Tag Archives: CNC

A CNC machine made from old furniture and printer parts

Goes to show that one man’s trash is another Maker’s treasure! 

Computer-controlled tools are a welcome addition to any garage; however, they usually cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. On the other hand, you could just build your own CNC router using chipboard (aka particle board) recycled from an old piece of furniture, motors from an optical drive, a PC power supply, and, of course, an Arduino Uno (ATmega328).


Norbert “HomoFaciens” Heinz describes the build on his site and in the excellent 0.6 video below, as well improvements he made to it in the following 0.6.1 video.

The DIY CNC router is meant for mostly two-dimensional parts as the vertical axis is controlled by a normal hobby servo. The horizontal axes are each controlled with 3mm threaded rods that rotate inside of brass nuts that are soldered in place using a candle (seriously). These rods are handled by the optical drive motors with encoders made from optical sensors and disks with teeth cut out of metal.


It’s really an amazing display of what one can do with simple tools and materials, and an incredible amount of ingenuity! If that wasn’t impressive enough, he also wrote the control software, consisting of an Arduino Sketch and a Linux program that transmits motor commands over USB.

For another interesting trash build, check out this router made from PC parts. It’s available as a kit, so you won’t have to cut up your furniture to make it!

[h/t Hackaday]

BoXZY is a triple-threat tool that brings an entire Makerspace to your desk

BoXZY is an all-in-one CNC mill, laser engraver and 3D printer. 

We’ve seen plenty of 3D printers. We’ve seen a number of CNC mills. We’ve seen countless laser engravers. Yet, a combination of all three is a much rarer sight. Developed by two brothers from Pittsburgh, Joel and Justin Johnson, their recently-revealed machine is shaping up to be a multi-purpose masterpiece that will appeal to both beginners and experienced Makers alike. The BoXZY has been developed to serve as a complete desktop manufacturing space, rather than just a 3D printer with some additional options.


“We refer to it as a desktop manufacturing space. While the system is user friendly, its capabilities are much more precise than consumer models currently on the market. But the key differentiator for BoXZY is its interchangeability,” the duo explains.

In essence, BoXZY is a dual-extruder FDM 3D printer that can be quickly interchanged with a solid 1¼ horsepower Makita router, transforming the machine into a powerful CNC mill or a laser etcher in a moments notice. Using these heads, any Maker can craft a block of aluminum, hardwood or plastic into more complex designs. The whole operation is housed inside a solid aluminum body, and assembled with stainless steel hardware to ensure its stability and durability throughout all applications.


Moreover, the triple-threat tool is designed to be completely modular and hackable — something Makers of any level will appreciate. To power up and create its four micron resolution, BoXZY drives all three axes with industrial ballscrews, which are firmly situated in its sleek, black anodized aluminum body.

As a CNC mill, BoXZY can handle intricate shapes in all kinds of materials. To get started, users simply pull off the magnetically coupled 3D print platform to expose the pre-drilled fixture plate and attach their spoil board, fixture plate or clamps. Additionally, BoXZY boasts a 2000mW laser engraver that slices through balsa and other thin woods eagerly, and will put finishing touches on hardwood, leather and plastic with incredible precision.


And when it comes to 3D printing, BoXZY is billed as a top-tier device as it complements its mill and laser perfectly. Indeed, Makers can easily and accurately print complex shapes with fine detail using a wide-range of filaments like PLA, ABS, PVA, Ninja-flex, ABS, and even nylon. All together, anyone can now devise shapes that would have otherwise been impossible from other forms of manufacturing.

What’s more, Makers can CNC mill, laser engrave and 3D print without ever leaving the control software. That’s because BoXZY utilizes a simple, intuitive interface that caters to everyone from novices to pros. For milling, BoXZY uses AutoDesk’s 123D toolpath generation, and can execute G-code created by most commercial CAM programs.

Interested? Head over to its Kickstarter campaign, where the duo is currently seeking $50,000. If all goes well, units will begin shipping in November 2015.

This machine etches graffiti for those in the distant future

Now you can leave messages for future generations by engraving them into ancient monuments.

