Introduction: Beginners Guide to Using the Shop Bot

About: I am a 21 year old DIY ist and Tinkerer with a deep interest in the field of robotics, electronic and cooking. I am skilled in wood and metal work as well. I work in my basement workshop and i am mostly scratc…

Hello fellow instructable'ers. Today i bring fourth some news. My recent disconnection from instructables has been due to the fact that I just started college. That is right. I am a proud freshman of Case Western Reserve University. Being a student at CWRU means that I have access to the university's very own maker space, think[box]. Think[box] is a 5 story facility filled with cool tech toys and support to prototype and test ideas. Before any sort of building or prototyping could go on, it is crucial that i learn how to use these toys.

One of the cool tools that I get to play with is the Shop Bot. The Shop Bot is a computer guided router. It can cut through most woods and plastics. The one I use is the 96" x 48" size. I just learned how to use it and made some basic test pieces. I had a lot of help but I realized that for people out there who are doing this themselves, it must be a nightmare. Hence I will take you through the entire process of running a part.

For people in Cleveland. If you are interested in making but lack the tools, the experience or the equipment. Head over to the think[box]. It is free to use all the machines. You just pay for the consumables. Think[box] is open to the public. You can message me for further details and I can guide you through the certification process. Check out the website for details into how think[box] operates and facilities it provides. think[box]

Step 1: Brief Intro About the Guide

Becoming an expert on the Shop Bot will take a lot of experimentation. This guide wont cover everything there is to know about becoming an expert on the Shop Bot. Instead it is meant to act as a wholesome reference for the entire procedure of running a 2D part. It will serve to both, those who have never ran a part before and those who are experts.

There are many different components to using the Shop Bot but going through all of them will take a very long time hence I will assume that your machine has all the initial setup and software installation done. I will also assume that you know the basic parts of the machine and the basic idea behind the operation of the machine. Following are the things I will go over in detail in this guide:

  • Startup of the machine,
  • Basic use of Part Works
  • Basic use of ShopBot3
  • Correct procedure to run a part
  • Practical tips and tricks for ease of use
  • Proper shut down procedure

Step 2: Initial Startup

Okay so the Shop Bot is a very expensive piece of equipment and it is important to follow recommended procedure for longevity. To that end we must start with an initial warm up of the machine.

  1. Turn on the power switch to the machine according to your model and placement.
  2. Make sure the spindle key is engaged.
  3. Release all emergency stops.
  4. Launch the Shop Bot software on the computer attached to the machine.
  5. Go to Cuts in the menu bar and select the spindle warm up routine.
  6. Before pressing OK on the next prompt start the spindle by pressing the green button.

And this should start the spindle warm up routine. If there is an error, press the reset button which is the blue switch and try again. This sometimes happens due to the emergency stops being engaged.

Now this is very important to note that when you are pressing ok to start any procedure on the machine which involves the spindle rotation, you should start the spindle before clicking ok. On the later operations, if you don't start the spindle, the machine will not know and keep going and damage the machine.

Step 3: Moving the Gantry

The gantry refers to the router on the CNC machine. For now we just want to move it using key input to get a sense of the direction each key refers to on the actual machine. So after the spindle warm up, press the 'k' key on the keyboard to open the movement panel. Now the software is a bit buggy so whenever you are using the keys to move the gantry, don't make erratic key presses or sudden changes in direction. The software might get stuck. In that case, you will have to close the software from the processed tab in the task manager and launch it again. You don't need to do the warm up routine again.

When the panel is open, use the direction keys and the Page Up,Page Down keys to move the gantry. Just check to see in which direction does it move to get a feel of it. The up and down keys move in the y direction while the left right keys move in the x direction. Just note that for later so that you know which direction is the x axis and which is the y axis.

Step 4: Putting the Wood Piece

Next step is to secure your wood piece. So basically you need to secure you wood down to the CNC bed with screws such that its corner is a bit offset from the end point of the machine.

  1. Use the keys to move the gantry away to a side.
  2. Drill four or more holes in the wood piece for screws based on its size.
  3. Screw in one of the holes on the cnc bed in a corner.
  4. Use set squares to make sure its square with the bed edges and then screw the rest down.
  5. Measure and note down the dimensions of the wood piece.

Step 5: Setting Up the Job in Part Works

The Shop Bot i used works with part works software but I have heard that now different software packages are being used. I will add a link to some guides on how to use them. But I will show you the basics of using part works.

