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  1. #1
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    Aug 2010
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    A poor mans CNC machine

    Greetings, I'd first like to thank the community here for their knowledge and documentation of making home brewed CNC machines. Without this sharing I would've never came close as I have in making my own contraption at home.
    This has taken me over two years with most of the parts sourced out from big box retailers.

    The main parts are of two aluminum ladders, 2x4 wood, plastic cutting boards, lots of bearings and regular couplers.

    Testing Y axis bearing cage and heavy router
    My CNC machine progress - YouTube

    Testing Z motor movement
    CNC Testing - YouTube

    Current pictures
    http://i.imgur.com/SgZaAmz.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/5ZTQ6hL.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/qDWFi8e.jpg

    Im about a week away from getting it moving and doing some cuts (Ill upload more video and details then)... If members think this design is great, I would love for someone to try to replicate the iteams in 3D so that its open sourced and for people to open it up on their computer (free Sketchup 3D program) for easy building.
    Please leave any design changes you have in mind (personally I just need a setup like this to cut foam models) that would make the machine easier to build or stronger.


    ---
    My plans for this great machine are to build car kits and open sourced motorhomes... I have lots of ideas but no capital to fund them all.
    I encourage members here to pickup any of these concepts and build molds for them to share profits.

    Poor mans land yacht
    http://i.imgur.com/PqDE7mW.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/CoqaCEG.jpg
    A poors mans land yacht - Concept - Page 4 - The Australian 300zx Owners Association post 67 & 72

    Re-bodying $1000 Camaro's into aerodynamically Italian styled designs.
    $1000 Camaro's into aerodynamic beauties. - Fuel Economy, Hypermiling, EcoModding News and Forum - EcoModder.com

  2. #2
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    Nov 2007
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    449
    A couple of things. If foam is all you are cutting then you'll ok but for anything else you would need to add support to your y axis. 2x4 is not a desirable cnc building material. It's strong but is significantly affected humidity changes which will throw your accuracy off as the weather changes. Steppers do get hot but I think it's ok not to place a heatsink or fan on them. The G540 reduces current when the motors are idle.

    However as they say, your mileage may vary. If this setup performs to your expectations then all good.

  3. #3
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    My Y axis supports actually sway back and forth a lot because of the position and way I bolted them on... I have a few add-on tweaks for it that will hopefully fix this. I guess if the wood is going to expand and throw off accuracy... one could always setup some kind of marked points test for deviation over time.

    Being a poor man , I avoided ordering the locally hard to find resisters to idle my motors when not used... something to upgrade in the future for sure.
    Thanks for the feedback

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arashb View Post
    My Y axis supports actually sway back and forth a lot because of the position and way I bolted them on... I have a few add-on tweaks for it that will hopefully fix this. I guess if the wood is going to expand and throw off accuracy... one could always setup some kind of marked points test for deviation over time.

    Being a poor man , I avoided ordering the locally hard to find resisters to idle my motors when not used... something to upgrade in the future for sure.
    Thanks for the feedback
    They are very cheap. I think I got 10 for $3.

  5. #5
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    Looks essentially like the very first CNC machine I started but never completed. Mine was built out of 2x4s, ready rod (all thread) and 1" conduit. I never completed it but I got the CNC bug. I know it might be a hard sell at this point but keep an eye out on ebay, a cheap set of linear rails and a ball screw with a belt drive system bolted onto a plate of aluminum and you've got a complete axis. I'm sure cutting boards, ladders bearings do add up! There are many great designs on here based off MDF frames that use torsion box designs for stability. You should look into them!


    As for resistors they are super cheap. A lot of the electronics components manufactures will send you FREE samples.

    Happy CNC'ing I wish you the best of luck!

  6. #6
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    Re: A poor mans CNC machine

    Thanks, Ive been keeping various parts through out the years for this new design (as I ditched the old) and if it has major problems I just might have to order parts to get it finished.




    My youtube channel showing the extension I made for my van so that I can use it as a workshop.
    https://www.youtube.com/user/VancityComputers/videos

  7. #7
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    May 2005
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    3920

    Re: A poor mans CNC machine

    I might mention that home centers suck when it comes to component costs. So not the best way to buy build materials, especially anything involving metal.

    My laptop died so I will not be able to see much detail but it does look like your machine could use more thought in the bearings. Generally the cheaper the bearing solution the farther they need to be spread out.

  8. #8
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    Re: A poor mans CNC machine

    For sure materials are expensive, even bolts and brackets. Ive used an Ikea bed for the X base, the metal supports are sourced from a bed board, and a ladder for the table.
    Each wheel has two bearings so there are many... here is my Z axis and table design.





  9. #9
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    64

    Re: A poor mans CNC machine

    I like your build.

  10. #10
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    Re: A poor mans CNC machine

    Thanks, although the Y-axis is very stiff to move back and forth, Im getting lots of flexing.

    Im not sure if some ad-on bracing will fix this, maybe centering all the wheels to the Y bar might help?

