A portable CNC mill

Proxxon

Second only to a lathe, a mill is one of the most useful tools to have in a shop. For [juppiter], though, a proper multi-ton mill would take up too much space and be a considerable investment. His solution to his space problem is actually very clever: he converted a small, inexpensive benchtop mill to CNC control, and put everything in a nice box that can be tucked away easily (Italian, here’s the translation).

The mill [juppiter] chose for the conversion was a Proxxon MF70, a very small mill made for jewelers and modelers. After buying a CNC conversion kit that included a few NEMA 17 motors, bearings, and mounting plates, [juppiter] set to work on driving these motors and controlling them with a computer. For the stepper drivers, a few industrial motor drivers were sourced on eBay, driven by an i3 miniITX computer built into the mill’s box. Control is through a touchscreen LCD and a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

So far, [juppiter] has crafted a very elegant wood and brass CNC controller that allows him to jog the axes around and set the home position. It’s an excellent build that really shows off the power and ability of these inexpensive desktop mills.

30 thoughts on “A portable CNC mill

  1. A very neat job. I converted the same mill, but still have the wires for the stepper motors duct taped to the bench. I must get round to tidying it up, but once you’re up and running it’s easy to get distracted by things to mill!

  2. I’m honestly not trying to knock anyone, but really looking for insight. The opening statement says “Second only to a lathe…”

    I’m in the preschool stages of CNC and wondering what I’m missing by not having a lathe vs. my CNC router.

      1. It’s not. (CNC machinist’s opinion). I regard them both as equally important. You can do a few milling jobs on a lathe; quite a bit of lathe-type work on a CNC mill (just not as fast). But really, you’re crippled if you don’t have both. If I had to pick, I’d rather have only a mill than only a lathe – it’s more versatile. And I’d be looking to pick up a lathe.

      2. They are like a hammer and saw to a carpenter, both useful and have different jobs. Well, more like a saw and a drill, as both remove wood but in different ways.

    1. Generally speaking, a mill can do anything a lathe can do, but will be less efficient for the things a lathe does well (round symmetrical work).

      I could get by without my lathe. It would take a lot more setup time to do its job with my mill, but a lathe is a pretty terrible substitute for a mill.

        1. You can helical mill both internal and external threads on a mill using a single point threading tool. G12 is CW, G13 is CCW.

          1. Only if they’re short pieces. Very short in most cases (flex, lack of Z etc)

            Or use a rotary axis, which is basically bolting a lathe onto your mill.

            As the saying goes “You can mill on a lathe, and lathe on a mill”, however “lathe as mill” usually works better than “mill as lathe”.

      1. I turned down 7 foot long pieces of 1-3/8″ stainless rods for air cylinders with threads on each end and shoulder to mount the piston. Good luck doing this on a mill. You can do very short work in a mill used as a lathe, but anything of length or needing support needs a lathe.

        A lathe is considered the base piece of equipment.

    2. I’d agree that a lathe is great but not as useful as a mill. I started with a small CNC mill, then a 3D printer. Next would be a laser cutter, then a lathe (probably CNC but maybe manual) and a bigger mill.

      1. I feel the same, but I can see the point about threading, many times I wish I had some way to make custom threading, and I can see that if you have one you’ll miss the other.

  3. The main link points to the blog – which has moved on. The latest project is apparently a CNC sewing machine hybrid, for needlework.
    Which is nice, but it ain’t a CNC. So you need to look through the older blog postings.

    1. CNC is Computer Numeric Control, so any machine that is controlled by a computer. A computer controlled sewing machine is CNC.

      1. Indeed, the first “NC” machine, and ancestor of all CNC machines was the Jacquard loom. The textile industry has a long and rich history, and CNC has an amazing breadth of application outside the machine shop.

    2. Old grannies hacking GameBoys to run their sewing machines have been around long before Hackaday. Get back in your basement, Junior.

      The scrapbook crowd are fairly well acquainted with CNC as well.

      It’s not all lathes & mills & lasers & plasma cutters, y’know.

      On a related note, don’t dis the crazy sewing & scrapbook women. For a start they’re crazy, plus they have sharp knives and steady hands.

  4. Second and Third only to a robotic full axis TIG and milling arm…

    3D printing and CNC really need some skilled people with imagination. It’s not rocket science to design affordable solutions and all these people obviously have the time…

  5. Nice but not easy or cheap to emulate, that unmodified MF70 is €360 already, and if you mess thing up it’s no good .

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