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Forum topic by Balu posted 1085 days ago 2565 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Balu

4 posts in 1086 days


1085 days ago

Hello fellow LJs.
I’m thinking of building a cnc router to cut out some nice pieces but I have never programmed one.
Is it hard to learn?

-- Only normal people worry me!


15 replies so far

View helluvawreck's profile

helluvawreck

15439 posts in 1470 days


#1 posted 1085 days ago

There is enough on the internet for yo to be able to do it. I’m going to build one for myself if I can ever scrape up the time. Electronics and machine work are big hobbies of mine but I also use them in my work as well. Just start searching and have fun.

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

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SPalm

4760 posts in 2485 days


#2 posted 1085 days ago

Software can cost you a bundle and it depends on what you want to do with it.

http://www.cnczone.com/
The zone will introduce you to all kinds of people that have the same questions that you have.

The way that I think about it is that there is a three step process going on. Some software will combine two or three of these things together. It all depends.

Step 1:
Create the source or drawing. This is done using a drawing program. You spend your time of creating a view of what you want, not really thinking about the mechanics of the machine. CNC guys call this CAD or Computer Aided Design.

Step 2:
Convert the output of the CAD to what is called CAM or Computer Aided Machining. This is where you figure out whether you want the router to go on the outside or the inside of the drawing. Whether you want this cut to be a pocket, or ramped, or all the way through. What speed to move the router at and what type of bit will be used. etc etc. All the things you would do when routing any design by hand. The CAM step will usually also have a simulator when you can view what the machine will actually cut. The output of this step will be a file with a whole bunch of XYZ locations, and a few commands for speed. A real popular format for this file is call Gerber.

Step 3:
Motor driver control. This is where the gerber file is decoded and it controls the three motors in real time. Step 1 and 2 can be done in your living room. Step 3 is done with a PC directly hooked up to a motor driver board(s) and is right next to the CNC. It may or may not be the same PC as the first steps. This requires a different piece of software. A real popular one is MACH3 from Artsoft. http://www.machsupport.com/

For steps 1 and 2, I use a program from Vectric. It is pretty easy to use and allows flipping back between the two steps while simulating the output. I use their package called VCarve. http://www.vectric.com/ and I use MACH3 for control in step 3.

Steve

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

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helluvawreck

15439 posts in 1470 days


#3 posted 1084 days ago

We have a CNC router that we use to make our to cut our templates so that we can grind our molder tooling. It uses Tubocad Deluxe which cost $129. The driver for the machine is a program called Autotemp. I’m not sure what it cost. We got it with our machine.

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

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helluvawreck

15439 posts in 1470 days


#4 posted 1084 days ago

Steve, I have a question. This is the website that I had gone to last back when I thought about doing this myself. Do you know anything about this site? If you do what is your opinion of the site. Or do you know of a better web site if you wanted to build your own cnc ruoter?

I have a machine shop and could build a really nice machine and I know a little bit already about electronics having spent about a year as a rabid hobbyist. I have a good bit of experience with programmable controllers, machinery controls, inverters, motors, ect.

How long would it take to build one and learn the ropes?

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

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SPalm

4760 posts in 2485 days


#5 posted 1084 days ago

Hey Charles, you have been talking about building one of these for too long… you should dive in :)
But they will consume you with both $ and time. Tremendous puzzle to figure out, make better, and keep running.

Back in the old days, TurboCAD was only good for profile cutting. That is cutting on the outside of a line and all the way through. Really simple stuff, and it did not have a simulator. But a lot of things have changed. There are even some plugins for Sketchup.

At least two LJs have built machines from the website you mention. It seems like an ok machine. Starter machine of ~$1000 built out of wood, and not much software. You can see where this is going, and is typical.
http://lumberjocks.com/projects/31309
http://lumberjocks.com/KylesWoodworking/blog/21542

And I see that these two builds, along with my own, don’t produce much. Hard to make back your money if that is what you are trying to do. You should be able to put something like this together in a couple of weekends and get creating lots of dust.

Again go to cnczone.com. A HUGE site, but you should be able to get lots of help. An LJ is (was?) a moderator there and should be able to point you around.
http://lumberjocks.com/Ger21

But I have been out of the CNC world for several years now. Still fire my machine up and I love it, but I don’t have the time, and I love making things by hand too.
Steve

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

12951 posts in 1296 days


#6 posted 1084 days ago

So what’s the final word on software, as I BUY my software and it has kept me from approaching a DIY CNC. Just in the short time I’ve been on LJ, the components have become much more available, it seems. The software, however, has become confusingly complex. I own an older CAD but I suspect I might need something more robust if I take the DIY plunge.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View helluvawreck's profile

helluvawreck

15439 posts in 1470 days


#7 posted 1084 days ago

Steve, I really appreciate it. I agree that I think a lot about it. The problem is I’m afraid of it because back when I was on my electronics kick electronics was just about all I could think of for a year. I love woodworking and right now I’m hooked on woodcarving. Actually, woodworking is probably my biggest love. I love a lot of things. Electronics pulled me off of woodworking for a year and studying and playing around with web sites pulled me off of woodworking for two years. This CNC stuff could potentially do it to me again. I have to be careful because I don’t ever want to be pulled off of woodworking again. BTW, I belong to the CNCZONE. I’m not interested in making money – I just like to tinker with stuff. Maybe I will just wade into it a little bit at a time. A lot of people accuse me of going off on tangents, including my wife. Well, if you gotta have fun you gotta have fun. It keeps life interesting.

