PVC CNC Machine Build Results In A Great Learning Experience

Hobby level CNC machines are fun to use and are a great tool to make your projects with. So how does a CNC newb get started? Our opinion is that it’s best to jump right in and get doing. [WTH] wanted to learn more about CNC machines and decided to build his own using parts that were kicking around his house.

As you can see, the frame is made from PVC pipe. In addition, the linear rails are also PVC and the linear bearings….. larger diameter PVC. Scavenged stepper motors and threaded rod are responsible for moving the X and Y axes. Electronics-wise, an Arduino Uno running GRBL and a Protoneer CNC Shield outfitted with StepSticks drive the motors. Here’s a test drawing completed by the machine:

PVC CNC

Admittedly, this CNC machine won’t be milling out steel parts any time soon but that is not the point. [WTF] has learned the mechanics, electronics and software associated with CNC machines and that was the point of the project. We are looking forward to seeing how his next machine comes out.

This isn’t the first PVC CNC machine we’ve seen on Hackaday, check out this unorthodox one.

An Open Source, DIY Digitizer

When you look at the current methods of scanning 2D and 3D objects available today, you’re basically looking at an imaging process. Either you take a picture of a 2D object, or you grab a blob of point clouds with a 3D scanner and make a 3D object that way. It wasn’t always like this – real, hardware 3D digitizers were used all the way back in the 70s, and touch probes are standard equipment on high-end CNC machines.

[Nikolaj Møbius] needed a way to record points in physical space, and not wanting to deal with the problems of images, he made an open source DIY digitizer. It’s basically a laser cut arm with rotary encoders at each joint. By reading the rotary encoders with an Arduino, [Nikolaj] can digitize a few points on a workpiece – just enough to make a bracket, or find the critical dimensions of a part.

It’s a great tool for when you need a little more information than a set of calipers can provide, and a great example of some ancient tech made useful again.

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Robottermilk Pancakes

With a name like that how could we possibly pass up featuring this one? Truly a hack, this pancake making robot was built in under 24 hours. [Carter Hurd], [Ryan Niemo], and [David Frank] won the 2015 Ohio State University Makethon with the project.

The gantry runs on drawer sliders using belts from a RepRap. The motors themselves are DC with encoders. [Carter] tells us that since most 3D Printers are build on stepper motors this meant they had to scratch-build the control software but luckily were able to reuse PID software for the rest. Get this, the pump driving the pancake batter was pulled from a Keurig and a servo motor is used to kink the tubing, halting the flow. We are amused by the use of a Sriracha bottle as the nozzle.

It wasn’t just the printer being hacked together. The team also built an iPhone app that lets you draw your desired pattern and push it to the machine via WiFi.

Inspired yet? We are! If you’re anywhere near New York City you need to bring this kind of game to our Hackathon on May 2-3. One night, lots of fun, lots of food, and plenty of hardware. What can you accomplish?

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Mini BB-8 Droid Made from a Sphero

Hot on the heels of discovery that the BB-8 Droid from the new Star Wars movie is real, [Christian Poulsen] has made the very own miniature version of it!

It’s a brilliantly simple hack actually. Remember the Sphero? It’s a remote controlled ball you can drive around with your phone — great fun, but surprisingly not many people have hacked it…

The ball has an internal structure that allows it to roll around with ease. Which also means it has a fixed up direction — at least inside of the ball. All [Christian] had to do was crack it open and throw a magnet on the top of the inner-assembly. He then machined the droid’s head out of foam with another magnet (or metal, we’re not too sure) and boom-bada-bing it stays in place as the ball rolls.

Stick around after the break to see some GIFs of it adorably rolling around — and into things.

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Making Funhouse Mirror Lenses

[Robb] has had a little experience making lenses from scratch. His first attempt was for a DIY projector, and while the lens was a little blurry, it did work rather well for something carved out of a block of acrylic. Now he’s taking his experiments with lenses even further with DIY optics that turn everything into a funhouse mirror.

