Optical Tach Addresses the Need for Spindle Speed Control

With CNC machines, getting the best results depends on knowing how fast your tool is moving relative to the workpiece. But entry-level CNC routers don’t often include a spindle tachometer, forcing the operator to basically guess at the speed. This DIY optical spindle tach aims to fix that, and has a few nice construction tips to boot.

The CNC router in question is the popular Sienci, and the 3D-printed brackets for the photodiode and LED are somewhat specific for that machine. But [tmbarbour] has included STL files in his exhaustively detailed write-up, so modifying them to fit another machine should be easy. The sensor hangs down just far enough to watch a reflector on one of the flats of the collet nut; we’d worry about the reflector surviving tool changes, but it’s just a piece of shiny tape that’s easily replaced.  The sensor feeds into a DIO pin on a Nano, and a small OLED display shows a digital readout along with an analog gauge. The display update speed is decent — not too laggy. Impressive build overall, and we like the idea of using a piece of PLA filament as a rivet to hold the diodes into the sensor arm.

Want to measure machine speed but don’t have a 3D printer? No worries — a 2D-printed color-shifting tach can work too.

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Creating Modular Storage out of Used Filament Spools

[Alec Richter] had a good idea on how he could convert the leftover filament spindles from his 3D printer into multi-compartment storage. An empty spindle is fitted with several trays that rotate out from the circle for easy access. With multiple spools rotating on a central axle, you can really see how a bunch of parts could be organized in a column, though not being able to see through the sides probably limits its use somewhat — most of the modular component storage we’ve seen has clear trays.

He has designed drawer bases with removable compartment trays, along with alignment jigs to help you get the drawer installed perfectly the first time. You can download the designs (14 files!) but you need to sign up for an account first. Also, [Alex]s designs fit very specific spindles so be sure of your measurements, etc.

Hackaday is awash in posts about modular storage, like this computer tower turned storage shelf and this technique for using peanut butter jars for storage.

[mucho apreciado for the tip, George!]

Reamer Regrinding Using a Toolpost Spindle

How often have you wished you could reduce the size of a drillbit? [Ben Katz] has a bunch of projects in mind that use a tight-tolerance 22mm bore–but he didn’t have a 22mm reamer handy. Rather than buy one, he thought, why not regrind a larger one to the right size?

He first ground down the shank to fit in the lathe’s drill chuck. Once it was loaded into the chuck,  he reground the edge of a 7/8″ (22.225mm) reamer, reducing its diameter down to 22mm by spinning it on his lathe in conjunction with a toolpost spindle with a grinding wheel attached. The final diameter was 21.995mm—off by 5 microns!

[Ben]’s homebuilt spindle is a cool project in itself, and we publish a lot of posts about those handy tools. Check out our pieces on a brushless DC motor used as a CNC spindle, and this 3D printer outfitted with a spindle. Also check out [Ben]’s electric tricycle build we featured a few years ago.

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Drill Press to Mill Conversion

Every time we look at the little short Z axis of our CNC mill, we think about converting a drill press to a mill. In theory, it seems like it ought to be easy, but we never quite get around to it. [AvE] did get around to it and made his usual entertaining video about it that you can see below. If you haven’t seen any of [AvE’s] videos before, be warned: there is a little colorful language in a spot or two.

This isn’t a CNC mill, by the way, although we suspect you could convert it. Essentially, he adds a spindle and an XY table to a Ryobi drill press. It sounds simple, but getting everything to work did take a few tricks, including a blow torch.

Actually, turns out the blow torch didn’t really do it, but we won’t spoil the final resolution to the problem. Once it was resolved, though, he did manage to do some actual milling, accompanied by some music we wouldn’t associate with [AvE].

Although billed as a “poor man’s” build, the XY table alone was about $200. So add in the cost of the drill press, the spindle, and the mill and this is still a fair chunk of cash. We’d love to see it compared to a Harbor Freight milling vise. We suspect the Harbor Freight vise might not be as good, but is the difference worth the $130 difference in price?

We’ve seen this kind of conversion done before without the colorful language. If you do this conversion and want some practice, why not build a magnetic carabiner?

