Pulse Generator Tells Your Motors “Get Ta Steppin”

Stepper Motor Pulse Generator

Stepper motors are great for a bunch of projects; CNC machines, clocks or robots for example. Sometimes when working on a project that does include a stepper motor and driver, it would be nice to test that part of the build without hooking everything up. A pulse generator could be used to complete such a task and [CuteMinds] has put together a DIY friendly version tailored specifically for stepper motors. This device makes quick and easy work for testing out those stepper motors.

At the heart of the pulse generator is a 12F675 microchip which looks to the resistance value of a potentiometer to adjust the square wave step signal output from 20hz to 3khz. Just having the step signal would pretty cool but this project goes a little farther. There are 3 sets of headers on the board that allow you to connect either a jumper or switch in order to: 1) turn the power on, 2) enable the stepper driver and 3) select the direction the motor turns. The on-board batteries make this unit portable for remote usage.

If you are itching to make one for yourself, the Eagle schematic and board files are available for download at the above link.

$400 DIY CNC Machine is Surprisingly Simple!

Once you go CNC you never go back — they’re just too darn convenient! [Drez20001] shows us how he made one for around $400. Who needs expensive roller bearings when you can use drawer slides?

That’s right — the majority of the cost of this CNC machine are the things you can’t really get any cheaper — the servos (or steppers), the belts (or leadscrews), and of course the motor controller plus computer interface. Everything else? Plywood, drawer slides, and a bunch of fasteners can be had for next to nothing!

He had wanted to build a CNC for years but was mostly hesitant in doing so due to the cost and apparent complexity of the build, but when he started to look into it seriously, he found it really wasn’t the case! It’s built on the basic gantry system design where the X-axis drives a bridge containing both the Y and Z-axis. It’s not a heavy duty machine by any means (he just has a small dremel-like tool in it right now), but for his purposes it’s more than enough.

One rather creative way he saved a few dollars is with his motor couplers — he’s actually taken rubber gas line and cinched it onto both shafts, which he says works quite well!

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CD Drive CNC Machine Steals Matt Groening’s Job, Says ‘Ha Ha’

DIY CNC Machines are fun to build. There are a lot of different designs all over the internet. Some are large and some small. Some are made from new material and others from recycled parts. [Leonardo’s] newest project is at the absolute far end of the small and recycled spectra. His CNC Machine is made from CD Drives and can draw a mean Nelson.

First, the CD Drives were disassembled to gain access to the carriages. These were then mounted to a quick and dirty wooden frame. Notice the Y Axis carriage is mounted with bolts and nuts that allow for leveling of the bed, not a bad idea. A Bic pen mounted to the Z axis carriage is responsible for the drawing duties.

[Leonardo] does something a little different for generating his g-code. First he takes a bitmap image and converts it to monochrome using MS Paint. The image is then imported into Cadsoft Eagle and using a modified import_bmp.ulp script. The bitmap is converted into what Eagle considers wire traces and then outputted as x and y coordinates for each wire complete with a command for lifting and lowering the pen.

A PC sends the move commands via USB, through a PL2303HX USB-Serial TTL Converter, to a PIC16F628A which, in turn, sends step and direction signals to the three Easy Driver stepper motor drivers. The stepper motor drivers are connected directly to the original CD Drive motors.

Check out the video after the break….

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DIY 3D Tilt Sensor

tilt If you’re trying to detect the orientation of an object, sometimes you really don’t need a 6DOF gyro and accelerometer. Hell, if you only need to detect if an object is tilted, you can get a simple “ball in a tube” tilt sensor for pennies. [tamberg] liked this idea, but he required a tilt sensor that works in the X, Y, and Z axes. Expanding on the ‘ball in a tube’ construction of simple tilt sensors, he designed a laser cut 3D tilt sensor that does all the work of of a $30 IMU.

The basic design of this tilt sensor is pretty simple – just an octahedron with four nails serving as switch contacts at each vertex. An aluminum ball knocks around inside this contraption, closing the nail head switches depending on what orientation it’s in. Simple, and the three dimensional version of a ball in tube tilt sensor.

To get the tilt data to the outside world, [tamberg] is using an Adafruit Bluetooth module, with two of the nails in each corner connected to a pin. With just a little bit of code, this 3D tilt sensor becomes a six-way switch to control an RGB LED. Video of that below.

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$250; Pushing The Limit On Cheap (And Functional) CNC Machine Builds


$250 cnc machine - rotary tool

Cost is always a drawback and a hurdle when buying or building a CNC Machine, especially when building it just for fun or hobby. [Eric] was able to cobble together a working 3-axis rotary tool based machine for about $250, a few trips to the hardware store and a bunch of time.

The machine design is loosely based on this one he found on Instructables. [Eric] chose this style because he felt the boom supported tool would have been more stable and easier to build than a gantry style machine. Skate bearings, HDPE sliders and c-channel aluminum were used to support the XY table instead of traditional linear bearings and rails. All three axes are driven with stepper motors and 1/4″-20 threaded rods. The Harbor Freight dremel-style rotary tool helps keep the overall cost down.

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LinuxCNC Based Plasma Cutter Router

cnc plasma cutter

If a wood CNC router just isn’t enough for you, you’re going to need something a little bit more powerful. Relatively speaking, the next most affordable step up is a CNC plasma cutter. Mhmm… Plasma…


[Maker Works] of Ann Arbor decided it was time to add some serious metal working capabilities to their already impressive mech shop. The design is based on of  [JoesCNC], however they’ve opted for some seriously beefy servo motors, instead of steppers.

The frame is made out of 8020 aluminum extrusions, which certainly adds to the cost, but results in a very professionally built machine. X and Y axis’ make use of NEMA 34 Servo motors, driven by Granite Devices VSD-E servo drivers. The Z-axis uses a NEMA 23 with a Gecko 320X driver. To further increase the power of these guys, 10:1 reduction gearboxes are used on both the X and Y.

All in all the project cost approximately $8,000, though after lessons learned, they think they could redo it for around $6,000.

When they first started testing it, they were dismayed with how dirty the room got from the fine dust created by the plasma cutter — so they’ve upgraded to a water tray bed (2″ deep), which helps immensely. In fact, the part doesn’t even need to be fully submerged in water for it to cut down pretty much all of the dust. The water also helps prevent damage to the aluminum bed underneath.

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Building a Wood CNC Router From Scratch

home made cnc router

[David Taylor] needed a CNC router to do some more complex projects — so he did what any maker would do if they’re strapped for cash — make it from scratch!

The impressive part of this build is that it was built entirely in his workshop, using tools he already had. A chop saw, wood lathe, drill and a drill press, and finally a table saw — nothing fancy, but now with the CNC router he has a world of possibilities for projects! The mechanical parts he had to buy cost around $600, which isn’t too bad considering the size of the router. He lucked out though and managed to get the Y-axis and Z-axis track and carriages as free samples — hooray for company handouts!

The router is using an old computer loaded with LinuxCNC which is a great (and free!) software for use with CNC machines. It’s driving a cheap Chinese TB6560 motor controller which does the trick, though [David] wishes he went for something a bit better.

Some examples of the projects he’s already made using this baby include an awesome guitar amp, a wooden Mini-ATX computer case, and even a rather sleek wooden stereo with amp!

Did we mention it can even cut non-ferrous materials?

[via Reddit]