  1. First open the software and create a new job.
  2. Enter the dimensions according to how you placed the piece on the board and the x an y axis you noted earlier.
  3. Set the origin according to how you want it on the machine. This might not be so clear but just remember that x is horizontal and y is vertical.
  4. When you have created your part, you can import a .dxf file of you drawing into part works but I just made some simple rectangular cuts to show.

Part Works Software Guide

AutoDesk Fusion 360 Software Guide

Step 6: Adding Tool Paths

Next you will need to add tool paths for each continuous line on your drawing. This might be different in every software so refer to your softwares tutorials.

  1. On the upper right corner, select add tool paths.
  2. Select on the line and then choose the type of cut you want to do. There are many options so just see their names by hovering over them and searching them online to see if that is what you want.
  3. Next you will select parameters for each cut including the cut depth and tool.
  4. Tool is the bit you will use to make that cut. You will select a tool from the saved tools. I am not sure if they come with the software but I have attached documentation regarding it, if you are having trouble.
  5. You select the cut depth.
  6. If it is a through and through cut, your cut depth should be like 0.1 in greater than the thickness.
  7. You will also need to add tabs so go to the tabs wizard and add the parameters of the tabs.
  8. Repeat this process for as many different types of cuts you want.
  9. You can use shift to select multiple lines for the same cut type.
  10. Once you are done with the tool path, you can preview it to see how it will look and edit if needed.

Step 7: Saving Tool Paths

Next you will have to save your tool paths to a file that the shop bot software can read.

  1. Click on the save icon on the tool paths bar.
  2. Select all the tool paths by checking them.
  3. Check the line that says save all tool paths to one file.
  4. Make a note of which bit has what number beside it as it will be needed later.
  5. The sequence of the tools paths will determine what is cut first.
  6. Save the tool path file

Step 8: Zero-ing the Shop Bot

Next we need to zero down the shop bot so it knows where it is.

  1. First go to the cuts menu on the shop bot software and select x y home using prox switches.
  2. Then open the move panel and use the key board to move the gantry to a accessible position to install the first bit. See what bit you will be using first and then use the spindle wrench and collet to attach the bit.
  3. Next use the keyboard to align the bit with the origin of your piece based on your selection when setting it up.
  4. Use the fixed option below the direction keys in the move panel to make fixed increments movements. It will help to zero it to the origin. Be careful not to make the bit touch the piece.
  5. Then go to the zero menu and click zero x and y
  6. Next you will need to zero the x axis on top of the work piece.
  7. Use the keyboard to move the gantry over the work piece.
  8. Place the zeroing plate below the bit and make sure its wire is attached.
  9. In the cuts menu select zero z axis using zeroing plate.
  10. Click ok and allow the Shop Bot to move down to zero the z axis.

Step 9: Running the Part

Now you are finally ready to do some cutting. I know it seems long to get here but after a few times it will become a lot easier.

  1. Load your tool path file into the shop bot software and and click start.
  2. Read and enter the prompts about zero-ing if they appear.
  3. When the final prompt to start the spindle appears, you should attach your shroud around the router and turn on your dust collection system.
  4. Start the spindle before clicking ok.
  5. Click ok and then keep you hand on the emergency stop. If the shop bot does something unexpected, stop it and recheck everything.
  6. Otherwise let the shop bot do its thing.
  7. When its time for the next bit, the shop bot will stop and ask you if the next bit is in place.
  8. Press no and then move the gantry if you have to but be careful not to stuck the program as it will ruin your progress.
  9. Change the bit and press ok on the prompt.
  10. Then you will repeat the z zero process using the plate.
  11. Move the gantry over the piece when prompted to and zero the z plate.
  12. Repeat step 3 to 5.

Step 10: Removal and Cleanup

Once you are done, move the gantry away from the piece and unscrew your part. Use a saw to cutout the pieces and sand the tabs down. Make sure to clean up all the saw dust because its not good to have dust get accumulated in the gears and sliders. Then proper shut down procedure is to turn off the machine, disengage the spindle key and press in the emergency stops.

Step 11: Conclusion

I hope this instructable was helpful for those of you who are planning to use the Shop Bot. I will admit that it was very specific to the machine I used and I am sorry about that but the general principals are the same.

Thanks for viewing my efforts to make the process as easy to follow as possible. And again if you are in the Cleveland area, you can have free access to this machine and many more so head on down to think[box]. Address: The Richey Mixon Building11201 Cedar Ave.Cleveland, OH 44106

This was my re-entry in instructables from college. It might not be the best re-entry but I promise, good things are to follow. If you guys have any idea that you want me to work on using Laser Cutter, 3D printer or the Shop Bot, comment below and might try it out.