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IndustryArena Forum > WoodWorking Machines > Commercial CNC Wood Routers > Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.
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  1. #1
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    Talking Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.

    So, I did something brilliant / stupid. Although I have a 5x10 AND a old smaller CNC router, I saw an ad for a 4 x 8 router Camtech on craigslist so decided to take a look.

    If you haven't guessed, I'm a commercial shop, and the machine turned out to be from one of my old customers....customers no longer as they had this router.

    The router looked in good shape for the age, but had a few quirks.
    1) the controller system is dos.
    2) that dos must sit on a PC and then it needs to download firmware to a pendant sort of control at the machine. Every time you start up the CNC!
    3) the Z travel is 1.25 inches approximately.
    4) to partly make up for that low clearance, the spindle mounts in a slot that can be undone with wing bolts and slid up (like for a longer bit).

    No vacuum table, and the VFD powering the spindle sometimes starts up in reverse.
    ....in short, not that interesting of a machine to me.

    But, I left saying ....."if no one buys it today, call me and I'll make an offer". They had a new shop-bot arriving......well, they called, I offered, they accepted. $1000 down from $3000

    So, here I am.......

    I am looking to retro fit the machine with a modern control first and maybe a new Z axis second. I am not a huge electronics geek, but I've been used CNC routers for nearly 20 years so I know my way around. I'm sure I could work with the dos setup if I had too, but as resale might be the end game here, DOS isn't going to cut it.

    I like servos, I even have some spare Nema23 servos for my smaller router I could use, but not yet sure if they will fit but I'm leaning towards closed loop steppers as no tuning issues.
    I like Kflop, but time is a bit tight right now, so I think Kflop is out as well for the moment....again resale aspect doesn't favor kflop, good as I believe it is.
    I don't like Mach3, and I don't particularly like WinCNC (and too expensive for this project).

    The goal of this is to get a good, not great, system as quick and easily as possible. Closed loop I want, or would probably go with a G540.

    So, I am thinking of the following hardware and would like some feedback.

    • UC100 Control, and probably the CNC software they make too (or Mach3 as a backup plan)
    • C11GS breakout board.
    • Leadshine hybrid steppers and appropriate power supply (don't have the motor size now, under covers of the machine....I may change my mind and try to use the existing motors with new drivers)
    • (Teknic's Clearpath all-in-one servos might work too)
    • Estop system that goes into a circuit breaker that powers the box and will shut down everything (my 5x10 uses something like this)
    • I'll probably wire up new limit switches like the CNC4PC A88 model, I think likely easier to just not try and figure out the old stuff.



    A pendant would be nice, but I don't think the above allows for one. I'd ideally like to set the speed of the VFD from the gcode, turning the spindle on an off would be great, but I can live without that too.
    I'll have a vacuum table that will probably be just via a manual switch.

    I'll post some photos when I have the machine and have some covers off etc.

    PS, budget isn't a huge concern, spending a little more to make setting up a little easier is what I want, just not going to sink too much into a router that was bought without a purpose in mind.

    Thanks in advance for any and all advice and opinions! Not sure if I have picked the best CNC4PC breakout board, but seemed OK

  2. #2
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    Re: Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.

    Well, I have not brought the machine in house. Sellers bought a 5 x 10 shopbot and have been assembling while still running the camtech.

    I have bought the limit / home switches (inductive type), C35 breakout board, uc100 controller, and uncnc software, plus a few e stop switches from cnc4pc.
    I think the actual Z travel is 2" from more reading. As the table is 52"wide, bolting on 2 new Z axis to the front of the existing would be fine, still cut a 4 x 8 sheet with both routers. Won't be pulling the trigger on that set up (including new spindles likely) until it's in house. I did take some photos today, but not really good for posting as just little details I wanted to remember.

    The biggest quirk discovered today was the long axis bearing is just 2 ball bearings per side, riding on top a half round rail, all held on by the rack and pinion underneath. Not sure how that doesn't have some possibility of wiggling side to side, but if it's worked for 23 years maybe I should just have faith. THAT I will post pictures of, it's sort of wild.

