Microscope Camera For Zeroing CNC Machines

After what we’re sure is several dozen screw-ups or at the very least a lot of wasted hours, [Chris] has gotten around to building a very precise microscope camera mount for zeroing out his CNC machine.

If you need to mill a few bits out of a sheet of metal or plastic, it’s important to know exactly where you’re cutting. A CNC machine can take care of the relative positioning, but if you already have half your holes drilled, you also need absolute positioning. This means placing the work piece exactly where you want to cut, or failing that, zeroing the machine to a predefined point on the piece.

[Chris] is accomplishing this with a pen-shaped USB microscope. With a 3D printed mount and a few magnets, this camera can clip right on to the machine, and with the camera interface in Mach3, it’s pretty easy to zero out the mill to within a thousandth of an inch.

There’s a video demo of the camera in action below, but there’s a lot more CNC mods on [Chris]’ website. There’s custom 3D printed vacuum nozzles, and a lot of work on a small desktop Grizzly mill.

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X-Carve, The Logical Upgrade To A Shapeoko

When it comes to small CNC carving machines for hackerspaces and extremely well-equipped garages, the Shapeoko, or something like it, has been the default machine. It’s dead simple – a Dremel attached to linear rails – and is useful for everything from milling PCBs to routing complex woodworking project to plotting designs with a pen. Now, [Bart Dring], the guy behind the Buildlog.net lasers and Inventables have teamed up to create the next generation of carving machines. It’s called the X-Carve, and while it’s fully compatible with the Shapeoko 2, it adds a few improvements that make for a much better machine.

The X-Carve does away with the Dremel-based spindle and replaces it with something that can produce torque. There’s a 24VDC spindle in the stock arrangement that will give you speed control through Gcode. There is, of course, adapters to fit the Dewalt and Bosch routers most commonly used in these types of machines.

As far as the gantry goes, the X and Y axes are makerslide; no change there. The Z axis leadscrew has an optional upgrade to Acme threaded rod, an improvement over the M8 threaded rod found in just about every other DIY machine kit. The entire machine is basically all the upgrades a Shapeoko should have, with stronger corners, NEMA 23 motors, and increased rigidity.

There are a few versions of the X-Carve, ranging from an upgrade kit to the Shapeoko 2 to a fully loaded kit with a square meter of machine space. The big, high-end kit ships for around $1250, but a smaller kit with 500mm rails, NEMA 17s, and threaded rod lead screw is available for around $800.

[Bart] and [Zach], the founder of Inventables sat down and shot a video going over all the features of the X-Carve. You can check that out below.

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Laser Cut Settlers of Catan Board = Best Christmas Gift Ever

[JoshBaker] wanted to make something special for his brother this past Christmas.  He decided on making a wooden game board version of the Settlers of Catan game. [Josh] used CorelDraw to construct the vector images needed for the board. Then, he set out cutting the base, engraving and cutting out the many wooden pieces with a laser cutter. All the pieces were stained and then sealed with polyurethane. He assembled the base so that the removable hex tiles, ports, and resource numbers sit nicely in the recessed parts and don’t shift during gameplay. He complemented the board with tokens and game pieces that he hand-painted. [Josh] also created a new set of cards to fit with the board’s aesthetic.

The board is done incredibly well, not to mention beautiful to look at. The hex tiles’ designs are very detailed. The stained and engraved wood really adds to the atmosphere of the game. We featured a coffee table that would be perfect to play it on. [Josh] has listed all of the vector files for the version he gave his brother, as well as additional ones for the Cities and Knights Expansion. We wish we could have seen the look on his brother’s face when he got such an awesome Christmas gift!

[via Instructables]

CNC Milling Photos with a Halftone Generator

Looking for an awesome way to mill out a photo or graphic? Check out [Matt Venn]’s halftone gcode generator which creates halftone CNC toolpaths from any image file. We’ve run across some halftone generators before, but [Matt]’s generator has some interesting features and makes for some pretty unique output.

[Matt] initially wrote a simple command line program in Python, but just rewrote his script with a more user-friendly UI that renders a preview of the output as you change options.  The UI lets you change parameters like drill depth, number of lines, and the step size to tweak the output. It even has an option to map the halftone points along a sine wave which makes an interesting effect as shown in the image above.

[Matt]’s program generates standard gcode that you can use to run your CNC machine. [Matt] recommends milling a material with layers of different colors, but you can always mill a solid material and fill the routed areas with paint or dye instead. Want to grab the script or check out the source code? Head over to [Matt]’s GitHub repository.

Thanks for the tip, [Keith O].

CoreXY For a Dry Erase Plotter

After years of playing DnD, it’s finally [Mike]’s turn to be a DM. Of course he can’t draw maps with his hands, so that means building a tabletop plotter.

