Small low-cost CNC mill with rotary tool

Minimal Mill: The Minamil

Having a few machine tools at one’s disposal is a luxury that not many of us are afforded, and often an expensive one at that. It is something that a large percentage of us may dream about, though, and with some commonly available tools and inexpensive electronics a few people have put together some very inexpensive CNC machines. The latest is the Minamil, which uses a rotary tool and straps it to an economical frame in order to get a functional CNC mill setup working.

This project boasts impressively low costs at around $15 per axis. Each axis uses readily available parts such as bearings and threaded rods that are readily installed in the mill, and for a cutting head the build is based on a Dremel-like rotary tool that has a similarly low price tag. Let’s not ignore the essentially free counterweight that is used.

For control, an Arduino with a CNC shield powers the three-axis device which is likely the bulk of the cost of this project. [Paul McClay] also points out that a lot of the material he needed for this build can be salvaged from things like old printers, so the $45 price tag is a ceiling, not a floor.

The Minamil has been demonstrated milling a wide variety of materials with excellent precision. Both acrylic and aluminum are able to be worked with this machine, but [Paul] also demonstrates it in its capacity to mill PCBs. It does have some limitations but for the price it seems that this mill can’t be beat, even compared to his previous CNC build which repurposed old CD drives.

a render of the curved bartop arcade machine in fusion 360

Bartop Arcade Machine That Isn’t Afraid Of Change

Arcade machines have a distinct look and feel with large imposing cabinets and smaller bartop machines that try to keep the look and feel of a traditional upright arcade cabinet while taking up less space. An entirely new aesthetic has been given for this engineering marvel of a bartop arcade that [DIY Engineering] has made. Gone is the expansive angular box, and in its place are sleek and slender curves. The key piece that makes this build work is the curved monitor.

He started with a detailed design in Fusion360 that really focused on the tools and techniques that [DIY Engineering] knew would work. The backbone of the device was formed from wooden dowels around which 3d printed parts slid on. To the sides of the dowels, two pieces of acrylic are screwed on to act as an LED diffusor. To that acrylic, two pieces of CNC’d red oak are attached with two arcade buttons for pinball-style actuation. Over the top, cast acrylic was heated and then bent into the desired shape with the help of a two-part mold press. The screen slotted right in perfectly. Part of the display at the top was reserved for a marquee, and the look is extraordinary with the dark acrylic. Ten arcade buttons and an eight-way joystick offer an array of options for input.

Internally, a temperature-controlled fan and a Raspberry Pi are running the show. Controls are wired as GPIO and read by the Pi. So naturally, the games on the SD card tend to look best on a long vertical screen: vertical shooters and the like.

Arguably, the best thing about this project isn’t just the execution (which is fantastic) but the look behind the curtain at the process. So many potential problems were solved in the modeling stage, and fabrication went fairly smoothly as a result (or so we think youtube hides a multitude of sins). The results speak for themselves, and we think this is an enviable arcading machine. [DIY Engineering] has mentioned providing files in the future for you to build your own. If perhaps it seems a little intimidating, why not give a smaller 3D printable bartop a try?

Video after the break.

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Beginning The Machine Shop Journey With A DIY CNC

Building a good quality machine shop may seem to present a chicken-and-egg problem, at least for anyone not willing to mortgage their home for the money needed to buy all of these tools new. Namely, that building good tools often requires good tools. To help solve this problem, [Ryan] designed and built this CNC machine which can be built with nothing other than common tools, hardware store supplies, and some readily available parts from the internet.

Since it’s being built from consumer-grade material, [Ryan] has the design philosophy of “buying precision” which means that most of the parts needed for this build are precise enough for their purpose without needing to be worked in any way before incorporation into the mill. For example, he uses a granite plate because it’s hard, flat, heavy, and sturdy enough at the time of purchase to be placed into the machine right away. Similarly, his linear guides do not need to be modified before being put to work with a high degree of precision and minimal calibration. From there, he applies the KISS principle and uses the simplest parts available. With this design process he is able to “bootstrap” a high quality mill for around $1500 USD without needing any extra tools than the ones you likely already have.

The RIG-CNC as it is known has also been made completely open source which further cements its bootstrapability, and there is a lot more detail on the project page and in the video linked below. This project is unique not simply for the mill build from common parts and tools, but because this design philosophy is so robust. Good design goes a lot farther in our builds than a lot of us might realize, and good design often results in more maintainable, hackable things that work for more uses than the original creators may have even thought about.