3D Printer Transforms to CNC

Superficially, it is easy to think about converting a 3D printer into a CNC machine. After all, they both do essentially the same thing. They move a tool around in three dimensions. Reducing this to practice, however, is a problem. A CNC tool probably weighs more than a typical hotend. In addition, cutting into solid material generates a lot of torque.

[Thomas Sanladerer] knew all this, but wanted to try a conversion anyway. He had a few printers to pick from, and he chose a very sturdy MendelMax 3. He wasn’t sure he’d wind up with a practical machine, but he wanted to do it for the educational value, at least. The result, as you can see in the video below, exceeded his expectations.

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Impressive Junkyard CNC Made From Fancy Garbage

We’ll just come out and say it, [reboots] has friends with nice garbage. Sure, some of us have friends who are desperately trying to, “gift,” us a CRT monitor, hope dropping like a rock into their stomach when they realize they can’t escape the recycling fee.  [reboots] has friends who buy other people’s poorly thought out CNC projects and then gift him with the parts.

After dismantling the contraption he found himself with nice US and Japanese made linear motion components. However, he needed a CNC controller to drive it all. So he helped another friend clean out their garage and came away with a FlashCut CNC controller.

Now that he had a controller and the motion components whirring nicely, he really needed a frame to put it all in. We like to imagine that he was at a friend’s  barbeque having a beer. In one corner of the yard was an entire Boeing 747.  A mouldering scanning electron microscope with a tattered and faded blue tarp barely covering its delicate instrumentation sat in another corner. Countless tech treasures were scattered about in various states. It was then that he spotted a rusting gamma ray spectrometer in the corner that just happened to have the perfect, rigid, gantry frame for his CNC machine.

Of course, his friend obliged and gladly gave up the spectrometer. Now it was time to put all together. The gantry was set on a scavenged institutional door. The linear motion frames were bolted in place. Quite a few components had to be made, naturally, of scrap materials.

spindletest2Most people will start by using a handheld router for the spindle. The benefits are obvious: they’re inexpensive, easy to procure, and generally come with mounts. But, there are some definite downsides, one of the most glaring of which is the lack of true speed control.

Even routers that allow you to adjust the speed (a fairly common feature on new models) generally don’t actually regulate that speed. So, you end up with a handful of speed settings which aren’t even predictable under load. Furthermore, they usually rely on high RPMs to do their work. For those reasons, handheld woodworking routers aren’t the best choice for a mill that you intend to cut metal with.

[reboots] noticed this problem while building this machine and came up with an inexpensive way to build a speed-controlled spindle. His design uses a brushless DC motor, controlled through a hobby ESC (electronic speed control), which uses a belt to drive the spindle. The spindle itself is mounted using skateboard bearings, and ends in an E11 collet (suitable for light machining in aluminum).

With the ESC providing control of the brushless motor, he’s able to directly control the spindle speed via software. This means that spindle speeds can be changed with G-code, allowing for optimized feeds and speeds for different operations. The belt-drive increases torque while separating the motor from the spindle, which should keep things cool, and reduce rotating mass on the spindle itself. Now all [reboots] needs to do is add a DIY tool changer!

Hackaday Prize Entry: DC Motor Controller

There are a lot of cheap Chinese CNC machines out there with okay mechanics and terrible electronics. The bearings aren’t complete crap, but the spindle of these CNC machines is a standalone PWM controller with a pot to control the speed. This means you can’t control the spindle speed with LinuxCNC or Mach3.

For his Hackaday Prize entry, [SUF] is building a DC motor controller for a Chinese spindle motor that doesn’t use any kind of encoder. The first part of that project is fairly easy; [SUF] has already built a high current driver. The second bit is a little it harder – because these spindles don’t have an encoder, [SUF] will have to read voltage spikes on the motor poles, giving him the RPM of the spindle. From there, it’s a bit of PID code to get this spindle running at a desired RPM and connecting it to a CNC control box.

So far, [SUF] has a second version of his board waiting for assembly. In the first version of the board, the switching time for the MOSFET was a little slow, but that’s all corrected in the current revision. It’s a great project to extend the capability of these cheap CNC machines, and perfect project for the Hackaday Prize.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by: