In The Fast Moving World Of CNC, This Restored Router Is An Antique

Large machine tools are often built to last a very long time, so it is not uncommon to find a lathe made in the 19th century still providing faithful service. The fundamental job of a lathe has not changed significantly in the intervening years, even though a modern lathe will have more features than its hundred-year-old equivalent.

This is not the case for CNC machine tools. When computer numerical control was wedded with old iron machine tools, the control hardware was doomed to quickly become antique or vintage. From the user interfaces to the control circuitry, in the world of electronics new features quickly become obsolete. [Evan] has a ShopBot CNC wood router from the mid 1990s that he describes as an antique, and his tale of its restoration is both a fascinating look at the changes in small-scale CNC control over two decades as well as something of a primer for anyone considering a similar upgrade.

The controller is a pair of beige-box PC cases that scream “I love the 90’s!”. One contains a socket-7 PC running Windows 95, and the other houses the ShopBot controller; an 80c32 dev board with ShopBot firmware, coupled to a set of motor controller boards, which unlike today’s controllers expect raw quadrature inputs. His aim was to replace the vintage hardware with a modern alternative. An Arduino Mega running grbl to talks to the ShopBot controllers by way of a small piece of electronics to condition quadrature data from the step and direction lines it provided. The result may not be as good as a router from 2019, but it did save this aging tool from retirement.

CNC Machine Rolls Up An Axis To Machine PVC Pipe

Whether it’s wood, metal, plastic, or otherwise, when it comes to obtaining materials for your builds, you have two choices: buy new stock, or scrounge what you can. Fresh virgin materials are often easier to work with, but it’s satisfying to get useful stock from unexpected sources.

This CNC router for PVC pipe is a great example of harvesting materials from an unusual source. [Christophe Machet] undertook his “Pipeline Project” specifically to explore what can be made from large-diameter PVC pipe, of the type commonly used for sewers and other drains. It’s basically a standard – albeit large-format – three-axis CNC router with one axis wrapped into a cylinder. The pipe is slipped around a sacrificial mandrel and loaded into the machine, where it rotates under what looks like a piece of truss from an antenna tower. The spindle seems a bit small, but it obviously gets the job done; luckily the truss has the strength and stiffness to carry a much bigger spindle if that becomes necessary in the future.

The video below shows the machine carving up parts for some lovely chairs. [Christophe] tells us that some manual post-forming with a heat gun is required for features like the arms of the chairs, but we could see automating that step too. We like the look of the pieces that come off this machine, and how [Christophe] saw a way to adapt one axis for cylindrical work. He submitted this project for the 2019 Hackaday Prize; have you submitted your entry yet?

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A Better Embroidery Machine, With 3D Printing And Common Parts

In concept, an everyday sewing machine could make embroidery a snap: the operator would move the fabric around in any direction they wish while the sewing machine would take care of slapping down stitches of colored thread to create designs and filled areas. In practice though, getting good results in this way is quite a bit more complex. To aid and automate this process, [sausagePaws] has been using CNC to take care of all the necessary motion control. The result is the DIY Embroidery Machine V2 which leverages 3D printed parts and common components such as an Arduino and stepper drivers for an economical DIY solution.

It’s not shown in the photo here, but we particularly like the 3D printed sockets that are screwed into the tabletop. These hold the sewing machine’s “feet”, and allow it to be treated like a modular component that can easily be removed and used normally when needed.

The system consists of a UI running on an Android tablet, communicating over Bluetooth to an Arduino. The Arduino controls the gantry which moves the hoop (a frame that holds a section of fabric taut while it is being embroidered), while the sewing machine lays down the stitches.

[sausagePaws]’s first version worked well, but this new design really takes advantage of 3D printing as well as the increased availability of cheap and effective CNC components. It’s still a work in progress that is a bit light on design details, but you can see it all in action in the video embedded below.

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Color Your World With This CNC Painting Robot

Let’s say you’ve watched a few episodes of “The Joy of Painting” and you want your inner [Bob Ross] to break free. You get the requisite supplies for oil painting – don’t forget the alizarin crimson! – and start to apply paint to canvas, only to find your happy little trees are not so happy, and this whole painting thing is harder than it looks.