    If I do the new z axis upgrade, I'll be spending more than I'd like but getting a machine I could actually use for my day to day work.

    Should be here next week.

  3. #3
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    Re: Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.

    Well still not in house....guess the shopbot is taking longer to get ready than they thought....no surprise with vacuum table and all new software really. Plus I have been too busy to worry about the delay, although having a separate machine would help....at least I try to keep telling myself that, but I heavily rely on a vacuum table myself and of course it doesn't have one.

    I have bought a power supply and new spindle and VFD (chinese 2.2kw and 3kw vfd), power supply I am hoping will either allow me to test the control software off the machine and if that works, allow me to get up and running with some existing spare stepper drivers I have for a laser machine but using existing motors on the Camtech. Then I can, once moving, order the closed loop stuff, new chain gears or belt hardware and easily swap out the motors and drivers only.

    Planning on selling the old hardware as a complete package, Pendant, PC, camtech software, control box all together as I gather at least the pendant and PC are supposed to be matched for the license to work. Offers accepted, but plan on offering to local guy first and then more formally here and ebay. Package might come with some motors and motor wiring too, although I'll probably keep 1 motor as a spare since plan currently is to only do XY closed loop, keep the Z as is (or extend it with existing motor hopefully)....I'm a big fan of spare parts for older machines.

    Until later that is all the update I have.

  4. #4
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    Re: Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.

    Argh. Now seller is moving shop and they don't want to disconnect 1 until the other is hooked up in new space....which is reasonable of they hadn't sold it! Of course, I haven't paid either...

    Went to their shop for another visit to draw out vacuum table plans...all laid out in vectric now. Probably can't cut most of it until machine is in my possession as MDF base will likely warp unless installed and sealed immediately after cutting.


    I'll cut and assemble some parts of the new table and then try and get the controller working on a table top...but right now I think I could do the refit in a weekend and would rather just get on with it. Might have to force the issue...good thing is that I can route a few jobs for them on my machine if needed.

  5. #5
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    Re: Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.

    Finally have the machine. Thought they had the shopbot up but apparently not....so an earlier offer to use my running machine might be used, we will see I guess. The Y bearings aren't quite as bad as I thought, but close.... 2 45 degree angled bearings running on the rail one side, but just sitting on top of the other rail....easy to add the angled bearings into t-slot but distance of gantry is not correct, so we'll see. I'll try to take photos next time. Spindle has a 3 phase reactor, I gather to limit startup current, but its only a 3hp and I think was run from 3phase power so not sure why it was needed. But 1992!, so maybe my more recent stuff is just different or maybe it was run off single phase at one point, maybe even 120v. (Any insight welcome).

    Probably try and get running next day I have to work on using 110v and then eventually plan the wiring for both control and vfd for 220. Once the table is moving with new control then work on vac table and spindle /power while building that.

  6. #6
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    Re: Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.

    Ok, Today I will try to upload some photos.

    Suffice to say, this is a bit more of a project.

    My plan to use leftover drivers from my laser didn't pan out. Apparently those lasers use 3 phase steppers and the camtech's were regular 2 phase (bipolar). So, no quick and easy control box for me.

    I was (briefly, strongly) tempted to change plans and use a mx4660 leadshine all in one box for (open-loop) control and just get it running with motors it had. However, 2 factors ended up against that.

    1st, the original specs were a little unimpressive (400ipm in the end, but I saw some numbers closer to 100 ipm which is too slow. Unsure of how close to the edge of an open loop system that was)....I'm hoping for 600ipm rapids but 400 would probably have been fine if that's how it worked out, but....

    2nd issue, the Z axis sucked....as in sucked so bad I think it was basically broken but the weight of the spindle made the whole thing work. So, I decided I would have to ditch the existing Z slide (all 2 inches of travel baby!) and mount a plate in it's place to put a new Z assembly on.

