Hackaday Prize Entry: A CNC Plasma Table

CNC routers and 3D printers are cool, but the last time I checked, cars and heavy machinery aren’t made out of wood and plastic. If you want a machine that will build other machines, you want a CNC plasma cutter. That’s [willbaden]’s entry for the Hackaday prize. It’s big, massive, and it’s already cutting.

A plasma CNC machine isn’t that much different from a simple CNC router. [will]’s table controller is just a GRBL shield attached to an Arduino, the bearings were stolen from many copy machines, and your motors and drivers are fairly standard, barring the fact they’re excessively huge for a simple 3D printer.

The real trick up [will]’s sleeve is the controller interface. For this, he’s mounted a Raspberry Pi display, a big, shiny, red button, and all the associated electronics behind a beautifully rusty welded enclosure. This part of the build just sends gcode over to the GRBL shield, and is doing so reliably. Right now [will] is looking for some way to save, arrange, and queue jobs on the Pi, a problem that is almost – but not quite – the same job Octoprint does. A software for big, mean CNCs that spew exotic states of matter is an interesting project, and we can’t wait to see where [will] goes with this one.

13 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: A CNC Plasma Table

    1. Yea, as much as I hate Mach3, it actually makes a lot of sense for a DIY plasma cutter. I’d definitely recommend something like the UC100, which is an ARM-based USB motion controller that interfaces Mach3 via a plugin. This gets around the hacky parallel port bit-banging (on a commercial non-real-time OS no less) that Mach3 is infamous for. So by the time that you’ve purchased a Mach3 license, a UC100, a decent breakout board with charge pump and e-stop, and some stepper drivers, and an enclosure to put it all in, you’re looking at $400 or so above and beyond whatever [willbaden] has already spent.

      LinuxCNC and a BBB would be considerably cheaper, but I’ve no idea what sort of plasma support is there, and how reliable it is.

      The last option, for the software-inclined, would be to just fork the github GRBL project, and add the torch-height control functionality into the code.

      1. As much as Mach3 annoys me, I use it on several machine, I hate it far less than I hate linux in general.

        I have a kflop from Dynomotion that I still need to integrate into my cnc mill. I got it with the optional optically isolated 24v I/O board. It uses a DSP to handle the pulse generation and it ties into the PC via USB. You can either use their own CNC interface software or drive it though a plugin with Mach3.

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