Cortex Automation Aims for Plug-and-Play CNC Control with Its Teensy 4.1-Powered Neuron-1 Board

This chunky board, which aims to be as universal as possible, is brimming with RJ45 connectors for quick, secure, solder-free installation.

Gareth Halfacree
1 month agoRobotics / HW101

Italian startup Cortex Automation is preparing to launch a crowdfunding campaign for the Neuron-1, a "universal" computer numeric control (CNC) board with quick-connect RJ45 sockets and the ability to handle up to five axes.

"Neuron-1 is a universal five-axis CNC motion control system based on Teensy 4.1," Cortex Automation writes of its design. "A powerful 32-bit CNC controller running on the grblHAL firmware that is fast becoming the firmware of choice for CNC control due to the increased functionality and added features, replacing current eight-bit CNC controllers by far."

Designed, its creators say, for ease of use, the Neuron-1 is a carrier board hosting a Teensy 4.1 microcontroller — giving it a single Arm Cortex-M7 microcontroller core running at 600MHz, 1MB of RAM, 8MB of flash, and both USB 2.0 and Ethernet connectivity. The host board is then festooned with RJ45 sockets, not for networking but to provide solderless latching connectivity to the hardware under control including the five-axis control outputs, 5/24V outputs for ancillary systems like spindles, coolant, and dust extractors, and 0-10V analog or 5V pulse-width modulated (PWM) outputs for laser modules and other variable devices.

The remainder of the sockets provide five closed-loop stepper motor or servo alarm inputs, opto-isolated inputs for emergency stop, door sensor, start buttons, and the like, opto-isolated inputs for limit switches compatible with both mechanical and inductive switches, and four opto-isolated auxiliary inputs — plus a dedicated override input. There's SD Card storage, an auxiliary USB connection, an I2C bus for external hardware, and a header for an unspecified "additional computer module."

Cortex Automation has also pledged to offer a range of expansion devices compatible with the Neuron-1, including a driver adapter and a relay module — the latter taking a single output and controlling four relays, all with fuse protection. "Neuron-1 [is] plug and play with all our expansions," the company claims, "guaranteeing surprising speed and ease of installation."

More information on the Neuron-1 is available on the Cortex Automation website; a crowdfunding campaign is due to launch later this week, with interested parties invited to sign up on Kickstarter to be notified when it goes live.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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