modified on 12 February 2012 at 19:23 ••• 6,401 views

CNC Router

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This page will document my CNC router project. (If I manage to update it more than a few times...)


March 24, 2008

The big step: I put my money where my mouth is and ordered a 4-axis router driver and 4 stepper motors from I am going to build a 3-axis CNC router (for now), but the 4th axis and motor were relatively cheap, so there goes.

I am going to build the router according to the instructions at the Build Your CNC web site, with some modifications.


I really like your build so far. It looks very professional. I even liked the 3D with materials so you could get a real life look at it.

Keep it up. Ivan Irons CNC Router Information

March 25, 2008

Few notes after a few phone calls and a trip to some nearby hardware stores:

  • the price of MDF is quite a bit more expensive here than in the USA. Patrick Hood-Daniel states the price of 3/4" board as 9 USD for a 1220x2440 mm (4x8 ft) board, while here the best quote for 19 mm (the same thickness) was 13 €/m2 for a whole, huge 1830x2750 mm (6x9 ft) board. I guess I'll need to actually make some plans instead of just going Patrick's route of buying more material as you go.
  • Almost all of the routers were like mine, with integrated handles and guide mechanism. I'd need one with detachable frame. Have to keep looking.

March 29, 2008

Apparently the 9 USD board was only 2x4 ft, making it not that much cheaper than the prices in Finland. Fair enough.

I've spent several days planning the router and going through Patrick's videos. The current setup is shown below. The design objectives are:

  • Be able to fit a quarter plywood board (610x1220 mm) to the working area (but still as compact as possible)
  • Tolerances small enough for PCB milling
  • Be able to fit the router horizontally to use a manual rotary table
  • Integrate a sturdy table with numerous attachment points (not shown yet) that doubles as a vacuum table

Let's see how it turns out...

April 3, 2008

The design has been improved according to Patrick's and Juhana's suggestions. There is now a torque box for the y-axis. This should prevent both axial torsion and reduce gantry flexure along the axis (together with the heftier steel L-profile at the gantry wall). Inside the table, there are now more reinforcement struts. Furthermore, the table overall dimensions are already frustratingly large.

The electrical parts arrived yesterday. That was a super-fast delivery! Now I need to acquire a hefty transformer and put it together. I also hope to get to measure the MDF pieces soon.

April 5, 2008

Juhana sent me a glimpse of how the the router would look in the future:

April 10, 2008

Patrick gave me suggestions for improving the y- and z-axis rails. These are now incorporated. While not well shown, the rails are now laminated from two MDF pieces. In other news, the controller board is now soldered (albeit not tested) and the transformer is on its way. Next step is to plan the MDF cut layout and finally get to business!

Jan 17, 2009

It's been ages since the last update. I've since finished my PhD, moved to another town, and begun in a new job, so perhaps a tiny delay was understandable. Anyway, I've managed to nugde the project forward after a long while. I've finished the power supply and controller work a few days ago (although the controller has not been tested with a computer yet). A picture of the controller box is below.

During the last few days and evenings I have mainly sourced different materials such as steel profile, roller bearings, nuts & bolts, etc. Yesterday evening and today I have been constructing the linear bearings by cutting some steel profile to correct length as well as drilling and tapping the pieces (picture below). The work is already mostly done. Next I have to adjust the Sketchup plans to reflect the actual bearing dimensions so that I can create a new MDF layout and order the pieces.

I have ordered trapezoidal lead screws and should receive them early next week. They need to be machined to fit bearings (and maybe regular nuts to attach the bearings) and I need to find a shop willing to do that. Shouldn't be too hard.

Jan 23, 2009

I received the MDF boards on Wednesday and cut them to size. No mismeasurements, but minor miscalculations. Fortunately there was enough extra board. Also the double rails are being glued right now. The next thing will be to chamfer the rail boards and paint them all. That'll be a mess.

Jan 24, 2009

Good progress today. I nearly finished the y- and z-axis rail construction, and bought plenty of spray paint cans to be used shortly. I think it pays off to first assemble the whole thing as-is, and then dismantle it again for painting.

Jan 25, 2009

Progress seemed excruciatingly slow today, even though I worked for the whole day. I only managed to finish the gantry structure. I also regret having made some of the steel profiles sit in a groove on the MDF board. It just adds unnecessary complexity and brings no extra value.

Next I need to clean up a bit to make space for the table board and begin working with the x rails. Maybe my progress today wasn't that bad, after all.

Jan 31, 2009

I have been working the last few days on the router table/torsion box. Having the table board lifted in place felt like a major achievement -- getting to see the size and dimensions of the whole thing. I hope to finish the torsion box tomorrow, but there is plenty of drilling and screwing to do.

Feb 12, 2009

Despite lack of updates, I've been working in the basement nearly every possible evening. I've finished the torsion box, made the first test assembly, installed the custom emc2 Ubuntu on an ancient IBM Thinkpad X20 (which appears to work perfectly with emc2, despite being a laptop), gotten the controller to work with the PC (oh WOW!), dismantled the whole router setup and painted almost all of the parts with the primer. Plenty of pictures below.

Apr 12, 2009

It's alive! IT'S ALIVE! Behind the radio silence progress has been slow but steady. Today I finally attached the motors and plugged everything in. After tightening a few screws and twiddling with the software configuration I was actually able to jog around along every axis. Such a small step for mankind, but a huge step for myself! Now I actually need to sit down and begin learning the software side of the deal.

Apr 13, 2009

Oops, I did an oversize plotter instead of a CNC router.

Apr 14, 2009

First programmed routing--it's the thought that counts!

Apr 22, 2009

Would the router drilling holes in itself count as self-modifying code?

The first shortcomings of Mk1 are becoming apparent. For some reason, the X and Y-axes are not orthogonal. That's a big bummer, and should have been taken care of BEFORE drilling holes in the table surface. I am yet to find out the reason for the anomaly, but I suspect the gantry sides are not identical. I just hope I can initially fix this in software.

Another issue which I was worried about already during the construction phase is that the gantry lacks torsional rigidity: the tool attachment is able to flex a millimeter or two in the X-axis direction. I plan to remedy this issue by making the gantry a box structure with two sets of rails.


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