Handheld CNC Fabrication

While loading a 3D model into a CNC program and letting a machine go to town on a piece of stock is awesome, there’s a lot to be said about the artistry, craftsmanship and tactile feedback of carving a project by hand. [Amit Zoran] and [Joe Paradiso] created a nice bridge between these two approaches with their hand-held, but still digitally controlled milling device they call The Free D.

The Free D looks like your run-of-the-mill handheld Dremel tool with an engraving attachment and a few extra servos attached for good measure. These extra parts serve a purpose: the tool actually keeps track of its own orientation in 3D space. With the help of a few magnets underneath the work piece, the Free D sends its orientation back to a computer running a CNC program. When the computer detects the engraving attachment is getting too close to the desired shape, the Free D automatically retracts its own tool head.

Given the insanity or expense in building our buying a mill with six degrees of freedom, the Free D looks like it could be a useful tool in a few model maker’s toolboxes. Check out the demo video of the Free D after the break.

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