The DIYLILCNC: Open-Source Plans For a Low-Cost, Easy-to-Build CNC Mill. (v1.0.2)

Picture of The DIYLILCNC: Open-Source Plans For a Low-Cost, Easy-to-Build CNC Mill. (v1.0.2)
The DIYLILCNC project is a set of plans for an inexpensive, fully functional 3-axis CNC mill that can be built by an individual with basic shop skills and tool access.

CNC devices are used to fabricate physical objects with a high degree of precision. Some CNC devices, including the DIYLILCNC, feature a gantry-mounted cutting tool (like a router) that can move in two or more directions. The operation of the tool is controlled by a computer, which is tasked with translating a digital design into actual tool movement.

The DIYLILCNC can be built for around $700. This cost includes all the stock hardware and sheet material used in construction. CAD files for custom laser-cut parts are distributed along with the plans. Anyone with access to a laser cutter can use these files to fabricate all the panel parts necessary for construction; those without ready laser-cutter access can use local or online laser-cutting services.  Some users have even adapted the files to be cut using another CNC mill.

Plans and instructions for building the DIYLILCNC are distributed freely and intended for wide distribution and modification with few restrictions. The plans are formatted to facilitate easy fabrication, especially for beginners. The DIYLILCNC can be built by an individual, a student group, or a class. Besides being immensely fun, building the DIYLILCNC is a great way to learn about motion control and CAD/CAM/CAE.

-Cutting bed size: ~12” x 14” x 2”
-Spindle speed: 0-35,000 RPM
-Total cost for hardware, sheet material, motors and driver board: ~$700
-Tested cut materials: foam, hardwood, acrylic, MDF, thin copper sheet

The plans and source files for this project are released under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon our work and the work of previous authors, even for commercial reasons, as long as they credit all authors/contributors appropriately and license their new creations under identical terms. This license is often compared to open source software licenses. All new works based on the information presented below must carry the same license.

Authors’ names and sponsor institutions referenced below must be attributed in any future modification or redistribution of these plans.

This project is a fusion of two instruction sets published by Stuart McFarlane/Oomlout: CNC1/desktop CNC router (2007) provided the basic design for a functioning CNC mill; How to Make Anything (Using Acrylic and Machine Screws) (2009) details a solution for constructing 90° joints in laser-cuts stock using simple hardware.

The plans and source files presented below were adapted and expanded by: Chris Reilly (www.rainbowlazer.com, www.chris-reilly.org) and Taylor Hokanson (www.taylorhokanson.com) with generous support in the form of funding and facilities from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).

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trukmeeilee12 days ago


Homemade Vertical Milling Machine DIY X Y Slide Projects here

eezekiel7 months ago

you guys realize that you can build for less than $20, a circuit that not only allows you to convert a parallel port to a USB port, but also allows you to monitor using 3rd party software (or even hardware if you wanted) literally every SINGLE sensor, motor, etc... and save it to either a visual or text based representation of the data I/O. extremely useful for debugging and trouble shooting buggy controllers, you could also even build your OWN CNC data controller using the same type of technology and have it communicate with a secondary CPLD or MCU to ensure data accuracy and cyclic redundancy checks, that way you can basically customize your tooling/controller software down to the most intricate details and even add things like sensors to automatically adjust your tool speed using heat sensors, add cooling fans/blowers that you can manually or automatically control... a little TTL and logic circuit design exp. is all thats needed...

gobot eezekiel5 months ago

This? http://ricecnc.com/RiceCNC/TM4C123G_LaunchPad.html

yosheego1 year ago

Hi, very nice! exactly what I'm looking for. Reading up on this on DIYLILCNC.org and saw it had a 2.0 version...This is the old version I assume?

Very nice
mambre3 years ago
How big are your stepper motors and where did you get them?
halfmumi4 years ago
Does it work with USB?
DIYLILCNC (author)  halfmumi4 years ago
The driver board we have specified in the current design only works with a parallel printer cable. We are looking into other options for version 2 (specifically, the TinyG) that support USB interfaces.
at work they use this

for a "bed of nails tester".
pfred2 halfmumi3 years ago
Search "USB real time", read, then decide for yourself. For me the answer is no.
ilpug3 years ago
So... you use a CNC machine... to make more CNC machines? quite diabolical.

Very nice. I hope to make one soon, once i get a job.
TBKCNC ilpug3 years ago
Im a Junior in highschool and we are building this exact model from the guys at DIYLILCNC and so far everything is running great. Its a very well rounded group project that needs a verity of skills.
Great Instructable!!! Im making a CNC machine of my own but I have a few questions. Has anyone used the HobbyCNC EZ Driver Board Kit or the PRO series? Im not sure how to adjust the boards output voltage to match my steppers
gbredemeyer3 years ago
Project looks good. i know some folks who built a very similar model. It looked great, thanks for the post!

-Graham, www.pypline.com -The online community for makers
ProMt8Pge3 years ago

It looks like the following page also provides a method for making your own CNC mill:


Has anyone tried building it?
hussam.tech4 years ago
nnsg4 years ago
Does the software contain the calibration to tell the step settings, how do you configure software to the motor.
DIYLILCNC (author)  nnsg4 years ago
Yes it does. See these links for explicit how-to's:
Is this CNC meant only for wood or can it be used on harder materials as steel etc?
Looks like a nice piece of machinery.
DIYLILCNC (author)  88nightrider4 years ago
It can definitely work on other materials. Steel and ferrous metals are probably too hard, but we've had good luck with thin copper so it would probably work with softer metals like aluminum or brass.
If applying this design to metal parts instead of MDF would it not be more rigid?
And converting all the movement to threaded shafts.
Then using bigger motors, and maby something other then my dremel, then It might machine harder materials?
Just looking at designs that would work for me.
DIYLILCNC (author)  88nightrider4 years ago
Ultimately, the DIYLILCNC--or any CNC for that matter--can cut any material that it's tool is capable of cutting, given enough time and the proper setup (eg, coolant, ventilation, ect). So while the DIYLILCNC could technically cut anything a Dremel can cut, it may not be the most practical way to go about the job.