There were two techniques tested while making these lenses. The first was the old standby, CNC milling. A piece of acrylic was put in a CNC and carved with a 1/2″ ball mill. The second technique was 3D printing on a very fancy and very expensive Objet Connex 500. Neither of these methods produce a ready to use lens; to get a finished lens out of the machined or printed objects, [Robb] had to wet sand with 240, 320, 400, 600, 1000, 1500, and 2000 grit sandpaper. After a few hours worth of sanding, the parts were polished with a scratch remover.

Making a lens like this isn’t really that novel – it’s basically the same way lenses have been made for 500 years. The real trick here is making funhouse mirror style lenses. These lenses were created by raytracing in Rhino and Neon. It’s tricky; the index of refraction for acrylic is a little lower than glass, and the refraction for 3D photoresin is a bit higher than glass.

With those models in hand, it’s a relatively simple matter of making some very cool and very strange lenses.

Hands-On Othermill Review Grinds Out Sparkling Results

We’ve been on the lookout for alternatives to chemically etching circuit boards for years. The problem has been that we don’t particularly want to devote months of or lives learning how to build precision CNC mills. Off in the distance there may be an answer for that quandary if you don’t mind parting with twenty-two Benjamins. Sure, it’s a heck of a lot more expensive than toner transfer and cupric chloride, but the Othermill can be purchased right now (in your hands a few months later) and after reading this in-depth review we are a bit less hesitant about opening our wallets for it.

othermill-review-thumbIt’s a tome of a review, but that means there’s something for everybody. We especially enjoyed seeing the 10 mil board shown here which took about 1-hour to mill. Considering it has also been through-hole drilled we’d put that on part with the time it takes to etch a board. There are obvious places where the traces are not perfectly smooth (not sure if that’s burring or over-milling) but they are not broken and the board’s ready to be populated.

Alignment is something of an issue, but the Othermill isn’t limited to PCBs so we’d recommend designing and milling your own alignment bracket system as an early project.

Who isn’t envious of custom-builds that can get down to 10-mils, like this beauty from 2013. Our hopes had been sparked when Carbide 3D came onto the scene. We’re still optimistic that they will make a big splash when they start shipping preorders in a few months.

As this review proves, Othermill is already out in the wild with a 6-8 week wait before shipping. We saw it in action milling multiple materials at the Hackaday Omnibus Lauch Party and were duly impressed. Price or waiting-period aside we’re going to hold off until the software options expand beyond Mac-only; either Othermill will add support or someone will come up with a hack to use traditional CNC software. But if you count yourself as a subscriber to the cult of Apple the software, called Otherplan, does get a favorable prognosis along with the hardware.

Already have an Othermill sitting on your bench? Let us know your what you think about it in the comments below.

Bonus content: [Mike Estee], CTO of Othermill just gave a talk last night about how he got into making mills and the challenges of building something with super-high-precision. Sound isn’t good but the talk is solid. Hackaday’s [Joshua Vasquez] also gives a talk on the video about building an SPI core for FPGA. These talks are one of the Hardware Developer’s Didactic Galactic series which you really should check out if you’re ever in the San Francisco area.

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Laser-Cut Clock Kicks Your CAD Tools to the Curb and Opts for Python

In a world deprived of stock hardware other than #6-32 bolts and sheets and sheets of acrylic, [Lawrence Kesteloot] took it upon himself to design and build a laser-cut pendulum clock. No Pricey CAD programs? No Problem. In a world where many fancy CAD tools can auto-generate gear models, [Lawrence] went back to first principles and wrote scripts to autogenerate the gear profiles. Furthermore, not only can these scripts export SVG files for the entire model for easy laser cutting, they can also render a 3D model within the browser using Javascript.

Given the small selection of materials, the entire project is a labor of love. Even the video (after the break) glosses over the careful selection of bearings, bolt-hole spacing, and time-sensitive gear ratios, each of which may be an easy macro in other CAD programs that [Lawrence], in this case, needed to add himself.

Finally, the entire project is open source and up for download on the Githubs. It’s not every day we can build ourselves a pendulum clock with a simple command-line-incantation to

make cut

Thanks for the tip, [Bartgrantham]!

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