A Boring Tale With Six Sides

Making a hole in a piece of material is a straightforward process, after all most of us will have some form of drill. If we need a hole that isn’t round though, after the inevitable joke about bad drill control leading to oval holes, what do we do? Get busy with a file perhaps? Or shell out for a shaped punch?  [Skunkworks] has taken a different tack, using LinuxCNC and a vertical mill to machine near-perfect hexagonal and other polygonal holes.

The tool path appears to be more star-shaped than polygon shaped, the reason for which becomes apparent on watching the videos below the break as the rotation of the tool puts its cutting edge in a polygonal path. Anyone who has laboured with a file on a round hole in the past will be impressed with this piece of work.

The latest in the saga takes the work from simple hexes into other shapes like stars, and even tapered polygonal holes. These in particular would be a significantly difficult task by other means, so we look forward to what other developments come from this direction.

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A DIY Bench-Sized Milling Machine

Hanging around the machining community online, you’d be more than familiar with clapped out Bridgeport mills, which are practically a meme at this point. But mills come in all shapes and sizes, from the stout old iron from the days of yore, to smaller, compact builds. [Honus] decided to build the latter, and shared the details of the project.

The aim of [Honus’s] build is to create a small benchtop mill, capable of handling the smaller tasks. The frame of the mill is built out of 80/20 extrusion, with plenty of aluminium plate to go along with it. Igus linear slides handle the X, Y and Z axes. An old brushed Makita drill motor serves as the spindle drive, controlled by an old R/C speed controller hooked up to an Arduino. [Honus] then fabbed up various bits and pieces as neccessary to bring it all together.

The mill is neat and tidy, and looks to do a good job machining aluminium. We imagine it should prove highly useful in [Honus’s] workshop. If you’re contemplating getting yourself some desk-sized tools, perhaps consider an engraver as well! Video after the break.

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Scrapyard Milling Machine Gets Work Done On A Budget

Which to buy first, a lathe or a mill? It’s a tough question for the aspiring home machinist with limited funds to spend on machine tools, but of course the correct answer is a lathe. With a lathe, we are told, all other machine tools can be built, including a milling machine. Granted that might be a slight  exaggeration, but [Maximum DIY] was still able to use his budget-blowing lathe to make a decent milling machine mostly from scrap.

Details are a bit sparse in the forum post, but there’s enough there and in the video after the break to be mightily impressed with the build. Unlike many DIY mills that are basically modified drill presses, [Maximum DIY] started with things like a scrapped bench grinder pedestal and surplus steel tubing. The spindle motor is from a paint sprayer and the Z-axis power feed is a treadmill incline motor. The compound table was a little too hard to make, so the purchased table was fitted with windshield wiper motor power feeds.

Therein lies perhaps the most clever hack in this build: the use of a plain old deep 19mm socket as a clutch for the power feeds. The 12-point socket slides on the square shaft of the wiper motor to engage the drive screw for the compound table – simple and bulletproof.

To be sure, the finished mill is far from perfect. It looks like it needs more mass to quell vibration, and those open drive pulleys are a little nerve wracking. But it seems to work well, and really, any mill is better than no mill. Of course, if you’re flush with cash and want to buy a mill instead of making one, this buyer’s guide should help.

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How Much Wood Can A Woodpecker Chuck?

It’s probably clear to a Hackaday reader that we live in a golden era for hobbyist tool accessibility. Cheap single board computers can be bought at any neighborhood RadioShack or Maplin. 3D printers sell fully assembled and ready to run for less than $200. Even the humble CNC mill has come down the price curve, though as you might expect at the low end things can get pretty rough. Like a cheap 3D printer, a cheap mill tends to be missing some basic features you’d expect any reasonable machine to have. If you get your hands on one of these little wonders, [Shahada Abubakar] has a pair of great blog posts on the basic set of upgrades you’ll probably want to perform right out of the box.

Which cheap CNC mills are we talking about? They go by a few names. Last year our own [Kristina Panos] put together a review of a shockingly inexpensive “1610” type sold by Linksprite (go take a read if you’re already considering a purchase!). The “1610” class, so named for it’s 16 cm x 10 cm bed size, is pretty common under a wide variety of manufacturer names. You can find them in this size made of 8020 like [Kristina] did or as “upgraded” versions cut from 1/4″ mystery plastic (often referred to in the listings as Bakelite, but your guess is as good as ours as to the true material). 1610 is the smallest size but basically the same machine exists as an 1810, 2418, or 3018. Each has a 775 size spindle and a single PCBA that handles stepper drive and runs grbl.

