Milling Curved Objects With A G-Code Ripper

HaD Mouse

Milling and routing flat surfaces is pretty much the point of a CNC router, but how about curved surfaces? Auto leveling of hobby CNC machines and 3D printers is becoming commonplace, but Scorch Works is doing just the opposite: using a probe touch probe on a CNC machine to transform a G-Code file into something that can be milled on a curved surface.

The technique is pretty much the complete opposite of Autoleveller, the tool of choice for milling and routing objects that aren’t completely flat or perpendicular to the bed with a MACH3 or LinuxCNC machine. In this case, a touch probe attached to the router scans a curved part, applies bilinear interpolation to a G-Code file, and then starts machining.

The probe can be used on just about anything – in the videos below, you can see a perfect engraving in a block of plastic that’s about 30 degrees off perpendicular to the bed, letters carved in a baseball bat, and a guaranteed way to get your project featured on Hackaday.

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A Brilliant and Elegant CNC Pendant


[Mike Douglas] has a small hobby CNC router, which works great — but you’re limited to controlling it from your PC. And unfortunately, there just aren’t pendants made for this consumer level stuff. Annoyed at having to reach over to use his keyboard all the time, he stumbled upon a simple, but brilliant solution: A dedicated USB 10-key pendant keypad.

These USB keypads are designed for laptops that don’t have full size keyboards. They can be had for a few dollars from China, and let you expand your keyboard possibilities… All [Mike] had to do was print off some stickers to put on the keys!

It’s easy to program new hot keys in Mach3  — and there you go! Why haven’t we thought of this before? While you’re at it, why not build a cyclonic dust separator for your CNC too — and if you’re having trouble clamping down work pieces, [Mike] has a pretty cool solution for that as well.



Software Advice for Anyone Thinking About a CNC Router

Excellent results can come from a small CNC router, but don’t forget the software!

CNC tools, whatever their flavor, can greatly enhance your “making” or DIY ability. My current tool of choice is a CNC router. Being familiar with a manual milling machine, the concept seemed similar, and the price of these is quite reasonable when compared to some other tools. As described in this post, my machine is a Zen Toolworks model, but there are certainly other options to visit like this Probotix V90 model noted recently in this post.

Although any number of CNC router models look great in videos and pictures, rest assured that even the best machines require some patience to get one running satisfactorily. Setting up the machine can be a challenge, as well as figuring out what your machine is capable of, but one thing that might slip peoples’ minds is the software involved. Read on to find out all you need to know the basics of what goes on behind the scenes to “magically” produce interesting parts. Continue reading “Software Advice for Anyone Thinking About a CNC Router”

Converting a Chinese laser cutter to work with Mach3


Like most of us, [Chris] has pined over the very, very inexpensive Chinese laser cutters available on eBay for a while now. When most of us disregarded these machines due to their inability to work with the file formats commonly used with laser cutters, [Chris] took the plunge. He was a might disappointed the included software didn’t allow him to use his machine with Mach3 CNC software, so he replaced the included electronics board with one of his own design, giving him all the features of a more expensive laser cutter at a low, low Chinese eBay auction price.

The laser cutter [Chris] bought came with the moshidraw software and controller board that according to one auction can only use BMP, JPEG, WMF, EMF, and PLT files.Wanting a board that can use more common file formats such as PDF and DWG, [Chris] built his own board to communicate with his Mach3 software.

From what we can tell, the new board works with off-the-shelf Pololu stepper drivers and is a complete drop in replacement for the moshidraw board. He’s still finalizing the design, but when the layout, BOM, and schematic are finalized, [Chris] will be putting the files up for everyone to copy. Wonderful piece of work, [Chris].

Continue reading “Converting a Chinese laser cutter to work with Mach3”

MAMEing a CNC router

[Ed] is pretty old school. He loves the functionality of old industrial shop tools that have their own dedicated systems. With huge candy-like buttons, who wouldn’t? [Ed] decided to replicate this aesthetic by building a MAME controller for his Mach3 controlled router.

[Ed] had a bunch of MAME buttons and joysticks sitting around from a forgotten project. With his vinyl plotter, it was relatively easy to make a very nice looking control panel. To connect the buttons to the Mach3 computer, a disused I-Pac was brought into the mix. The I-Pac reads the state of the buttons and sends keyboard codes over USB to the computer.

Because the very popular Mach3 CNC software responds to hotkeys, it was very simple to make the buttons do as they say. [Ed] has full control over the X, Y, and Z axes as well as the spindle speed. It seems like this would be interesting to do some ‘free form’ CNC work on [Ed]’s router.

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3 Axis Plotter Made from Spare Parts

The plotter featured above was, according to the author, made almost entirely of salvaged parts. In addition to what he had accumulated, only $20 in parts was needed to complete this build. Pretty good considering the thousands of dollars that a new plotter goes for.

Control of all axes is accomplished using unipolar stepper motors.  In this case only one unipolar motor was available along with two bipolar motors. [Lovro] actually hacked these into a unipolar setup to save costs on the build.

Mach3 control software along with a parallel port is used to control the steppers. A similar “junk” setup could be used to power a CNC mill or laser engraver, so think twice before tossing that old printer in the trash!  Check out the video of this plotter in action after the break! Also, see this hack for a similar laser engraving machine using Mach3 control software. Continue reading “3 Axis Plotter Made from Spare Parts”

Building a bigger, better laser engraver

[Bart] built a giant laser etcher from scratch. One of his first test engravings included the Hackaday skull-and-wrenches on a polished granite floor tile (we love it when people do that). He used an XMOS controller and Mach3 CNC software to handle the device. With just two axes to worry about this seem like an easy project. The difficult bit is controlling, cooling, and focusing the laser.  Oh, and if you screw up, you could be blinded, burned or horribly maimed. But if you start from the beginning you’ll see that [Bart] knows what he’s doing.