Replace Legacy CNC PCs With A Gerbil

There are lots of laser cutters and other CNC machines available for a decent price online, but the major hurdle to getting these machines running won’t be the price or the parts. It’s usually the controller PC, which might be running Windows XP or NT if you’re lucky, but some of them are still using IBM XT computers from the ’80s. Even if the hardware in these machines is working, it might be impossible to get the software, and even then it will be dated and lacking features of modern computers. Enter the Super Gerbil.

[Paul] was able to find a laser cutter with one of these obsolete controllers, but figured there was a better way to getting it running again. As the name suggests, it uses GRBL, a G-Code parser and CNC controller software package that was originally made to run on an 8-bit AVR microcontroller, but [Paul] designed the Super Gerbil to run on a 32 bit ARM platform. He also added Z-axis control to it, so it now sports more degrees of freedom than the original software.

By way of a proof of concept, once he was finished building the Super Gerbil he ordered a CNC machine from China with an obsolete controller and was able to get it running within a day. As an added bonus, he made everything open so there are no license fees or cloud storage requirements if you want to use his controller. [Paul] also has a Kickstarter page for this project as well. Hopefully controllers haven’t been the only thing stopping you from getting a CNC machine for your lab, though, but if they have you now have a great solution for a 3040 or 3020 CNC machine’s controller, or any other CNC machine you might want to have. Continue reading “Replace Legacy CNC PCs With A Gerbil”

SauceBot Uses G-Code to Apply Condiments with Precision

You just can’t please some people. Take a 3D-printer disguised as a condiment dispenser to a public event and next thing you know people actually expect you to build a 3D-condiment dispenser for the next time. How can you help but oblige?

We have to admit to more than a little alarm when [ShaneR] sent us this tip, as on first reading it seemed to endorse the culinary sin of putting ketchup on barbecue. But then we watched the video below and realized this dispenser is only applying ketchup and mustard to hot dogs, and while some purists would quibble with the ketchup, we’ll let that slide. The applicator, dubbed SauceBot by the crew at Connected Community HackerSpace in Melbourne, appears to be purpose-built entirely from laser-cut acrylic, including the twin peristaltic pumps for extruding the ketchup and mustard. We’re not sure the Z-axis is entirely necessary for dispensing onto hot dogs, but since this was a community outreach event, it makes sense to go all in. The video below shows it in use at a fundraiser, and while the novelty of it probably sold quite a few dogs, it’s safe to say the food service industry won’t be alarmed that this particular robot will be stealing jobs anytime soon.

Seriously, if your hackerspace is going to have public events with food, something like this could really get the conversation started. Then again, so might a CD execution chamber.

CNC Embroidery Machine Punches Out Designs a Stitch at a Time

It’s doubtful that the early pioneers of CNC would have been able to imagine the range of the applications the technology would be used for. Once limited to cutting metal, CNC machines can now lance through materials using lasers and high-pressure jets of water, squirt molten plastic to build up 3D objects, and apparently even use needle and thread to create embroidered designs.

It may not seem like a typical CNC application, but [James Kolme]’s CNC embroidery machine sure looks familiar. Sitting in front of one of the prettiest sewing machines we’ve ever seen is a fairly typical X-Y gantry system. The stepper-controlled gantry moves an embroidery hoop under the needle of the sewing machine, which is actually the Z-axis of the machine. With the material properly positioned, a NEMA 23 stepper attached to the sewing machine through a sprocket and drive chain makes a stitch, slowly building up a design. Translating an embroidery pattern to G-code is done through Inkstitch, and extension to Inkscape. [James]’ write-up is great, and the video below shows it in action.

We’ve seen a CNC embroidery machine or two before, but our conspicuously non-embroidered hat is off to [James] on this one for its build quality and documentation. And the embroidered Jolly Wrencher doesn’t hurt either.

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Stepper Motor Mods Improve CNC Flat Coil Winder

Finding just the right off-the-shelf part to complete a project is a satisfying experience – buy it, bolt it on, get on with business. Things don’t always work out so easily, though, which often requires the even more satisfying experience of modifying an existing part to do the job. Modifying a stepper motor by drilling a hole down its shaft probably qualifies for the satisfying mod of the year award.

