The problem with building automated systems is that it’s hard to look at any problem and not see it in terms of possible automation solutions. Come to think of it, that’s probably less of a bug and more of a feature, but it’s easy to go overboard and automate all the things, which quickly becomes counterproductive in terms of time and money.
If you’re clever, though, a tactical automation solution can increase your process efficiency without breaking the budget. That’s where [Christopher Helmke] seems to have landed with this two-axis add-on fixture for his CNC router. The rig is designed to solve the problem of the manual modification needed to turn off-the-shelf plastic crates into enclosures for his line of modular automation components, aspects of which we’ve featured before. The crates need holes drilled in them and cutouts created in their sides for displays and controls. It’s a job [Christopher] tackled before with a drill and a jigsaw, with predictable results.
To automate the job without going overboard, [Christopher] came up with a tilting turntable that fits under the bed of the CNC router and sticks through a hole in the spoil board. The turntable is a large, 3D printed herringbone gear driven by a stepper and pinion gear. A cheap bearing keeps costs down, while a quartet of planetary gears constrain the otherwise wobbly platform. The turntable also swivels 90 degrees on a herringbone sector gear; together, the setup adds pitch and roll axes to the machine that allow the spindle access to all five sides of the crates.
Was it worth the effort? Judging by the results in the video below, we’d say so, especially given the number of workpieces that [Christopher] has to process. Add in the budget-conscious construction that doesn’t sacrifice precision too much, and this one seems like a real automation win.