Simple DIY Pen Plotter, Great First CNC Project

[Morten] has been busy recently making a pen plotter. It is a simple and elegant build that he completely designed from the ground up. There are no extra frivolous parts here. The frame is made from laser-cut plexiglass which makes fabrication easy if you have access to a laser cutter. Two NEMA17 motors are responsible for the machine’s movement. One moves the pen carriage back and forth by way of a belt. The other is connected by laser-cut gears to a roller bar, scavenged from an ink jet printer, that moves the paper media forward and aft underneath the pen.

The software chain used here is sort of uncommon compared to other inexpensive DIY CNC machines we see here on Hackaday. [Morten] creates his geometry with Rhino, then uses a plugin called Grasshopper to generate the g-code that controls the machine. That g-code is sent using gRemote to an Arduino flashed with the g-code interpreter. A RAMPS board takes the step and direction signals generated by the Arduino and moves the two stepper motors appropriately.

In typical open-supporting fashion, [Morten] has made his design files freely available for anyone to download. His plotter moves the pen side to side and the paper front to back in order to draw shapes but that’s not the only way a plotter can work. Check out this polar plotter and this one that hangs.

Check out the video after the break…

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Resourceful CNC Router Built From Hardware Store Parts

[siemen] has entered the wonderful world of Hobby CNC with his low-buck build of this gantry-style router. It embodies everything we here at HaD love: resourcefulness, perseverance and results. [siemen] has designed his frame using ideas he has found while surfing around the ‘net and is made entirely out of particle board. For linear movement, the Y and Z axes rely on ball bearing drawer slides while the X axis use a pipe and skate bearing arrangement. NEMA 17 stepper motors coupled to threaded rod move each axis.

The electronics are packaged in a nice little project box which houses an Arduino and 3 Sparkfun EasyStepper stepper motor drivers. [siemen] also cut a hole in the project box and installed a fan in order to keep those motor drivers cool. The Arduino is flashed with the CNC machine controller called GRBL. GRBL takes g-code sent from a PC to the Arduino and then in turn sends the required step and direction signals to the stepper motor drivers.

Overall, [siemen] did a great job with his first CNC project which came in at 200 Euro ($240). He’s currently working on version 2 and we are looking forward to covering it when it’s done. If you dig this project, you may also like this wooden wood router or this bolt-together one.

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Flashing Chips With A CNC

[Eberhard] needed to flash several hundred ATMegas for a project he was working on. This was a problem, but the task did have a few things going for it that made automation easy. The boards the ‘Megas were soldered to weren’t depanelized yet, and he had a neat and weird bed of nails programming connector. There was also a CNC machine close by. This sounds like the ideal situation for automation, and it turns out the setup was pretty easy.

The boards in question were for FPV/radio control telemetry adapter and thankfully the assembly house didn’t depanelize the 40 PCBs on each board before shipping them out. A very cool ATMega flashing tool handled the electrical connections between the computer and the microcontroller, but a real, live human being was still required to move this flashing tool from one chip to the next, upload the firmware, and repeat the process all over again.

The solution came by putting a few metal pins in the bed of a CNC mill, 3D print an adapter for the flashing tool, and writing a little code to move the flashing tool from one chip to the next. An extremely simple app takes care of moving the programmer to an unflashed chip, uploading the firmware, and continuing on to the next chip.

There’s still some work to be done that would basically tie together the Gcode and AVRdude commands into a single interface, but even now a complete panel of 40 PCBs can be programmed in a little over 10 minutes. You can check out a video of that below.

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Hackaday Links: December 14, 2014


The Progressive Snapshot is a small device that plugs into the ODB-II port on your car, figures out how terrible of a driver you are, and sends that data to Progressive servers so a discount (or increase) can be applied to your car insurance policy. [Jared] wondered what was inside this little device, so he did a teardown. There’s an Atmel ARM in there along with a SIM card. Anyone else want to have a go at reverse engineering this thing from a few pictures?

[Alex]’s dad received a special gift for his company’s 50th anniversary – a Zippo Ziplight. Basically, its a flashlight stuffed into the metal Zippo lighter we all know and love. The problem is, it’s battery-powered, and Zippo doesn’t make them any more. It also uses AAAA batteries. Yes, four As. No problem, because you can take apart a 9V and get six of them.

‘Tis the season to decorate things, I guess, and here’s a Hackaday snowflake. That’s from [Benjamin Gray], someone who really knows his way around a laser cutter.

