Apr 14 2016

Chinese CNC routers and low cost machines

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Chinese CNC routers and low cost machines

For some hobbyists the number one concern when looking for a CNC router is budget. CNC routers can revolutionize what you are able to do while woodworking but they can potentially be a very expensive investment. The average CNC router will likely run you between $4000 and $6000. However, changes in recent years have affected the market for Chinese CNC routers and low cost machines and routers. Higher numbers of people have begun purchasing CNC routers. As a result the number of different CNC routers available has increased while prices have decreased. It is tricky to find a CNC router for less than $1000 but not impossible (although you should not expect to find a machine and software for under $1000). Before buying cheaply consider what you will be using your CNC router for. This article will highlight three cheap CNC router that are good for light work. If you intend to work with heavier materials, like metal, you should look for a sturdier machine.

Zen CNC routers Chinese CNC routers and low cost machines

Zen CNC routers

The first machine is the CNC Carving Machine 12”x12”, from Zen Toolworks (http://4ax.org/E7) It is available directly on their website but they also sell through third parties like Amazon. This is the F8 version of the machine. The machine comes in a DIY kit with F8 leadscrews for all three axes. The frame is made from high density PVC board, linear bearings, steel guide rods and stainless steel leadscrews. The leadscrews also feature anti-backlash brass nuts. There is a Wiki website where you can find instructions on assembling the machine. This is not a complete kit. In order to get your machine fully up and running you will need a 3 Axis stepper motor driver, a spindle or cutter with mounting brackets and a DC power supply for both of those parts. You will also need a computer with a printer port and CNC control software.

CNC routers

Inventables cnc routers

Your second option is the Shapeoko. The Shapeoko was created thanks to funding from a Kickstarter and uses Makerslide extruded aluminum rails and delrin V bearing wheels. The basic kit (which includes only the mechanical parts) starts at $299 but you will be looking at a little over $1000 by the time you add all the needed parts together. Currently the Shapeoko 2 is available on Instructables.com ( http://4ax.org/fh ) but the Shapeoko 3 is currently in development and available for pre-order. The Shapeoko 2 is intended to use a Dremel tool for its spindle but a high speed spindle upgrade is also available. The free web app Easel can be used for software but you also have other options such as Inkscape, MakerCam and Universal G-Code-Sender.

 

Another Chinese CNC routers or low cost machines is the Shapeoko 3 has unique extrusions (instead of Makerslide) specifically designed for it. These new extrusions will be twice as large as Makerslides. It will also feature thicker steel plates, making for a sturdier machine. If you go with Shapeoko do a little research of your own and decide which version of the machine you will want.

Chinese CNC routers and low cost machines

Makesmith cnc routers

Lastly you might choose a machine called Makesmith. Marketed as “The Most Affordable Desktop CNC Router” and funded through Kickstarter, the kit was sold for only $295. Presently the Makesmith company is not making or selling any more kits, needing more time for research and development, but the Makesmith CNC router is an open source project. The designs for the machine and its software are openly available with details on their website (http://4ax.org/q9). If you want to build your own Chinese CNC routers and low cost machines from scratch and not just use a DIY kit this is definitely the cheapest option available to you. Regardless of which of these three options you choose you will still be able to save some money and get to work on your hobby.


Mar 21 2016

Easter projects with CNC

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Easter projects with CNC

Holiday projects are fun and give you an opportunity to work with ideas that you would probably not think of otherwise. Regardless of what kind of CNC machine and what types of materials you have to work with there are dozens of different projects you can work on for the holidays(easter). Even though you are working within a specific theme the number of different projects you can come up with will be practically endless with a bit of creativity.

Easter projects with cnc machine

easter projects

Many hobbyists work with CNC routers so we will start with projects that can be made with those. One of the easiest things to do is to take a simple project and just make it Easter themed. If you are used to make signs you could make one that says “Happy Easter” with a picture of a bunny or a decorative egg carved into it. Alternatively you could only carve text into the sign but shape it so that it looks like a bunny, egg or some other Easter related object. Hobbyists who are more interested in 3D objects could create a small statue or figurine that is made to look like a rabbit. You could even combine these two projects by making a bunny who is holding a sign or who is wearing one around its neck like a necklace. Depending on the style you want the pieces to match you could make the bunnies realistic looking or give them a cartoonish motif to entertain children.

