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Easy CNC conversion of a small mill

Picture of Easy CNC conversion of a small mill
My first Instructable made use of a small CNC milling machine. I've found this machine really useful so I thought I'd document getting it up and running. You may read this Instructable and think "Well, he just bought a few thing on eBay and plugged them together" and you'd be right. This isn't a complicated build of a whole custom designed machine. It's a good way to get up and running quickly and at a reasonable cost. I'll explain why I chose the machine I did and what some other options are. I'll explain the pros and cons of my build.

Read on, and you could be "making chips" in no time...


 
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Step 1: Other options

Picture of Other options

Why not a 3D printer?

 

I think a lot more people have 3D printers than CNC mills and they're great tools. There's a bit of an overlap with a mill, but they both have their strengths and weaknesses. Comparing a mill to a printer we broadly have:

Pros

Cons

  • You can mill PCBs. This is one of the main reasons for my choice. I was about to go down the laminator / toner transfer method of PCB manufacturing when I discover the milling option.
  • You can mill different materials. Most 3D printers are limited to one or two plastic materials. I can use anything softer than steel - usually wood, acrylic and aluminium in my case.
    • It can be messy. I spend a lot of time vacuuming up sawdust or ground up bits of plastic or metal.
    • Rounded internal corners As you're cutting away material with a milling bit you're limited by the radius of your milling bit when doing internal corners. External corners can be perfectly square and sharp, but not inside.
  • There's also differences that can't really be described as a pro or con - just whether they suit what you're doing. With a mill you're subtracting material; with a printer you're adding material. If you want a large block with small cutaways then a mill is the best tool for the job. If you're making a single-piece hollow shape then a printer would be better.

Why not a laser cutter?

Laser cutters are expensive and I haven't seen any simple home builds. They're great for accurately cutting through soft sheet material like wood and plastics but can't do PCBs for instance. Basically they're a also a good tool, but not what I wanted.

niuthon1 year ago
please, can you post a photo of the wiring on that controller?
or at least which color of the stepper motor cables is which (A+ A- B+ B-)?
also, do you know some good tutorial on configuring Mach 3 with that controller?
Lots of questions, but I'm only just starting assembly :)
fred27 (author) 2 years ago
Thanks for you comments. Limit sensors are on my list of things to do - along with some slightly neater wiring and an acrylic case for the PSU and motor driver.

The version with the motor on the back of the mill may be the Usovo pre-converted one. It's neater, but would have required a lot more work and involoved replacing the Y-axis leadscrew.

I'm sorry to hear about your illness. I hope you can spend your remaining time with those you love and doing things you enjoy.
arnefl fred272 years ago
You are probably right, because I spent a couple of hours trying to find it.

As for the limit switches, I tried many types and ended up using the simplest version. I tried Hall and IR, but simple microswitches (almost free) turned out to be both the simplest and most reliable.

I spend my time by my cnc mill and all my electronic projects, enjoying every day :-)
arnefl2 years ago
Looks familiar :-) Same as mine who also have limit sensors.

I came across a picture once, while surfing, but did not pursue it. The same machine, but with the y-motor placed on the back side of the mill. That might have been for expanding the range of y.

I am on my way to die of cancer and therefore I don't have the strength to rebuild, but I think that just be a way to make it better.
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