Saturday, 26 January 2013

CNC Mill Build - Intro

Ever since I found out about computer controlled production, I've wanted one of the machines for myself. 

Start up projects like the MakerBot (my first love) have made it much easier for anyone to get into digital production. But The $1000 price tag was still far too much for me seeing as I was still a student.


Image credit: BrePettis.com

During my time at uni I had access to a laser cutter, which was great, but limited to 2D production, and I used the Shapeways service to get a few 3D models printed. But found the price tag prohibitive and the 2 weeks of waiting between design and product was painful, and ruined one of the fundamental principles of digital production*.

But in my third year of uni I got it into my head that I was going to build a CNC mill. 
I did a lot of research and made a bill of materials. My aim was to build the whole thing for under £200. Long story short, I got the mechanics working (sort of) then ran out of steam.
The beast is currently disassembled in a box and may be worth it's own (rather depressing) post, it just wasn't going to be accurate enough for me.


Jump to October 2012 and for the first time in a long time I have a job and then stumble upon project Shapeoko. An open source kit that aimed to get you up and running for $300.

And just when I started looking at how I would get all the parts in the U.K I found the eShapeoko! Someone in Europe was selling kits, so almost immediately I ordered one.


Because the project was new they were still having problems sourcing all the parts but finally in mid January this rather small, but tantalisingly heavy package arrived at the door.











eShapeoko #23



Individually labelled parts bags. Almost more exciting than the actual machine.

Here's everything that came with the kit. Lots of lasercut steel, several lengths of Makerslide (more on that later) and various other bits of hardware.


I wanted to paint my kit to protect it, but mostly so it would look cool. I had a lot of black spray paint, and only a bit of red (left over from my Red Dwarf phone). I think that dyeing all the nylon spacers may have been a step too far, but I guess I was just over excited.



I may never get it running, but it's damn well going to look sexy!


The only other bit of prep is tapping the ends of the Makerslide. 





Makerslide is a new bit of hardware that was originally a kick-starter project by Bart Dring. It's similar to a standard aluminium extrusion, used in many designs that need to be strong light and inflexible. The key difference is that Makerslide has a set of V rails on it, which allows it to be used as the primary linear motion system as well as the main structural support which makes it ideal for small (or quite large) machines that need linear motion.



Well the colour scheme's all done, now I suppose I actually have to put it together. 

In my next post I begin assembling the kit.



* I think the direct link between designing on a computer and then very quickly being able to hold it in your hand, assess it and make changes is one of the best things about this technology.
However I still think Shapeways is a great service and I've always been really happy with their parts. It's still probably the best way to for newcomers to experience digital production without having to spend hundreds on getting set up. As well as the fact that the machines they use are far better than any home setup and give the option of printing in all sorts of cool materials.  

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