Easter egg projects

Easter egg projects

Kids love going on egg hunts and you could make some eggs of your own instead of buying the cheap plastic ones from the store. Making an egg from wood is easy on a router but other machines that are more suited to harder materials could use aluminum or another light metal. You can carve decorations into the eggs in lieu of dying them like real eggs or you could apply paint like you would traditionally do. With metal eggs paint may be better to use than carving techniques; you do not want the bright, shiny metal eggs to be too easy for the children to find. Aside from eggs themselves you could make egg baskets for the kids to put their collected eggs in.
Other toys and games for children can also be used to entertain children. These are other types of projects that should not be totally new to a lot of hobbyists; they will just be adjusted to match the theme of Easter. You could make a puzzle that features the Easter Bunny or toys that resemble eggs, peeps or other Easter themes. Even if you do not use a theme that is specifically Easter related you can still use a CNC machine to make goodies that can be used on Easter. Making more generic items for children is fine because they can still be used as gifts or egg hunt prizes. This can be a good thing to do if you want to make items yourself but do not have time to design and program any projects that are more Easter themed.
Many of the ideas expressed in this article can be applied to other holidays as well. On Halloween you could make a sign shaped like a bat and around Christmas you can create puzzles that are shaped like pine trees or snowmen. If you are going to put up decorations for the holidays why not make decorations that represent your favorite parts of those holidays. Hobbyists who always liked egg hunts can capitalize on egg decorations while fans of the Easter


Mar 17 2016

PCB Making with a Low End CNC Mill

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PCB Making with a Low End CNC Mill

Generally you have two options when you need to get your hands on a custom PCB. One is makes it yourself using etchant. This can be tricky to do since chemicals are messy, potentially toxic and can be difficult to acquire depending on where you live. Another is to pay a professional company to do the job for you. While this option is not terribly expensive it can take a few weeks for you PCB to get to you and no one wants to wait that long. Making the PCB yourself on a mill is a quick way to make the item yourself without messing with chemicals.

Making PCB with a CNC Mill

Making PCB with a CNC Mill

Like any special project, milling your own PCB has upsides and downsides. On the positive side of things this is a very fast project and you do not have to handle chemicals. The mill does the drilling so things should remain relatively error free and even if they do not all you have to buy are blank circuit boards, which are fairly cheap. Once you have your board made you can also make duplicates if you need more than one. However, you should also be aware of the project’s negative aspects before you decide to jump into it. The actual process of milling the board can take a while to complete, tying up your machine if you need it for other things. The project is also going to be very messy; expect to clean up a lot of pieces and copper clad fiberglass. Doing this work yourself will cause some wear to your bits and other tools and those things are expensive when they need replacing. Most of the negative aspects are things you would have to worry about anyway with any milling project so do not get too detracted by the potential downsides of this project.

Making PCBs with CNC Mill

Making PCBs with CNC Mill

This project will require you to have the same basic tools that you would use for a regular CNC milling project. A mill (obviously), CAD/CAM software and so on and so forth; additionally you will need the G-code for this particular project, a 30 degree V-shaped engraving bit and some carbide PCB drill bits (any random surplus bits should work fine). The V-shaped bit is going to be the trickiest thing that you are going to have to mess with. You are going to want very small and very clean lines to be etched while you are milling. A V-shaped bit is going to widen the cut it makes as you cut deeper. It may take a little trial and error before you find the ideal cutting depth to use with this project.
There are a few things that can go wrong while you work on this. If your V-shaped bit is too dull your cuts will be wider than you intended. You may also need to lower the Z height in order to cut at all with a dull bit. Using wide traces when designing your board can be a good safety net so that sloppy work does not result in too bad of a problem. Beyond that you just need to remember to follow basic rules of working with a CNC mill. Wear safety google or some other form of eye protection at all times, do not leave the room while the machine is running and all of that good stuff. This project is not terribly complicated compared to some of the other things you can do on a CNC mill so you should not run into too much difficulty.


Feb 11 2016

CNC vinyl cutter For CNC machine

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CNC vinyl cutter For CNC machine

CNC machine work that is more arts and crafts than machining CNC vinyl cutter are a popular and inexpensive option for interested hobbyists. In shape vinyl cutters resemble computer printers and, like all CNC machines, they are controlled by pre-input computer commands. With this type of machine the computer controls the movements of a very sharp cutting blade to cut out letters, pictures or other shapes from vinyl (self-adhesive plastic). The computer interface of the average CNC vinyl cutter is very similar to the operating controls of a printer. These machines have a very small learning curve for users who are already familiar with computer printer technology. Users who are completely new to this technology will still find that CNC vinyl cutters are one of the easiest CNC machines to use.

