Open Source CAM Software In The Browser

3D printers, desktop CNC mills/routers, and laser cutters have made a massive difference in the level of projects the average hacker can tackle. Of course, these machines would never have seen this level of adoption if you had to manually write G-code, so CAM software had a big part to play. Recently we found out about an open-source browser-based CAM pack created by [Stewert Allen] named Kiri:Moto, which can generate G-code for all your desktop CNC platforms.

To get it out of the way, Kiri:Moto does not run in the cloud. Everything happens client-side, in your browser. There are performance trade-offs with this approach, but it does have the inherent advantages of being cross-platform and not requiring any installation. You can click the link above and start generating tool paths within seconds, which is great for trying it out. In the machine setup section you can choose CNC mill, laser cutter, FDM printer, or SLA printer. The features for CNC should be perfect for 90% of your desktop CNC needs. The interface is intuitive, even if you don’t have any previous CAM experience. See the video after the break for a complete breakdown of the features, complete with timestamp for the different sections.

All the required features for laser cutting are present, and it supports a drag knife. If you want to build an assembly from layers of laser-cut parts, Kiri:Moto can automatically slice the 3D model and nest the 2D parts on the platform. The slicer for 3D printing is functional, but probably won’t be replacing our regular slicer soon. It places heavy emphasis on manually adding supports, and belt printers like the Ender CR30 are already supported.

Kiri:Moto is being actively improved, and it looks as though [Stewart] is very responsive to community inputs. The complete source code is available on GitHub, and you can run an instance on your local machine if you prefer to do so. Continue reading “Open Source CAM Software In The Browser”

Something’s Brewing Up In The Woods – And It Looks Stunning

Caffeine fuels the hacker, and there are plenty of options to get it into your system, from guzzling energy drinks to chewing instant coffee pellets. But let’s take a nice cup of coffee as input source, which itself can be prepared in many ways using all kinds of techniques. In its simplest form, you won’t need any fancy equipment or even electricity, just heat up some water over a fire and add your ground beans to it. This comes in handy if you’re camping out in the woods or find yourself in a post-apocalyptic world, and in case you still prefer a stylish coffee maker in such a situation — why let an apocalypse ruin having nice things? — you’re in luck, because [Andreas Herz] designed this nifty looking off-the-grid coffee maker.

The design somewhat resembles a certain high-end precision coffee maker that even fictional billionaires approve of, which [Andreas] created in Fusion 360 and is available online. The device base is made from brass, wood, and silicone he cast from a 3D printed mold, while the glass and ceramic parts — i.e. the water tank and coffee pot — are simply store bought. [Andreas] opted for fuel gel as heat source, which burns under a copper coil that acts as heat exchanger and starts the actual brewing process. It took him a few attempts to get it right, and in the end, a coat of black exhaust paint did the trick to get the temperatures high enough.

This may not be the fastest coffee maker, as you will see in the video after the break, but choosing a different fuel source might fix that — [Andreas] just went the safe(r) way by using fuel gel here. But hey, why rush things when you’re camping or having a cozy time in a cabin anyway. Now all you need is the right blend, maybe even your own, made with a camp stove coffee roaster. Of course, in case of an actual apocalypse, you may not have easy access to a CNC router or 3D printer, but then there’s always the option to build an espresso machine from salvaged motorcycle parts.

Continue reading “Something’s Brewing Up In The Woods – And It Looks Stunning”

Design Tips For Easier CNC Milling

CNC machining is a wonderful thing, taking away a lot of the manual work required in machining and replacing it with accurate, repeatable computer control. However, this doesn’t mean that you can simply click a few buttons and become a great machinist overnight. There are a wide variety of skills involved in utilizing these tools effectively, and [Adam Bender] has created a guide to help budding makers learn the skills of design for CNC milling. 

[Adam]’s guide starts from a basic level, considering 3-axis CNC milling with the most commonly used tools. From there, a whole range of tips, tricks, and potential pitfalls are discussed to help new machinists get to grips with CNC milling. Everything from dogbone corners, to tool selection and feature heights are covered, as well as cost-saving techniques like minimising the number of setups required.

These are skills any engineer will learn in a hurry when approaching an experienced CNC machinist, but it’s always better to go in forewarned and forearmed. Of course, for those eager to not just work with, but build their own CNC machine, we’ve covered that base too. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Design Tips For Easier CNC Milling”

Review: LinkSprite Mini CNC

It’s a great time to be a hobbyist. No matter how you feel about the Arduino/Raspberry Pi effect, the influx of general enthusiasm and demand it has created translates to better availability of components, a broader community, and loads of freely available knowledge. When people have access to knowledge and ideas, great things can happen. Tools that were once restricted to industrial use become open source, and the price of entry-level versions goes into a nosedive.

