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This instructable will show you how to construct a CNC Router that will allow you to cut 3-D shapes out of wood, plastic and aluminum using a standard hand held router. Recently I have noticed that more and more projects on instructables have involved the use of some sort of CNC machine, be it a laser cutter, 3d printer, milling machine, etc. I wanted to join this revolution of digital fabrication and start making my projects even better using these tools. So about a year ago I set out to find a way to make this possible and came to conclusion that a simple 3 axis CNC router would be the best option to get things going. I started doing some research and decided to design and build my own machine. This instructable steps though all the parts needed to build the machine I have designed and the reasoning behind why I built the machine the way I did. It also includes an explanation of CNC technology and would be a great reference for anyone looking to learn some metal fabrication skills. My hope is that someone might use these plans to build this router for themselves or at least draw some inspiration from my design. I have created 2d drawings of all the parts with complete dimensions and specs, details on how to build each part, a complete parts and tools lists with prices and links, a basic wiring diagram and an explanation of the design.
I have designed this router to be very versatile and hope to also use this same machine as a 3-D printer and a hot wire foam cutter in the future. This machine is constructed from rectangular steel tubing and aluminum plate and was fabricated using a small horizontal band saw, bench top drill press and flux core MIG welder. There is no need for high precision and expensive tools to build this machine. Using the techniques I have listed in this instructable for marking, centering, drilling and tapping anyone with the desire to build something well, will be able to complete this project. There are no angles to cut or parts that seem impossible to get right, just straight cuts and holes to drill. The machine bolts together and can be adjusted for square and levelness on each axis.
For those of you who already know about CNC routers here are the specs for my machine.
Travel: X-Axis 23in
Linear Guide: Fully Support Round Linear Rail and Mounted Bearings (20mm, 16mm, 12mm)
Linear Drive: 1/2”-10 5 Start Precision ACME Screws and DumpsterCNC Anti-Backlash Nuts
Drive Motor and Controller: Gecko G540 Controller with Gecko 280oz-in NEMA 23 Stepper Motors
Construction: Welded 1”x2” Steel Tubing and 3/8” Thick Aluminum Plate
Spindle: Bosch Colt Trim Router
Rapid Speed: 200ipm (inches per minute)
Cutting Speed: 1/4" end mill, full width cut, 0.100" depth of cut, 50ipm, material - hardwood (This is a fairly easy cut and is probably less than half the true cutting capacity)
This video is a time lapse of the assembly of the router, an hour and half condensed into 45 seconds.
There is also a video of the very first test of this machine on the last step. The CNC writes the classic "Hello World"
Step 1: What is CNC
So that was really basic, let’s get to some of the specifics on my type of CNC machine. There are many different types of CNC machines but they are most distinguishable by the type and size of material they are designed to cut. In general if someone refers to a CNC “milling” machine they are referring to a metal cutting machine and if they say it’s a CNC "router" it means a machine made to cut wood, plastic or other soft materials. This instructable will show you how to build a CNC router.
If you are learning about CNC and have considered building your own machine I would highly recommend taking a look at this website cncroutersource.com There is a wealth of knowledge about designing your own CNC router and well as explanations of the different types of router designs and list of terms commonly used in CNC lingo. When I first considered building CNC machine I was lucky enough to stumble across this site and it helped me make a lot of the basic design decisions early on.
Once you have read though all you can on the cncroutersource.com you can step up to the big leagues and join the cnczone.com forum. Here you will find a vast amount of information and huge community of active users all doing the things you want to do for your CNC. There is a specific section of the forum for CNC routers and many build threads have been posted that will make you drool with jealousy. Have a question about CNC? A simple search of this forum will most likely answer any and all of the CNC questions you have. Keep in mind though that a lot of acronyms and jargon are used on cnczone but if you have read cncroutersource you should be able to figure it out.