CNC Vinyl Cutter

CNC Vinyl Cutter for cnc machine

The actual operation of a CNC vinyl cutter is very simple. A small knife is used by the machine to precisely cut the outline of whatever picture has been uploaded onto the piece of vinyl that has been inserted into the machine. Many CNC vinyl cutters have a mount where you can place rolls of vinyl so that you do not have to change your cutting material often unless you need a different color for various parts of a project. The use of vinyl rolls also makes it easy to mass produce projects. Because of the precision of the cutter it is recommended to use vector graphics for the images you upload for cutting. If raster graphics with pixilated edges are used your final product can look less than adequate. Vinyl is very adhesive and can be stuck to almost any surface within reason. One of the most common projects a CNC vinyl cutter is used for is creating signs, such as advertisements or banners. For example, business advertisements that are placed on cars, trucks or other vehicles are frequently made using vinyl.
Now say you have just purchased a CNC vinyl cutter and want to get started using it. The process for using most CNC vinyl cutters goes something like this. First you find your image (as a vector graphic) that you want to cut out. Since most projects on vinyl cutters are made of basic shapes (letters, numbers, etc.) it is usually easiest to make the graphics yourself in a program like Inkscape, OpenOffice Draw, Coreldraw or Photoshop. When designing or otherwise choosing an image remember that the color in the computer program is not important. Your cutout will be the image of the vinyl inserted into the machine so everything you design could be in black and white and it will be fine. The only reason to use color in your software would be to get a good visualization of what the project will look like when it is complete. If you do this remember to have the shade of your color match your printing material exactly or the final result could look different from the image in your software. Next open your CNC vinyl cutter’s software (all vinyl cutters should come with compatible software). Import your image into the software. Now you need to use your software’s features to trace the outline of your image so that the cutter will have a cutting path to follow. The ways in which you can edit images in these software programs tend to be pretty similar to basic programs that have some degree of image editing (Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, etc.). With your software ready to go load the vinyl you will be using into the machine. CNC vinyl cutters tend to have infrared sensors or some other detecting mechanism that lets the machine know when you have a roll loaded and when it is empty. Once the roll is in you can use the buttons on the CNC vinyl cutter begin the cutting process. These controls are usually similar to a printer or copy machine in set-up and function. Some CNC vinyl cutters may have these controls in the software instead of the hardware; the set-up is going to vary from machine to machine.

CNC Vinyl cutters

CNC Vinyl cutters for cnc machines

These machines are easy and fun to use when you have a use for this kind of project. They tend not to be too expensive either, with the more basic machines usually costing only a few hundred dollars. Some of the machines can even be used to cut thin cardboard, bolstering the number of different types of projects you can do on these machines. Alternatively, they do make vinyl drag knives that can be attached to other CNC machines (routers, mills, laser cutters and so forth) that usually cost somewhere between $100 and $200. This is good, cheap alternative to buying a whole new machine if you are already an enthusiast with another type of CNC machine and want to become enthusiastic about vinyl cutting too.


Feb 11 2016

stepper motors or servo motors?(CNC machine)

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stepper motors or servo motors?(CNC machine)

Stepper motors and servo motors area unit your 2 decisions for your CNC machine. The age recent question is, “Which one is better?” once scrutiny 2 motors, one among every sort, you’ll be able to create some generalizations see you later as sure criteria are met. forward that each motors have the same power rating and area unit of roughly constant quality with constant options (minus feedback options) you’ll be able to compare and distinction pretty simply. The key distinction between the 2 varieties is that servo motors have Associate in Nursing encoder whereas stepper motors don’t. on the far side that, every one will do a number of things higher than the opposite.

CNC machine tools Stepper motors

Stepper motor for cnc machine

If value is your main concern (which is usually the case for hobbyists) stepper motors can possible be your initial choice; they have a tendency to be cheaper than servo motors that have constant performance level. Stepper motors area unit versatile and may be employed in many alternative machines, together with most (if not all) CNC machines. They additionally tend to be to a small degree additional reliable as a result of not having Associate in Nursing encoder that would probably provide out on you. Not having Associate in Nursing encoder {can additionally|also can|can even|may also|may} increase the lifetime of the motor; having the bearing rather than brushes (like a servo motor) also improves motor time period. putting in a stepper motor is incredibly simple; they’re essentially plug and play whereas a servo motor wants a additional elaborate set-up. If one thing will fail with a stepper motor it’s unlikely to be broken by any reasonably mechanical overload. the chances of this happening area unit unlikely; stepper motors need little calibration to be unbroken operational. The simplicity in their style is basically what makes stepper motors thus reliable. to boot, their straightforward construction makes them fairly simple to urge hold of.

cnc machine tool

Servo motor for cnc machine

While stepper motors tend to be higher for the foremost basic wants of hobbyists, servo motors tend to try to to to a small degree higher once it involves actual performance. For starters, servo motors area unit easier to seek out a spread of sizes, which may be fairly vital if you’re operating with a CNC machine that’s larger or smaller than usual. A servo motor is capable of maintaining high force despite how briskly or slow the motor runs at. potency is considerably higher with a servo motor, particularly wherever lightweight masses area unit involved. masses may be accelerated rather more expeditiously with a servo motor than with a stepper motor. Motor resolution may be bespoke once employing a servo motor due to the encoder that the motor utilizes. Servo motors will operate victimization DC or AC (whereas stepper motors area unit perpetually DC); as a result the quantity of power they consume will vary greatly reckoning on your wants. the power to customise power consumption additionally helps with keeping heat generation to a minimum whereas the motor is running. If necessary, servo motors will even offer their own power from a reserve supply for brief periods of your time. With all of those efficient functions, it ought to return as no surprise that servo motors even have a lot of less vibration (resulting in less resonance) and manufacture negligible noise whereas running.
So which sort of motor do you have to buy? For hobbyists, stepper motors area unit typically the thanks to go simply because they’re cheaper. forward you purchase a motor that’s the proper size, stepper motors ought to perform well and be over adequate for any of your at-home comes. Servo motors, as way as performance goes, area unit higher however you are doing not essentially would like one thing as powerful (and expensive) as they’re as a hobbyist; they’re additional for professionally used CNC machines.