  11. #11

    Re: A poor mans CNC machine

    i realize that everyone's machines are a product of what they can afford, and material availability. i got a deal on my machine, due to pure luck i think.
    i am concerned about the flex you mentioned. (haven't watched the videos yet.) maybe i missed it, but what is your end plan for this machine? what are you routing?

    ~Travis
    Techno Isel Gantry III (?) base machine. EMC/LinuxCNC controller.
    about 48 X 48 X 5 inch working, Makita RF1101

  12. #12
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    Re: A poor mans CNC machine

    I would like to transform the front of an old sports car into a new design by carving pink HomeDepot foam for the mold.
    Im thinking of stacking some square tubing I have, inplace of the ladder braces Im using maybe to reduce flex seen in the video.

  13. #13

    Re: A poor mans CNC machine

    i haven't routed foam before, but i have cut it on a table-saw, and the foam tends to grab onto the saw blade, and bind up. when the foam is moving past the blade at a good rate, it is fine. but slow down, or stop, and bad things happen. if there is much flex at all, i can envision the router bit orbiting around in the foam. others with more foam routing experience may know better. i just wanted to voice my concerns.

    i understand the whole low-budget build. before i just happened to catch the Craigslist advertisement, for my router table, i too was looking to use inexpensive materials. seemed like every design i came up with, i was told to build it stiffer and stronger. i had even setup an experiment, and tried to route a simple sign using a wood router, completely free-hand. the forces of the bit cutting into the material, and wanting to take off on it's own was surprising.

    also, on the note of cutting foam. i know when i cut it on a table-saw, the foam "dust" gets absolutely everywhere, and sticks to everything. i would suggest thinking about some sort of dust collection. even a shop-vacuum should work, until it fills up.

    not trying to discourage you and your machine, just trying to pass on what little experience i have.

    ~Travis
    Techno Isel Gantry III (?) base machine. EMC/LinuxCNC controller.
    about 48 X 48 X 5 inch working, Makita RF1101

  14. #14
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    2738

    Re: A poor mans CNC machine

    There are special burrs for cutting foam. Dust will be a huge problem. Peter

  15. #15
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    Re: A poor mans CNC machine

    Quote Originally Posted by Arashb View Post
    For sure materials are expensive, even bolts and brackets.
    Yes cost of materials for the shop or even the house is expensive, especially at home centers! There are alternatives though, here are some suggestions:

    1. Tractor Supply is pretty good for quality bolts in the larger size and some machine screws. Great if you want to pick up some hardware and don’t want Togo on line.

    2. McMaster-Carr has almost everything though you need to deal with ordering blind. By that I mean you might not be able to select a manufacture.

    3. Suppliers to the metal working industries like MSC, Travers and etc. Probably more expensive but you can buy in bulk.

    4. Supplier to electrical contractors like Horizon or whatever is local to you; can often beat hardware store prices.

    5. Don’t forget the internet. Amazon and a whole host of businesses selling to the tool industry, over the net, can often be hard to beat.
    Ive used an Ikea bed for the X base, the metal supports are sourced from a bed board, and a ladder for the table.
    Each wheel has two bearings so there are many... here is my Z axis and table design.
    That might pass for foam. Anything tougher though might be a problem.



  16. #16
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    Re: A poor mans CNC machine

    Great list.
    The massive alluminum supports I have now are left overs from my father backyard fence. I also scored cheap plastic cutting boards for $3 Canadian at Ikea. Since I ended up using so many large skate wheels, these have been the bulk of the gantry costs.

    Quote Originally Posted by travis_farmer View Post
    i haven't routed foam before, but i have cut it on a table-saw, and the foam tends to grab onto the saw blade, and bind up. when the foam is moving past the blade at a good rate, it is fine. but slow down, or stop, and bad things happen. if there is much flex at all, i can envision the router bit orbiting around in the foam. others with more foam routing experience may know better. i just wanted to voice my concerns.

    i understand the whole low-budget build. before i just happened to catch the Craigslist advertisement, for my router table, i too was looking to use inexpensive materials. seemed like every design i came up with, i was told to build it stiffer and stronger. i had even setup an experiment, and tried to route a simple sign using a wood router, completely free-hand. the forces of the bit cutting into the material, and wanting to take off on it's own was surprising.

    also, on the note of cutting foam. i know when i cut it on a table-saw, the foam "dust" gets absolutely everywhere, and sticks to everything. i would suggest thinking about some sort of dust collection. even a shop-vacuum should work, until it fills up.

    not trying to discourage you and your machine, just trying to pass on what little experience i have.

    ~Travis
    Thanks, I found a used bit made for cutting plastic eye glasses and it looks just right for foam... reading from others accounts. The brand is Gerber Optical.


    I also decided to beef up my supports and now have a mini cnc machine to make some new linear rail too.





    Quote Originally Posted by peteeng View Post
    There are special burrs for cutting foam. Dust will be a huge problem. Peter
    Im thinking of running the machine in my vans extension pull out, have it enclosed and if I cant vaccum the dust properly, just wash it off (being careful of electronics) to filter into a large bucket. Lots of toxic flame retardants and such in foam, will have to discard it properly.

