CNC Plasma Cutter Build Presented In Excruciating Detail

Detailed CNC Plasma Cutter Build

If you have been wondering what it takes to build a CNC Plasma Cutter then get ready to look no further. [Desert Fabworks] has documented the trials and tribulations of their CNC Plasma Cutter build. Saying it is extremely detailed would be an understatement. They cover everything from choosing components to machine setup.

The group already had a CNC Plasma Cutter that they have outgrown. To justify the new purchase the replacement machine would have to have a few non-negotiable features: 4×8 ft cutting area, torch height control, water table, cutting up to 1/2″ steel and be easy to operate and maintain. For the frame and gantry, they settled on a Precision Plasma kit as they felt it was the best value that met their requirements. The electronics package was separate from the frame kit and was provided by CandCNC. Among other things, this package included the power supply, stepper motors, stepper drivers and the torch height controller. For the plasma cutter itself [Desert Fabworks] chose a Hypertherm Powermax65 which can cut up to an inch thick of mild steel and has swappable torches so the main unit can be used for both the CNC table and hand cuts.

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Adding Spindle Direction And Coolant Control To Your CNC Machine

CNC3020 spindle direction control and coolant system

[Peter] is back at it, again modding his CNC3020 router. This time he’s adding a coolant system and spindle direction control. If you have ever tried cutting plexiglass using a mill, router or even a band saw, then you know it is common for those plastic chips to melt together and form a crusty trail of goobers directly behind the cutting tool. Turning down the spindle speed helps a little but the intent of the coolant system is to eliminate the globular mess all together.

It appears the coolant flow is open loop, meaning the initial coolant reservoir is not replenished automatically. The coolant starts in a container and is moved via a pump through a silicone hose. At the end of the hose there is a nozzle mounted to the Z axis which points the coolant stream at the tool bit. The nozzle is plastic and made from a re-purposed and modified flux application container. [Peter] took advantage of the machine’s bed being made of slotted extruded aluminum. The bed catches the coolant which then travels down the channels to the front of the machine where it is collected in a custom made bin. The parts of this plexi bin were actually cut out using this machine! Gravity then drains the contents of this bin into another container residing at a lower altitude.

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THP Entry: Etch-A-CNC

etchacncCNC machines have been around for decades, but only recently have small desktop routers, 3D printers, and laser cutters brought G code to the tabletop. Obviously, this is a teaching opportunity, and if you’re trying to get kids interested in the inner workings of machines that build things, you can’t begin with obtuse codes understood only by machines and CNC operators.

[johnyang] is building his own CNC controller based on something just about every kid is already familiar with: the Etch A Sketch. He’s retrofitted a small, travel size Etch A Sketch with an LCD, buttons, rotary encoders, and a Raspberry Pi to turn this primitive drawing toy into a machine that generates G code for a Shapeoko 2 CNC mill.

The user interface for this CNC controller is as similar to the Etch A Sketch as [johnyang] can make it – two rotary encoders draw a shape on the LCD, and G code is generated from the drawn shape. Adding a third dimension is a bit of a challenge – it looks like two buttons take care of the up and down movement of the spindle. Still, [johnyang] plans to add the definitive Etch A Sketch feature – holding it upside down and shaking it will reset the CNC to its original state.

There are a few videos of [johnyang]‘s progress. You can check those out below.

SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is an entry in The Hackaday Prize. Build something awesome and win a trip to space or hundreds of other prizes.

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Not Having The Room Isn’t A Good Reason To Not Have A CNC Router Anymore

PhlatPrinter CNC Machine

Typically, CNC Machines take up a larger footprint than that of the raw material it is cutting. The size of such a machine may have prevented interested makers/hackers from buying or building one for themselves. If you are one of those people then you’d be interested in [Fly3DMon's] series of CNC Router projects called PhlatPrinter.

A typical CNC Router has a bed that the work piece is mounted to and that work piece stays stationary. The tool then moves in 3 axes, removing material, leaving behind a finished part. The PhlatPrinter works more like a large format plotter, where the work piece is moved back and forth via rollers while the tool only moves in 2 directions. What this allows is a CNC Machine that takes up very little floor space when not in use that can handle any length of material!

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Lathe CNC Upgrade Is Nothing To Shake A Turned Stick At

7x12 CNC Lathe Conversion

We see a lot of CNC Machines here on Hackaday but not too many of them are lathe-based. [Jim] sent us an email letting us know his dissatisfaction regarding the lack of CNC Lathes and included a link to one of his recent projects, converting a small manual lathe to computer control. This isn’t some ‘slap on some steppers‘ type of project, it’s a full-fledged build capable of tight tolerances and threading.

