Bigtime Basement Build CNC for Laser and Wood Projects

9,779

212

20

Introduction: Bigtime Basement Build CNC for Laser and Wood Projects

About: I'm a lifetime Maker before I even knew it was a thing. Today, my hobby is bestowing my skills and life lessons to my son.

For this CNC build, I went after a laser, wood, and aluminum cutter/carver. Comparable units from reputable manufactures are over $2000. This one came in under $800.

While I was at it, I made an Arduino Shield to simplify connections and developed new software for hobbyists to drive their custom CNC machines, called the Raising Awesome Carver. This Instructable is to show other enthusiasts how to design, build, and assemble such a thing - as well as offer insights to making your own GCode pusher to GRBL. I also share all my Autodesk 360 design files in case you want to modify for your own design.


Supplies

Tools:

Set of Allen Wrenches (usually comes with some of the parts)

Wood Screws

Drill and bits

Scissors

Chop Saw with Aluminum Cutting Blade

3D Printer


Materials:

Below are direct links to the US store where I bought the materials. The parts are common and readily sourced even with the present world supply chain woes. Links surely will not work in all countries, but to the enthused, you can surely source items by the descriptions. In hindsight, it's a lot of little parts, but because I built from the bottom up over a couple of months, I was able to sneak in such a large project a few parts at a time without getting in trouble with the wife. :-)


Arduino Uno

Partical Board and MDF to your size desire

2x4's for frame underneath the partical board

POWERTEC 71389 T-Track Mini Hold-Down Clamp, 3-5/8" L x 3/4" W – 2 Pack - - Amazon.com

POWERTEC 71372 Double-Cut Profile Universal T-Track (36") W/Double Cut Profile | EZ Mount Predrilled Holes, 4 Pack - - Amazon.com

isscx 4PCS F8-16M Inner Dia: 8mm ;OD: 16mm ;Thickness: 5mm ;8mm x16mm x 5mm Miniature Axial Ball Thrust Bearings High Grade Chrome Steel: Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific

uxcell F688ZZ Flanged Ball Bearing 8x16x5mm Shielded Chrome Steel Bearings 10pcs: Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific

Amazon.com: BIQU Big Aluminum Alloy Gantry Plate+ Plastic Pulley Wheel with Bearing Set for 3D Printer : Industrial & Scientific (x2)

24 Volt 6 Amp Power Supply Adapter,100-240V AC to DC 24V 6A Power Adapter with 5.5mm x 2.1mm DC Output Jack Transformers US Plug for LED Strip Light,Security Cameras, Computers - - Amazon.com (for Laser)

TOBWOLF DC 12V 5A Power Supply Adapter 50/60HZ, US Plug, 6.2FT Power Cord, AC 100-240V to DC 12V 5A Switching Transformer Jack 5.5mm x 2.5mm for LED Strip, Light, Cameras CCTV : Electronics (amazon.com) (x3)

Fulton 110V Single Phase On/Off Switch with Large Stop Sign Paddle for Easy Visibility and Contact for Quick Power Downs Ideal for Router Tables Table Saws and Other Small Machinery: Amazon.com: Tools & Home Improvement

BEMONOC GT2 240-2GT-6 Timing Belt in Closed Loop L=240mm W=6mm 120 Teeth 2GT Rubber Drive Belts Pack of 10pcs: Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific

BEMONOC GT2 240-2GT-6 Timing Belt in Closed Loop L=240mm W=6mm 120 Teeth 2GT Rubber Drive Belts Pack of 10pcs: Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific

Amazon.com: Wendry 3D Printer Motor Mount Plate, NEMA23 Stepper Motor Mounting Plate, Aluminum Mount Plate Flat Bracket for CNC 3D Printer, 3D Printer Parts Motor Mount Holder, 3D Printer Accessories(Black) : Industrial & Scientific

300mm 8mm T8 Lead Screw Set Lead Screw+ Copper Nut + Coupler+Hexagon Wrench + Pillow Bearing Block for 3D Printer: Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific(just need the copper nut and lead screw actually)

GZYF CNC Spindle Clamp 65MM 80mm Mounting Bracket for Spindle/Silver, 65mm Gold - - Amazon.com

