Large machine tools are often built to last a very long time, so it is not uncommon to find a lathe made in the 19th century still providing faithful service. The fundamental job of a lathe has not changed significantly in the intervening years, even though a modern lathe will have more features than its hundred-year-old equivalent.
This is not the case for CNC machine tools. When computer numerical control was wedded with old iron machine tools, the control hardware was doomed to quickly become antique or vintage. From the user interfaces to the control circuitry, in the world of electronics new features quickly become obsolete. [Evan] has a ShopBot CNC wood router from the mid 1990s that he describes as an antique, and his tale of its restoration is both a fascinating look at the changes in small-scale CNC control over two decades as well as something of a primer for anyone considering a similar upgrade.
The controller is a pair of beige-box PC cases that scream “I love the 90’s!”. One contains a socket-7 PC running Windows 95, and the other houses the ShopBot controller; an 80c32 dev board with ShopBot firmware, coupled to a set of motor controller boards, which unlike today’s controllers expect raw quadrature inputs. His aim was to replace the vintage hardware with a modern alternative. An Arduino Mega running grbl to talks to the ShopBot controllers by way of a small piece of electronics to condition quadrature data from the step and direction lines it provided. The result may not be as good as a router from 2019, but it did save this aging tool from retirement.
Hanging plotters, or two steppers controlling a dangling Sharpie marker on an XY plane, are nothing new to our community. But have you ever thought of trading out the Sharpie for a wood router bit and cutting through reasonably thick plywood sheets? That would give you a CNC machine capable of cutting out wood in essentially whatever dimensions you’d like, at reasonably low-cost. And that’s the idea behind [Bar]’s Maslow. It’s going to be a commercial product (we hope!), but it’s also entirely open source and indubitably DIYable.
[Bar] walks us through all of the design decisions in this video, which is a must-watch if you’re planning on building one of these yourself. Basically, [Bar] starts out like any of us would: waaaay over-engineering the thing. He starts out with a counterweight consisting of many bricks, heavy-duty roller chain, and the requisite ultra-beefy motors to haul that all around. At some point, he realized that there was actually very little sideways force placed on a sharp router bit turning very quickly. This freed up a lot of the design.
His current design only uses two bricks for counterweights, uses lighter chains, and seems to get the job done. There’s a bit of wobble in the pendulum, which he admits that he’s adjusted for in software. Motors with built-in encoders and gearing take care of positioning accurately. We haven’t dug deeply enough to see if there’s a mechanism to control the router’s plunge, which would be great to cut non-continuous lines, but first things first.
Taking the wall plotter into the woodshop is a brilliant idea, but we’re sure that there’s 99% perspiration in this design too. Thanks [Bar] for making it open! Best of luck with the Kickstarter. And thanks to [Darren] for the tip.
This is a tale of two hearts, two engagements, and two ring boxes. About a couple of years ago, [curtisabrina] proposed to his girlfriend. Rather than just hand her the ring, he placed it in a locking ring box [imgur link] he custom-made. The box seems normal at first glance, but lifting up the first drawer reveals a complex and ornate gear system. The gears can only be turned by a pair of interlocking heart-shaped keys – a gift [curtisabrina] had given her months earlier. The mechanism is nothing short of stunning – planetary reductions drive a spring-loaded iris which opens to reveal an engagement ring.
[curtisabrina] built his ring box after hours at his signmaking job. The job gave him access to some incredible tools, such as the MultiCam 3000 series CNC. The box turned out great, and he showed his work off in a Reddit thread.
Fast forward two years. [joetemus] was getting ready to propose to his girlfriend, and wanted to do something similar. He didn’t have access to high-end shop tools, but he did have a Shapeoko 2. Using the original box as inspiration, [joetemus] started designing. Over time, trial, and error, a second ring box emerged [imgur link]. Like the original box, [joetemus] started with a rough cut board. Nearly every part, including the aluminum gears, was cut on the Shapeoko 2. [joetemus] also celebrated his accomplishment with a Reddit thread.
[joetemus’s] ring box isn’t quite as complex or polished as [curtisabrina’s], but he was working with a machine that cost much less than the equipment [curtisabrina] was using. We think both of them are great, and are happy to report that both of their girlfriends said, “Yes!”
Continue reading “A Tale Of Two Ring Boxes”
[Andrew] shows us one way to reuse all those strands of Christmas lights you used for decoration this year. He had a friend that was helping with stage props for a local musical and ended up using his skills to build a lighted sign with some animation capabilities.
The original plan was to cut out letters for a sign by hand and ring them with white Christmas lights. It is possible to hand cut parts reasonably well, but [Andrew] knew he could get a much better result in less time using a CNC ShopBot to make them. He didn’t know the spacing for the lights so waited and drilled holes for them by hand. Each strand is connected to a relay, then driven by an Arduino. They turned out great as you can see in the clip after the break.
This is a timely hack, because it uses plain old while incandescent bulb strands which will be going on sale in the next few days. Usually you can get them on clearance for a dollar or less so plan ahead and hit the big box store early. Continue reading “One Way To Reuse Your Christmas Lights Post-holiday”
We’ve lost track of the number of home built CNC machines we’ve covered in the past, but we thought a comprehensive list of the best would help you understand why we’re so excited about the LumenLab CNC machine.
Continue reading “The Best CNC Project Machines”