Not Having The Room Isn’t A Good Reason To Not Have A CNC Router Anymore

PhlatPrinter CNC Machine

Typically, CNC Machines take up a larger footprint than that of the raw material it is cutting. The size of such a machine may have prevented interested makers/hackers from buying or building one for themselves. If you are one of those people then you’d be interested in [Fly3DMon’s] series of CNC Router projects called PhlatPrinter.

A typical CNC Router has a bed that the work piece is mounted to and that work piece stays stationary. The tool then moves in 3 axes, removing material, leaving behind a finished part. The PhlatPrinter works more like a large format plotter, where the work piece is moved back and forth via rollers while the tool only moves in 2 directions. What this allows is a CNC Machine that takes up very little floor space when not in use that can handle any length of material!

PhlatePrinter CNC Machine

It appears that the first PhlatPrinter was intended to cut foam for RC Airplanes but a quick ‘net search shows a couple newer iterations, some of which cut wood and MDF. If you are interested in building one, the parts list, SKP and DXF files are available at the above link.


35 thoughts on “Not Having The Room Isn’t A Good Reason To Not Have A CNC Router Anymore

  1. I’m thinking of the old paper printers that needed the holes in the sides to feed right… Maybe if you took a page from that era and used some sort of grip on the edge meant to cause damage to the material, but would hold the material in place better, it would eliminate the drift we see there.

    1. I’m guessing you’re referring to dot matrix printers. Those things are rock solid. Prior to becoming unemployed I worked for 8 years at a place where we used one of those printers daily. Over the years we put thousands upon thousands of papers through that thing and it never skipped a beat. The reason we used them was because of cost (dirt cheap to run) and because you get two copies of each order at once and any notes you make get duplicated as well (“carbon paper” or whatever it’s called in English, although there wasn’t an actual carbon sheet inbetween).

      The laser printers we used on the other hand… I think we went through 3-4 of those and they jammed and caused trouble often. Same with an expensive Xerox wax printer. Went through 2 of those.

      1. Actually he’s more specifically referring to “tractor feed” printers. Not all dot matrix printers used tractor feed paper. I had an HP dot matrix printer about 20 years ago (printed my thesis on it) and it used regular printer paper.

  2. I’m not sure where the problem is, but something doesn’t seem right about this build. Well – not the build itself, but what was posted as the “open source” files.

    For one thing, their parts BOM doesn’t match up – the file that you download isn’t in the same order, nor does it have all of the same parts – as the one that is viewable on the web site.

    Furthermore, the one that is viewable on the web site mentions needing two particular ACME thread anti-backlash nuts, which I can only imagine is for the movement of the tool carriage. However, no where in the viewable list is there any mention as to the type and size needed of the ACME threaded rod. Neither of these parts are mentioned in the downloaded BOM. Nor is anything said about machining said threaded rod for coupler to the stepper motor…

    In fact – not much is said about the electronics and electromechanical pieces; while I did find some information (a blurb about ordering some parts package and potentially getting the 110 oz steppers replaced with something else) – none of this was mentioned anywhere else. While the information that is provided might be enough to infer the size of the threaded rod and other parts, it is still an oversight that might trip others up.

    As it stands, this seems to be a somewhat incomplete open-source hardware posting; while I think there is enough there to understand what is going on, and perhaps even to build one of these machines, if you do plan on doing so, just realize that there isn’t enough info given to simply dump the files, get your parts/wood/etc, cut and fit it together. Currently, it very much looks like a puzzle with missing pieces which you may just have to fabricate or figure out yourself – it is definitely not a “step-by-step, you supply the work and materials” build. There aren’t any instructions, and you may have to improvise (a little or a lot, I can’t tell).

    I am not faulting this project for that; maybe it was an oversight or something – maybe it was a rushed upload? Regardless, treat it like what it is (a great idea to build off of – like the original rep-rap was) – and you should have a lot of fun. Myself, I’m already thinking about the possibility of using something like this to cut foam-core (which has a styrene or PVC foam center, and shouldn’t be cut on a regular laser cutter).

    1. The design is a few years old, but they did sell these as kits. They actually are on a MK3 now. My guess is the old files versions were not well kept. So there are improvements made in some but not others. It was being heavily updated and modified as people built/used it. My guess is that most of what you found can be explained/resolved by visiting their forums and reading about the build logs of the MK1

      1. I had thought that might be the case as well – just not worth it at this moment to register (yet another – sigh) forum account to check on it. TBH, I think the idea and concept are the real takeaway, rather than the actual plan and/or machine itself.

  3. This is a splendid idea – if you can manage accurate and precise registration of the material (ShopBot among others makes a commercial version). And yes, extension roller-tables for materials are very much necessary

  4. I used to work on the A0 / A1 plotters that you used to see in design / drafting shops.

    The registration error was the total error from start to finish so it wasn’t huge registration error but still leaves room for improvement.

    This is pretty well a worst case scenario – moving a soft media like foam and using foam covered rollers. Starting at one end is also a worst case. If you start in the middle then some of the error will cancel out.

    I would suggest a non-driven shaft below the media that has several spiked wheels to make sure the media always moves parallel. It could be spring loaded so that the spikes slightly penetrate the media and have enough wheels on it so that there are at least two touching with smaller media stock. The spiked wheels would need to be about an inch to an inch and a half in diameter. The foam covered rollers are too soft as well. Thicker rollers with thinner foam will reduce the error but I still think the foam used is too soft. And of course the side media supports that have been mentioned.

    This is an excellent build. As always a couple of ‘adjustments’ to be made but all in all this has great potential. Small in size, able to work with a variety of media types, less complex and expensive to build.

    Having worked for many years on printers from the old dot matrix / fan form right through to laser / solid ink (wax) printers I can say that like everyone knows – getting printer to ‘handle’ paper well is a technical challenge – foam would be even harder so this project is well on the way to success.

    It’s given me some food for thought for when I eventually get around to my first build.

  5. I’ll have to look at the Mk2 and Mk3 later, but a common industrial method of handling this is to have a free wheeling roller on an encoder be in contact with the material so you could compensate for any slip of the drive system.

  6. “Not Having The Room Isn’t A Good Reason To Not Have A CNC Router Anymore”.

    There be a lot o negations in that sentence, and we’re not but humble pirates.

    Maybe something more like, “Lack of space is no longer a reason to do without a CNC router, arrrrgh!”, would be more comprehensible to our lot .. arrghhh!

      1. Hmm, I was debating whether to say anything .. maybe the coin landed wrong-side up. I did think that my remark was reasonably light, and I’m actually a little surprised that you singled it out.

        I have seen far more scathing criticisms of the writing at Hackaday, and I generally disagree with those views. In fact, I think that the writing at Hackaday is usually pretty good. However, this title struck me as being particularly unwieldly, and since the Hackaday writers seem to care about the quality of the writing (at least it seems to be a factor that they consider in balance with other factors), I figured a light dig that would not discourage them to not employ inelegant language that doesn’t strive to not use negations that negate subsequent negated negations might not be the least inadvisable thing.

        Also, as an aside, I inadvertently clicked the “Report Comment” link on your post — the print was small, the screen was dull and my eyesight is not fabulous (I am, indeed, 13 — but in a fairly high number base) — and I found my curiosity piqued by that hard-to-read link, since hovering just gave the old “javascript void(0);”. I doubt anything will come of my click, but if a mod comes to check, I want to be clear that I have no particular issue with your post.

  7. Well, you can store it in much smaller spaces, but when you do this, you will need even more floor space to operate it, because to cut the whole sheet, you have material length one way, and almost fill material length the other way, vs. a machine that’s a little longer than the whole sheet.

    1. That is exactly what I went through in school. We had both a drafting machine and a cutter that were built like this in a class. Paper, like a Kricut. Storage was small, we just shoved them against the wall. But their footprint was HUGE when in operation. We could never get them to do their work “linearly”, it was always on some seemingly (at the time) random process that would cause the paper to whip back and forth increasing the number of paper cuts to unwitting students standing to close.

    2. Most people would have enough room to wheel something out into, but not to keep it taking up space all the time. If you were using one at home you could keep it in the garage then just move a car out of the way and put the cutter take up the car spot.

    3. Well, you could add motors so that it would only take the space of a regular CNC and save space when not being used :-). Also the space taken depends now only on the work piece size, not the largest possible work piece size.

      I suppose I wouldn’t want to be near a traveling CNC machine however.. Perhaps a model that can easily be folded or turned to take less floor space?

  8. “The tool then moves in 3 axes, removing material, leaving behind a finished part.”

    I’m sure you meant “axis” not “axes” here, though the mental image of a cnc with 3 axes to remove material, chopping away almost made me spit out my coffee.

    1. You have google; you can look up “what is the plural of axis?” just the same as I can.

      If you did, you would find that, yes – the word “axes” is the plural of “axis” (in fact, you should have learned this in grade school):

      Proper sentence structure would then be “The tool then moves on 3 axes, removing material…”; this whole discussion, though, could have been made moot if the author had wrote “The tool moves in 3 dimensions, removing material…”

      /I applied for HAD’s writing position not too long back; I didn’t make it, maybe because I can actually write a somewhat coherent sentence…? I sure hope that isn’t the case.

      1. I’m very sorry that my attempt to illustrate a humorous mental image of a cnc machine constructed of 3 hatchet like axes chopping away at material caused your already too tight underwear to bunch up into your neither regions further.

        Yes, I do indeed have google. This link may shed some light on some things things for you:

          1. I stand corrected, and apologize to the original poster, the axis/axes comment i made was incorrect. I also stand behind the comment that crOsh didn’t get the job he wanted because he is a pompous a5sh*le, not because he has immense grammatical acumen that is above the position desired as he postulated.

          2. @NotsoFresh: My apologies about your joke; I did get that, and I probably should’ve mentioned it in my original reply to you – I found the mental image humorous as well. It’s perhaps possible I didn’t get the job because of the reason you stated (btw, I found your use of LMGTFY pretty damn funny – I am fully aware of how I am at times perceived), but not likely.

            More than likely, I didn’t get the job because my writing style isn’t in-line with HAD. I had no previous writing experience, but since I was looking for a job anyhow at the time (software developer), I figured, “why not?” and posted.

            While I didn’t make it with HAD, I did end up finding a new position at a local cloud hosting company doing server deployment automation, which is a completely new (and challenging) experience for me. Fortunately, I doubt that my writing abilities nor “grammatical acumen” played any part in the decision.

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