The TinyG Motion Controller

When you go to a trade show of any kind, you’re expecting cool demos in the booths. At Maker Faire, there were plenty, but one of the most hypnotic was a robot built around Synthetos’ TinyG motion controller.

The demo was simply a large CNC gantry moving a ball bearing around on a string. The gantry moved in the X and Y axes, and the miniature wrecking ball was spooled and unspooled in the Z axis. The ball move around the space, coming to a complete stop without any swaying. There were even a few clear plastic tubes that the ball fell in, and popped out of without raising or lowering the string. It’s the height of motion controller coolness, all made possible with the TinyG.

The TinyG was one of a few motion control and CNC boards found at the faire. In its base configuration, it has 6 axes of motion control, RS485 to network several boards for crazy machine configurations, and a suitably powerful processor to do everything correctly.

The Thurber Feeder 5000 Helps to Slow Fido Down

Does your dog eat too fast? [Thurber] does, and he even chokes occasionally while snarfing down the kibble — naturally this worried his owners, so [Jason] stepped up to the challenge to slow him down. Introducing the Thurber Feeder 5000.

[Jason] is a seasoned maker, and has built a few CNC machines in his day — he’s even automated an Etch a Sketch with stepper motors. Making the Thurber Feeder 5000 was a piece of cake. He designed the entire thing in 3D CAD and then used his home-made CNC machine to cut out all the parts, 3D printing a few of the more complex mounting brackets.

It’s a fairly simple device consisting of a food hopper (seal-able to keep Thurber away), a stepper motor and an auger bit borrowed from a chocolate fondue fountain. The stepper goes through a 6:1 belt pulley ratio which gives it a whopping 200 oz-in of torque to push those kibbles and bits through the feeding pipe. The speed is adjustable by programming the Parallax Propeller, so once they found an acceptable eating speed [Jason] set it as default. A single button turns it on, and while the machine is running it lights up — turning off when little [Thurber] is done.

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A Folding Laser Cutter

Want a laser cutter, but don’t have the space for one? How about a portable machine to engrave and cut wood and plastics? A folding laser cutter solves these problems, and that’s exactly what Red Ant Lasers was showing off last weekend at Maker Faire.

Inside the team’s Origami laser cutter is a 40 Watt CO2 tube, shooting its beam along an entirely enclosed beam path. The beam travels through the body of the machine, out into the folding arm of the machine, and down to whatever material you’ve placed the Origami on. It’s a 40 Watt laser so it will cut plywood and plastics, and as shown in the video above, does a fine job at engraving plywood.

This is a Class 4 laser device operating without any safety glass, but from the short time I spent with the Red Ant team, this is a reasonably safe device. You will need safety glasses if you’re within five feet, but after that, everything (according to OSHA, I think) is safe and not dangerous. Either way, it’s a tool just like a table saw. You don’t see commentors on the Internet complaining about how a spinning metal blade is dangerous all the time, do you?

The Red Ant guys are currently running a Kickstarter for their project, with a complete unit going for $4200. It’s pricier than a lot of other lasers, but not being constrained by the size of a laser cutters enclosure does open up a few interesting possibilities. You could conceivably cut a 4×8 sheet of plywood with this thing, and exceptionally large engravings start looking easy when you have a portable laser cutter.

Cryogenic Machining: Custom Rubber Parts

Fashioning a custom, one-off rubber part for your project isn’t usually an option, but [Ben Krasnow] has an alternative to injection molding and casting: machining frozen rubber.

As [Ben] points out, you can’t exactly pop a sheet of rubber on your mill and CNC the needed shape; the bit will push the material around rather than cut it. Freezing the rubber first, however, allows you to carve into the now-hardened material.

His initial setup consisted of a sheet of aluminum with water drizzled on top, a square of neoprene placed on the water, and a steady stream of -60 to -80C alcohol flowing directly onto the rubber. The water underneath freezes, holding the neoprene in place. This proved problematic as the ice-clamp gives way before the milling is complete. [Ben] later adds some bolts to clamp the pieces down, allowing the milling process finish as planned.

A small plastic tray sits underneath this assembly to capture the alcohol as it runs off, feeding it back with some tubing. [Ben] recommends against a submersible aquarium pump—his initial choice—because the pump stopped working after a few minutes immersed in the chilly alcohol. An external, magnetically-driven pump solved the problem although it does require manual priming.