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Minimalist Robot Arm Really Stacks Up

There’s nothing like a little weekend project, especially one that ends up better than you expected. And when you literally build a robotic arm out of workshop scraps, so much the better.

Longtime readers will no doubt recognize the build style used here as that of [Norbert Heinz], aka “Homofaciens” on YouTube. [Norbert] has a way of making trash do his bidding, and has shown us all kinds of seemingly impossible feats of mechatronics with just what’s lying around. In this case, his robot arm is made from scrap wooden roofing battens, or what we’d call furring strips here in the US. The softwood isn’t something you’d think would make a great material for building robots, but [Norbert] makes its characteristics work for him, like using wax-lubricated holes for hinge points. Steppers and lead screws cannibalized from an old CNC build, along with the drive electronics, provide the motion. It’s a bit — compliant — but precise enough to pick up nuts and stack them nicely. The video below gives an overview of the build, and detailed instructions are available too.

We always appreciated [Norbert]’s minimalist builds, and seeing what can be accomplished with almost nothing is always inspirational. If you’re not familiar with his work, check out his cardboard and paperclip CNC plotter, his tin can encoders, or his plasma-powered printer.

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Giant CNC Machine Measures A Full Cubic Meter

There are plenty of designs for table-top 3D printers, engravers, and general CNC machines out there. However, if you wanna build big things and build them fast, sometimes you need a machine that can handle bigger jobs. This gigantic 1x1x1 m 5-axis CNC machine from [Brian Brocken] absolutely fits the bill.

The build relies on 3D-printed components and aluminium tubing to make it accessible for anyone to put together. [Brian] notes that 25×25 mm tubing with a 2 mm wall thickness does an okay job, but those aiming to minimize deflection would do well to upgrade to 5 mm thickness instead. Stepper motors are NEMA 23 size, though the Y-axis uses a pair of NEMA 17s. This is necessary to deal with the immense size of the machine. Control is thanks to an Arduino Mega fitted with a RAMPS board, running the Marlin firmware.

The plan is to use the machine to test out a variety of CNC machining techniques. It could make for a great maxi-sized 3D printer, and should be able to handle some basic 5-axis milling of very soft materials like foams. This might seem silly on the face of it, but it can be of great use for mold making tasks.

We’ve seen giant CNC routers built before, too, and they can readily be put to great use. Video after the break.

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Build That Catan Board You Designed

A couple of months ago, we posted about the one day design [Sam March] did of an electronic Settlers of Catan board. Now he’s released a video with the second half. His first video was about the design of the game, specifically the electronic components. In this video, [Sam] takes us through the physical build of the board.

A couple of visits to his local maker space allows him to cut both the wooden parts of the board, as well as the acrylic hexes that go on top of each piece. Even with a CNC machine, there’s still some clean-up that needs to be done. After cleaning up the edges of the wood with a chisel and staining it, it’s time to put the circuit boards in, wire them up and program them. The build includes a dice roller – pushing a button shows the number rolled by lighting up the tiles in the form of the rolled number. The final touch is having some friends over to actually play the game.

Between the design process in the last article and the build process in this one, we get a good look at the way [Sam] designs things from beginning to finished product. Take a look at our previous article on [Sam]’s design as well as some other Catan articles.

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Workshop Tools Are Available In First-Class

Most of dream of having a fully-stocked shop with all of the tools needed to build our projects, at least if we don’t already have such a shop. In the meantime, a lot of us are hacking together our own tools and working on whatever bench space might be available to us. While [Emiel] aka [The Practical Engineer] has an envious shop to work from, his latest project goes to show how repurposing some aircraft-grade equipment can result in a high-quality toolbox for himself, without shelling out for any consumer-level solution. (Video, embedded below.)

The core of his workshop cart build is actually a recycled food service cart from an airline. While the original probably only housed some soft drinks and ice, this one has been kitted out to be much more functional. Since [Emiel] is using this to wheel around his machine shop, he used a CNC machine to cut out slots in black MDF sheets which would hold his drill bits, taps, and other tools. Working with MDF on a CNC machine turned out to not be as simple as he thought, since the MDF would separate and break away unless the CNC tool heads were operated in a specific way.

The build also includes several buckets for other tools, and a custom enclosure for the top of the cart specifically built for his machine tools’ tools to sit while he is working. It’s certainly a more cost-effective solution to a wheeled shop toolbox than buying something off-the-shelf, and a clever repurposing of something which would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. [Emiel] is no stranger to building any tools that he might need, including this custom belt sander built completely from the ground up.

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