Excuse me, Sir. Do you know how fast your Lathe was traveling back there?

When machining metal, it is important to know how fast the cutting tool is traveling in relation to the surface of the part being machined. This amount is called the ‘Surface Speed’. There are Surface Speed standards for cutting different types of materials and it is good practice to stick with those standards in order to end up with a good surface finish as well as maximizing tool life. On a lathe, for example, having a known target Surface Speed in mind as well as a part finish diameter, it is possible to calculate the necessary spindle speed.

Hobbyist [Paul] wanted a method of measuring his lathe’s spindle speed. Since spindle speed is measured in RPM, it made complete sense to install a tachometer. After browsing eBay for a bit he found one for about $20. His purchase came with the numeric LED display, a mounting bezel and the all important hall effect sensor. The Hall effect sensor measures changes in a magnetic field and in turn varies its output voltage. [Paul] fabbed up an aluminum bracket that supports the sensor just off of the rear of the lathe spindle. A magnet was then glued to the outside diameter of the spindle below the sensor. The once per revolution signal is generated every time the magnet passes the sensor while the lathe is running. The display was mounted to the lathe near eye height by means of another aluminum bracket and case.

After a little work, [Paul] can now keep a close eye on his spindle speed with a quick glance over at his new tachometer display while he’s turning those perfect parts! If this project tickles your fancy, you may want to check out this fantastic DIY tachometer or this one that uses a soundcard.

Turn a decommissioned robot into a CNC machine


Some of us may have been accused of living in Mom’s basement – [Benjamin] kicks it up a notch by keeping an industrial robot in his parent’s attic shed loft.
[Benjamin] was tasked with stripping down some retired equipment at work. It turns out the “retired equipment” was three Cartesian robots from Adept Robotics. These are large industrial XYZ platforms capable of high speed movements (3000 IPM rapids!).

Getting from a decommissioned machine to a working CNC is never a simple path. In this case [Ben] was able to make the transition relatively easily. Each axis of the robot has a 400 Watt Yaskawa servo with a 65k encoder and brake. The original Adept servo amps and control system was still working, so he kept it. The controllers were new enough that they communicate over a daisy chained IEEE1394 (Firewire) link. That is relatively modern compared to some of the conversions we’ve seen in the past.  The final piece of the puzzle was G-code creation Translating common G-code to a format his machine could recognize. Ben chose MeshCAM for the task.

One problem [Ben] ran into was stuttering on the X-axis. The original machines only had a single sided drive system on the X-axis. Single side is fine for an assembly machine that doesn’t see any tool load. However for a CNC machine that will see spindle loads, a single side drive creates a twisting force which threatens to rack the entire frame. He used one of the drive systems from his spare robot to convert his main machine to a double-sided drive, eliminating the issue.

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