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.

Open-DIP Surgery Cuts Retro Chips Down To Size

At least by today’s standards, some of the early chips were really, really big. They may have been revolutionary and they certainly did shrink the size of electronic devices, but integrating a 40-pin DIP into a modern design can be problematic. The solution: cut off all the extra plastic and just work with the die within.

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Dremel 3D20 Printer Gets Modern Overhaul

Dremel’s attempt at breaking into the 3D printer market back in 2014 was respectable, if not particularly exciting. Rather than design their own printer, their 3D20 “Idea Builder” was a lightly customized Flashforge Dreamer (itself a Makerbot Replicator clone) with a new warranty and support contract tacked on. It wasn’t necessarily the 3D printer of choice for the hacker and maker crowd, but it was a fairly solid option for folks who wanted a turn-key experience.

[Chris Chimienti] says he got about 1,000 hours of printing out of his 3D20 before it gave up the ghost. Given the age of the machine and its inherent limitations, he decided to use the Dremel’s carcass as the base for a very impressive custom 3D printer with all the modern bells and whistles. He kept the enclosure, rods, bearings, and the stepper motors, but pretty much everything else was tossed out. Some of the replacements are off-the-shelf parts, but it’s the custom designed elements on this build that really help set it apart.

A print bed strong enough to park your car on.

Under the machine, [Chris] has installed a new power supply and a Duet 2 WiFi controller which itself is connected to the new LCD control panel on the front. There’s an external case fan to keep the electronics cool, but otherwise things look a lot neater under the hood than they did originally.

Moving upwards, he’s designed a gorgeous adjustable print bed and a new extruder assembly that cleverly uses RJ45 jacks and Ethernet cables to connect back to the control board. All told, the custom components have taken this once relatively mid-range 3D printer and turned it into something that looks like it wouldn’t be out of place on the International Space Station.

While custom 3D printer builds like this still trickle in from time to time, we’re seeing far fewer now than we did back when machines like the 3D20 hit the market. Most people are more than satisfied with commercial entry-level desktop printers, and aren’t looking for yet another project to tinker with. There’s nothing wrong with that, though we certainly wouldn’t complain if the recent interest into more advanced high-temperature filaments triggered something of a bespoke 3D printer renaissance.

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Dremel Workstation’s New Job: Applying Threaded Inserts With Cheap Soldering Iron

Dremel has been helping people fit square pegs into round holes for years, and [concretedog] saw that the Dremel 220 Workstation — a piece of hardware similar to a drill press — could be convinced to hold a cheap soldering iron just as easily as it holds a rotary tool. A soldering iron makes an effective thermal insert tool, and the job of heating and pressing the threaded metal rings into plastic is made much easier when it can be done similar to operating a drill press. With a few modifications and a 3D-printed adapter, the thermal insert rig was born.

Whenever one is working around a design that already exists, it pays to be flexible and adjust to the unexpected. The Dremel 220 has a holder intended to clamp a rotary tool, and the original plan was to simply design and print an adapter so a soldering iron could sit in place of the rotary tool. That plan changed upon realizing that the entire rotary tool holder disconnected from the tool’s frame with a single bolt. It made much more sense to make the soldering iron replace the rotary tool holder, instead.

The resulting modified soldering iron is mounted via standoffs to a 3D-printed adapter with a copper foil heat shield. [concretedog] admits it’s not ideal from a heat management perspective, but it makes a fine prototype that seems to work well for light duty. The next step would be a metal version.

If you’re intrigued by threaded heat-set inserts, you can learn all about how to use them from Joshua Vasquez’s guide to the handy things. And should you prefer to make your own DIY press from 3D printed parts and off-the-shelf hardware, we have that covered as well.