Amazon.com: Jusnboir TB6600 Stepper Motor Driver Nema 17 42/57/86 32 Segment 4.0A 42VDC Suitable for 3D Printer CNC Engraving Machine Woodworking Machine Mini Lathe (1pcs) : Sports & Outdoors (x4)

URBEST Black Plastic Flexible Nested Semi Closed Drag Chain Cable Wire Carrier 1 Meter for Electrical Machines (Small (7x7)): Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific(x2)

Amazon.com: 80W Laser Module, 10W Optical Power, Laser Cutting Head with Sliding Plate, Compressed Spot, Eye Protection, Compatible with DIY Laser Engraving Cutting Machine/CNC Machine/Metal/Acrylic…(optional laser)

ReliaBot 2PCs Aluminum 2GT Timing Pulley 30 Teeth Bore 6.35mm for 3D Printer 10mm Width 2GT Timing Belt: Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific

5Pcs Synchronous Pulley,3D Printer Accessories 2GT Aluminum Timing Belt Pulley Wheel 20 Tooth 5mm Bore Without Teeth for Belt Width 10mm: Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific

STEPPERONLINE CNC Stepper Motor Nema 23 Bipolar 2.8A 269oz.in/1.9Nm CNC Mill Lathe Router - - Amazon.com (x4)

Zeberoxyz 2PCS Anti-Backlash Nut Block for 8mm Diameter, 2mm Pitch 2mm Lead POM Screw Nut for CNC and 3D Printer (2mm Lead-1-heads): Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific

iOrion 3D Printer Timing Belt 2GT-6 Closed Loop Rubber Belt 110mm 112mm 122mm 158mm 200mm 280mm 300mm 400mm Width 6mm: Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific

Befenybay 2Kit 2GT Synchronous Wheel 20&60 Teeth 8mm Bore Aluminum Timing Pulley with 2pcs Length 200mm Width 6mm Belt (20-60T-8B-6): Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific

Amazon.com: Zeberoxyz 10 PCS/Pack 8mm Shaft Lock Collar T8 Lead Screw Lock Ring Stainless Steel Material Isolation Apply for 3D Printer Accessories (8mm-Silver) : Industrial & Scientific

Makita RT0701C 1-1/4 HP Compact Router - Power Laminate Trimmers - Amazon.com

150 Pieces 2020 Series T Nuts T-Slot Nut Hammer Head Fastener -Plated Carbon Steel Sliding T Nuts for Aluminum Profile (M5): Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific

Amazon.com: Befenybay 10PCS Hexagonal Eccentric Column, 10PCS Round Column, Height 6mm Inner Hole 5mm for V Wheel 3D Printer Parts (Eccentric Column 6mm Height) : Industrial & Scientific

OpenBuilds C-Beam Linear Rail (40mm x 80mm) (Silver, 1500mm): Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific

GT2 Open Timing Belt for 3D Printer, 5 Meters (16.4 Ft) Length Open 2mm Pitch 10mm Width Rubber Fiberglass Reinforced for RepRap Prusa i3 3D Printer: Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific

Linear Rail Guide 2Pcs SBR20 1000mm(39.4 inch) Linear Slide Rail + 4Pcs SBR20UU Bearing Linear Guide Slide Blocks for CNC Machine: Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific

Amazon.com: TECBEARS PLA 3D Printer Filament 1.75mm Black, Dimensional Accuracy +/- 0.02 mm, 1 Kg Spool, Pack of 1 : Industrial & Scientific

iexcell 250 Pcs Metric M3 x 4/6/8/10/12 Stainless Steel 304 Hex Socket Button Head Cap Screws Bolts Assortment Kit: Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific

Step 1: Build the Base Table

For the base table, I first screwed particle board to 2x4s. I had Home Depot cut the widths for me to make it easy to haul home and save me the trouble of cutting.

I then installed the rails. I made sure they were perfectly perpendicular simply by measuring with a yard stick. After that, I installed a "spoil board" which was just a MDF panel in between the rails. Optionally, as I did, you can install a Tee Track for hold down clamps as pictured. (Make that your first carving project - just carve right into the spoil board)

Step 2: 3D Print the 3D Gantry Mounts

I actually didn't buy anything beyond the lumber and rails until I made this part and assessed if it would work. It was the deal breaker for me. It needed to not shatter upon the first machine crash. It needed to lock the c-rail in place with zero play.