[Mike] is basing his tabletop game plotter on the Makelangelo, a polar plotter that draws images on a vertical platform with the help of two motors in the corner. This is a tabletop plotter, so the usual vertical arrangement wouldn’t work, but there are some projects out there that use the CoreXY system for a similar horizontal build.

The tabletop CoreXY system is built from rigid aluminum yard sticks, 3D printed parts, two very cheap stepper motors, an Arduino, and a whole lot of string. It’s a very inexpensive build and because [Mike] is using metal rulers for the frame, it’s also very low profile – a nice advantage for table top sessions.

So far, [Mike] has the axes of the plotter moving, with a servo and pen mechanism next on the build plan. He has a few neat ideas for how to plot these dungeon maps by vectoring bitmap images and sending them to the Arduino, something we’ll probably see in a an upcoming build log.

You can check out a video of [Mike]’s build below.

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Hacklet 31 – Software Tools

For every computer error, there are two human errors, and one of them is blaming the computer. Whenever a human blames a computer for something, there are two tools, and one of them is the computer.

Not all of your nifty tools need to be fancy robots, CNC machines, or nifty Robertson screwdrivers; a computer is equally capable of being a fantastic tool, provided it has the right software. For this week’s Hacklet, we’re going through some of the best software tools on hackaday.io.

6653681421957570397[Alan] was inspired to build a software tool for making sewing patterns. Sewing patterns are usually designed for the ‘average’ person, but if you’re making custom wearables, you should end up with a piece of clothing that fits perfectly.

The first project [Alan] is using this tool for is a fleece cap that fits the contour of his head. He captured a 3D mesh of his head, imported the mesh into Blender, and unwrapped the resulting mesh. The two halves of the hat were then plotted with a Silhouette Cameo, cut out of fleece, and sewn together. The result is a beanie that fits perfectly around [Alan]’s head. It’s an extremely cool and novel application of 3D modeling, and if you ever need to wrap a 3D object with a 2D material, this is the project you want to check out.

5869061407871295021 And you thought the autorouter in Eagle was bad.

[Anderson] built a tool called Pyrite that will take a schematic and build a layout in three-dimensional space. He calls them Volumetric Circuits, and it’s basically the point-to-point wiring found in old radios and amplifiers taken to the next level. We featured this project before, and there haven’t been many updates since then. Maybe giving [Anderson]’s project a few skulls will help motivate him to get back to the project.

133031421839442989 Not satisfied with the existing free and open source CAM programs, [Snegovick] started work on his own.

[Snegovick] calls his project BCAM, and it’s exactly what you need to mill holes in PCBs, cut gears with a CNC router, engrave plastic, and anything else a 2.5 axis CNC machine can do. The project is written in Python, and yes, the source is available. Supported operations include drilling, path following, offset path following, and pocketing.

Write enough microcontroller projects, and you’ll eventually come up with your own library of common code that does one thing and one thing well. If you’re smart, you’ll reuse that code in future projects. [ericwazhung] is cutting through the hard part of developing all this code and released some things that are useful in a whole lot of projects.

Included in the commonCode library are the usual ‘heartbeat LED’, non-blocking input, a standard interface for AVR timers, bitmaps of text characters, DC motor control, and a whole bunch more. Extremely useful in any event.

That’s it for this round of the Hacklet, bringing you the best hackaday.io has to offer.

Home Made CNC Router Boasts Welded Steel Frame and Super Tidy Wire Management

[Cooperman] had been poking around the ‘net checking out DIY CNC machines for a while. He wanted to build one. During his search, he noticed that there was a common thread amongst homemade machines; they were usually made from parts that were on hand or easily obtainable. He had some parts kicking around and decided to hop on the band wagon and build a CNC Router. What sets [Cooperman]’s project apart from the rest is that he apparently had some really nice components available in his parts bin. The machine is nicknamed ‘Tweakie‘ because it will never really be finished, there’s always something to tweak to make it better.

The foundation for Tweakie is a welded frame made from 25mm steel square tubing. A keen observer may point out that welding a frame may cause some distortion and warping. [Cooperman] thought of that too so he attached aluminum spacers to the steel frame and lapped them flat. After that, fully supported THK linear bearings were attached to the now-straight spacer surface. Both the X and Y axes have ball-screws to minimize backlash and are powered by NEMA23 stepper motors. The Z axis uses 16mm un-supported rods with pillow block linear bearings. Unlike the X and Y, the Z axis uses a trapezoidal lead screw and bronze nut. [Cooperman] plans on replacing this with a ball-screw in the future but didn’t have one on hand at the time of assembly.

Mach3 is the software being used to control the CNC Router. It communicates via parallel port with a 3-axis StepMaster motor driver board that can handle providing 24vdc to the stepper motors. All of the electronics are mounted neatly in an electrical cabinet mounted on the back of the machine. Overall, this is a super sturdy and accurate machine build. [Cooperman] has successfully cut wood, plastic and even aluminum!