    A higher Z will let me space out the gantry higher and hopefully allow me to use 45 angled bearings against the rail of the second side. I am unsure if the original builders did what they did as a matter of course or because the gantry was out about 1/16" and the 45 degree bearings would not work that way.....regardless, I will try and use the vertical spacers to add some width adjustment.

    So, basically I am back to the closed loop plan...2 for X, 1 for Y and a spare 3 phase nema 23 for the Z driving a 1605 ballscrew-based axis. I'm buying a kit of ballscrew and nut, mounts for both ends and a coupler for a 8mm nema23 motor from cncsolutions on aliexpress, the closed loop motor and drivers are from there too. The rest of the Z I will make from some auction buys of years past we have kicking around.

    Since these new motors have an abnormally large shaft size for nema34 (14mm), I am going to change the chain drive over to a belt drive, hopefully using the existing aluminum extrusion based drive pully mounts, routing off a bunch of metal that will get in the way of the thicker belt drive but allow me to use other existing pieces and holes.

  7. #7
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    Re: Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.

    Photos!

    First, here is a picture of the machine itself. Notice the low gantry clearance and how it's only making a good table in the shop right now.
    Attachment 296468

    This is a shot of the "good" side of linear bearings. 4 bearings running 45 degrees off the round rail....only on the top side, the pinion holds it tight. It's not like a modern V rail, but it'll be OK.
    Attachment 296476

    On the other hand, this is the "bad" side of linear bearings. 2 bearings running on top of the round rail. Notice the extrusion has spots to mount bearings just like the other side but they didn't because the gantry isn't perfectly lined up.

    Attachment 296474

    Here are 3 of the Z axis.

    In the third (right) photo, notice how the screw drive (mostly hidden up in the gold thing) is mounted to the spindle platform by means of a metal washer type thing held by one screw to the Z bearing plate....and it was loose. I knew something was really wrong when hand-turning the stepper gearing didn't move the Z up and down.....sort of went down but never up....that washer thing had about 1" of play if totally loose which I think it was....with only 2" of Z, that's saying something! And those 4 wingnuts on the Z slide....that's what held the spindle mount plate on. The Z clearance was so low that basically you had to make the router only plunge down, and use that manual adjustment of the spindle mount plate to get the bit to have starting clearance or just adjust clearance for a longer bit.

    Attachment 296478Attachment 296480Attachment 296482

  8. #8
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    Re: Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.

    Hopefully buying the last bits on aliexpress tonight, higher voltage power supply for closed loop motors, timing belt pulleys for same (3:1 ratio from old 4.5:1). With the closed loop encoder resolution, should be accurate to 0.001 and probably will move much faster than I really need it too.

    My z axis plans will have to wait for a ballscrew kit from China to see how everything will fit together.... I have some huge INA bearings I was going to use, but will need a wider base for them or just use 1 wide and not the traditional pair. I have some other bearings a smaller size but no rail! Or, I have some star bearings I can use, but still may need a bigger plate.

    Will start work on the vacuum table this week if weather allows me to get the MDF sheet.

  9. #9
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    Re: Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.

    Some progress and some good news. Good news is that my ballscrew / closed loop steppers are in the mail so to speak so I should get them next week....was hoping to make a push on this next week so good news as I need the ballscrew in particular to get the Z axis rebuilt. As the weather was nice, I picked up the MDF for the vacuum table early and cut out the grid and some holes....see pics, but the fit is a little tight. Didn't help that I crashed my existing machine and it seems a little out of square, even after homing and the software based squaring that goes with that. Will have to check that problem tomorrow, the grid wasn't going to suffer either way.

    I was planning on changing the one side of the gantry running the bearings on top of the round rail to a dual 45degree setup, but (as I feared) I think the rail spacing isn't parallel. With a tape it looked about 1/16" wider at the back than at the front....the existing setup could handle that, but a dual 45deg could not....so not sure what I will do just yet.

    Damaged a pinion today too, motor assembly slipped out of some extrusion that I thought it would not ...should still work after filing off the smushed bits.

