpad (preferably Bluetooth so as to avoid the need for a third USB port, see below), or a keyboard which has one (covering the keys with one of the shop-oriented custom-molded dust covers which are available — just figure out how you’re going to handle all the condom jokes in advance).

The other issue is ports — the reference design for Atom tablets only has one USB port, used for power as well as connectivity — you need a port to connect to the machine, and you need to power the machine for long cuts. My Toshiba has an adapter which allows for this, and some people have found powered hubs to be helpful.

Carbide 3D did just announce a “Carbide Connect” product which will make the machine connection wireless, which would be a big help, but I’d suggest minimizing how much the tablet is allowed to move and the need to plug/unplug it (some of the tablet mini-USB connectors are quite fragile due to the pricepoints set by the build).

I use both a wireless keyboard and a wireless number pad for jogging. I find that when I am setting zero I want to be down near the action. I think you will find a stationary touch screen makes it more difficult to set zero.

I’m using an RCA Cambio that I got from Amazon for $110. The keyboard is nice to have, but probably not strictly necessary. The only concern I have with it is that when using the tablet screen to jog, I seem to get more of the “multiple unintentional key presses when jogging” error than I do when using the keyboard.

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I started with a tablet PC on my XXL and quickly found it to be pretty cumbersome. As mentioned, single micro USB port for power and connectivity, I had a whole slew of connectors connected and a hub before I got it working “ok”. In the end the screen resolution was also lacking and some programs (I think Meshcam as well as Carbide Create) would get the bottom of the screens cut off with no way to resize or scroll unless I flipped the tablet on it’s side to re-orient the screen just so I could click “ok”. With kids it might not matter, but the tablet was hard on my older eyes as well. I eventually tossed the tablet and bought a HP mini PC (5"x5"x3" case or so) for $99 at Fry’s which included wireless keyboard and mouse. Picked up a 24" display at Walmart for another $120 or so and for about the price of the original tablet plus all of the additional adapters, mouse, etcetera I have what I feel is a much better setup. I added a bluetooth 10key key pad for jogging from Amazon for another $16 and I’m pretty thrilled. My wife still uses the tablet a little, so not a total loss. May work for some folks, didn’t work for me. Just my $0.02


That’s what I like about that RCA Cambio - it has a separate power port, so there’s no adapters and what not for the USB. It’s a VERY weak computer, though, and I only use it to run Carbide Motion.

It has exactly two things on it: Dropbox and Carbide Motion. I have Dropbox setup on there to only sync one folder from my account, which is where I put my g-code files. Works great! Any time I’ve tried to do more complicated stuff, though, it just doesn’t have the juice…

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I think you will find a stationary touch screen makes it more difficult to set zero.

I’ll admit I’m hoping for the home if probe to be available soon to mitigate some of the complexity of that task.

I’d also plan that only CM is running there, carbide create, mesh cam, etc would be done from pc’s.

I also agree that tablet OTG charging is not as simple as I’d like, and a tablet with a dedicated charging port is ideal. My thought is the tablet would be securely mounted to the enclosure and used only for this purpose.

If the touchscreen is fairly unreliable, I might look to add buttons via a USB HID interface board.

Using a numeric keypad works well, and I’ve used a Wii Remote over Bluetooth and found that it worked well for jogging the machine.

Lots more on the wiki about this sort of thing:

I’d love the Bluetooth option for home, but in our situation, I’m certain we’ll need something bolted down. :wink:

Looks like there are great options out there.