When you're working with harder metals like steel and iron, you'll need to use lots of coolant & lubricant during milling. This would pose some problems with the MDF, which generally doesn't respond well to moisture.

A more common way to incorporate CNC milling with harder materials is to mill a blank out of wax or plastic, then use that in a casting process, similar to what's outlined here: http://rainbowlazer.com/cnc-fabrication/laser-cutting/bronze-casting-from-laser-cut-forms/

Hope that helps!

Thank you for your answer.
Well then im thinking about (like I have read in the comments) using Acrylic instead if the MDF.
The Acrylic should have no trouble with the use of coolant/lubrication right? Or heat?
So structurally there should be no problem to mill steel?
I am realy liking the idea of being able to make things in steel or aluminium myself, making parts for for my RC car etc.
Casting of parts would also be cool to do, but I dont see myself doing that with smaller parts.
No problems involved with making changes to the design? Like height and size of the table?
Maby a better question.
What is it that limits how hard of a material this CNC can work with?
DIYLILCNC (author) 4 years ago
We just launched a kickstarter campaign for DIYLILCNC version 2.0! Contribute now and we'll even name a part after you!

mgauvin88104 years ago
ok I received 3 quotes for having all the parts laser cut for me. On 1/2" MDF or Acrylic they were all over 3K$. Who would cut these for blue collar pricing???
I will be glad to quote you blue collar pricing for all your laser parts. Please send me drawings of what you want lasered and I will give you a quote. If there is an interest here I will be glad to provide a complete kit of required lasered parts at one Price. If anyone is interested, I need a set of plans to bid on. If you would be interested in the kit please also send me a email so that I can determine if there is enough interest to go ahead with the kit project. Please send to arthurwhitt@gmail.com. My mailing address is Laser Etch 531 North 150 W, Kaysville, Utah 84037. My telephone number is 801-682-8711.
DIYLILCNC (author)  arthurwhitt4 years ago
arthurwhitt, you can get the DXF file from http://diylilcnc.org/downloads. We've also been selling laser-cut panel kits for a few weeks now at http://diylilcnc.org/buy.

from your website "Sorry, panel kits are currently out of stock! "
DIYLILCNC (author)  mgauvin88104 years ago
First of all you want 1/4", not 1/2" material. This project is specifically aimed at students or other makers with direct access to laser cutting (or with access to friends with access, etc.). That said, DIYLILCNC is in the process of establishing an L3C (or low-profit, mission-based LLC) to provide inexpensive laser-cut panels to folks like you. Prices will be about $250 for a Masonite/hardboard panel set including shipping. If you're interested, keep an eye on diylilcnc.org. We'll post availability the moment we get a business bank account up and running.
Thanks, I realized the size mistake, I guess I overlooked that in the excitement of the project. Would Acrylic work for this as well? Also, I would pay $250.00 all day long for these parts! Have a great day! (^^,)
The House4 years ago
700 dollars? what? Seems like a lot....
johnfanok4 years ago
Assuming I build a machine to accommodate a 4' x 8' piece, will the software allow for any size material parameters? Also, how do you keep the material in place while it's cutting? thanks!
DIYLILCNC (author)  johnfanok4 years ago
Double-sided tape is great for hold-downs, or just screwing into waste sections of stock.

The software will accommodate whatever size you want, however take a look at these posts on the DIYLICNC forum for some caveats on & examples of building bigger.

tgsnyder4 years ago
I'd really love to see the plans in a format readable by free software (maybe svg for inkscape). I haven't been able to get the files open with any of the software I can get my hands on, to see if the TechShop RDU laser cutter bed is large enough. I don't think it is.

Other than my file format problems, the instructions and parts list in this project are great!
DIYLILCNC (author)  tgsnyder4 years ago
Hey tgsnyder, what software are you using? The DXF specs are out in the open, and most programs play pretty nice with the files. If you still can't get it to work, there are a few other formats in the Sandbox section of the DIYLILCNC downloads page. If that still doesn't work, we'll throw some SVG's up there.

What size is your laser bed? I think the longest piece is about 31".  We're about to start work on V2, which will hopefully accommodate more of the laser cutters out there. Keep checking the site for updates. 
I have tried the AI files in the sandbox section, but the version of AI I had access to was too old, and both inkscape and Corel both didn't want to import them. I tried a lot of different (free) software to open the dxf, and only had luck with one (which helpfully merged all the layers for me).

Unfortunately, the laser cutter at TechShop RDU is 18" x 24" so this version is out. I'll definitely keep an eye on the site though.

Thanks for the great documentation on this project!
While both of those programs should be able to read the plans just fine, how about trying an intermediary program. There are actually many versions of the DXF format (and then some are binary and some are ASCII), so you might need something that can play well with the distributed files and your software. DraftSight is totally free and works really well. It's from the makers of Solidworks. It's out for both Mac and PC. Here's a link:

Open the files in DraftSight and then "save as..." them, making sure to use R2000-2002 Binary Drawing .DXF. (I know the years are right, the only thing you might need to change is to ASCII)

After that, the file should open in either piece of software just fine. Hope that helps!
XTL jmatthias4 years ago
has anyone put this on Ponoko ?
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