[Saint Bob] would certainly encourage you to stick with it, but if you have not the patience, a CNC painting robot might be a thing to build. The idea behind [John Opsahl]’s “If Then Paint” is not so much to be creative, but to replicate digital images in paint. Currently in the proof-of-concept phase, If Then Paint appears to have two main components: the paint management system, with syringe pumps to squeeze out different paints to achieve just the right color, and the applicator itself, a formidable six-axis device that supports tool changes by using different brushes chucked up into separate hand drill chucks. The extra axes at the head will allow control of how the brush is presented to the canvas, and also allow for cleaning the brush between colors. The videos below show two of the many ways [John] is exploring to clean the brushes, but sadly neither is as exciting as the correct [Bob Ross] method.

It looks like If Then Paint has a ways to go yet, but we’re impressed by some of the painting it has produced already. This is just the kind of project we like to see in the 2019 Hackaday Prize – thought out, great documentation, and a lot of fun.

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Lack Of Space Is No Longer An Excuse For Not Having A Pen Plotter

Pen plotters, those mechanical X-Y drawing machines that have in many cases been superseded by inkjet and other printer technologies, exert a fascination from a section of our community. Both analogue and digital machines are brought out of retirement for some impressive graphical effects, and we suspect that more than one of you wishes you had the space for one in your lives.

The good news is that you now no longer need room for a hefty piece of 1970s instrumentation, because the ever-inventive [Bart Dring] has produced a tiny 3D-printed plotter with an ESP32 at its heart. The ESP runs his ESP32 port of the Grbl firmware, and can handle a G-code file placed wirelessly upon the controller’s SD card.

The mechanism is particularly clever, using a single belt for both X and Y axes. The pen lift Z axis is a hinged design rather than a linear one, with a hobby servo doing the lifting. The hinge bearings are placed as close as possible to the paper surface to achieve an approximation to a vertical lift. You can see the machine in action in the video below the break, drawing its own self-portrait.

If you are a long-time reader you will recognise [Bart]’s work, he has appeared here quite a few times. His coaster-cutting machine and his CNC plotter badge are particularly memorable.

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Add An Ant To Your Desk For Some Compact PCB Manufacturing

Usually when one thinks of using a CNC machine for producing PCBs, one thinks of those big, bulky CNC machines that pretty much fill an entire desk. But what if a CNC machine could be small enough to fit on a desk without getting in the way, yet still be useful enough to make single- and double-sided PCBs? This was the idea behind The Ant, the compact PCB manufacturing machine which [Mattia] and [Angelo] designed and open sourced.

In addition to the above linked Bitbucket repository for the project, the ‘Ant Team’ has a YouTube channel on which they have a range of rather professionally edited videos on the project, ranging from constructing the little machine, to various updates and more  Also see the video that is attached after the link for a visual introduction to the project.

Support and community interaction is mostly performed via the Reddit group for the project, where the diminutive machine finds a welcoming community as it continues to evolve. The machine itself is specified at this point as being able to built from commercially available and 3D printed parts, requiring no further tools for cutting or shaping. The precision is about 0.2 mm trace spacing.

Optical alignment for double-sided boards is achieved using a USB micro camera and the bCNC software, while the cost for materials is said to be quite inexpensive when compared with commercial solutions

Honestly, after seeing the machine in action, wouldn’t you want to have a CNC machine that’s so small and good-looking on your desk? If there’s one thing one might want to add, it’s probably a way to deal with the copper dust that’s produced while creating PCBs. Having to clean that off the desk after each PCB manufacturing session would get a bit cumbersome, we imagine.

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3D Printer Meets CNC Router To Make Wood Prints

We’ve seen plenty of plywood 3D printers before; after all, many early hobbyist machines were made from laser-cut plywood. But this plywood 3D-printer isn’t made from plywood – it prints plywood. Well, sort of.

Yes, we know – that’s not plywood the printer is using, but rather particleboard, the same material that fills the flatpack warehouse of every IKEA store. And calling it a printer is a bit of a stretch, too. This creation, by [Shane Whigton] and his Formlabs Hackathon team, is more of a hybrid additive-subtractive CNC machine. A gantry-mounted router carves each layer of the print from a fresh square of material – which could just as easily be plywood as particleboard. Once a layer is cut, the gantry applies glue to it, puts a fresh sheet of material on top, and clamps it down tight. The router then carves the next layer, and so on up the stack. The layer height is limited to the thickness of the material – a nominal 3/4″ (19 mm) in this case – and there’s a remarkable amount of waste, but that’s not really the point. Check out the printer in action and the resulting giant Benchy in the video below.

Seeing all that particleboard dust and glue got us thinking: what about a 3D-printer that extrudes a paste of sawdust mixed with glue? We imagine that would be a bit like those giant printers that extrude concrete to build houses.
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