CNC Dummies for Routers

[This Old Tony] has a few videos that have made appearances on Hackaday. His latest one is CNC Dummies for Routers (see below). The subtitle, CNC Basics, is an honest one. If you’re already well versed in GCode and Mach 3, you probably won’t make it through the 14 minute video (although Tony is pretty entertaining even if you know what he’s talking about).

By his own admission, this is really CNC basics for hobby-grade CNC routers and mills. He starts off talking about his custom-built machine along with some common machines in the $500-$5000 range. He then gives a simple sketch of what GCode looks like.

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Open-Source Laser Cutter Software gets Major Update, New Features

The LaserWeb project recently released version 3, with many new features and improvements ready to give your laser cutter or engraver a serious boost in capabilities! On top of that, new 3-axis CNC support means that the door is open to having LaserWeb do for other CNC tools what it has already done for laser cutting and engraving.

LaserWeb BurnsLaserWeb3 supports different controllers and the machines they might be connected to – whether they are home-made systems, CNC frames equipped with laser diode emitters (such as retrofitted 3D printers), or one of those affordable blue-box 40W Chinese lasers with the proprietary controller replaced by something like a SmoothieBoard.

We’ve covered the LaserWeb project in the past but since then a whole lot of new development has been contributed, resulting in better performance with new features (like CNC mode) and a new UI. The newest version includes not only an improved ability to import multiple files and formats into single multi-layered jobs, but also Smoothieware Ethernet support and a job cost estimator. Performance in LaserWeb3 is currently best with Smoothieware, but you can still save and export GCODE to use it with Grbl, Marlin, EMC2, or Mach3.

The project is open to contributions from CNC / Javascript / UX developers to bring it to the next level. If you’re interested in helping bring the project even further, and helping it do for 3-axis CNC what it did for Laser Cutting, project coordinator [Peter van der Walt] would like you to head to the github repository!

We recently shared a lot of great information on safe homebrew laser cutter design. Are you making your own laser cutting machine, or retrofitting an existing one? Let us know about it in the comments!

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

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

laser

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].

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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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