As we’ve seen over the last several years, the price of cheap 3D printers keeps falling while the bar of quality keeps rising. It’s happening with laser cutters and carving tools, too. Strolling through Microcenter a few weeks ago, I spotted a new toy on the back wall next to the 3D printers. It was LinkSprite’s desktop mini CNC. They didn’t have one out on display, but there were two of them in boxes on the shelf. And boy, those boxes were small. Laughably small. I wondered, could this adorable machine really be any good? To some, the $200 price tag suggests otherwise. To me, the price tag made it justifiable, especially considering that the next price point for a hobby CNC mill is at least twice as much. I took my phone out and stood there frantically looking for reviews, documentation, anything that was available. It seemed that the general, if sparse consensus is that this thing isn’t a total waste of money. Oh, and there’s a wiki.

According to LinkSprite’s wiki, this little machine will engrave wood, plastic, acrylic, PVC, and PCBs. It will specifically not engrave metal (PCB copper notwithstanding). I’m a bit leery of the chemicals used in the PCB etching process, so the idea of engraving them instead was especially tempting. I pulled the trigger.

Continue reading “Review: LinkSprite Mini CNC”

Hacking A Metallurgical Microscope

[Amen] wanted to inspect ICs on the PCBs for suitability for reuse, so he bought a metallurgical microscope that illuminates from above rather than below, since it normally looks at opaque things. It has a working distance of 0.5 and 10mm, which isn’t a lot of room to solder.

The microscope didn’t come with a slide tray, so [amen] found a cheap one on eBay. Needing a connector block, he melted down some food trays into an ingot, which he then milled down into a block shape, drilled, and used to attach the slide tray to the microscope.

The thing came with a manual XY table, which the operator adjusts by turning knobs. It’s fine for most basic applications but it’s also a pain for more complicated projects, like tiling together a huge photo of a die. [amen]’s currently working on a powered XY based on a DVD drive’s stepper assemblies.

If you’re looking for more microscope projects, read up on the hacked inspection microscope and a Pi Zero ‘scope we previously published.

DIY Surface Grinder For Making Precision Parts At Home

Surface Grinders are machines that can make a surface of a part very flat, very smooth and very parallel to the face of the part that is mounted to the machine. Surface grinders usually have a spinning grinding wheel suspended over a moving bed. The bed moves the part back and forth under the grinding wheel removing an extremely small amount of material at a time, sometimes down to just a ten-thousandth of an inch (o.0001″) in order to make a precision part.

Surface Grinder DIY[Daniel] is a tool guy and wanted a Surface Grinder. He didn’t need a super-accurate commercial grinder so he decided to make one himself. It’s a doozy of a project and is made up of quite a few other tools. [Daniel] already had a mini CNC mill and decided this would be a good platform to begin with. The mill was rigid and already had automated X and Y axes, after all. For the grinder motor, nothing made more economical sense than to use a regular angle grinder, but there were two significant problems. First, no company made wide grinding wheels for an angle grinder. [Daniel] had to modify his spindle to accept an off-the-shelf surface grinding wheel. The second problem is that the new grinding wheel had a max RPM rating of 4400. The angle grinder can reach 10,600 RPM. In order to slow down the angle grinder, a speed control was taken out of an old variable-speed router and integrated with the angle grinder. Problem solved. A mount was then made to attached the angle grinder to the Z axis of the mill.

A magnetic chuck mounted to the mills bed is used to hold down metal work pieces. There is a lever on the chuck that when moved in one direction it creates a magnetic field to hold a ferrous piece of metal firmly to the chuck during machining. When the lever is moved in the other direction, the part is released and can be removed from the Surface Grinder.

To use his new Surface Grinder, [Daniel] creates a CNC g-code file to move his work piece back and forth underneath the grinding wheel. Being able to control the depth of cut and feed rates with his CNC machine removes human error from the grinding process and leaves a consistent finish on the part. Check out the video after the break.

Continue reading “DIY Surface Grinder For Making Precision Parts At Home”

CNC Milling Photos With A Halftone Generator

Looking for an awesome way to mill out a photo or graphic? Check out [Matt Venn]’s halftone gcode generator which creates halftone CNC toolpaths from any image file. We’ve run across some halftone generators before, but [Matt]’s generator has some interesting features and makes for some pretty unique output.

[Matt] initially wrote a simple command line program in Python, but just rewrote his script with a more user-friendly UI that renders a preview of the output as you change options.  The UI lets you change parameters like drill depth, number of lines, and the step size to tweak the output. It even has an option to map the halftone points along a sine wave which makes an interesting effect as shown in the image above.

[Matt]’s program generates standard gcode that you can use to run your CNC machine. [Matt] recommends milling a material with layers of different colors, but you can always mill a solid material and fill the routed areas with paint or dye instead. Want to grab the script or check out the source code? Head over to [Matt]’s GitHub repository.

Thanks for the tip, [Keith O].