[Jeshua Lacock] from 3DTOPO owns a large-format CNC (4’x8′, or 1.2×2.4 m), that he strongly feels is lacking laser-cutting capabilities. The frame is there, and a 150 W CO2 laser tube has been sitting in a box for ages – what else could you need? Sadly, at such a scale, aligning the mirrors is a tough and finicky job – and misalignment can be literally blinding. After reading tales about cutters of such size going out of alignment when someone as much as walked nearby, he dropped the idea – and equipped the CNC head with a high-power laser diode module instead. Having done mirror adjustment on a few CO2 tube-equipped lasers, we can see where he’s coming from.
Typically, the laser modules you see bolted onto CNC heads are firmly under three watts, which is usually only enough for engraving. With a module that provides 5 watts of optical power, [Jeshua] can cut cardboard and thin plywood as well he tells us even 10 W optical power modules are available, just that he didn’t go for one. We reckon that 20 W effective power diodes are not that far into our future, which is getting very close to the potential of the blue box “40 W but actually 35 W but actually way less” K40 laser cutters we cherish. [Jeshua]’s cutter is not breaking speed limits, but it’s built on what’s already there, and the diode is comparatively inexpensive. Equipped with a small honeycomb surface and what seems to be air assist, it’s shown in the video cutting an ornamental piece out of cardboard!
We hackers have been equipping CNCs with laser diodes for a while, but on a way smaller scale and with less powerful diodes – this is definitely a step up! As a hacker, you should have at least some laser cutting options at your disposal, and this overview of CO2 cutters and their availability can get you started. We’ve also given you detailed breakdowns about different sides of laser cutting, be it the must-have of safety, or the nice-to-have of air assist.
Continue reading “Giant CNC Partners With Powerful Laser Diode”
There are a million and one ways to build your own CNC router, depending on your tastes, budget, and application, your design choices will differ accordingly. [Steve Tyng] was well aware of this when undertaking his project, and built the machine that made sense for him.
[Steve’s] build has a strong focus on keeping costs down, and that’s reflected in the hardware used. Wanting a large work area of 30″ x 60″, off-the-shelf linear rails in 6 foot lengths were prohibitively expensive. Instead, 1″ angle iron was sourced from the local garden centre, and used in conjunction with steel v-bearings. It’s a lot cheaper, and good enough for the application at hand, so why not? Other smart choices abound, such as using an IKEA cabinet as the base, and a fanless computer to run the show to avoid death by dust.
When it came time to build the axes, there was plenty of roller chain on hand. Chain is usually passed up for options such as timing belts or ballscrews in the CNC community, as it tends to stretch over time and offers poor accuracy. However, [Steve] took stock of the drawbacks of the method, and made efforts to overcome these weak points in the design. The Y and X axes were specially designed to keep the chain supported along its length. This helped avoid the problem of long drooping chains and poor tension.
While it’s not an industrial-strength build with world-beating accuracy, it’s a solid CNC machine that can carve out large workpieces without issue. Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of DIY CNCs, built with everything from PVC pipe to welded steel. Video after the break.
Continue reading “DIY CNC Router Uses Chains The Right Way”
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.
Continue reading “Modular CNC Build Gets You Both A Mill And A Laser Cutter”
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.
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.
Continue reading “CNC Upgrade To Guitar Pickup Winding Machine”
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?
Continue reading “Garbage Can CNC Machine Build”
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.