Solving Buyer’s Remorse With A Rotary Tool And Soldering Iron

At this point, it’s pretty clear that USB-C has become the new standard connector for an increasing amount of applications, but predominantly charging. Even Apple is on board this time, and thanks to backwards compatibility, you don’t have to abandon devices using the older standards you may prefer for their simplicity or superior lint-resilience either. For [Mat] on the other hand, it’s USB-C all the way nowadays. Yet back in the day when he bought his laptop, he had the price tag convince him otherwise, and has come to regret it, as all the convenience of a slim design is cancelled out by dragging a bulky charger for the laptop’s proprietary charging port along.

Well, as the saying goes for situations like this: love it, leave it, or get out the tools and rework that sucker. Lucky enough, the original charger provides 20 V, which matches nicely the USB power delivery (PD) specification, and after opening up the laptop, [Mat] was happy to see that the interior provided enough room to fit the USB-C module he was planning to use. Even better, the charging port itself was a standalone component attached to a cable, so no modifications to the mainboard were necessary. Once the USB-C module was soldered to that same cable, the only thing left to do was carving a bigger hole on the laptop case, and saying good bye to the obsoleted charger.

The downside is of course the lack of actual USB functionality with that shiny new charging port, but that was never the goal here anyway. With more and more USB-C devices popping up, it’s also no surprise that we’ve seen modifications like this before, and not only with laptops. In case you’re thinking of upgrading one of your own devices to USB-C, and do wish for actual USB functionality, don’t worry, we got you covered as well.

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Old School Rotary Tools That Weren’t Made By Dremel

Albert Dremel developed the now famous rotary tool and started the company in 1932 to make blade sharpeners. It would be 1935 before the company produced the Moto-Tool which is mostly recognizable as an ancestor of the modern Dremel.

Dremel achieved such dominance that today the name is synonymous with rotary tools in the same way Xerox means photocopy and Crock-Pot is any slow cooker. Sure, there are knock offs you can get from the usual cheap tool outlets, but generally, people reach for a Dremel even when it isn’t really one. Today that tool might really be a Black and Decker or a Dewalt or even a cheap brand like Wen or Chicago Electric. But in the first half of the 20th century, you might have reached for a Handee.

A Whole Shop Full of Tools

The Handee was a product of the Chicago Wheel and Manufacturing Company who, in 1937, billed it as “a whole shop full of tools in one,” as you can see in this ad. While $10.75 might sound like a price for a Harbor Freight cheapie tool, adjusted for inflation that’s around $200 in 2020 money. At least for that price you got three free accessories out of the over 200 available.

I didn’t remember the Handee and I wanted to see if I could figure out what happened to it and the company who made it. After all, with the Internet at your disposal, how hard could it be? Turns out, I did learn a lot, but in the end, tracing down a company like this from the old days isn’t always as easy as you might think.

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Print A Drill Press For Your Printed Circuit Boards

If you make printed circuit boards the old fashioned way by etching them yourself, you may need to drill a lot of holes; even surface-mount converts still need header pins on occasion. But, drilling these holes by hand often leads to broken drill bits, which always seems to happen with one un-drilled hole and no spare bits left. [Daumemo] came up with a solution: a 3D printed drill press for a Dremel or similar rotary tool.

While you can buy commercial presses designed to fit these tools, there’s a certain satisfaction to building your own, and if you have a well-stocked parts bin you might even finish it before a mail-ordered version could arrive. Certainly you could do it at lower cost. The design is straightforward, and uses printed parts augmented with “reprap vitamins” (i.e. the non-printable, typically metal, components). If you’ve ever built — or repaired — a 3D printer, you may have these pieces already: a couple of LM8UU bearings, some 8 mm steel rod, and a pair of springs seem like the most esoteric parts required, although even these could probably be substituted without much trouble.

Only a few pieces need to be printed: a base is outfitted with a removable table for holding the workpiece, while a lever actuates the frame holding the tool. [Daumemo] chose to print the design in ABS, but found that it flexes a little too much, occasionally requiring some care during use — a stiffer filament such as PLA might yield better results. Overall, though, this seems like a great project for that 3D printer you haven’t used in a while.

Be sure to check out the video of the press in action, after the break.

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