  17. #17
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    Re: A poor mans CNC machine

    My mini 3018 CNC has a GRBL Controller board, chipset ch340
    Im having problems with the Lightburn (I plan to make templates for my linear enclosure) program to get proper coordinates and scaling it looks like. To try and remedy this, Ive decided to put in some limit switches but dont know which of the 3 pins on the controller board I should connect the two wires coming off a switch... any guesses?

  18. #18
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    Re: A poor mans CNC machine

    Quote Originally Posted by Arashb View Post
    Great list.
    The massive alluminum supports I have now are left overs from my father backyard fence. I also scored cheap plastic cutting boards for $3 Canadian at Ikea. Since I ended up using so many large skate wheels, these have been the bulk of the gantry costs.

    Thanks, I found a used bit made for cutting plastic eye glasses and it looks just right for foam... reading from others accounts. The brand is Gerber Optical.


    I also decided to beef up my supports and now have a mini cnc machine to make some new linear rail too.






    Im thinking of running the machine in my vans extension pull out, have it enclosed and if I cant vaccum the dust properly, just wash it off (being careful of electronics) to filter into a large bucket. Lots of toxic flame retardants and such in foam, will have to discard it properly.

    I don't think that small cross section beam across the gantry and the huge distance from it to the tool tip will be a happy combination.Even in a material as soft as foam the movement of the spindle may well induce some twisting.

  19. #19
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    Re: A poor mans CNC machine

    Nice... with the massive supports I have, I didnt want to drill through with super long bolts and wanted to reach into the support opening at the top to fasten small bolts, but I think I'll change the design, thanks.


    edit
    Luckily after experimenting and smelling burnt electronics I didnt fry my board. One indication was the USB disconnect sound from the computer when shorting it.

    I found the pins output by looking at the back of the board.
    Also a similar schematic https://i.imgur.com/7naMUfR.jpg


    I ran these settings, limit switch COM to negative on the board, and NO to signal on the board. I used the program Universal G-Code Sender (machine, setup wizard, limit switches) to test each axes (had to hold down the switch rather then tap).


    Being a hoarder of junk, these 1 inch sticky mounts came in handy for placement. Used garden shears to shorten the plastic mounts.

  20. #20
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    Re: A poor mans CNC machine

    It was frustrating to get the working area of the Lightburn laser program to match my 3018 GRLB machine, heres what I did after installing limit switches.
    (a video guide on limit switches)
    3018 CNC/PRO - Limit/homing switches 3018 CNC/PRO - Limit/homing switches - YouTube


    First I modified all the axis working areas to the CNC controller.
    1) A) For example in the console I changed the X axis specs by writing; $110=300
    Below are the codes for the other axis's.
    $110, $111 and $112 – [X,Y,Z]

    B) I think I added too this but it may not be needed
    "$10=0 (this changes the position reporting to be in work coords, not machine coords)"



    A sample of my current settings
    Code:
    $$
    $0=10
    $1=254
    $2=0
    $3=3
    $4=0
    $5=0
    $6=1
    $10=0
    $11=0.010
    $12=0.002
    $13=0
    $20=0
    $21=1
    $22=1
    $23=3
    $24=25.000
    $25=500.000
    $26=250
    $27=5.000
    $30=10000
    $31=0
    $32=0
    $100=400.000
    $101=400.000
    $102=200.000
    $110=5000.000
    $111=5000.000
    $112=600.000
    $120=20.000
    $121=20.000
    $122=20.000
    $130=300.000
    $131=180.000
    $132=40.000
    ok
    2) CNC settings are generally coded in the negative axis, we have to modify a file and upload it to the controller to put it in the positive axis.
    A) Search your
    users\xxxx\documents\arduino\libraries\
    folder for the GRBL folder, also the librarie folder where you have arduino installed
    cut and past this to the desktop, find the file config.h and open it with your Windows Notepad program

    B)With the find feature, locate the following exact line (older versions of grbl have a different code) and delete it, and save the file with the same original extension (not ending with .txt)
    Code:
    // #define HOMING_FORCE_SET_ORIGIN // Uncomment to enable.
    C) Run the Arduino program and setup/configure it to your machine. (remember we have should have deleted any previous GRBL folders from step A)
    Under 'Sketch' and after 'Include Library' is where we find 'Add .ZIP Library', then only select the GRBL folder alone on the desktop where we modified that config.h file earlier.

    D) Under 'File' and 'Examples', scroll the arrow to the bottom and locate 'GRBL', through there select grlbUpload

    In the new window click the arrow icon to upload... ignore any errors.

    Towards the end of this guide is how to initially install Ardruino and upload the GRBL drivers.
    3018 CNC/PRO - New (updated) beginner's step by step guide - All tricks and tips
    youtu.be/fd07-OfCsAk?t=4723


    After running Lightburn, I home the machine first in the absolute settings, the origin point at the far left and it should be all aligned.

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