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

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Bertha

12951 posts in 1296 days


#8 posted 1084 days ago

^I like building computers but I think that’s lulled me into a false sense of ability. I’m lost on all these little servo motors. It seems do-able with a bit of research. I don’t think it would kill 2 years, Wreck.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View SPalm's profile

SPalm

4760 posts in 2485 days


#9 posted 1084 days ago

Yow guys, now I am thinking about CNC stuff during my lunch time. I am a tangent guy too. Now I want to go home and design something. Arrrgh, I hate my brain.

What do you want to do with it?

Al, you old galoot you. Not too many galoot CNC guys. We should have a beer sometime.
I am not sure a small wooden machine would be your ticket. Maybe, if you build it strong. Amazing how these things will shake around when you run them. But you can start there, and go up to metal slides with ball screws at a later date. I would love to see what you could make one do. Shopbot machines start at about $7k.

Charles, go for it. If you like to tinker, a project like this is a consuming one. I have a deep love in my heart for all the challenges that this kind of project presents.

As far as final word on software. Yikes, I am no expert. I have used a lot of CAD programs, from very sophisticated ones like Inventor and Alibre, to simple ones like Sketchup and Autocad. But I found that the CAD part was not that important for what I wanted the machine to do. I wasn’t building 3D models, I was cutting out parts. That is why I chose VCarve. I still like it after 5 years and it was medium priced ~$600. It was intended for CNC and has the CAD/CAM combined. It also is the only one that I know of that does such a good job with using a V-bit router bit. This allows things like chip carving and letter/sign engraving with square corners on the letters. Impress your friends. It also has a very friendly import function for vector, dxf or pdf files. The other big plus was being able to flip back and forth between the design, pushing something to another layer or tweeking an edge or vector, and then popping back and re-simulating it to see what you got. Download the free 30 day trial and give it a whirl.

I have also heard good things about BobCad. MasterCAM and ArtCAM were way above my price point. I believe LazyCAM comes with MACH3 and could get you started for cheap. I am sure there are many more nowdays, but you gotta pick one and get started.

Hope this helps,
Steve

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

12951 posts in 1296 days


#10 posted 1084 days ago

Steve, I like to proclaim my galootism but the truth is, I’m got some big machines and my share of electronics at home;) I try to keep my 20” bandsaw on the down low on handplane threads;) Like computers, I fear that I’m more intrigued by the “build” than the “work”. I’ve got a very powerful home theater PC that I power up maybe once a month. The fun was in the “build”, packing as much stuff as possible into a receiver sized case. I guess I’m saying that I can easily see myself building a CNC and never using it. I can also see me building it and procrastinating buying the software for it. I have a dual processor PC buld that grew obsolete while I put off buying a 64-bit OS for it. My good friend is one of the lawyers that sued Napster. I promised him I’d pay for software in the future in exchange for a one-time warning;) ;)

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View SPalm's profile

SPalm

4760 posts in 2485 days


#11 posted 1084 days ago

Al, the electonics is simple pimple, like hooking up a stereo. The mechanics is what you will probably spend your time on. All (almost) of the DIY machines use stepper motors, not servos. And yes, they are very accurate and strong. Inacuracies in the DIY realm will come from binding, backlash, and flexing. A standard servo setup can get quite confused on trying to correct these problems.

Now if you put in camera feedback like the robots do ….

Steve

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View steviep's profile

steviep

232 posts in 1250 days


#12 posted 1077 days ago

Hey Guys,

Built one a couple a years ago. I like to think I did it as cheap as it can be done and I spent a tad over $800 bucks. It is one of the funnest builds I have done. I acid etched the circuit board and built pretty much everything from ground up.

As far as software goes you need a few different things.

1. Design CAD software. This is where you draw or import your designs. I use AutoCAD and Sketchup (with ruby scripts). LOT of options out there, although I can’t say enough about sketchup.

2. CAM Software, this translates your drawing into CNC language for your machine to read. Again Lots of options. lots of prices. This I would look at what your doing with your machine, mine is strictly a hobby machine, if you are in production mode I would go with Vectric VCarve or Aspire. It $2000, but it is really nice. I use CamBam free and the CAM program within Mach3 for 2D cuts and Freemill for carvings. CamBam and FreeMill are free but they are glitchy and the learning curve is fairly steep. But I am CHEAP!

