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[CNC] Experiments with a low-cost CNC/stepper platform.

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countryguy

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#1
I thought this might be something worthwhile to post up in the CNC space.

My Son needed to research, select, and implement a low-cost portable, self-contained CNC stepper system for his 2nd year college project. As some here know, he's into a product design and Mfr. curriculum and we've been having a blast doing CNC 'maker' work since he was 16. We learned a great deal on this one and I thought I would pass along some of the high level overview as this system is just unbelievably powerful and so inexpensive! ($100 or cheaper... and that is with 4 steppers).

We did need to dig into the Arduino IDE (integrated development environment) and download the marlin gcode firmware engine source-code. The native lang for arduino is C+ The marlin source code is pretty well documented and is a mature package with so many users that most issues and changes you want to incorporate are already covered (typically).
Apart from the source code work, a second huge plus to this system was the integrated LCD display and the SD card ready all built into the system. Very nice to just power up, select a file off the SD slot and go...

Where it all sourced from- RepRap; humanity's first general-purpose self-replicating manufacturing machine. http://reprap.org/

The device is based around the Arduino for the core CPU and I/O. https://www.arduino.cc/

The gcode engine is based on a 3d printer platform and is free, modifiable, and simple to customize. Called Marlin. http://marlinfw.org/

The interface board(s) for the Steppers, Stepper Drivers, home/limit switches, SD card, LCD device is called RAMPS 1.4 http://reprap.org/wiki/RAMPS_1.4

Here is the kit I bought for $99. Steppers, boards, cables, LCD, basically everything for a 4 axis CNC system.
https://tinyurl.com/y8opzxok

How did it all work out?
Amazingly well!! A short video of the system the kid designed is on youtube. He used Solidworks to design it, used our 3d printer to make all the parts, and then embedded the CNC system discussed here.

Just a crazy cool setup!
 

pdentrem

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#2
Cool. Going to add this to the list with other two from the other topic!
 

countryguy

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Dad gloat.... His project and the device you see in the vid w/ the top off.
kidsproject.jpg
 

agfrvf

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#5
I have been tempted to get a makerbase and make a 5 axis since it has outputs for 5 stepper drivers (3axis and 2 extruderes). I would then hook them up to bigger external steppers drivers. Use fan speed as spindle speed. I'm sure there is more possibilities.
 

MikeInOr

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Very cool project! I like how the machine is put anywhere on a sheet of metal to cut out a particular shape... so you don't have to have a huge bed to hold a whole sheet of metal!

It looks like is uses a plasma cutter? Does the unit stick to the sheet metal via magnets? What is the range on the axises (how big will it cut)?
 

countryguy

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Thanks Mike. Yes. It'll use magnets. He has his school show on Friday. A bunch of corp types walk through w/ possibly interviews. He's hoping for a summer intern offer. Again, thanks for the note!
 

countryguy

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#8
Mike, Sorry, I missed the 2nd half of the Q. Running so fast anymore.... right now he's about 20x by 10y. Overall, a rev 1.0 design for sure. He has all the 2.0 version stuff in his head to do now. Much improved to follow if he can find the time. There needs to be a field option for curved cutting. i.e. set it on a 24" or 96" OD pre-defined radius X setup. and have the unit just snap onto outrigger setup. Offer longer X rails for options etc. He's all into it. So much fun when you run a design to a proto-type. Wise I were 20 again. Man he's a lucky kid.


Very cool project! I like how the machine is put anywhere on a sheet of metal to cut out a particular shape... so you don't have to have a huge bed to hold a whole sheet of metal!

It looks like is uses a plasma cutter? Does the unit stick to the sheet metal via magnets? What is the range on the axises (how big will it cut)?
 
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