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CNC Machine

A page with links to do-it-yourself CNC machines

Click here for the blog about our CNC Machining project

Planned task schedule:

  • June 15th - software acquired, tested, familiarized
  • June 17-19 - design of stage finished, materials purchased, stage building started
  • June 24 - motors arrived, wired, stage nearly finished
  • June 25-27 - debug motor  software wiring
  • June 28-29 - machine testing


Real Task schedule:

  • June 15th - Alex downloaded CAM software
  • June 16th - Alex and Mike went to Lowes, bought plumbing gear, started assembling structure
  • June 17-19th - assembled structure (Motors arrived June 19th)
  • June 24th - started wiring motor - had problem with power supply (green + black wires not jumped), and parallel cable (tried a longer one which we had on hand - that didn't work; then used the cable that came with it - that -did- work; probably has XMIT and RECV wires crossed)
  • June 25th - got motor stepping after solving above problems
  • June 28th - cut X-stage
  • June 29th - went shopping for used roller blades (to extract bearings) - found 3 pair, got 24 bearings
  • June 30th - assembled X-stage bearings, and threaded nut - got X-stage moving!  (Had trouble putting threaded nut under stage with threaded rod already installed; next time, do that -first-, THEN install the threaded rod in the end bushings)
  • July 1st - finished design for Z-stage (no small feat); stripped down router to just motor; cut delrin plastic for bearing (Mike) and for router mount (Alex)
  • <undocumented efforts>
  • August 9th - Z-stage construction completed, motors wired, first test of Z-stage up/down - successful! :-)
  • August 16th - X-stage construction completed; first test of X-stage back/forward successful! :-)
  • August 19th - X, Y, Z stages completed; turned router on, cut foam and wood for first time!  :-D
  • August 26h - Installed KCAM on the CNC computer, and used the pin-settings described on  Then ran "KCAM3", and it seems to work!  Using the "CNC Controls" window in KCAM3, the motors jog back and forth (if you drop the motor speed down from default 1"/s to about 0.3"/s), and KCAM3 can read in example G-code files, and -seems- to want to make the motors move appropriately, but there seems to be a scaling issue between the path and the motors - it thinks the motors are moving 1/2 as much as they are, which means we'll run into the stage limits prematurely.  Still, a big jump!
  • August 30th - Connected all the dots!  Can export a JPG from Photoshop, convert it to a vector using Scan2CAD, convert -that- to G-code using NCPlot, and can then run that g-code with the CNC.  We put a pen on the router bit and successfully spelled the word Steampunk (after Mike cleaned up some errant lines in the g-code).  Then replaced the pen with a router bit and cut the same word in wood; however, the bit was wider than the thickness of the letters, and hence it was tough to read.  When we repeated the process with a larger drawing, the router kept shaking itself loose from the Z-stage collar.  Once we fix that, we're in business!  :-)


Random shapes cut in foam:






And letters cut out of wood:


(ran out of room to spell "Steampunk".... :-)









Online Resources for CNC machining



Software to check out:


This flowchart from Probotix:



Note, however: we bought a package from which includes stepper motors, drivers, and

software.  The software, however, is very simple, and only allows control of the motors from the keyboard or joystick.

We need something to convert STL files from SolidWorkds or AutoCAD into CAM software, and then to into CNC Control software.


Note: ArtSoft makes Mach3.  They also offer a download for the free program LazyCam.  I -think- this is the flowchart we'll use:

  1. SolidWorks or AutoCAD can create .DXF files; graphics programs can create JPGs or BMPs
  2. LazyCam or NCPlot takes .DXF files or JPGs/BMPs and creates G-code for use in Mach 3 or KCAM.
  3. Mach3 or KCAM then takes this G-code, and uses it to operate the stepper motors via the FET3 control board from Stepperworld, to produce the part we specified in CAD.



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