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Thread: Using a laser to build a CNC router

  1. #1
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    Using a laser to build a CNC router

    A thread awhile back about the "DIYLilCNC" finally prompted me to do the CNC router build I'd been contemplating for a couple of years. The main breakthrough was figuring out how to make the dimension-critical parts with the laser: I laminated them out of three layers of 6mm MDF. That allowed me to use the laser for two operations that it normally would not handle well, (1) making countersinks for the screw holes and (2) "drilling" the edge holes for the cross-dowel bolts. Other than that, it's a fairly conventional MDF/skate-bearing design, albeit a bit heftier than most. Cutting area is roughly 32"x17"x5", sized to fit some odd space constraints in my garage.
    IMG_0516.jpgIMG_0515.jpgIMG_0513.jpg
    Yoga class makes me feel like a total stud, mostly because I'm about as flexible as a 2x4.
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  2. #2
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    That looks a very neat job. Nice to see it painted too, rather than the MDF coloured machines you normally see.
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    Precision Prototypes, Romsey, UK

  3. #3
    Nice Build, Lee!

    Now, when can we get the files?

    Neal

  4. #4
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    I like that a lot! wish i had the time to make one!! is that a porsche lurking in the background?
    Last edited by matthew knott; 03-26-2012 at 4:50 PM.
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  5. #5
    Do you mind telling what that cost you as far as all the electronics go? I have thought about building one using the laser to make the parts as well but since I didn't really know what I would use it for other then a couple of whims I had and I don't know much about programming I decided that for now it was a bit to expensive of a toy.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neal Schlee View Post
    Now, when can we get the files?
    Real soon now: they need some cleanup, as I was designing and building it sort of on the fly.
    Yoga class makes me feel like a total stud, mostly because I'm about as flexible as a 2x4.
    "Design"? Possibly. "Intelligent"? Sure doesn't look like it from this angle.
    We used to be hunter gatherers. Now we're shopper borrowers.
    The three most important words in the English language: "Front Towards Enemy".
    The world makes a lot more sense when you remember that Butthead was the smart one.
    You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too much ammo.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Hillmann View Post
    Do you mind telling what that cost you as far as all the electronics go? I have thought about building one using the laser to make the parts as well but since I didn't really know what I would use it for other then a couple of whims I had and I don't know much about programming I decided that for now it was a bit to expensive of a toy.
    Heh. Well, it's a lot cheaper than the laser was...

    I've got close to $3K total into mine at this point (pretty much ready to use), but I could probably start from scratch and duplicate it for about $2400. (Note that probably 15% of those numbers are shipping and sale tax.) The power supply, motors (4), cables, and driver electronics totaled out to about $750 of that. But I didn't really attempt to economize on the electronics, on the theory that they can be recycled to the next machine if there is one, or easily sold for a good price if I pull the plug on the whole thing. I'll post a complete bill-of-materials a bit later.

    Another thing to consider is that the workflow for a CNC router is insanely complicated compared to shoving bits at the laser from CorelDraw. I've killed most of the last week just installing demo versions of various CAM software packages and working through their tutorials to figure out which one to buy. I suspect that, if I wanted to cut the pieces for this machine on this machine, it would take me longer to convert the files to the right format that it took me to build the thing in the first place.
    Last edited by Lee DeRaud; 03-26-2012 at 5:51 PM.
    Yoga class makes me feel like a total stud, mostly because I'm about as flexible as a 2x4.
    "Design"? Possibly. "Intelligent"? Sure doesn't look like it from this angle.
    We used to be hunter gatherers. Now we're shopper borrowers.
    The three most important words in the English language: "Front Towards Enemy".
    The world makes a lot more sense when you remember that Butthead was the smart one.
    You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too much ammo.

  8. #8
    Do you mind giving a little more of a rough break down of the cost? Not down to the nut and bolt level, it is just that when I was looking I had thought the once I had the electronics (the ones I was looking at were in the $700 range) I didn't think the rest of the parts would be that expensive, and I am just wondering what parts were the most expensive.

