Modular CNC Build Gets You Both A Mill And A Laser Cutter

CNC builds come in all shapes and sizes. There’s delta manipulators, experimental polar rigs, and all manner of cartesian builds, large and small. After completing their first CNC build, [jtaggard] took what they learned and applied it in the development of a new machine.

It’s a desk-sized cartesian design, with a frame built from V-slot extrusion cut to size by circular saw. This is a great way to get quality extrusion for a custom build, and is readily available and easy to work with. The gantry rides on wheels, with the X and Y axes being belt driven, plus a screw drive for Z. A couple of NEMA 17s and a NEMA 23 provide motive power, and an Arduino Uno with stepper drivers is the brains of the operation. 1/4″ thick PLA plates are used to assemble everything, and while [jtaggard] intended to replace these with aluminium down the track, so far the plastic has proved plenty rigid enough for early tests of both machining and engraving wood.

It’s a great entry-level CNC build, which has proved usable with both a 500W spindle and a 2.5W laser for engraving. Being modular in nature, it would be easy to add other tools, such as a pen plotter or vinyl cutting blade for further versatility.

DIY CNC builds are always popular, as you end up with a useful tool as a reward for your hard work. Video after the break.

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Homebuilt CNC Software, Brewed To Taste

Mainstream productivity software from the big companies is usually pretty tight, these days. Large open source projects are also to a similar standard when it comes to look and feel, as well as functionality. It’s when you dive into more niche applications that you start finding ugly, buggy software, and CNC machining can be one of those niches. MillDroid is a CNC software platform designed by someone who had simply had enough, and decided to strike out on their own.

The build began with the developer sourcing some KFLOP motion control boards from Dynomotion. These boards aren’t cheap, but pack 16MB of RAM, a 100-gate FPGA, and a microcontroller with DSP hardware that allows the boards to control a variety of types of motor in real time. These boards have the capability to read GCODE and take the load off of the computer delivering the instructions. With the developer wanting to build something robust that moved beyond the ’90s style of parallel port control, these boards were the key to the whole show, also bringing the benefit of being USB compatible and readily usable with modern programming languages.

To keep things manageable and to speed development, the program was split into modules and coded using the author’s existing “Skeleton Framework” for windowed applications. These modules include a digital readout, a jogging control panel, as well as a tool for editing G-code inside the application.

For the beginner, it’s likely quite dense, and for the professional machinist, industry standard tools may well surpass what’s being done here. But for the home CNC builder who is sick of mucking around with buggy, unmaintained software from here and there, it’s a project that shows it doesn’t have to be that bad. We look forward to seeing what comes next!

Want to see what else is out there? We’ve done a run down of DIY-appropriate CNC software, too.

CNC Upgrade To Guitar Pickup Winding Machine

The idea of winding inductive guitar pickups by hand is almost unthinkable. It uses extremely thin wire and is a repetitive, laborious process that nevertheless requires a certain amount of precision. It’s a prime candidate for automation, and while [Davide Gironi] did exactly that, he wasn’t entirely satisfied with his earlier version. He now has a new CNC version that is more full-featured and uses an ATMega8 microcontroller.

[Davide Gironi]’s previous version took care of winding and counting the number of turns, but it was still an assisted manual system that relied on a human operator. The new upgrade includes a number of features necessary to more fully automate the process, such as a wire tensioner, a wire guide and traverse mechanism (made from parts salvaged from a broken scanner), and an automatic stop for when the correct number of turns has been reached.


All kinds of small but significant details are covered in the build, such as using plastic and felt for anything that handles the wire — the extremely fine wire is insulated with a very thin coating and care must be taken to not scratch it off. Also, there is the need to compute how far the traverse mechanism must move the wire guide in order to place the new wire next to the previously-laid turn (taking into account the winding speed, which may be changing), and doing this smoothly so that the system does not need to speed up and slow down for every layer of winding.

This system is still programmed by hand using buttons and an LCD, but [Davide Gironi] says that the next version will use the UART in order to allow communication with (and configuration by) computer – opening the door to easy handling of multiple winding patterns. You can see video of the current version in action, below.

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Garbage Can CNC Machine Build

Forget sourcing parts for your next project from some fancy neighborhood hardware store. If you really want to show your hacker chops, be like [HomoFaciens] and try a Dumpster dive for parts for a CNC machine build.