So what’s the problem? Well for one none of these machines have limit switches, though the controllers support them. [Shahada]’s guide has handy instructions for what kind to buy, how to wire them, and where they can be attached. Plus an overview of the G-code instructions to send the controller in order to home and configure everything properly. The controllers also like to be driven continuously over serial (though some sellers seem to offer a separate board to drive them). This is fine if you have a computer handy, but like a 3D printer it can be nice to bolt a Pi Zero or similar onto the unit and control it over the network. [Shahada]’s second post has a link to a mounting plate you can print for exactly that setup, as well as some suggestions for configuring CNC.js to drive everything.

Do you have one of these machines? Done any upgrades? Tell us in the comments! We’re always looking for ways to upgrade our home shop.

How To Build A Mill With Epoxy

The typical machine tool you’ll find in a workshop has a base and frame made of cast iron or steel. These materials are chosen for their strength, robustness and their weight, which helps damp vibrations. However, it’s not the only way to make a machine tool. [John McNamara] has been working on a CNC mill with an epoxy base, with impressive results.

The molds were designed in CAD prior to casting, ensuring there was room for all required components.

The build is one that could be readily achieved in any decently equipped makerspace. [John] used lasercut steel parts to construct the molds for the epoxy base, with some custom turned parts as well. The precision cut parts fit together with great accuracy, and with proper control of the casting process there is minimal post-processing of the final cast piece required. The mold is built with zero draft angle, and is designed to be taken apart to remove the finished pieces. By using steel, the same mold can be used many times, though [John] notes that MDF could be used for a one-off build.

The base is cast in epoxy, mixed with granite aggregate and sand to create a strong, heavy, and vibration damping material. There are also steel reinforcements cast in place consisting of threaded rods, and conduits for various electrical connections. After casting, [John] has spent much time measuring and truing up the mill to ensure the best possible results from the outset.

It’s an impressive build, that shows that building your own accurate machine tools is quite achievable with the right tools and knowledge. We’ve seen similar work before, too – epoxy really does make a great material for casting at home.

 

CNC Your Own PCB With This Tutorial

It is getting so easy to order a finished printed circuit board that it is tough to justify building your own. But sometimes you really need a board right now. Or maybe you need a lot of fast iterations so you can’t wait for the postal service. [Thomas Sanladerer] shows how he makes PCBs with a CNC machine and has a lot of good advice in the video below.

He starts with Eagle, although, you could use any creation package. He shows what parameters he changes to make sure the traces don’t get eaten away and how to do the CAM job to get the files required to make the boards. If you don’t use Eagle, you’ll need to infer how to do similar changes and get the same kind of output.

We’ve only heard a few people pronounce Gerber (as in Gerber file) with a soft G sound, but we still knew what he meant. We have the same problem with GIF files. However, once you have Gebers, you can join the video’s workflow about 5 minutes in.

At that point, he uses FlatCAM to convert the Gerbers to a single G-code file that integrates the paths and drill files. There were a few tricks he used to make sure all the tracks are picked up. Other tricks include leveling a spoil board by just milling it down and mounting different size bits. He also has ideas on aligning the Z axis.

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Scratch Built Toe Clamps Keep Your Work In Place

[Kevin] owns a benchtop CNC mill that has proven itself to be a capable tool, but after becoming familiar with some of its shortcomings, he has made a few modifications. In order to more efficiently hold and access workpieces on his custom fixturing table, he designed and made his own toe clamps and they look beautiful.

The usual way to secure a piece of stock to a fixturing table is to use top-down clamps, which hold the workpiece from the top and screw down into the table. However, this method limits how much of the stock can be accessed by the cutting tool, because the clamps are in the way. The most common way around this is to mount a vise to the table and clamp the workpiece in that. This leaves the top surface completely accessible. Unfortunately, [Kevin]’s benchtop Roland MDX-450 has a limited work area and he simply couldn’t spare the room. His solution was toe clamps, which screw down to the table and have little tabs that move inwards and downward. The tabs do the work of clamping and securing a piece of stock while maintaining a very low profile themselves.

The clamp bases are machined from stainless steel and the heads are brass, and the interface between the two is a set screw. Inserting a hex wrench and turning the screw moves the head forward or back, allowing a workpiece to be clamped from the sides with minimal interference. His design was done in Fusion 360 and is shared online.

Another option for when simple clamps won’t do the job is a trick from [NYC CNC], which is to use an unexpected harmony of blue painter’s tape and superglue which yields great results in the right circumstances.