The project is based on a 7×12 Mini Lathe. There are several brands to choose from and they are almost identical. Check out this comparison. [Jim] started with Homier brand.

The first thing to get upgraded was not related to the CNC conversion. The 3″ chuck was replaced with a 5″. Changing it over was easy using an adapter plate made for the task. For the X Axis, the stock ways and lead screw were removed and replaced by a THK linear slide. This slide only has 2.5″ of travel and is perfect for this application. The travel being so short allowed the final eBay auction price to be under $40.

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A Bicycle Built for One


[Bcmanucd] must have been vying for husband of the year when he set out to build his wife a custom time trials bicycle. We’re not just talking about bolting together a few parts either – he designed, cut, welded, and painted the entire frame from scratch. Time trial racing is a very specific form of bicycle racing. Bikes are built for speed, but drafting is not allowed, so aerodynamics of the bike and rider become key. Custom bikes cost many thousands of dollars, but as poor college students, neither [Bcmanucd] nor his wife could afford a proper bike. Thus the bicycle project was born.

[Bcmanucd] created the basic geometry on a fit assessment provided by his wife’s cycling coach. He designed the entire bike in Autodesk Inventor. Once the design was complete, it was time to order materials. 7005 aluminum alloy was chosen because it wouldn’t require solution heat treating, just a trip to the oven to relieve welding stresses. Every tube utilized a unique cross section to reduce drag, so [Bcmanucd] had to order his raw material from specialty bike suppliers.

Once all the material was in, [Bcmanucd] put his mechanical engineering degree aside and put on his work gloves. Like all students, he had access to the UC Davis machine shop. He used the shop’s CNC modified Bridgeport mill to cut the head tube and dropouts.

The most delicate part of the process is aligning all the parts and welding. Not a problem for [Bcmanucd], as  he used a laser table and his own jigs to keep everything lined up perfectly. Any welder will tell you that working with aluminum takes some experience. Since this was [Bcmanucd's] first major aluminum project, he ran several tests on scrap metal to ensure he had the right setup on his TIG welder. The welds cleaned up nicely and proved to be strong.

The entire build took about 3 months, which was just in time for the first race of the season. In fact, during the first few races the bike wasn’t even painted yet. [Bcmanucd's] wife didn’t seem to mind though, as she rode it to win the woman’s team time trial national championships that year. The bike went on to become a “rolling resume” for [Bcmanucd], and helped him land his dream job in the bicycle industry.

Echoing the top comment over on [Bcmanucd's] Reddit thread, we’d like to say awesome job — but slow down, you’re making all us lazy spouses look bad!

DIY Newton’s Cradle Uses Parts Designed on a Smart Phone

Injection Molded Parts

As far as physics demonstrations go, the Newton’s Cradle is probably one of the most recognizable. Named after Sir Isaac Newton, the Newton’s Cradle demonstrates the law of conservation of momentum using swinging ball bearings.

[Scorchworks] decided he wanted to build his own Newton’s Cradle. The frame appears to be cut from MDF or particle board and then screwed together. That material is really easy to obtain and also to work with using inexpensive tools. The tricky part was the ball bearings. Most of the time when you see a Newton’s Cradle, the ball bearings have a small hole drilled in the top with an eye hook attached. The string is then attached to the eye hook.

[Scorchworks] decided to do something different. His plan was to make custom injection molded plastic rings that would fit perfectly around the ball bearings. The most interesting thing is that he designed the injection molding plates entirely on his smart phone while at his child’s baseball practice. To do this, [Scorchworks] used his own Android app, ScorchCAD. ScorchCAD is a free clone of OpenSCAD that is designed to run on Android devices. Most of the functionality of OpenSCAD has been implemented in ScorchCAD, though not all functions work yet. You can find a list of all the supported functions on the project’s website or in the Google Play store.

Once the plates were designed within ScorchCAD, [Scorchworks] exported the STL file and then used Meshcam to generate the gcode for his CNC milling machine. Once he had the plates machined, he just placed the ball bearing into the mold and injected the molten plastic around it. The plastic formed a perfectly shaped ring around the bearing with small loops for the string. [Scorchworks] repeated the process several times to get all of the ball bearings finished.

Finally, the bearings were strung up using some fishing line. A Newton’s Cradle is very sensitive to the positioning of the ball bearings. To account for this, [Scorchworks] tied each end of the fishing line to two different screws on top of the cradle. This way, each screw can be tightened or loosened to adjust the position of each ball bearing.


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