Monday, January 30, 2012

CNC Router

Another project I'm thinking about is building a CNC router.  There are several designs out there already, but they seem to either fall into the "you don't have any tools or skills" or the "you have a lot of money to spend" categories.  Since I'm in neither, I'm looking around at some of the more popular designs and am going to design something that fits my budget and skills.  I'm going to be using this blog to track some of my build notes while I'm sketching things out.

One thing that gives me a big edge is that I already have a fairly well equipped wood and metalworking shop.  This gives me the ability to fabricate with metal, and most designs seem to shy away from that.  Many of the low-end designs use a lot of MDF as well.  I'm not against MDF, but the idea of tapping threads in it and using it without significant structural support bothers me.

So where am I?  Eventually, I think I'd like to be able to build a system that will work for plastic extrusion like RepRap, but for now I'm looking wood routing systems.  I have the capability to mill metal right now (manually), and so I wanted to focus on something that would actually expand my shop capabilities.  I don't need a huge bed, but something around 2' x 4' would be helpful.  Ideally, I'd like to be able to use the finished product to help me build musical instruments, including things like banjo pots, necks, etc.

I may end up discarding this idea, but at the moment I want this system to be able to support my full size Porter Cable router.  It's not huge, but it's fairly heavy, and so the gantry and related stuff will need to be beefy.  This will likely increase the motor torque requirements as well.  If this fails, I'll look at smaller routers, like this Bosch.

At the moment, I following in many footsteps and using the "JGro" design as a reference for the key components of a CNC design and looking at what components I can improve piecemeal.  The first major change is that I'm building out of primarily birch plywood and not MDF, and using screws and glue to do most of the joins.  The other change is that I'm looking to make the alignment blocks for the pipes made out of aluminum.

I'm just now starting to get the initial components purchased, cut, and assembled, and I expect I'll have some progress to report in the next couple of weeks.  I plan to get all of the mechanical stuff done first, before I look at electronics.  Particularly with a full size router, I need to make sure I understand the loads involved before I size the motors, motor drivers, etc.

I'll try to get some pictures up here as I make some progress, because what's a blog without pictures?

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