3. Machine Software. this reads the CNC code and tells the steppers what to do. I used Mach3, thinking it was around $300. There are some free ones out there (K-cam) mach3 has lots of extras.

Here is a picture of the build, I don’t have a finished pic with me.

CNCzone is a great community and you will find many people to help you. Also take a look at intructables.com

Hellav, I love electronics as well, look at the Tom McWire design, It has noise limitations (which = speed laimitations) but it was a blast to design and build.

Hope I helped, pm me if you have any specific questions I can help with.

AL Napster, hadn’t though of that for years. I’m a musician and fall more on the “pay for download” side of life, but never has there been a cooler collection of bootleg music in one place. I miss it.

-- StevieP ~ Micheal Tompkins - you were not here on earth long but left a giant mark on us. RIP Brother

View GaryW's profile

GaryW

123 posts in 1066 days


#13 posted 766 days ago

go to Carvewright.com
It’s ICON, drag and drop. Set your depth and carve. Look at the Carvetight.
about $1700 to $2200
additional icons $5 to $50

-- GaryW, Edgefield SC, Too old to start over, can't remember why...

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tyskkvinna

1308 posts in 1589 days


#14 posted 765 days ago

Vectric software is cheaper and gives you more options.. :)

-- Lis - Michigan - http://www.missmooseart.com - https://www.etsy.com/people/lisbokt

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2072 posts in 1243 days


#15 posted 763 days ago

Forgive me if this thread was intended for the DIY CNC crowd only. I will share my story briefly:

I was within days of building a Copy Carver, but held back because I realized it was a stepping stone that I could jump over by going straight to CNC. For months I frequented the sites and search results trying to decide if I should DIY or get a package. I, too build computers for myself and others… have a strong electrical and mechanical background… and not to mention a serious propensity to say “Aw hell, I can do THAT”.

Again, right before embarking on a build I crossed over to the software realm and realized that the software would be my learning curve whether I went DIY or package. DIY would inject the possibility that I would have two “variables” to overcome and not a lot of CNC background to guarantee true success (more than just making lots of router shavings).

I will say that the Carvewright is a good machine, but for my needs (guitar bodies, necks, inlay, bezels, etc) would require both moving and restarting on each of two sides (asking for trouble in my opinion… and risking 5A quilted and flame maple, flame redwood, etc.). It is a great machine for the right applications.

So, here’s where I am (and liking it): The next time that Rockler runs the Shark Pro Heavy Duty with the free router package and ALL the software, I am in at $4000. That machine is awesome, has good technical support and a forum of regular users that are very knowledgeable and sharing. The included software is Vectric.

I fully expect to recoup my investment and have fun doing it. Good times !

Here is a lengthy summary on the Shark Pro Plus Heavy Duty that I will purchase:

Choosing the right CNC Machine for your shop can be difficult with so many details to sift through. Whether you are a hobbyist looking to make extravagant gifts or a professional looking to mass produce detailed wood products, Rockler has the perfect model to fit your needs!

Technical Details:

Reinforced to handle up to 2.25 hp router.
X and Y axis have supported linear guides.
Z travel up to 7 inches max (2 inches more the regular plus).
Stronger Drive system than Plus systems.
Enhanced controller with more power that allows up to 200 inches per min.
Increased travel on the machine with a max cutting capacity of 25×25 x 7 inches.
Automatic on and off software control of Router.
Professional Aluminum case with Push button Estop.
Pendant control capability included (Designed for numeric laptop keypad).
Cut 3D Software Included ($300 Value).
VCarve Pro software interface ($600 Value).
20-3D models, font and graphic package provided ($100 Value!).
Extended Aluminum T slot top (28-1/2’’ x 36’‘) for more versatile clamping.
Precision lead Screws with anti backlash on all axis.
Also includes: 1/2’’ dia. V-groove Bit and two hold-down clamps!
Made in USA.
Additional Features:

Bearings: precision linear bearing guides for maximum rigidity.
Resolution: control to 0.000125 inch.
High Speed stepper motors rated at 269 oz/in
USB interface with on controller memory storage.
Precision modified stainless leadscrews with backlash reducing nuts on all axes.
24V Supply to provide full power to the steppers and future attachments.
VCarve Pro software program included ($600 value).
Includes Cut3D Software.
Compatible with CNC Shark® Touch Probe (Sold Separately).
Includes 1/2’’ Dia. V-Groove.
Includes two Hold-down Clamps.
Mount for Router included (Router sold separately see listing below).
Free downloadable control program included with free software upgrades.
One year warranty on parts and labor, special shipping exclusions apply.
Download free project plans from Vectric
CNC Shark Pro Plus HD is fully compatible with the following routers (sold separately)

Bosch 1617, 1618
Porter Cable 890 series
Porter Cable 690 series
Dewalt 610, 616, 618
What’s in the Box?

One CNC Shark Pro Plus™ HD
VCarve Pro Software Program
One 1/2’’ Dia. V-Groove Bit
Two Hold-down Clamps
Router mount (see above for compatible routers)

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

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