The Wolfclaw CNC machine

It took me a considerable effort, but it is finally finished ... the Wolfclaw CNC machine. The table was bought as a self designed kit of standard aluminium profiles, but the rest of the parts were all custom made, drilled and screwed together. I initially also created the control PCB that connects the steppers and the end stops to the computer, but in the end decided to go for the safer option of buying a commercial board. This is because my own board showed some bugs and proved not completely reliable. Probably because I used some very old parts in it, which may have had oxidized pins that did not make a good connection. After a night of testing and frustration that cost me a few grey hairs, i was fed up and decided to buy a working board.

I still have to align the machine, but first tests have shown that the deviation of alignment is only 0.5 mm! Considering the 'amateuristic' way in which I created the machine, this is not a bad first value. Half a mil is something that can easily be corrected with a few shims.

Components for a large CNC machine

Gosh, already a year ago since my last project on CNC... Okay, that was a nice first step. In the mean time, I've also constructed a machine from OpenBeam profile, that was a nice excercise too. All fun and games, but I was still hampered in the size of the projects I could do. I now have a Proxxon conversion that can mill aluminium, but the things I can make are quite small (about 140x50x50 mm). My OpenBeam machine does 160x140x30 mm, but that is not rigid enough for aluminium, let alone polycarbonate. Engraving is OK, but milling gives problems.

But now I bit the bullet and bought the hardware for a serious scale machine, one that does 600x400x120 mm and is capable of milling aluminium and other non ferro metals, wood, plastics, etc. I even plan to do some PCB engraving to see how that goes. And the best thing is: I will make the design available for download on this site under a Creative Commons license. After all, most of the information on the development and construction of the machine came of the internet. I'm returning the favour. More to come soon!

A Proxxon FF230 converted to CNC with printed parts

It has been a wish for years, I already had all components in stock, and now I finally did it. I made a CNC control system for my Proxxon FF230 hobby mill. I finally got sick of having to use the handwheels and counting the number of rotations to get a profile or pocket of a certain size and shape. Most of the times it went OK, but I miscounted at least once on every work piece, resulting in a nicely milled part with a dent in the wrong place or an asymmetric square hole in it. Not anymore .... now I got it all automated. Only thing I need to do now is make a good CAD design on the PC, prepare the work piece and position the mill. Then upload the design and wait for the finished piece!

And as always, converting the mill was way easier than I expected. All I had to do was create a PCB (on the basis of the Protoneer Arduino CNC shield) to accomodate all motor controllers and some additional connectors for buttons and endstops, and create the brackets for the motors. I used an Arduino Uno as the controller and programmed it with the brilliant GRBL firmware. I make my designs in OpenSCAD and HeeksCAD, turn them into G-code, upload them with either the Universal Gcode Sender or GSat, and watch the motors turn. You see the result in the images below the cut.

3D printed model of a caffeine molecule

It's been a while since my last update to the site. Time stood still on the electronics front lately, as I have been working on another two passions of mine, 3D printing and tutoring young people in the exact sciences. I just finished a new design in which I combined both passions, I printed a set of atoms to build models of molecules for chemistry classes. It's often hard to study molecular formulae on paper, especially when you deal with stereo isomers. So being able to build stuff in three dimensions will help you understand things much faster.

Now, I can already hear the criticizers say: "You can buy these, why make them?". Yes, you can buy sets of these atoms and bonds in any store specialized in scientific education. You pay 50 EUR for an insanely incomplete set, and a complete one will set you back about 150 EUR. I printed a more than complete set for less than 5 EUR. The box was more expensive than the plastic to print my atoms. Have a check on my Thingiverse site.