So, I winged the design from my gut with Fusion 360 against hand measured rail bearing blocks. The results were impressive. If you don't own a 3D printer - stop here and get or build one. It is the most useful of the CNC for the home maker.

Step 3: Assemble the Gantry

You can buy a fully assembled linear actuator kits from OpenBuilds.com or you can print and assemble from my supply list. If you buy, wait until it arrives to confirm the spacing between your rails in Step 2 or you'll either be short or too long. If you assemble, refer to the pictures above to see how they Lego together. Below is the 3D printer file for the end plates.

Step 4: Assemble the Z Axis

The Z axis is very much just like the X axis, just shorter. Refer to the picture above to see how it Legos together.

I use a Makita router as my spindle. It has a variable speed dial. Compared to having a separate variable speed drive and spindle, this is a much, much more affordable solution. I don't see me outgrowing it - but possibly it may spin too quickly for aluminum milling. For wood Carving, of course, it is awesome.

My laser is one of the new designs that combines two 5W lasers. It can cut through 1/2" plywood in one pass. Crazy awesome. The bummer is, it's about a 1/3rd of the cost of the entire build. However, I find myself using the laser more than the wood carving - primarily to mark cut lines and paint stencils.

Step 5: Install the Motors

For the Y axis (pictured left), the motors mount with 3D printed brackets. For the Z (vertical axis), I used a purchased metal bracket as shown above. For the X axis (the cross member), I made a bulky 2-piece spacer that allowed me to adjust belt tension. You may just be able to use the same metal bracket I used on the Z access, though. The 3D printer files are below.

Step 6: Install the Electronics

For the electronics, I used off the shelf motor drivers. You wire them up per the labels on their cases. To make the connections strong on the Arduino, I designed and made a shield at PCBWay. You can make one out of protoboard, buy one online, or get mine at PCBWay.

To wrangle the cables, I 3D printed some brackets found below.


Step 7: Run a Project

Now for the fun part - Driving around the gantry and carving a project.

Autodesk Fusion 360 is best for generating GCode. It's free to the hobbyists. With that, they are changing the future of the world. As I see with my son, the next generation of engineers will do remarkable things - with a great thanks to Autodesk Fusion 360 team making this product available to young inspiring minds.

You will also need software to push that Gcode to the Arduino with a firmware that will drive the stepper motors. LaserGRBL and Candle are two very well supported free packages for this, but I'm looking to introduce a third that handles both Laser and Wood carving.

Let's talk firmware. To control the stepper motors, the Arduino Uno runs a github package titled GRBL which you need to flash to the Uno. The easiest way to do that is to install LaserGRBL on your Windows machine and use the Flash option in the menu. LaserGRBL is good to have regardless for laser etching.

However, with LaserGRBL and Candle, I found myself getting frustrated with my mistakes when driving the gantry. I'd drag my bit along my work piece or accidently push a wood carve gcode to the laser which would end in me staring bare eyed at a laser beam when the Z axis suddenly raised the laser 20 mm into full view.

Sure, call me a CNC rookie, but by today's standards, software can be a little smarter to prevent such mistakes. Heck, cars are driving themselves these days - why not have the CNC coded to know when it's about to ruin your workpiece. So, I continued this hyper obsession on to the Unity Engine to make a CNC driver.

You can get my software here: Raising Awesome Carver

To avoid repeating info, here is a link to another Instructable I made for the Raising Awesome Carver: 3018 CNC Getting Started Guide With the Raising Awesome Carver : 6 Steps - Instructables

Step 8: Summary

That's it! As you see, it's really just a big-boy Erector-Set. Excluding trimming/pulling cables, it takes longer to order and print the parts than to assemble. Our first project to be made with it is a Stratocaster Re-imagined Eddie's Guitar from Stranger Things 4. Pictured above the pickguard and body design we made.

If this project seems a bit daunting, a quick way to get into CNC is simply buy the cheapest 3018 CNC you can find. This gives you a handy tool great for indoor projects at the kitchen table. That is what inspired me. I hope this build will inspire you!


