4 Awesome DIY CNC Machines diy-projects

4 Awesome DIY CNC Machines

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4 Awesome DIY CNC Machines You Can Build Today

Introduction

So you want to build a CNC machine, but you’re not quite sure what kind of machine to build? Then this article is for you. We’ll try to create a framework you can use to decide what your first CNC project should be.

The first thing you’ll want to do is make some notes about some of the questions you’ll want to understand up front.

Cost: How much can you afford to spend on your CNC machine? Some are more expensive than others. Some will require more software or tooling than others, which adds additional expense. Get a real honest assesment of the level of cost you’re willing to deal with for the project.

Difficulty: Close behind cost will be a realistic assessment of the skills you can bring to the table in building your machine. Some machines will be much easier to build than others. Some will be happier with tolerances that are a little looser and easier to achieve. Strong woodworking versus strong metalworking skills will affect your choices too.

Time: Given enough time, you can manage to build almost anything. But how much time can you realistically devote to the project? How much of your interest revolves around creating the machine itself versus using the machine after it is done? Consider that it may be a good idea to go all the way through getting a simpler machine working before graduating to your ultimate CNC project. You will have learned a lot on the simpler machine and you’ll be that much more ready to tackle a complex machine.

Projects: What do you want to make with your CNC machine? This will greatly affect the type of machine you build as well as the required specifications for that machine.

Let’s run down the machine types that are available and comment a little on how they fit with the various questions I asked you to consider. I’m going to tackle them in rough order of cost and complexity.

1. DIY CNC Router

DIY CNC Router
Cost Medium: The table needs to be a little more accurate than a plasma cutter. If you want to cut aluminum and other soft metals, you’ll need a fair bit of rigidity. And there are 3 axes as well as a spindle (often just a handheld router in a bracket) to consider. Another factor driving increased cost is you will need to purchase CAM software of some type to get full benefit from a CNC Router.
Difficulty Medium (Scratch Built) to Easy (Kit). These machines will be more work than a plasma table. Consider one to be equivalent to a fairly in-depth woodworking project. However, you can save a lot of time and effort at very little additional cost by trying a DIY CNC Router kit
Time Short to Long. This is a bigger project than a plasma table and will take longer to complete. You can offset that by buying parts kits and plans. A kit can be done pretty quickly.
Disadvantages These machines are aimed at wood, plastic, and if you have a well-made rigid machine, soft metals like aluminum. A big one takes a fair amount of room in your shop, but on the otherhand, you could live without some of your other wood working machines in all likelihood if you had one.
Projects Almost anything you’d like to make from wood, plastics, or if the table is up to it, soft metal.

 

 

 

2. 3D Printer

DIY 3D Printer
Cost Low: You can buy a finished 3D printer for under $2000 and if you’re careful you could probably build one for under $1000. The software required to run one is available as free open source. A high resolution 3D printer can be done for somewhere in the $2000 to $3000 range using a DLP projector as the light source. But, light sensitive resins can be fairly expensive.
Difficulty Low. These machines have fairly easy tolerances and you can purchase parts kits that simplify the process further. A good kit is almost snap together.
Time Low
Disadvantages Plastic only. Low resolution for extruders. Making a part can take hours. Plastics can be expensive.
Projects Anything you’d like to make in plastic. Your major limitation will be the resolution of the printer and the overall size of parts you can make in one. Some models accomodate much larger sizes and there are high resolution 3D printers that use light sensitive resins that can deliver much tighter tolerances than the extrusion-based printers.

 

3. CNC Milling Machine

DIY CNC Milling Machine
Cost Medium to High: This project is best tackled as a conversion of a manual milling machine to CNC. As such, you’ll have the cost of the manual machine as well as all the additional CNC parts. Another factor driving increased cost is you will need to purchase CAM software of some typeto get full benefit from a CNC Mill.
Difficulty Medium to High. While you could tackle a project like this if you’ve never done any machine work before, it is easier if you have a bit of manual machining under your belt.
Time Medium to Long. You can offset that by buying parts kits and plans.
Disadvantages Largely the expense and complexity.
Projects Almost anything you’d like to make from any machinable material. Your only real limitation is likely to be the capacity of your machine’s travels to deal with the size of your parts.

 

4. CNC Plasma Table

DIY Plasma Table
Cost Low to Medium: The table itself can be relatively cheap–just some steel stock. You’ll need 3 stepper or servo motors, some kind of rail system (can be fabricated cheaply), and a rack and pinion drive which is also pretty cheap. The expense is in the plasma cutter, unless you already own one. Relatively simple software can be used since you will be cutting the exact outline of the DXF drawing.
Difficulty Low. These machines have fairly easy tolerances. If you’ve done welding and fabrication projects, you can tackle a plasma table.
Time Medium. This is a bigger project than a 3D printer.
Disadvantages Sheet material only. Relatively low resolution and parts will need cleanup to remove slag and smooth edges. The process can harden materials, making plasma cutting less desirable than water jet if the part will need to be machined after being plasma cut.
Projects Anything you’d like to make from sheet metal. A standard plasma table size is 4 feet by 8 feet, which allows for quite large projects to be tackled.

 



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