Sure you can! But we thought you might like to hear the differences and why we use our A1X or A5X DSP controllers...
Mach 3: Mach 3 is software controller that is loaded to a PC and used to run the CNC. The step and direction signals used to drive your CNC are generated by the PC or laptop motherboard and not a dedicated controller card with it's own time clock. An expert online proponent/reseller of Mach 3 compatible components state on their website: "You cannot use a USB to printer adapter because it will alter critical timing of CNC control signals. Laptop computers, even those with parallel port interfaces, are not recommended as CNC control computers due to design features that can alter critical timing. If you must use a laptop be prepared to deal with these design issues and/or plan on using an external pulse generating device with Mach4, or a SmoothStepper." (DSP systems have this functionality built in).
We have had issues in supporting other (3rd party) Mach3 CNC systems in the past - including frustrating errors developed when big items of woodworking gear like bandsaws were switched on (connected to same circuit and nearby) and creating noise/EMF in the PC to CNC cable connections.
As well as costing money to purchase the breakout board (to connect motors, sensors etc) the Mach 3 interface itself is quite 'busy' and certainly -we find- not as straight forward as the DSP equipped machines. Of course as your CNC prowess improves then the additional complexity and functions of the Mach 3 system might be useful to you - but we have done some pretty complex commercial work for people in the past with our A1X equipped machine!
On top of the Mach 3 subscription and breakout board and suitable desktop PC (remember you can't use a laptop?) - you'll still also need a CAM program (post processor) to generate G-Code too! Oh and PC's don't like dusty workshops in our experience and they'll get pretty cruddy and will need maintenance (read: oh no not more cleaning!). The DSP requires no PC near the machine and you can do all of your programming in the nice dust-free office or classroom.
So in short we tend to offer DSP based CNCs based on the fact it's just so easy to train people and get them comfortable with operating - especially people who might be rusty or have never used a CNC system before.
This system is a self contained installation consisting of a pendant handset on a long lead (to manually drive the machine around and set zero's etc) and a card within the electronics cabinet that does all the necessary timing and maths to drive the motors and sense what's going on e.g. home limit switches etc. It's cheap and reliable and above all - very easy to learn.
Apart from the odd software upgrade and broken handset - we have had next to no issues with our clients using the DSP system.
Some expert CNC operators might say it's too simple and they would be correct probably, but if you're into buildng/tweaking CNCs then sure buy a different system. If, on the other hand - you just want to teach kids or make money... then the DSP systems are pretty awesome for that.
You will still need a CAM/post processor and that's why we suggest VCarve or other Vectric products - they are CAD/CAM all-in-one and work a treat. Of course if you have Inventor, Fusion360 or SolidWorks HSM, RhinoCam, BOBCAM or anything else that will generate GCode... the DSP systems will work with all those too!
We love our DSP. Got better things to do than play around tweaking/fixing CNCs!