See ya',

Sean


RaisingAwesome.site

Step 9: Bonus Tool

After using our CNC for a week, we quickly realized we needed a way to manage dust. It got very old holding a shop vac which still just left dust everywhere. So, we researched some images and designed our own. This is somewhat of a tool-for-a-tool, so we figured we would include it with this build.

The attachment can be a tight fit, so if you look to use it, you be sure to double check measurements and modify to your design.

You'll need to repurpose some old paint brushes or even better, buy this:

BestTeam Vacuum Cleaner Engraving Machine Dust Cover, 70mm/100mm Brush Vacuum Cleaner Engraving Machine Dust Cover for CNC Router for Spindle Motor Milling Machine (1M*70MM, Black) - - Amazon.com


Happy Carving!

Build a Tool Contest

This is an entry in the
Build a Tool Contest

Be the First to Share

    Recommendations

    • Remote Control Contest

      Remote Control Contest
    • Meatless Challenge

      Meatless Challenge
    • Build a Tool Contest

      Build a Tool Contest

    20 Comments

    0
    SeanMiller
    SeanMiller

    Answer 1 day ago

    The first carve was to route out the tracks for the hold downs.
    I then made a plaque for my Dad.
    We then made a Fender Stratocaster body and pickguard. (pictured in step 8)
    My current design is an acoustic guitar in the style of a Martin Dreadnaught.

    See ya',
    Sean

    0
    juliusbecker77
    juliusbecker77

    Reply 10 hours ago

    Wow! Awesome. One day, I will be where you are. Thank you!
    Julius.

    0
    ChristopherM311
    ChristopherM311

    Question 2 days ago

    How did you get the double Y axis motors setup? Did you use one stepper driver or two separate ones? What about making sure it was square like double limit switches?

    0
    SeanMiller
    SeanMiller

    Answer 1 day ago

    Great question. On my first CNC I made for laser cutting, I had that same exact question. My google-fu did not turn up a confident answer. So, I experimented and all went very well on that laser cnc (Jumbo CNC Laser Cutter/Etcher Designed With Autodesk Fusion 360 : 15 Steps (with Pictures) - Instructables)

    What I found was, you can take either approach depending on the load. If you are just doing a laser, you can scale all components of the project to make it very light as you'll see in that link above. In turn, you are totally fine to use just one driver like I used on this project as it doesn't take much to run it around. But, since there is a good bit of mass to this one, I went with dedicated power supplies and dedicated drivers for each and every motor. On the y-axis, it has a motor on each side. To control it, I simply wired the arduino signal output wires in parallel to each driver. I had to reverse a couple of those wires on one side to reverse its rotation since I had the motors pointing at each other for looks.

    I then freaked out when one shutdown due to overheating mid project. A buddy told me to try adjusting the dip switches on the driver down to limit the current - just a half an amp down. If it still carves without over heating, you're golden. If not, investigate a fan on the driver. He was absolutely right! Never had a problem since even though I'm technically supplying half an amp lower (Thanks, Mark!)

    You nailed it on how I made sure it is square. I did exactly what you said - put a limit switch on each side - but I didn't even wire the second limit switch. I just wanted a matching mechanical stop. With it powered off, I pull back the gantry by hand and then turn it on. The steppers lock in and all is as square as I care.

    One other thing to note, it was hard to decide if I'd go with belts or a lead screw in parallel - or even just tie them together with a shaft across the back and drive with one motor. The deciding factor was I saw that hidden under the covers, high dollar popular CNCs are using belts and dual driving. In the end, I like the quiet, low component design.

    Also, when you go crashing your Z axis c channel into your hold downs, it's nice to just slip a belt, versus blow it up. lol.

    Sorry for the long answer, but thanks for asking, because I spent hours researching this and hopefully this experience will help someone else with their design decisions.

    See ya',
    Sean

    0
    ChristopherM311
    ChristopherM311

    Reply 10 hours ago

    So then, technically, you are manually solving the squaring problem rather than programmatically... I have tried for hours to get the dual endstops to work and still have not. I have dual lead screws on mine and also have the drivers built onto the board, so having them go through a single driver is doable but not something I wanted to do but going to external drivers is not ideal in my situation. I guess I will have to play around more and see if a newer firmware resolves the problems.
    0
    askjerry
    askjerry

    Tip 1 day ago

    I would say that you should swap out the router for a spindle. They have some really good 1.5KW to 2.0KW units that would suit you well. When I made the following video they only had the water cooled... but the sound levels are identical.



