CNC Machine From PC Parts

[Mike Rankin] built a small CNC machine using some PC parts. He repurposed two optical drives and a floppy drive to create the plotter seen drawing the Hackaday logo above. The X and Y axes use the stepper motor controlled read heads from two optical drives. The Z axis is built using the read head hardware from a floppy drive. A 3-axis controller module from eBay drives the little machine, keeping the cost quite low at around $45.

As you can see in the video after the break it does a great job as a plotter. [Mike] doesn’t think there’s enough power in the hardware to be used as a mill. We’d still like to try adding a flexible shaft rotary tool and see if this could mill some rudimentary PCBs, but maybe you need to shell out just a little bit more for that functionality. It might also be possible to use an etchant resist marker instead of toner transfer or photo-resist.

28 thoughts on “CNC Machine From PC Parts

  1. Thanks for the positive feedback guys. Routing or cutting anything is not really possible with this machine since only a small piece of plastic sits on the metal screw threaded rods for each axis. It was really done to get familiar with how cnc software works with stepper motors without spending any real money. I’m saving up now for a larger pre build hobby cnc machine that has the ability to route pcbs and cut plastic.

  2. unfortunately circuit prototyping would be limited to a little more than a square inch, and i have doubts on the holding power for milling, using an etch resist marker would be an interesting test for circuit prototyping though

    i am planning to use a matched set of cd rom linear slides for an xy bed for a microscope im building, still looking for parts to cobble together a circuit mill though

  3. “Hmm… On the other hand, it looks like I’ll need to drop that controller, that crappy soft and make use of an avr…”

    Why would you use an avr? It’s a cnc machine. The computer does all the processing. The controller is simply driving the motors.

  4. yeah, or micromachining for doing very small metal or plastic components..

    pick & place would be cool though.

    i was trying to get a bluray laser to “etch” away the coating on a uv pcb, had some success but ran into issues with fine positioning with the cheap brushed motor mechanism i had..

  5. This looks like a fantastic introductory step to the 16″x14″ CNC mill I’m still hoping to build one of these days. It would make a great desktop toy, too…I’m imagining just leaving a pad of mini-Post-Its on there.

    Figures that now everyone’s bought out the $35 drivers on eBay, and they’re down to just the $50 ones.

  6. If you want to make a PCB with this thing, why don’t you cut a piece of fiberglass or another similar (non-conductive) material to size, and replace the marker with a circuit repair pen to draw the circuit tracks. You could probably even get it to print from Eagle. Similarly, if you have a laser cutter, you could get an un-etched circuit board, and raster away all of the copper except the tracks you want. Perfect solution.

  7. another method that could work is to spray the board with carbon black based paint and use an HV discharge from a sharpened tungsten welding rod to burn through the paint exposing the copper underneath, then etch as normal.
    the idea being that the paint vaporises but the air blowing past it not only ensures accurate “burning” but keeps the paint off previously etched copper.

    combine with the bicarbonate of soda etch and you have a pcb making system that could be installed into a CDROM drive bay.

  8. additional idea, coat the pcb with a thin layer of uv reactive glue and then use uv laser to selectively polymerise sections while the pcb is sitting on a repurposed domestic iron with salvaged thermal pads from broken plasma screens/etc.

    might be slightly less hassle than the paint method as uv glue is cheaply purchased as “windscreen repair compound”.
    plus the glue acts as a solder guard for smd reflow on the cheap without expensive silk screen.

    another interesting technique for making interconnects is to mix a shrinking glue such as tyre repair compound with silver nanoparticles (made using two silver rods in DI water with a reversing DC bias when the current hits 1mA)

  9. I agree that using old printers and scanners would have been a much better idea, you would have got a much larger plotter out of it. Good thinking on going with an old floppy drive for the Y axis though!

  10. Hello, I have built all the hardware: physical structure, and have completed in entering the GRBLtoArduino and all the software. I have used the Universal GCodeSender and has successfully interpreted the software for is says ” Grbl 0.8c [‘$’ for help] “. I’ve soldered the stepper motors (for I’m using steppers from dvd roms) to some salvages wire from a printer I took apart. I installed some female sockets in order to connect to the male pins on the CNC Shield ver. 2.01 . The orange light from the arduino flashes and in the Universal GCodeSender ver. 0.8 completes the operation b/c is says ” ok ” . I have no idea whats wrong. I know the steppers work b/c ive used a 9v battery to pulse the motors and they do indeed pulse. Ive used a multimeter to check its resistance and it works. I’ve checked the current on the motors once connected to the cnc shield and there’s current. I have tested if the drivers are in fact getting power and they are. I’ve attempted the code ” x=100 ” , ” $7=225 ” but no motor movement. Can ANYONE help me ?

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