Building a CNC Router to Call My Own

As with most writers for [HAD], I enjoy doing projects as much as I like writing about them. As a mechanical Engineer that writes for a blog mostly about electronics, a CNC router seemed like something I needed in my garage. Building a router like this requires a bit of expertise in both electronics and mechanics, so it seemed like a good challenge.

This router kit, made by Zen Toolworks, comes fairly complete frame-wise, but requires a lot of knowledge on the electrical side to get things running correctly. In order to make it look decent and work correctly, I had to rely on some zip-tie and basic diagnostic skills that I’ve honed as a former engineering Co-op and technician. Also, I had to figure out a way to cheaply stack everything in my garage as we park two cars there (the footprint is 14″ x 22″, so I consider that a success).

One of the bigger challenges that I still have to overcome with this project is learning “G-code” and how to use software to generate it.  Although I’ve done some basic programming already, as seen in the video after the break, there’s still much to learn. I’d hope that having this tool around can lead to better projects as I won’t have to be restricted to simple milled lines and circles anymore.

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Excuse me iPad, may I cut in?

[LostSpawn] loves his clamshell keyboard for the iPad, but he had one major beef with the design. When the tablet is installed in the landscape orientation there’s no way to plug in a dock connector for charging or other uses. He pulled out the cutting tools and altered the case to meet his needs.

The case is a Rocketfish iCapsule which provides a Bluetooth keyboard when you need to do a lot of typing. The hard shell does a great job of protecting the iPad, but who wants to pull it out to charge it? The thing that we can’t believe is that there’s a slot milled in the other side of the bezel so that you can plug in headphones. How did they overlook the dock connector?

To add it himself, [LostSpawn] started by drilling a dotted line along the portion that he wanted to remove. He finished shedding material with a Dremel and then set about sanding it flat. To make sure it didn’t look too much like a hack he used Bondo to build up the working edge and then sanded and painted for a factory finish. Now he can plug in the cable or an SD card adapter like the one seen to the right of the keyboard.

CNC mill built from junk and hardware store parts

[Csshop] is setting a new bar for building an inexpensive CNC mill. Not only did he complete his build at a very low cost, but it seems to work quite well too. Check out the video after the break to see the device cut out thin wood parts for a toy plane.

The majority of the build uses scrap wood for the body of the mill. The business end of the device is a flexible rotary attachment for a Dremel tool which takes a lot of the weight and bulk out of the gantry assembly. Old flat bed scanners were gutted for the precision ground rod and bearings, as well as the three stepper motors used to drive the axes. An Arduino board controls the device, commanding the stepper motors via EasyDriver boards.

Once the hardware is assembled there’s still a fair amount of work to do. [Csshop] builds his designs in Google Sketchup, but some conversion is necessary to arrive at code that the Arduino will understand. He’s got a second project write-up that covers the software side of things.

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Rotary Wall Plug from Scrap

Rotary tools such as a Dremel are useful to have around for all sorts of tasks in a workshop, including cutting, polishing, and grinding. [Konstantin] sent us in his home made wall mount rotary tool based off of parts from a blender and an old bench top jigsaw. Unlike a Dremel where the motor is in the hand held part of the tool, this setup hides the blender motor (which provides the power) behind a wall panel, and is controlled via the blender’s speed settings buttons. We could see this configuration allowing for more delicate work due to the reduction of weight in hand, as well as the added bonus of a near impossibility of losing this tool. Overall an excellent re-purposing of leftover parts, be sure to check out [Konstantin]’s blog for more build info and photos.

Revive your tired Dremel battery pack

It turns out there’s nothing more than six Nickel Cadmium AA rechargeable batteries inside of that cordless Dremel battery pack. Yep, standard rechargeable AA’s that you can buy most anywhere, and now you can revive that aging battery pack by following [Stuuf’s] guide. Since you’re already at it, a few more bucks will yield a real upgrade by using the superior Nickel Metal Hydride batteries which should yield around three times as much use between charging. We totally understand having a battery pack, since the shape of the case is part of the handheld tool, and it should be easy to interchange the battery as one unit. We just wish that the battery pack had been designed to have the AA cells swapped out by the user once they had reached the end of the line.

Do you have other cordless tools in need of a pick-me-up? Check out this Makita battery pack repair hack for a point in the right direction.

[Thanks Bluewraith]

Cobbling together a CNC mill

[Howard Matthews] never throws anything away, and because of it he was able to build this CNC mill using parts that he already had on hand. He pulled stepper motors out of broken stage light, precision rod and bearings from old dot matrix printers, and other various bits from his junk bin. We’ve seen [Howie’s] handi-work before, and this project is just as fun as his Land Rover’s replacement speedometer. Some highlights include manufacturing the nuts for the precision rod, and building a rail system for the bed of the machine. The latter looks a bit suspect, as any milling debris on the rails will cause you Z-axis problems, but now that he has bootstrapped a working mill perhaps he’ll machine an upgrade.

Update: Fixed the link, added video after the break.

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Acrylic hackintosh housing

[Rui Gato] needed a powerful yet portable machine for his performances. If it’s on stage shouldn’t it look good too? We loved watching him construct an acrylic case for his setup. He’s skilled with a rotary tool and the work he put into the case fan grill alone is impressive. Video after the break.

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