HHaviing trouble wiith a debounce ciircut? HHer’s a calculator for just thhat problem. Put iin the logiic hhiigh voltage level, the bounce tiime, and the fiinal voltage, and you get the capaciitor value and resiistor value.

A harmonograph is a device that puts a pen on a pendulum, drawing out complex curves that even a spirograph would find impressive. [Matt] wanted to make some harmonographs, but a CNC and a printing press got in the way. He’s actually making some interesting prints that would be difficult if not impossible to make with a traditional harmonograph – [Matt] can control the depth and width of the cut, making for some interesting patterns.

The Mooltipass, the Developed On Hackaday offline password keeper, has had an interesting crowdfunding campaign and now it’s completely funded. The person who tipped it over was [Shad Van Den Hul]. Go him. There’s still two days left in the campaign, so now’s the time if you want one.

Cutting Glass With CNC

Breaking a pane of glass in half is easy – just score it, break it, and after practicing a few times, you’ll eventually get it right. What about cuts that are impossible with a normal glass cutter, like radiused corners and holes? For that, you’ll need CNC. Yes, you can cut glass on a CNC machine. All you need is a diamond burr or glass drilling bit, high speeds, low feeds, and lots and lots of coolant.

Cutting glass on a CNC machine doesn’t require any spectacularly specialist equipment. [Peter] is using an $800 Chinese mini CNC engraver for this project, but that’s not the only tool that was required. A fixture for holding a glass plate was also needed, but [Peter] quickly fabricated one out of acrylic.

Cutting glass with a CNC is something we’ve seen before. [Ben Krasnow] has been using diamond burrs, high speeds, low feeds, and lots of coolant to cut mirrors so expensive you don’t even want to guess.

While [Peter] isn’t getting the perfect finish [Ben] got a few years ago, he’s still milling holes and slots in glass. He’s wondering if it could be possible to mill an aspheric lens using this technique and a special spherical burr, something that would be very interesting to see, and could be a pretty good way to rough out telescope blanks.

The Halfbug

[Alex] posted up build details of his robot, Halfbot, on Tinkerlog. We’ve been big fans of his work ever since his Synchronizing Fireflies Instructable way back in the day. [Alex’s] work usually combines an unconventional idea with minimalistic design and precise execution, and Halfbot is no exception.

You’ll have to watch the video (embedded below the break) to fully appreciate the way it moves. The two big front legs alternate with the small front pads to make an always-stable tripod with the caster wheel at the back. It lifts itself up, moves a bit forward, and then rests itself down on the pads again while the legs get in position for the next step. It’s not going to win any speed tournaments, but it’s a great-looking gait.

The head unit also has two degrees of freedom, allowing it to scan around with its ultrasonic rangefinder unit, and adding a bit more personality to the whole affair.

[Alex] mentions that he’d recently gotten a lathe and then a CNC mill. So it’s no surprise that he made all the parts from scratch just to give the machines a workout. We think he did a great job with the overall aesthetics, and in particular the battery pack.

We’re excited to see how [Alex] adds new behaviors as he develops the firmware. No pressure!

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Hand-Machined Companion Cube Can Be Destroyed and Rebuilt

[Michael Gainer] is a big fan of Portal, and it shows in the Weighted Companion Cube he made. [Michael] hand-machined the many pieces that comprise the Cube’s body and medallions out of 6061 aluminum. Dykem was used to transfer the marks for accurate machining, and the color is powder-coated to a heat tolerance of 400F. A CNC was used to make the distinctive hearts. [Michael] notes the irony was “very Portal” in having them cut by a heartless machine when everything else was done manually. The attention to detail is striking, the level of design more so when [Michael] proceeds to incinerate the poor Companion Cube with a brush burner. In the video shown at the link above, the Cube falls apart as the glue holding it together melts. When all is said and done, just grab more glue to bring that Cube back to its six-sided glory. Repeat to your heart’s content. Huge success! We have to be honest, after seeing all those pieces, we aren’t sure we’d want to do this very often. Companion Cubes have been featured in various iterations on Hackaday before, but they were never built with the idea of repeatedly destroying and rebuilding them. This novel take would make GlaDOS proud.

[Michael] has plans to put an Android device inside it with some light and temperature sensors. He wants to give it a voice resembling Portal’s turrets so it can whine when it needs to be charged or scream when it’s too hot or cold. He dubs this next project the “Overly Attached Weighted Companion Cube.” It wouldn’t be a good idea to incinerate this upcoming version, though we’d probably be inclined to if it demanded so much of our attention!