Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Build Your Own CNC

Down time is a dangerous thing when you're hot to build a project. I am waiting for delivery of a whole bunch of parts for the RepRap machine project that I bought online Monday, and wanting to take a break from thinking of that particular project, got surfing.

My next project has been selected, I think. It was a toss-up from the beginning whether I would do the RepRap 3D printer or build a CNC mill first. The RepRap won because as it turns out, it's what I could get funded first. These kickstarter projects, Modular Desktop CNC Machine, and DIY Desktop CNC Machine have recently added fuel to the fire, though. They lack one important ingredient, however, and that's that neither as far as I can tell is open source. It's important to me that I build from a base that I can share after it's done. These machines I'm building are going out into the community, and if people are inspired by the projects I want to be able to share time, experience and materials with them. I could probably do that with the DIY Desktop CNC Machine project by Stephen McGloughlin, but I know that the other project is NOT open source at all because I asked and they said "no".

Come to think of it, though, there are actually two things. I also envisioned a CNC mill that was as large as Ben's on the Ben Heck Show. The Kickstarter projects are just tabletop machines, and don't scale up. I probably will end up building a desktop CNC mill at some point. There's no sense having a 4' x 8' cutting table when you're working on a 2" x 3" PCB after all, but I'm definitely looking at one large enough to cut cabinetry and other larger-scale pieces.

So, looking back on the Kickstarter projects I was actually considering their respective merits, supposing I would go with one of them anyway, but gave "open source diy cnc" a whirl on the Google machine. After trying quite a few, and lingering a while at I eventually stumbled on the motherload, The reason I found it so exciting right away is that this project starts with, as the author puts it, "a cheap saw, cheap drill, cheap metal cutting saw, a 5/16" tap (a device that threads the inside of a hole to enable a screw/bolt to fasten) and a cheap screwdriver. When I say cheap, I mean it literally, and economically."

Plus, the guy that developed this project is just cool.

In the videos on his web site where he's showing all the steps of the process you hear his two kids crying or making noises while they play in the background, and his wife giving him a hard time. At one point you hear her say something like "'s been a whole year..." in a very exasperated voice and he has to remind her, "You're being recorded, honey." You can imagine she's been complaining about the project because the whole thing is being built on the guy's kitchen table in what might be essentially a one-room apartment by the looks of it. The toxic MDF routing is done in his bathroom to protect the family and make clean-up easier. This guy was seriously dedicated, or driven, or whatever.

He wrote a book about the project, a DIY manual for repeating his effort and building your own bootstrap CNC mill. I just bought the book and can't wait to read it. Link below.

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