That’s what [Russ] did to make needed improvements to his CNC flat-coil winder, which uses a modified delta-style 3D-printer to roll fine magnet wire out onto adhesive paper to form beautiful coils of various sizes and shapes. [Russ] has been tweaking his design since we featured it and coming up with better and better coils. While experimenting, the passive roller at the business end proved to be a liability. The problem was that the contact point lagged behind the center axis of the delta, leading to problems with the G-code. [Russ] figured that a new tool with the contact point at the dead center would help. The downside would be having to actively swivel the tool in concert with the X- and Y-axis movements. The video below shows his mods, which include disassembling the NEMA-17 stepper and drilling out the shaft to pass the coil wire. [Russ] also spent some time reversing the rotor in the frame and provided a small preload spring to keep the coil roller in contact with the paper.

A real-time coil winding session starts at the 21:18 mark, and we’ve got to admit it’s oddly soothing to watch. We’re not sure exactly what [Russ] intends to do with these coils, and by his own admission, neither is he. But it’s still pretty cool to see, and the stepper motor mods are a neat trick to keep in mind.

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Delta Printer Morphs into CNC Flat Coil Winder

Anyone who has ever wound a coil by hand has probably idly wondered “How do they do this with a machine?” at some point in the tedious process. That’s about when your attention wanders and the wire does what physics wants it to do, with the rat’s nest and cursing as a predictable result.

There’s got to be a better way, and [Russ Gries] is on his way to finding it with this proof-of-concept CNC flat coil winder. The video below is a brief overview of what came out of an intensive rapid prototyping session. [Russ] originally thought that moving the coil would be the way to go, but a friend put him onto the idea of using his delta-style 3D-printer to dispense the wire. An attachment somewhat like a drag knife was built, but with a wire feed tube and a metal roller to press the wire down onto an adhesive surface. The wire feed assembly went through a few design iterations before he discovered that a silicone cover was needed for the roller for the wire to properly track, and that the wire spool needed to be fed with as little friction as possible. Fusion 360’s CAM features were used to design the tool paths that describe the coils. It seems quite effective, and watching it lay down neat lines of magnet wire is pretty mesmerizing.

We’ve seen a couple of cylindrical coil winding rigs before, but it looks like this is the first flat coil winder we’ve featured. We can’t help but wonder about the applications. Wireless power transfer comes to mind, as do antennas and coils for RF applications. We also wonder if there are ways to use this to make printed circuit boards. Continue reading “Delta Printer Morphs into CNC Flat Coil Winder”

Hybrid 3D-Printer Creates Complete Circuits, Case and All

The cool kids these days all seem to think we’re on the verge of an AI apocalypse, at least judging by all the virtual ink expended on various theories. But our putative AI overlords will have a hard time taking over the world without being able to build robotic legions to impose their will. That’s why this advance in 3D printing that can incorporate electronic circuits may be a little terrifying, at least to some.

The basic idea that [Florens Wasserfall] and colleagues at the University of Hamburg have come up with is a 3D-printer with a few special modifications. One is a separate extruder than squirts a conductive silver-polymer ink, the other is a simple vacuum tip on the printer extruder for pick and place operations. The bed of the printer also has a tray for storing SMD parts and cameras for the pick-and-place to locate parts and orient them before placing them into the uncured conductive ink traces.

The key to making the hardware work together though is a toolchain that allows circuits to be integrated into the print. It starts with a schematic in Eagle, which joins with the CAD model of the part to be printed in a modified version of Slic3r, the open-source slicing package. Locations for SMD components are defined, traces are routed, and the hybrid printer builds the whole assembly at once. The video below shows it in action, and we’ve got to say it’s pretty slick.

Sure, it’s all academic for now, with simple blinky light circuits and the like. But team this up with something like these PCB motors, and you’ve got the makings of a robotic nightmare. Or not.

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Man-in-the-Middle Jog Pendant: Two Parts Make Easier Dev Work

In a project, repetitive tasks that break the flow of development work are incredibly tiresome and even simple automation can make a world of difference. [Simon Merrett] ran into exactly this while testing different stepper motors in a strain-wave gear project. The system that drives the motor accepts G-Code, but he got fed up with the overhead needed just to make a stepper rotate for a bit on demand. His solution? A grbl man-in-the-middle jog pendant that consists of not much more than a rotary encoder and an Arduino Nano. The unit dutifully passes through any commands received from a host controller, but if the encoder knob is turned it sends custom G-Code allowing [Simon] to dial in a bit acceleration-controlled motor rotation on demand. A brief demo video is below, which gives an idea of how much easier it is to focus on the nuts-and-bolts end of hardware when some simple motor movement is just a knob twist away.

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