Building a CNC machine

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Forum topic by MrRon posted 07-25-2017 08:12 PM 1481 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5913 posts in 4020 days

07-25-2017 08:12 PM

I have been in the process of building a CNC router now for several years. It is 36”x84”, built from MDO plywood; using vee groove wheels riding on aluminum angle guide rails. It is a gantry style machine. I plan on using a PC 630 router; NEMA 34 for the X axis and NEMA 23 for the Y and Z azis. I’m sure it will work with wood, but I want to to work with aluminum. I am about 90% complete with the construction and hope my plan to work aluminum will not be a problem. I’ve gone over the design carefully and added reinforcement where I think it is needed. The X axis will be powered by a NEMA 34 motor driving dual chain drive. I think in the future, I should be thinking about using a water cooled spindle instead of a router. So far I have about $300 invested; I still have to buy the electronics and software. All comments are welcome.The following pictures show the front facing the gantry and the other showing the side. Sorry I can’t blow it up bigger, but you may get the general idea.

6 replies so far

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#1 posted 07-25-2017 08:28 PM

Great project- I suggest the water cooled spindle for durability over a router which last about 300 hours. Also a spindle is quiet compared to a router.

-- Desert_Woodworker

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5913 posts in 4020 days

#2 posted 07-27-2017 05:43 PM

I am still making changes on my CNC build; small improvements here and there. When I knew I was going to use it for aluminum, I thought about making the CNC smaller for rigidity, but I have so much time invested so far, I hate to quit now and start all over again. If I started anew, I would be going with ball screws and linear bearings and that would increase my cost quite a bit. It would mean scrapping about 80% of completed work. Maybe I should just continue on my original plan and rack it up to experience and lessons learned.

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#3 posted 07-27-2017 06:56 PM

I’d keep on trucking Ron. I imagine the drive system you have is sufficient for working in Al. Not sure about the router but I’m sure that can be swapped out with a spindle down the line. As you know, routers typically run much faster than is ideal for cutting metals and may not last long at the required torques and heavier lateral loads. But, I’ve cut aluminum with my router on occasion and it will do the job so it can’t hurt to give it a go!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

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#4 posted 07-29-2017 03:12 PM

If you’re 90 percent done, I thing you are pretty good to go. My only recommendation that I’ll pass along (that someone shared with me and I am grateful), is “DO NOT SKIMP ON SPINDLE”. You wil see a lot of cheap ones on ebay, and they are cheap for a reason. The old Axiom you get what you pay for is so true.

Generally, water spindles are better than routers, and an industrial air cooled spindle is a step up. I was surprised at the run times on some of even my first projects. A router will burn up pretty quick and the DB on a router is off the charts.

I’ve regularly started projects and left them running. If you already have your controller, then you are set, but if not, I can reccomend the cnc routerparts.

Mach3 is my controller and it not had any issues in the almost 2 years running. I did have an issue early on, but that was trying to run my G-code across the network. I still use my network for storage and design on my laptop save to a network drive and copy to the local drive on my laptop that runs my cnc and run it from a local drive.

That machine does not have any other software but mach3.

CNC router parts has a nema 34 electronics kit thats plug n – play they have the setup files for mach-3 that makes it super easy to get going.

Good luck and post pics of your system.


-- Sooner or later Liberals run out of other people's money.

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5913 posts in 4020 days

#5 posted 07-29-2017 04:53 PM

bonesbr549, If I have a design worked out using Autocad, what do I need in the way of software to communicate from my computer to the stepper drivers/breakout box? I’m a little hazy about this area of CNC.

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1588 posts in 3843 days

#6 posted 07-29-2017 05:58 PM

bonesbr549, If I have a design worked out using Autocad, what do I need in the way of software to communicate from my computer to the stepper drivers/breakout box? I m a little hazy about this area of CNC.

- MrRon

Ok, You don’t mention what you will use for your cad to do your cam to conver to do your gcode that will run the drivers.

I use sketch-up & vcarve Pro (it was recommended), there is fusion 360 that is free thats good too. They all have engines for Mach-3 and many others.

Are you planning on geco drivers? Ethernet smooth sepper, or parallel drivers? If you are a background in electronics or automation then its one thing, if not you may want to consider a packaged solution.

Support is key as well. If you go it alone, what about configuring and calibrating the steppers to work properly. Some are better at a user community support than others.

For me, after all my checking, and I was a member of a cnc forum for years before I got mine, I ended with a solution that has Mach-3 as my controler solution. One reason most of your cad/cam software has compilers for mach-3 (converting your toolpaths to g-code). There are others out there, but a lot of support for mach 3. If you go it alone I’d recommend geckodrives. I’d go the route of ethernet smooth stepper. Not too many pc’s have paralell port interfaces, but you could use a usb to parallel converter, but those have mixed reviews.

Mac-3 takes the g-code made by your software and sends the codes to your controllers to move them. So what ever you pic as your sw needs an engine to generate the g-code.

The above link will get you started.

CNC router parts also sells the drivers and motors (or complete kit). The beauty of that is, they have all the config files and if you have a prob with a motor being out, they can over the phone figure it out and fix it. They don’t mind newbies, and I literally was on the phone with a guy in the beginniing for over an hour and a half, and he walked me through it. The cost for a mach-3 license is reasonable at 175$. (you can put it on more than one PC).

Like I said there are others out there, but after spending years on the forums, that seemed to have the broadest support. THere are free ones out there, but I just go back to I did not want to spend my time making the bloody thing run. I wanted to make “THINGS”.

If you go it alone, and use the gecko lots of support out there in the community to help, but you will have some things to possibly deal with.

If you want to have a discussion on this, and I had a good learning curve with a total canned package, I can share my experiences. Shoot me a pm and I’ll send you my cell.

Remember you have CAD (for you looks like autocad), you need CAM to do the tool path and control to use the g-code to give to the controller for your steppers.

You may want to look at fusion 360 its free.

-- Sooner or later Liberals run out of other people's money.

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