FR4 Machine Shield Is A CNC Milling Machine From FR4 PCB

The people behind the PocketNC heard you like CNC PCB mills, so they milled you a PCB mill out of PCB. They announced their surprising new open source hardware product, a pocket sized 3-axis CNC machine entirely made out of FR4 PCB material, aptly named “FR4 Machine Shield”, at this year’s Bay Area Maker Faire.

UPDATE: The FR4 Machine Shield is now on Kickstarter

fr4_thumbWe know the concept from quadcopters, little robots, and generally things that are small enough to make use of their PCBs as a structural component. But an entire CNC machine, soldered together from a few dozen PCBs certainly takes it to the next level.

There is no doubt that 2mm thick fiber reinforced epoxy can be surprisingly rigid, although the Achilles heel of this method might be the solder joints. However, it looks like all load bearing, mechanical connections of the machine are supported by tightly interlocking “dovetail” finger-joints, which may help protecting all the solder connections from the strain hardening effects of continuous stress and spindle vibrations.

As you might expect, most of the wiring is embedded into the FR4 frame construction, and to squeeze the maximum value out of the PCB material, the motor driver boards interface via card edge connectors with the (currently Arduino based) controller board. In addition to the milling head, which features a brushless DC motor and a tool coupler, the team wants to develop heads for circuit printing, microscopy, pneumatic pick and place, hot air reflow, and 3D printing.

With all those cost-driven design choices, from the one-step manufacturing process of the frame and wiring to the dismissal of screws and nuts from the frame assembly, the “FR4 Machine Shield” could indeed become one of the cheapest CNC machine kits on the market. The team targets an introduction price of $400 during a Kickstarter campaign in June 2016. Can they deliver? [Gerrit] checked Pocket NC out at the Faire and ended up raving about how they run their business.

Enjoy their teaser video below!

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DIY Plotter Strives For Cheapest CNC Machine Title

Arguably, taking the plunge into the CNC hobby does indeed have potential to end up costing more than expected. But that should be no reason to deter anyone from doing it! [msassa11] shows us how to do it in full effect with his definitely unique and extremely inexpensive homemade plotter.

The design goal was to keep this machine as low-cost as possible while at the same time using materials that can be found around any tinkerer’s shop or at least purchased locally. First of all, you’ll notice that there is only one linear rail, yes, one rail for two axes of movement. The single rail was removed from an inkjet printer along with the mating bushing that originally allowed the print head to move freely back and forth. A threaded rod lead screw does double duty here, keeping the X axis carriage from rotating around the linear rail and also transmitting the force to move the carriage back and forth. Both the lead nut and bushings are held in place with cast-epoxy mounts.

uniquecnc-closeupAs unique as the X axis is, the Y sure gives it a run for its money. No linear rails are used, two lead screws are the only things that maintain the gantry’s position. To prevent gravity from pulling the gantry down and bending the Y axis lead screws, there are a couple of bearings on either side that ride along the bed of the machine. The frame material also hits the cheap target, it’s made from blank PCB board. A PIC16F877 microcontroller and a handful of mosfets control the motors. [msassa11] built this control circuit but admits it’s performance is not that great, it’s noisy and loses torque at high speed.

[msassa11] certainly proves that he is extremely resourceful with the outcome of this project. He met his goal of building an extremely inexpensive CNC machine. Check out his project page to see a ton of photos and find out what other unconventional ideas he used to build his machine.

Unorthodox Home-made CNC Machine

Here’s a rather unorthodox home-made CNC machine we haven’t seen before!

[ModHappy] recently accepted a challenge to design and build a CNC machine out of cheap and readily available components from a hardware store.

Wandering around the store he noticed the plumbing isle and he started playing around with PVC pipes on the floor, greatly confusing the store employees. He had a frame constructed, but still needed a way to achieve linear movement. His calls were answered in the electrical isle, where he made use of conduit wall-mounts! They only required a minor modification to go from gripping the pipe, to sliding along it. A few fasteners later, some stepper motors from a broken scanner, a CD-ROM drive for the z-axis, some hacked together couplers using set screws, and the mechanical build was complete.

On the controls end, he made use of a cheap Chinese TB6560 CNC driver board off eBay, which he modified slightly to increase reliability. The whole thing runs off LinuxCNC (which is free) on his old laptop — good to note, it can also be run live if you aren’t yet enlightened with a Linux OS.

Stick around after the break to see it in action, drawing out an awesome site’s logo!

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