    As long as the vacuum motors arrive next week I should have plenty to do. Can't actually mount the motors until the new belt reduction pullys and belts come it....no word on those yet.

    Photos
    Machining the vac table
    Attachment 296942
    The old table
    Attachment 296944
    What is the structure underneath ( I will be building 4 boxed sections in between aluminum bars to help distribute air and make the top stiffer
    Attachment 296946
    table in place (temp)
    Attachment 296948

    Also shout out to both Alixpress and CNC solutions who are GREAT to deal with......having problems with an ebay item.

  10. #10
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    Re: Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.

    I've had the minor epiphany that I could shim the rail wider rather than dismantling everything and recut the spacer sections. Keeping the same heigh level could still be an issue. Hmmm, that might be worth doing.

    Edit: rail has references for height, so shimming should be easy(ish).

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    Re: Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  12. #12
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    Re: Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.

    If anyone has a suggestion on how best to get the rails parallel or how close I'd need to be with that bearing system (I'm guessing +/- .010 should be close enough, but just a guess).

    My plan, unless someone suggests better, is to fab up a beam that is the right width for the wide side. I am debating if I should do both ends and then shim the middle or go from one end to the other. I think the beam is fairly strong so I think I could do it either way and I'm thinking maybe the two ends will end up straighter.

    If no suggestions, I will update with how it goes regardless!

    Leaning towards leaving those cosmetic metal pieces off too, or paint them and put them back....we'll see, I'm not there yet with cosmetics!

    Greg

  13. #13
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    Re: Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.

    OK, made some progress.

    First, I have mostly finished my vac table. Not without some holes in wrong places, but nothing epoxy putty won't fix.

    Inner construction (this is the bottom remember)

    Attachment 298366

    Then glued together with epoxy, a few brad nails, and painted 2 coats industrial black paint to seal the MDF.
    Attachment 298368

    Good news is that I put a dial indicator on the gantry and checked the rails properly and they seem OK, within the .010" I would have been aiming for. So, switched the vertical bearing to a pair of 45 degree bearings, but need new washers so temporary for now.
    Attachment 298370

    Next will be spacing up the gantry and putting the new motors and belts and pulleys on, then I'll double check the rails before bolting the table down.

    All for now!

  14. #14
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    Re: Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.

    Slow! I am very bogged down with smaller time sucking jobs at work....close to catching up, but year end bookkeeping just around the corner too. Fortunately, my Dad is now retired and has picked up a lathe (CNC'd, but he's a newbie, we never had a lathe here at work) and a small manual milling machine.

    So, he's been doing a fair bit of the work so far too. He's enlarged the holes on the new pulleys I got off aliexpress to match the old pinions and new motors, and now I have tasked him with milling a larger slot in the extrusions they used for the new pulley....at first o thought it wouldn't fit and I'd have to rethink the whole X and Y axis motor mounts, but I think with a little work they'll squeeze it...I'll try to post pictures next week and probably not a lot happening until then. Really, around Christmas is when I see having a few days to work on it full time, but maybe I'll get enough done ahead of that to make that a final push.

    Cheers.

  15. #15
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    Re: Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.

    Well, back with a real update. Didn't have the time around Christmas, and work very busy, so didn't have too much time except to pick up some aluminum and draw the z axis out. However, I am making the time to get this project moving and cutting the final z axis parts right now.

    I have to say that with all the complaining I've done with how tight some of the clearance have been made originally, I didn't really make mine any better.

    The linear bearings clear the ballscrew send bearings with less than 1mm, 2mm for the clearance from plates to drive bits. But, should be a pretty slick setup.

    I'll post some pictures, add to the thread maybe a bit more later.

    Sent from my ASUS_Z00TD using Tapatalk

  16. #16
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    Re: Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.

