CNC Router Build

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CNC Router Build

Life took me away from my garage and tinkering for the latter half of 2016, but on New Year's Eve I was able to get back into my garage. A project I have dreamed about for over 12 years now was to have my own CNC Router to mill and cut out my designs. Some of my other on-going projects like AX03 and the automated Vacuum Former could really use a large CNC mill for big parts from materials other than plastic. Early in 2016, I stumbled across the MPCNC (Mostly Printed CNC) project. After tinkering with and customizing my own 3D printer, I decided it was time to build my own large, CNC platform based on the MPCNC project.

The MPCNC platform from http://www.vicious1.com/

The MPCNC platform from http://www.vicious1.com/

What was interesting about the MPCNC project is that it is just a platform that can be used with just about any tool that you want to strap on it – router, laser cutter, extruder for 3D printing, etc. Also you can build it in just about any dimensions you would like on the cheap since the rails are just EMT. Basically, the MPCNC is a beefy version of my 3D printed Rapid Prototyping Kit using even cheaper EMT rather than stock square aluminum tubing.

Planning for the project was simple. I only had to decide how big I wanted to build the MPCNC and then design/build a simple table for it to cut from. Instead of searching the web for all of the non-printed parts and electronics, I just ordered the kit from the MPCNC's designer. The limited floor space of my garage and accuracy limited the build size to 24" x 48" x 4" (shorter z-axis means more accuracy). I let my 3D printer loose on several days of straight printing while I waited for the hardware and electronics to arrive.

My MPCNC table's first design.

My MPCNC table's first design.

My daughter, Charlie, helping with the Home Depot run for the MPCNC and the table.

My daughter, Charlie, helping with the Home Depot run for the MPCNC and the table.

The table is a simple design that can quickly have more shelves for supplies or other CNC devices added over time. If I am going to carve out precious floor space for something, then I want to get the most of every square foot used. So space and costs were the main drivers here. The table was designed around a single sheet of 1/2" MDF, seven 2x4's, and EMT for the MPCNC rails.

The table actually made a great teaching project for my young daughters as it gave a chance to teach shop safety, design, and building to them. Plus at the end of the weekend we had a huge Etch-a-Sketch that we had made together.

Charlie had a blast learning how to use a miter, chop and table saws for this quick table build. It was a fun day for us both.

Charlie had a blast learning how to use a miter, chop and table saws for this quick table build. It was a fun day for us both.

Both of my girls loved an excuse to get messy by painting the table.

Both of my girls loved an excuse to get messy by painting the table.

Charlie was pretty happy at how our table turned out.

Charlie was pretty happy at how our table turned out.

With the table out of the way we turned to assembling the pile of 3D printed parts. hardware, and EMT. Overall it was a fairly easy build and great for teaching kids about mechanics. One afternoon and most of the MPCNC hardware was assembled. Not too bad.

With the table finished and the hardware ready, it was another day of bolting pieces down, wiring electronics, and lots of testing. Any 3D printer software such as Cura or MatterControl can easily drive the MPCNC since it is just an oversized 3D printer.

Testing the MPCNC with a pen attachment and a Sharpie.

Testing the MPCNC with a pen attachment and a Sharpie.

I can drive it all day long as a 3D printer, but I want to make dust by cutting. Although, it might be fun to drop an extruder on it and try a 4 foot long 3D print. If you need a custom CNC platform, then I would seriously consider the MPCNC. It is not the most beautiful design, but it is cheap (Under $350) and stable. 

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3D printed Rapid Prototyping Kit

3D printed Rapid Prototyping Kit

A 3D printable kit of components for making CNC device prototypes quickly. This kit uses parts easily found at local big box home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowes. The idea being you can print connectors and components while you run around the corner to by #6 screws and tubing. I want to design, build, fail, learn, then rebuild super fast and on the cheap.

AX03 - Android Experiment No. 3

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AX03 - Android Experiment No. 3

Android Experiment No. 3 (AX03 for short) is part of a childhood dream for me. Movies like Star Wars and Short Circuit fueled my desire as a kid to build a robot friend of my own.  So, a year or so ago I decided instead of fixing up a vintage Ford Bronco or taking on another typical hobby, I would try to finally build my own robot after hours. 

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Lulzbot Taz 5 Light Kit

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Lulzbot Taz 5 Light Kit

I wanted to create a light kit that looked factory installed and provided ample light for the print bed. I designed the light kit to printed as one part that mounted on the Makerbeam frame directly behind the Lulzbot Taz logo plate.

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