    0
    SeanMiller
    SeanMiller

    Reply 1 day ago

    Great video!

    Definitely a spindle is the way to go for a dream machine - particularly coupled to a variable speed drive to get some slower speeds that a router can't slow down and get. The biggest thing for me on my basement build was simply the cost. The router was very stupid cheap with its manual set variable speed and I could quickly get it back to a hand router to run any trace bits for easing edges.

    But, if I ever can land me an outdoor shop, I'll be getting a variable speed drive with a spindle. The good thing is that the Arduino GRBL controller is ready to plug and play for it.

    0
    askjerry
    askjerry

    Reply 1 day ago

    Oh yeah... if you ever want to upgrade from the controller you have to LinuxCNC let me know and I'll do my best you help you. I have a whole series on my channel if you are interested.

    0
    juliusbecker77
    juliusbecker77

    2 days ago

    Great project and well written. I am retiring very soon and plan to make myself a CNC router as my first retirement project. Thank you very much.

    0
    SeanMiller
    SeanMiller

    Reply 1 day ago

    Thanks for the comment. Congratulations on your retirement! I am envious.

    Feel free to revisit here again for any questions you may have, design help you may need, or war stories you'd like to hear. I think I have it figured out now. :-)

    See ya',
    Sean

    0
    jhofkamp
    jhofkamp

    Question 2 days ago

    How much do you think it cost to make the project?

    0
    SeanMiller
    SeanMiller

    Answer 1 day ago

    My feel was under $800, but that was with a $300 laser. I already had some stuff around the house I contributed like the Arduino, wire, boards, etc. Our goal was to make a Custom Stratocaster I would be more proud of than just buying one outright. The two projects together definitely came under that.

    See ya',
    Sean

    0
    CraigH6
    CraigH6

    2 days ago

    Nice project, excellent write up. Thanks.

    0
    SeanMiller
    SeanMiller

    Reply 1 day ago

    Thanks. Appreciate it!
    Sean

    0
    stumitch
    stumitch

    2 days ago

    Excellent! I have built a few CNC machines, with varying levels of success; your design has addressed a few problems really well. Do you have an update on how well the setup can mill aluminum? Building a machine with the rigidity needed for tougher materials has been difficult.

    0
    SeanMiller
    SeanMiller

    Reply 1 day ago

    I have not yet tried aluminum. I'll buy me a good bit and give it a whirl and report back. Probably will be a week or so.

    I'm feeling optimistic that this beast is rigid enough - I just don't know if I have the turn down without doing a little research. With the design as is, long term, one would want to change up the table so cutting fluid wouldn't be a problem.

    See ya',
    Sean

    0
    J-Max
    J-Max

    2 days ago

    Well I'm always dubious about structural 3D printed parts for CNC routers. 3D printed parts are not isotropic (they don't have the same material properties depending of orientation) and a very bad Young modulus compared to metal. To get the same stiffness as a steel part, the 3D printed parts should be more than 100 times bigger. And for the same as an aluminium one: more than 25 times bigger. Otherwise the 3D printed part can't be stiff enough and introduce flexibility in a system meant to be stiff.

    On the other hand, drilling holes into a bunch of metal does not requires extraordinary skills or expensive tools. It's much faster to do than to wait for 3D prints. And steel and aluminium are cheaper than filament: 2 to 6€ per kg. So...

    0
    roeulogy
    roeulogy

    4 weeks ago

    I have to say, this is really well written, and I very much enjoyed reading it and your site. As a father myself, I get it and I applaud you sir. We are just about to move in to a new town and once we get in the house, I think this just may be one of the first projects we build.

    0
    SeanMiller
    SeanMiller

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    Thanks for the kind words. The CNC project illuminated a lot of mysteries for me on stepper motors, handling emf, limit switches, and Gcode. In turn, it took a lot of mysteries out of the world. It's hard to look at any structure without thinking of how you could make it yourself.

    Feel free to reach out here or contact us through our site when you start your build.

    See ya',
    Sean