Stick around after the jump for the video and check out some of [Ben's] other projects, like his quest for the perfect cookie, or CT scanning a turkey.

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USB to DB25 Adapter Uses GRBL For Parallel Port CNC Communication

With the continuing manufacture of new computers, there is a clear and obvious trend of the parallel port becoming less and less common. For our younger readers; the parallel port is an interface standard used for bi-directional communication between a computer and a variety of peripherals. The parallel port’s demise is partially due to the invention of the USB standard.

If tinkering with CNC Machines is one of your hobbies then you are familiar with the parallel port interface being fairly popular for CNC control board connections. So what do you do if your new fancy computer doesn’t have a parallel port but you still want to run your CNC Machine? Well, you are certainly not stuck as [Bray] has come up with a USB to Parallel Port Adapter solution specifically for CNC use.

A cheap off-the-shelf USB to DB25 adapter may look like a good idea at first glance but they won’t work for a CNC application. [Bray's] adapter is Arduino-based and runs GRBL. The GRBL code is responsible for taking the g-code commands sent from the computer, storing them in a buffer until they are ready to be converted to step and direction signals and sent to the CNC controller by way of the parallel port DB25 connector. This is a great solution for people needing to control a CNC Machine but do not have a parallel port available.

[Bray] is using a Raspberry Pi running GRBLweb to control his adapter board. However, there are other programs you can use to communicate with GRBL such as Universal G-Code Sender and GRBL Controller.

The board has been created in Eagle PCB Software and milled out using [Bray's] CNC Router. The design is single-sided which is great for home-brew PCBs. He’s even made a daughter board for Start, Hold and Reset input buttons. As all great DIYers, [Bray] has made his board and schematic files available for others to download.

DIY CNC Dust Collection

CNC machines are great at churning out custom parts, but they tend to make a mess in the process. [Darcy] has built up his own CNC dust collection rig to collect the dust and keep his workspace clean.

To capture the dust, a custom dust skirt encloses the cutting tool and directs the vacuum. This was made by gluing acrylic parts together, creating a box that contains the dust and provides a connection for the vacuum system.

For $1, [Darcy] built a cyclone dust extractor. This spins air around in circles, causing the dust to fall to the bottom of a container. The result is less dust reaching the vacuum, and much less money spent on vacuum bags.

Since the vacuum makes quite a bit of noise, a muffler was needed. This is just a simple wood box to contain the machine. It can also be used to vent the exhaust outside to further prevent polluting the workspace.

While we’ve seen some similar builds in the past, [Darcy]‘s design could be helpful for those looking to build their own system. He also gives us a video which shows the effectiveness of the dust skirt, which you can find after the break.

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A Tale of Two Ring Boxes

This is a tale of two hearts, two engagements, and two ring boxes. About a couple of years ago, [curtisabrina] proposed to his girlfriend. Rather than just hand her the ring, he placed it in a locking ring box [imgur link] he custom-made. The box seems normal at first glance, but lifting up the first drawer reveals a complex and ornate gear system. The gears can only be turned by a pair of interlocking heart-shaped keys – a gift [curtisabrina] had given her months earlier. The mechanism is nothing short of stunning – planetary reductions drive a spring-loaded iris which opens to reveal an engagement ring.

[curtisabrina] built his ring box after hours at his signmaking job. The job gave him access to some incredible tools, such as the MultiCam 3000 series CNC. The box turned out great, and he showed his work off in a Reddit thread.

Fast forward two years. [joetemus] was getting ready to propose to his girlfriend, and wanted to do something similar. He didn’t have access to high-end shop tools, but he did have a Shapeoko 2. Using the original box as inspiration, [joetemus] started designing. Over time, trial, and error, a second ring box emerged [imgur link]. Like the original box, [joetemus] started with a rough cut board. Nearly every part, including the aluminum gears, was cut on the Shapeoko 2. [joetemus] also celebrated his accomplishment with a Reddit thread.

[joetemus's] ring box isn’t quite as complex or polished as [curtisabrina's], but he was working with a machine that cost much less than the equipment [curtisabrina] was using. We think both of them are great, and are happy to report that both of their girlfriends said, “Yes!”

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