Building a CNC router

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Mr Ron
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Building a CNC router

Post by Mr Ron » Wed Feb 28, 2018 11:52 am

I have been at it for 3 years. I'm in the process of putting my CNC router together. I have all the parts except for the motors and electronics. It measures 36 x 84 and was meticulously designed to be rigid. As with any ongoing project, I will always find places where improvements can be made. I find it hard to keep up with technology, so this is my question.

I have the CNC router 90% ready to go, the motors and electronics to be obtained, an XP computer and Autocad 2004. What else do I need in order to transfer my design on the computer to a finished product. What software for example do I need. I hear about "G" code. Is this something that is automatically generated by the software, or is it something I have to manually enter. My knowledge of today's technology is woefully lacking. I am still learning, but computer technology has left me far behind in acquiring new hi-tech knowledge. Hopefully, I can get the answers needed to complete my project. A lot of future projects will rely on a CNC machine.
Mr.Ron from South Mississippi

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Dave_C
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Re: Building a CNC router

Post by Dave_C » Wed Feb 28, 2018 3:34 pm

Mr. Ron,

Going from design to a finished product I suppose is the idea behind any product whether it be from hand sketches and something made on a manual lathe/mill or in your case a software drawing to a finished product.

I'll walk you through the steps as best I can for doing it with CNC.

CNC parts can start out as CAD (computer assisted Drawings) but the parts can also be programmed directly on some machines depending on the software they run such as Centroids Intercon programming.

In your case you have Auto Cad drawings. They can be imported into any number of CAM (Computer Aided Machining/manufacturing) programs and the CAM program will compute the G-Code for the CNC machine to follow such as straight lines, arcs, drill holes, tap and such.

In order for this to work, the a-Cad drawings needs to be in 3D if you intend to make parts that have depth to them.

You mentioned "G-Code" and that is what a CNC machine needs to make moves. It is a "language" if you will to make the CNC machine do what you want it to do. There are some free programs out there but they seem to be quite limited in what they can interpret from imported drawings.

On the other hand, a program like Fusion 360 is a complete CAD (the drawing part) and CAM (the code generation part) and it is free for start ups that make less than $100,000 a year. So I have that and I love it. The learning curve is a bit steep if you have no CAD experience but there are tons of how to videos out there to learn from.

A word of warning. CNC is not simple! If you are not a good manual machinist to start with you will just make it worse with CNC as you need a good understanding of feeds, speeds, tool selection and how to fixture parts correctly to make the cuts and not hit clamps or have something come loose. Things can happen very quickly when they are automated!

Here is a sample G-Code program for you to look at in notepad or any txt editor.

Good luck,

Dave C.
Pawn.TXT
(14.91 KiB) Downloaded 55 times
It will make a pawn on my Mach 3 lathe!
I learn something new every day! Problem is I forget two.

Mr Ron
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Re: Building a CNC router

Post by Mr Ron » Thu Mar 01, 2018 10:54 am

Thank you Dave. You cleared up much of what I didn't understand. 'm pretty good at 2D cad, not so with 3D, so I guess that will be one of my next tasks. The sample G code program reminds me of BASIC which I learned many years ago. I can see that G code is to CNC as BASIC is to computers. I'm thinking I should have CNC'd my mill instead of building one from scratch, but too late; too much time and money spent so far.
Mr.Ron from South Mississippi

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Dave_C
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Re: Building a CNC router

Post by Dave_C » Thu Mar 01, 2018 11:23 am

Ron,

Glad that helped. Something I did not mention about G-Code is that not all machines use the same format of the G-code. So to solve that problem the CAM programs have what is called "post Processors" and each machine may have its own post processor so that it can understand and run the G-code properly. Mach 3 for example uses a modified set of G-Codes and the example I posted is for Mach 3 lathe and won't run correctly on other machines.

Most of the high end machines use more of a standard and will say something like "Fanuc compatible" and can be a bit more interchangeable.

For example, Centroid has been Fanuc compatible for the last 30 years and is a great set of hardware/software for the DIY person who needs to build a router, mill or lathe. That is what I'm using right now to build my new CNC mill. It is called "acorn" if you want to look it up.

Good luck with the build,

Dave C.
I learn something new every day! Problem is I forget two.

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DICKEYBIRD
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Re: Building a CNC router

Post by DICKEYBIRD » Thu Mar 01, 2018 2:15 pm

Hi Ron, the things that many (if not most) CNC router operators cut don't need 3D CAD. 2D will get you going & reduce the overall amount of time spent scratching your head. Elephants have to be eaten one bite at a time. :lol:

Good luck with your project & keep on posting!
Milton in Tennessee

"Accuracy is the sum total of your compensating mistakes."

Mr Ron
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Re: Building a CNC router

Post by Mr Ron » Fri Mar 02, 2018 2:51 pm

DICKEYBIRD wrote:
Thu Mar 01, 2018 2:15 pm
Hi Ron, the things that many (if not most) CNC router operators cut don't need 3D CAD. 2D will get you going & reduce the overall amount of time spent scratching your head. Elephants have to be eaten one bite at a time. :lol:

Good luck with your project & keep on posting!
I suspect that I could program the code in 2-D for each layer and cut using each layer in turn. That would certainly simplify things a lot. I am proficient in 2-D, but not 3-D. Actually, I do draw in 3-D, but it is a manual process, more like cabinet. Once drawn, I can't rotate or change views like in true 3-D, but as long as I have a true "Z" axis included in the 2-D image, the code will, I think interpret it as a true Z dimension.
Mr.Ron from South Mississippi

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Re: Building a CNC router

Post by rabbit_nick » Sat Mar 03, 2018 8:41 am

You need a CAM software and the CAM must be compatible with your electronics and by "compatible" I mean that you need the correct post processor.

