Interview: Mill CPU for Humans Parts 3 and 4

Welcome back to the conclusion of our interview on Mill CPU architecture with [Ivan Godard]. If you missed yesterday’s offering you can watch the preview video or go back and read the original article. Above is the third part, with the final installment found after the break.

We’d like to address some concerns from the comments of yesterday’s post. Several readers noted that Mill is only in the simulation phase. [Ivan] is very up-front about that… there is no silicon. But that doesn’t mean we should disregard a company that looks to build on successes from the current generation of processors while avoiding their drawbacks. It is incredibly costly to design silicon from scratch. This is why we don’t see new architectures sprouting up on a monthly basis.

We simply think it’s exciting to see what kinds of changes may be coming and how designers plan to accomplish advances in processing power while reducing power consumption at the same time.

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Interview: New Mill CPU Architecture Explanation for Humans

Hackaday had an amazing opportunity to sit down with [Ivan Godard] who discussed the Mill CPU development which his company — Out of the Box Computing —  has been working on for about a decade. The driving force behind Mill development is that optimizations to existing architectures can only get you so far. At some point you need to come up with a new processor that builds on success and failure of its predecessors.

Ivan’s team has put out several lecture videos linked from their site that dig really deep into the inner workings that give Mill an advantage over currently available chips. We covered one of them recently which prompted [Ivan] to reach out to us. But what if you aren’t working on your advanced degree in semiconductor design? Our interview certainly isn’t for the laymen, but any engineering enthusiast should find this a refreshing and delightful conversation. After the jump you can see the first two installments of the four part interview.

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HHH: Sniffing Proprietary CNC to Hack in G-Code Support

hhh-proprietary-g-code-hack

Here’s a beautiful desktop CNC mill which had one big drawback: it used a proprietary interface for driving it. To increase the flexibility of the tool it was hacked to work with G-Code.

The project is a Hackaday Hackerspace Henchmen submission from rLab, the Reading Hackspace in the UK. [Barnaby] explains the entire project after the break. The machine itself wasn’t altered, but a translator script was written in Python after capturing a bunch of packets and working out the protocol. This script listens for G-Code and does the translation into the type of commands the machine is expecting to receive.

If you know of a CNC hack from your own hackerspace send us the story for a chance to win some loot.

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Converting a Mill to CNC

traces

Have a mill that you’d like to automate? Perhaps you can gets some ideas from the work [James] recently finished. Using familiar NEMA 23 stepper motors (the same motors used in the RepRap), he hacked his Proxxon MF-70 mill for CNC control. Adding a Sanguino and the stepper controllers from other projects, [James] got a working machine for minimal investment. You can tell that [James] is a fan of Polymorph, because he uses it liberally for most of the project, even using it to create some Oldham couplings (Google cache).

After completing the build initially, he managed to burn out the spindle motor by milling steel too quickly. We found it interesting that he was able to use a TURNIGY 2217 860kv 22A Outrunner (for R/C airplanes) as a new spindle motor. Not only is it a low-cost solution, but pairing it with a traditional brushless ESC can give your CNC software direct control over the motor speed.

The image above is an example of what [James'] machine is capable of. Overall, it’s a very accessible project for most of us. Not every mill needs to be capable of 10 mil traces. If you’ve got the urge, you can probably put one together yourself. Of course, if you do, please let us know!

HHH: PCB Mill from Connecticut Hackerspace

hhh-pcb-mill-CT-hackerspace

The latest Hackaday Hackerspace Henchmen entry comes from [Bremster] and the Connecticut Hackerspace. He mentions that he’s been meaning to write about the PCB/engraving mill used at the hackerspace for some time, but it was the HHH program which motivated him to do so. Yay! That’s exactly what we envisioned with this and we hope there are more submissions which will encourage us to continue and expand the program.

We think this is a perfect CNC project for any hackerspace whose members are into electronics. It’s compact, and we find milling PCBs to be more desirable than chemically etching them; the tool should get quite a bit of use. This particular build uses x, y, and z axis hardware which was pulled separately from unknown machinery. Like any good hacking project, the fabrication process was so addictive that [Bremster] stayed at the space all night, breaking at 5am to shower and eat before heading to work.

It originally used a Dremel rotary tool but had too much play in the mounting mechanism. When they replaced it with the motor shown above they also machined an aluminum bracket that dramatically stabilizes the cutting bit. This results in clean PCBs, and they’ve even used it to make stamps for their hackerspace passports. There is an enclosure attached, which has been hinged to the right for the two images above.

Check out the demo video below, and get your own CNC submission in for the HHH program before the October 31st deadline.

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Learn machining from an old school metal master

Keith Fenner

In the depths of YouTube there are still some jewels to be found. [Keith Fenner] is one of them. [Keith] owns Turn Wright Machine Works in Cape Cod, MA. From his small shop, He works on everything from sailboats to heavy equipment.

[Keith] describes himself as “An artist, and a jobber, 36 years in the trade”. We think he could add teacher to that list, as we’ve learned quite a bit about machining from his Youtube channel.

One of the interesting things about [Keith] is his delivery on camera. He makes the viewer feel like an apprentice machinist working alongside him. Rather than carefully setup shots with graphics, [Keith] narrates as he works paying jobs. He also has no problem showing us his mistakes - and recovery from them, as well as his victories.

The main tools at Turn Wright are the lathe and mill, but [Keith] isn’t old fashioned by any means. He has a complete PlasmaCAM setup and isn’t afraid to do a little computer work.

Most of [Keith's] projects are broken up into several videos. One of our favorites is “So you broke it off in your hole”. In this series [Keith] shows what it takes to get a broken screw extractor (or EZ Out) out of a large diesel turbo. Get a feeling for what [Keith] has to offer with his “Day in the LIfe” video after the break.

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3D Printering: The Combo Machines Cometh

There’s only so many ways to squeeze hot plastic out of a nozzle, and eventually witnessing the explosion of 3D printer designs over the past few years gets just a little repetitive. What then, is someone who dreams of a technological utopia, Star Trek replicators, and making a few bucks off a Kickstarter to do?

The answer, of course, is a combo machine. Where the Repraps, Makerbots, and the very high-end Stereolithography machines can only do additive manufacturing by laying down plastic or resin layer by layer, these combo machines can also remove material, be it plastic, wood, or metals such as brass or aluminum.

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