All of the Mantis machines are driven by the EMC machine control software. It interprets the G-code (tool path) files, and then generates sequences of pulses on the parallel port that drive the stepper motors.
To put this in perspective, the overall toolchain looks like this:
PCB layout (in Gerber or PNG format) -> CAM software (G-code tool path) -> EMC -> A3982 stepper drivers -> motors
What you need to put together a Mantis/EMC control system
1. A computer on which you can install the special EMC linux distribution
This computer needs to have a parallel port. If there is a port that looks like the picture below, you're all set.
Alternately, you can install an add on parallel port card. This is even an option with some laptops.
I use the SYBA SD-PCB-1P card with my laptop. Unfortunately, this is the only card I have tested.
However, cards that use a NetMos chipset like the Syba SD-PCI-1P or SD-PCI-2P are likely to work.
2. A parallel port interface board
Mill and populate a 4-axis parallel interface board.
3. Three A3982 stepper motor driver boards
The X, Y, and Z stepper motors are driven by the A3982 stepper boards. Make three of these. If you're careful, you should be able to fit all three on one 2x3" board.
4. Other parts
You'll also need a DB25 male to female cable, like Mouser.com 601-30-9506MF, some ribbon cable, and corresponding 2x4 pin connectors. Also you'll need a 100+ watt ATX power supply.
Setup the software
Go to http://www.linuxcnc.org/ and download a copy of the EMC Live CD/Installer. Once this file downloads, use your favorite software to burn the image on to a CD.
Insert the new EMC CD into your computer and reboot. Follow the on screen guide to install EMC on your computer. If you're trying to setup a dual boot system or have trouble during the installation, refer to one of the numerous Ubuntu installation guides (Google search).
First, download the prepackaged Mantis 9 configuration files here. Then from the places menu at the top of the screen, choose Home Folder. Then double click on emc2, and then configs. Extract the downloaded zip file here. This should create a directory called Mantis9.
Install A3982 boards
The A3982 boards are intended to be soldered directly to the motor leads. Using the picture at the top of the A3982 page as a reference, strip and solder on the motor wires.
Make ribbon cables
The A3982 boards are connected to the parallel port interface board by three ribbon cables. Cut three 12" long sections of ribbon cable, each 8 wires wide. Then attach the press on insulation displacement connectors. Align the connectors such that they are on the same side of the cable and the little plateaus on the insides of the connectors face each other.
Connect all of the cables
Next, use the DB25 cable to connect the parallel interface board to your computer's parallel port. Then install the ribbon cables. When connecting the ribbon cables to the A3982 boards, orient the connectors such that the cables are going toward the outside of the board. The interface board connectors are keyed to prevent backwards connections. Lastly, connect a computer power supply to the white disk drive connector on the interface board.
Modify your power supply
If you are using an ATX computer power supply, a simple modification is required. Look for the green wire in the main connector. Snip this wire near the plug and then solder it to one of the nearby black wires. This will cause your supply to automatically turn on when its plugged in.
Let her rip!
Start up EMC
From the Applications menu, choose EMC. EMC will ask you which machine configuration you'd like to use. Click on Mantis 9 and you should be good to go. From this point, take a look at one of the online EMC tutorials to learn the basics of using the software.