    Attachment 305328
    Hdpe test version (second test version)
    Attachment 305330
    The tight clearance!
    Attachment 305332
    Machining the aluminum. Vacuum hold down (10hg only too) some wd40, and slower feedrate than I guessed, and no broken bits...with a 1/8 bit cutting 1 inch deep, I was pretty happy. Some deflection though, had to drill out those small holes
    Attachment 305334
    The test and the final versions
    Attachment 305336
    Clamping in place for mounting holes, then drilling and tapping
    Attachment 305326
    Final work in place, not yet bolted on
    Attachment 305324
    Back view


    Sent from my ASUS_Z00TD using Tapatalk

  17. #17
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    Re: Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.

    Hello,

    I have an old 93' Camtech like yours running on DOS and it's giving me an error message "no controller on com 2". Wondering if you have sold your controller yet or might know what this could be. I will be trying a new cable in the morning but have a feeling that something else is wrong. I am in Canada as well (Vancouver). When I open up the controller/cnc computer box there is a flashing red light that says LED1. LED 4 is solid red and 3 & 4 are not lit up at all. I have been using this machine once or twice a week for 7+ years and am desperate to get it sorted out.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Daniel
    AMBER SIGN & DESIGN

  18. #18
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    Re: Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.

    Well, I never actually ran this one with the old hardware, but I would happily part with the old hardware I have. I'd probably want something for it, but it will won't be much and include control, cables and steppers, software on USB but no PC. Feel free to come and take a look. Plasticworks.CA has all our location details(Surrey) Open 8:30-5 although I'll be here later tonight.

    Sent from my ASUS_Z00TD using Tapatalk

  19. #19
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    Re: Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.

    Hi,
    You haven't put any posts up recently and I was wondering how your getting on with the retrofit.
    My 98 MultiCam is underway this week.
    Sold the old control box for $400 AU, and ordered my new Gecko g540/Smoothstepper control box yesterday.
    So in the meantimewhile my machine is down and I'm waiting for my box to be made and delivered, I thought I would at least start to pull the Z apart to see if I can figure out how to replace the crappy Z and get some more height to the gantry.
    How did you go with adding some height to your Z? Any tips. Any pictures?
    And how is the new Z working out.
    I have the same setup as your old Camtech with the wing nuts that you have to use to move the spindle up and down.
    It really sucks. I realized a few days ago the the spindle wasn't even straight, vertical, because there is room for error when tightening the wing nuts up.
    I'm hoping to add enough height to the Z to have at least 120mm (about 5" i think) of travel.
    I started to look at replacement linear rails, ready built slide and actuators. I want to keep the Y axis mechanism, which has something like your Camtech, a belt that connects to a pinion and rack. So anything i come up with for the Z will have the Y mechanism housing attached to the back of it. I haven't worked out what will be the best way to go; to make a new Z plate thatis just longer and has the same setup with longer linear rail and ball screw, or start from scratch and add the Y pinion/belt/motor to the new Z.

    Attachment 325800
    Attachment 325802
    Attachment 325804
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Attachment 325806
    Attachment 325808
    Attachment 325810

  20. #20
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    Re: Retrofitting a $1000 1992(!) Camtech.

    Your Z is better than mine! still crappy amount of travel but that acme screw and star bearings way better than mine. In general, you can space out that existing plate, and then buy a fully assembled Z axis and put in in the front (getting it out from the high and low constraints it has now), or do the same but build your own with the existing bearings and longer sections of rail. I'd go pre-assembled if I had to do over. You don't lose any table size on this change, just shift it a little. Oh, and are you raising the gantry? Probably not critical, but I did.

    So, you should be fine keeping the Y motor as is. The biggest downside of this method is that the "pivot point" of the head is further out....but again, I think your bearings are much better than mine so maybe less of an issue. Unfortunately, I have found that either from factory or my modifications, there is a ton of flex at the tip of the bit....mostly from the light aluminum tube that is the gantry beam. I *may* try to slip a internal frame inside and bolt the tube into it to stiffen it up...but not sure yet.

    Anyways, on my work......will try to get it finished in the next couple of months. I have only the electronics to do, but my momentum lost out to other priorities and time pressures.

    Post a photo of your X (along gantry I mean) bearings, be curious what they look like from the photos you did post.

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