The easiest way to learn how to "CNC" is the 2.5D machining process. That means you generate GCode from 2D designs
Take a look at the following videos
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nMAAr5Ya10
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkWLrDuabCA

Now for the CAM software... there are many options from 50$ to 10.000$
I suggest you go with a simple and easy CAM like EstlCAM or the JSCut.org (FREE) for beginning
After that you will learn a lot and you figure out what your needs are then you can move to SprutCAM, EdgeCam and Fusion360 (CAD & CAM)
SourceRabbit.com - Desktop CNC Milling Machines

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Marty_Escarcega
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Re: Building a CNC router

Post by Marty_Escarcega » Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:30 pm

Mr Ron wrote:
Wed Feb 28, 2018 11:52 am
I have been at it for 3 years. I'm in the process of putting my CNC router together. I have all the parts except for the motors and electronics. It measures 36 x 84 and was meticulously designed to be rigid. As with any ongoing project, I will always find places where improvements can be made. I find it hard to keep up with technology, so this is my question.

I have the CNC router 90% ready to go, the motors and electronics to be obtained, an XP computer and Autocad 2004. What else do I need in order to transfer my design on the computer to a finished product. What software for example do I need. I hear about "G" code. Is this something that is automatically generated by the software, or is it something I have to manually enter. My knowledge of today's technology is woefully lacking. I am still learning, but computer technology has left me far behind in acquiring new hi-tech knowledge. Hopefully, I can get the answers needed to complete my project. A lot of future projects will rely on a CNC machine.
What are you using for CNC control?
You might look at Centroid CNC ACORN. Next revision of software is supposed to have router friendly features in it.
http://www.centroidcnc.com/centroid_diy ... oller.html

Thought it won't run on an old XP PC. Needs a Windows 10 PC and a 2,9ghz processor, whether it be Celeron, Pentium, i3, i5, i7
I built a Celeron machine with Solid State Drive for about $300. Also wide screen monitor and touch screen HIGHLY recommended.

Lots of chit chat on the Centroid Acorn Support forum: http://centroidcncforum.com/viewforum.php?f=60

Good luck with your build
Marty
"Jack of all Trades, Master of None"

Mr Ron
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Re: Building a CNC router

Post by Mr Ron » Sun Mar 11, 2018 2:39 pm

It is true I could just buy a ready to run CNC router, but my decision to build is so I can learn as I go. It will probably cost me more to build than to buy what with the mistakes , experimentation, redesign I will make. This is a job-in-progress. It is a learning experience. I am retired so time is not too much of a factor. The original idea to build a CNC was to aid me in building locomotive models. The locos I build are at 1/16 scale. I'm not into live steam. I like electric and diesel engines and build them from aluminum and wood. They are not to ride upon, but will be radio controlled. Power to come from electric motors and batteries. Making locomotive drivers is the biggest obstacle. A CNC would turn them out in no time. Currently, my CNC is 36"x84". After it is finished and used to demonstrate it's ability to produce meaningful work, I want to down-size it to the ability to make drivers from aluminum (2024 or 7075) and frames and other parts suitable for 1/16 scale.
Mr.Ron from South Mississippi

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Dave_C
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Re: Building a CNC router

Post by Dave_C » Mon Mar 12, 2018 4:19 pm

It is a learning experience. I am retired so time is not too much of a factor.
I'm right there with you Mr. Ron! I could have bought a Tormach PCNC100 for about the same money as I will have in this mill project I'm working on but it was never about just getting a CNC mill, it was about making something and making it work to the best of my skills and ability.

I'm almost done so if you want to know, would I do it again? Yes I would and I will continue to try and make improvements on my project for months to come, especially on the Z axis and splash containment.

There is lot of satisfaction in building something from scratch. I suppose that is what drives a lot of us to do what we do with our machines!

Dave C.
I learn something new every day! Problem is I forget two.

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Re: Building a CNC router

Post by Harold_V » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:55 am

Dave_C wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 4:19 pm
There is lot of satisfaction in building something from scratch. I suppose that is what drives a lot of us to do what we do with our machines!
Not only from building, but from resurrecting. It is apparent to me that we have a disproportionate number of readers here who do just that. It might be hard for some folks to understand, but it's who we are, and what we're about.

Keep up the good work, Dave.

H
Wise people talk because they have something to say. Fools talk because they have to say something.

Mr Ron
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Re: Building a CNC router

Post by Mr Ron » Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:31 pm

Dave_C wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 4:19 pm
It is a learning experience. I am retired so time is not too much of a factor.
I'm right there with you Mr. Ron! I could have bought a Tormach PCNC100 for about the same money as I will have in this mill project I'm working on but it was never about just getting a CNC mill, it was about making something and making it work to the best of my skills and ability.

I'm almost done so if you want to know, would I do it again? Yes I would and I will continue to try and make improvements on my project for months to come, especially on the Z axis and splash containment.

There is lot of satisfaction in building something from scratch. I suppose that is what drives a lot of us to do what we do with our machines!

Dave C.
I grew up in New York City in the 40's and 50's. Being mechanically inclined, I had to make what I needed. There just wasn't much off-the-shelf things to build with. I got my first drill press when I was about 8 years old. A friend of the family had a machine shop and asked me if I wanted a South Bend 16" lathe he was getting rid of. Of course, I wanted it, but living in an apartment, made it out of the question. Machines like that only cost a few hundred dollars back then. I moved around a bit up until the 1970's when I became a home owner. It was then that I started accumulating machines and could afford them. Now that I am retired, I can fulfill my life long ambitions. I just hope my health will cooperate.
Mr.Ron from South Mississippi

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