OK, we exaggerate a little – but only a little. Apart from the control electronics, almost everything in [HomoFacien]’s build could be found by the curb on bulk-waste pickup day. Particle board from a cast-off piece of flat-pack furniture, motors and gears from an old printer, and bits of steel strapping are all that’s needed for the frame of a serviceable CNC machine. This machine is even junkier than [HomoFacien]’s earlier build, which had a lot more store-bought parts. But the videos below show pretty impressive performance nonetheless.

Sure, this is a giant leap backwards for the state of the art in DIY CNC builds. but that’s the point – to show what can be accomplished with almost nothing, and that imagination and perseverance are more important for acceptable results than an expensive BOM.

With that in mind, we’re throwing down the gauntlet: can anyone build a CNC machine from cardboard and paperclips?

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Hardware Store CNC Machine Is Remarkably Precise

A vise, a hacksaw and file, some wrenches – the fanciest tools [HomoFaciens] uses while building his DIY hardware store CNC machine (YouTube link) are a drill press and some taps. And the bill of materials for this surprisingly precise build is similarly modest: the X- and Y-axes ride on cheap bearings that roll on steel tube stock and aluminum angles; drives are threaded rods with homemade encoders and powered by small brushed DC gear motors; and the base plate appears to be a scrap of ping-pong table. The whole thing is controlled by an Arduino and four H-bridges.

The first accuracy tests using a ball point pen for tooling are quite impressive. [HomoFaciens] was able to draw concentric circles eyeball-accurate to within a few tenths of a millimeter, and was able to show good repeatability in returning to a point from both directions on both the X- and Y-axis. After the pen tests, he shows off a couple of other hardware store tooling options for the Z-axis – a Proxxon rotary tool with a burr for engraving glass; a soldering iron for cutting styrofoam; and a mini-router that works well enough to cut some acrylic gears.

We’re impressed by this build, which demonstrates that you don’t need a fancy shop to build a CNC machine. If you’re getting the itch to jump into the shallow end of the CNC pool, check out some of the builds we’ve featured before, like this PVC CNC machine, or this $250 build.

[Thanks, ThunderSqueak]

Resourceful CNC Router Built From Hardware Store Parts

[siemen] has entered the wonderful world of Hobby CNC with his low-buck build of this gantry-style router. It embodies everything we here at HaD love: resourcefulness, perseverance and results. [siemen] has designed his frame using ideas he has found while surfing around the ‘net and is made entirely out of particle board. For linear movement, the Y and Z axes rely on ball bearing drawer slides while the X axis use a pipe and skate bearing arrangement. NEMA 17 stepper motors coupled to threaded rod move each axis.

The electronics are packaged in a nice little project box which houses an Arduino and 3 Sparkfun EasyStepper stepper motor drivers. [siemen] also cut a hole in the project box and installed a fan in order to keep those motor drivers cool. The Arduino is flashed with the CNC machine controller called GRBL. GRBL takes g-code sent from a PC to the Arduino and then in turn sends the required step and direction signals to the stepper motor drivers.

Overall, [siemen] did a great job with his first CNC project which came in at 200 Euro ($240). He’s currently working on version 2 and we are looking forward to covering it when it’s done. If you dig this project, you may also like this wooden wood router or this bolt-together one.

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$400 DIY CNC Machine Is Surprisingly Simple!

Once you go CNC you never go back — they’re just too darn convenient! [Drez20001] shows us how he made one for around $400. Who needs expensive roller bearings when you can use drawer slides?

That’s right — the majority of the cost of this CNC machine are the things you can’t really get any cheaper — the servos (or steppers), the belts (or leadscrews), and of course the motor controller plus computer interface. Everything else? Plywood, drawer slides, and a bunch of fasteners can be had for next to nothing!

He had wanted to build a CNC for years but was mostly hesitant in doing so due to the cost and apparent complexity of the build, but when he started to look into it seriously, he found it really wasn’t the case! It’s built on the basic gantry system design where the X-axis drives a bridge containing both the Y and Z-axis. It’s not a heavy duty machine by any means (he just has a small dremel-like tool in it right now), but for his purposes it’s more than enough.

One rather creative way he saved a few dollars is with his motor couplers — he’s actually taken rubber gas line and cinched it onto both shafts, which he says works quite well!

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