    I also should add that it is a very nice looking machine.
    Universal M-300 (35 Watt CO2)
    Universal X-660 (50 Watt CO2)

    Hans (35 watt YAG)
    Electrox Cobra (40 watt YAG)


    Glass With Class, Cameron, Wisconsin

  9. #9
    Nice. I recommend VisualMill for a CAM package. It's intuitive and not too pricey for what you get. It's the same as RhinoCam but your not tied to Rhino which in my opinion isn't very intuitive. I'd personally avoid learning CAD/CAM packages dedicated to signs. Especially since your into building things like CNCs.
    I design, engineer and program all sorts of things.

    Oh, and I use Adobe Illustrator with an Epilog Mini.

  10. #10
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    I've attached the bill-of-materials for the hardware and electronics (including elementary software). It breaks down roughly as:
    Electronics (including router and some probably unnecessary frills) - $1100
    Hardware (nuts, bolts, steel stand, drive screws, bearings etc) - $750
    Software - $325 and up (free demo/trial versions are available, sufficient to shakedown the machine)
    There's maybe $150 of MDF, paint, and glue in it.
    LMB1 CNC Router.pdf
    (Note: these prices do not include shipping & taxes.)
    Last edited by Lee DeRaud; 03-26-2012 at 6:44 PM.
    Yoga class makes me feel like a total stud, mostly because I'm about as flexible as a 2x4.
    "Design"? Possibly. "Intelligent"? Sure doesn't look like it from this angle.
    We used to be hunter gatherers. Now we're shopper borrowers.
    The three most important words in the English language: "Front Towards Enemy".
    The world makes a lot more sense when you remember that Butthead was the smart one.
    You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too much ammo.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Griffith View Post
    I recommend VisualMill for a CAM package...not too pricey for what you get.
    Neither are Ferraris, but $1K is a bit over-budget to run a hobby machine.
    Yoga class makes me feel like a total stud, mostly because I'm about as flexible as a 2x4.
    "Design"? Possibly. "Intelligent"? Sure doesn't look like it from this angle.
    We used to be hunter gatherers. Now we're shopper borrowers.
    The three most important words in the English language: "Front Towards Enemy".
    The world makes a lot more sense when you remember that Butthead was the smart one.
    You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too much ammo.

  12. #12
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    Be sure to look at Cut2D($149) and Cut3D($299) by Vectric. Good entry level with an upgrade path to more powerful packages.
    "Only those who have the patience to do simple things perfectly will acquire the skill to do difficult things easily. Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805)

    Woodworking since 1972

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Joyce View Post
    Be sure to look at Cut2D($149) and Cut3D($299) by Vectric. Good entry level with an upgrade path to more powerful packages.
    They're the leading contenders at this point. The others I've looked at in this price range have some odd UI quirks. I'll probably get Cut2D first, then maybe Vectric's bitmap-to-3D app (PhotoVCarve?), as I'm not doing traditional 3D modeling.
    Yoga class makes me feel like a total stud, mostly because I'm about as flexible as a 2x4.
    "Design"? Possibly. "Intelligent"? Sure doesn't look like it from this angle.
    We used to be hunter gatherers. Now we're shopper borrowers.
    The three most important words in the English language: "Front Towards Enemy".
    The world makes a lot more sense when you remember that Butthead was the smart one.
    You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too much ammo.

  14. #14
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    Nice job Lee.....very impressive. How much would it cost to buy a comparable CNC?
    Epilog Mini 24 - 45 Watt, Corel Draw X5, Wacom Intuos Tablet, Unengraved HP Laptop, with many more toys to come.....





    If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have one idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas... George B. Shaw

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Clarkson View Post
    How much would it cost to buy a comparable CNC?
    I have absolutely no idea. The design constraints are roughly that of the Rockler CNC Shark Pro Plus at $4K (plus router, plus...): how close I got to that goal remains to be seen.
    Yoga class makes me feel like a total stud, mostly because I'm about as flexible as a 2x4.
    "Design"? Possibly. "Intelligent"? Sure doesn't look like it from this angle.
    We used to be hunter gatherers. Now we're shopper borrowers.
    The three most important words in the English language: "Front Towards Enemy".
    The world makes a lot more sense when you remember that Butthead was the smart one.
    You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too much ammo.

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