Handwriting suck? Build a machine to do it for you

calligraphy-machine

Children of the information age are doomed to have the worst handwriting just for lack of use if nothing more. But some students at Olin College harnessed technology to find a solution to that problem. Meet Herald, a CNC machine that can produce beautiful calligraphy.

The machine uses a gantry to move the writing tip along the X and Y axes. The flexible-nib calligraphy pen is mounted on a sprocket which rotates the tip onto the writing surface, taking care of the third axis. The rig was beautifully rendered from their CAD drawings, then tweaked to ensure the smoothest motion possible before the quintet of Sophomores began the physical build.

The drive hardware is very simple yet it produces great results. It uses an Arduino along with three stepper motor drivers. There are also limiting switches to protect the hardware from runaway code. The software interface designed by the team lets the user cut and paste their text, and select a font, font size, alignment, etc. It then converts the text to G-code and pushes it to the Arduino where the GRBL package takes care of business.

Don’t miss the device in action, writing out a [Langston Hughes] work in the clip after the break.

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Freakin’ huge CNC router

[Tom] sent in a gigantic 3-axis router that he pieced together during a 2 week-long work experience placement. Looking at this picture showing a 12-inch ruler on the work area, we realized that this may be the largest CNC router we’ve seen on Hack A Day.

[Tom]’s employer gave him some obsolete axes, so piecing the mechanical components together was very easy. The only real problem was interfacing the CNC controller to a computer. This meant [Tom] had to convert G Code to the code used by the antiquated NSK axes. Where G Code defines arcs with a start point, end point, and radius, the NSK code defines arcs with a start point, end point, and another point along the arc. It’s a tricky bit of math, but [Tom] built some software that did this in Visual Basic.

Right now, [Tom] only has a pen tool attached to the router; you can check that in action after the break. We’re trying to imagine what we would do with a 4 m² work area; this could easily be used to make a giant reprap or other 3D printer.

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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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CNC hardware: stream g-code to an Arduino

[Reza Naima] has been using an Arduino as the center of his CNC setup for quite some time now. It handles three stepper motors, limiting switches, e-stop, and spindle control. The sketch he’s using allows him to stream g-code to the popular prototyping platform, freeing him from needing a dedicated PC. It’s worked so well that he’s decided to clean up the code and develop a shield to help others get up and running. If you want to see his progress or lend a hand, check out the google group he started for the schematics, code, and forum discussions. There is already a CNC project for Arduino called Grbl but [Reza’s] approach uses the Arduino libraries in an effort to make the sketch more customizable for the average user.

ARM-based CNC mill needs no computer

[Fedeortiz12] and his team are nearing completion of their CNC mill (english translation). They set out to build a standalone machine that takes G-code in the RS274/NGC format from an SD card and machines parts accordingly. At the heart of the system is an ARM LPC2148 controller with a character LCD and control pad for operation. The guys have made a teaser video showing the project being tested with a felt-tipped pen. Take a look after the break.

We’d like to see the final product milling PCBs. We’ve always been a little jealous of the PCB milling setup that [imsolidstate] has in his shop.

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Generating G-code with Common Lisp

gcode

Ruin & Wesen are a two person shop creating specialized music gear. As part of their recent MIDI Command development, they got into case manufacturing. They purchased a mini CNC mill to cut the aluminum cases. Unhappy with the software options provide [Wesen] decided to write his own G-code generator. G-code is part of the numerical control used to command CNC machines. He implemented his interpreter using the language he’s most familiar with: Common Lisp (not surprising if you notice the website’s backend). The post covers the design philosophy used and some of the problems that came up. We look forward to future releases since the interpreter can generate milling code using processing.org sketches and cut PCBs directly from Eagle.

You may remember Ruin & Wesen from when they shared their Eagle layout videos.

[Thanks fbz]