Since the beginning of mankind, humans have sought out news to communicate stories. When language didn’t exist beyond grunts, our ancestors drew pictures on cave walls. As the power of language was gradually discovered, primitive attempts at using sounds paved the way for symbols, and later the formation of words, allowed messages to be passed onto descendants. As we look into the future, have you ever considered how you might communicate with your distant offspring — say 50,000 years from now? Well, German artist Lorenz Potthast has.


To successfully leave a message for posterity, there are a number of things one must consider. Where will future humans be most apt to find it? Can it withstand the test of time? Will the characters and language be the same in thousand years? In an effort to navigate these quandaries, Potthast has devised what he calls a “positive vandalism machine,” for communicating with next generations. The device, which is called The Petroglyphomat, is a portable, computer-operated milling cutter that can pass along messages by etching them into ancient monuments.


Powered by battery packs capable of lasting three hours, the easy-to-carry machine weighs just over 5.5-pounds. Petroglyphomat’s frame is comprised of stainless steel, while the rest is constructed using laser cut plastic. When ready for use, the machine can be mounted onto its desired area in one of two ways: It can be tied to a free-standing object with its two integrated belts, or it can be anchored into a flat surface with pre-drilled holes by using its four corner screws.

“The idea is to use long existing, important places which most likely will also exist for a long time in the future as infrastructure and expand them with a new communication layer,” Potthast explains. In order to accomplish this, the machine creates snapshots of our increasingly digitalized environment by converting pixel-based, iconographical symbols into modern stone engravings.


The Petroglyphomat is controlled by a built-in computer via a mouse using a combination of Processing and Arduino. Through the machine’s interface, the user can select any black-and-white image (up to 64×64 pixels) from the screen. Once chosen, the soon-to-be engraved picture is forwarded to the Atmel based ‘duino and motor shield, where it is translated into control commands for the movement of its three motors.


After extensive research in examining cave paintings dating back 40,000 years, Potthast found many still possessed some modern-day connotations. As a result, the artist programmed the Arduino with a series of familiar icons, such as the envelope symbol for mail.

“Every hole is the representation of a black pixel from the source image. For the actual engraving the drilling unit goes step by step and line by line through the precalculated matrix and drills the holes accordingly,” Potthast adds.


While the positive vandalism machine may still be a concept, Potthast says he aspires to get it up and running in the wild soon. Interested in learning more? Head over to the project’s official page here.

Writing on glow-in-the-dark surfaces with lasers

An Instructables user named “ril3y” has devised a slick CNC single point projector that can draw on glow-in-the-dark surfaces with lasers, aptly named “Laser Glow Writer.”


“At its heart, the Laser Glow Writer is a two-axis CNC machine, which means the laser can draw very detailed and intricate designs, that you can create on your computer or mobile device, from across the room. Using a combination of 3D-printable and laser-cut parts, as well as some off the shelf hardware you can make this pretty cool little machine fairly easily, and it works extremely well with a safe, low-power laser diode. All parts are sourced and are available online,” ril3y writes.

The Laser Glow Writer is driven by Arduino Due (Atmel | SMART SAM3X8E), which runs the TinyG CNC motion controller firmware. The SAM3X8E based board then controls the two stepper motors (X and Y axes) in a coordinated fashion, while turning the small laser on/off.


“I originally designed this machine for Halloween to write spooky messages on the wall all night long, but there are many other cool things that it can do! The first version that I built was big and not very accurate. Being a bit of a perfectionist, I redesigned the whole machine to be smaller and cheaper to build. Above all else, it had to be much more accurate,” the Maker notes.

Currently, ril3y is converting SVG images to Gcode, and putting them up on some glow-in-the-dark vinyl. Our friends over at Hackaday had some fun with this project as well. Since the Skull ‘n Wrenches is available in SVG format, the Hackaday crew notes that “it was an easy call to make on what to display in weird phosphorescent green.” You can see a video of that along with ril3y’s as well.

Interested in more? Head over to the project’s official Instructables page here.

EASiLOGO controls your Etch-a-Sketch

Graham Toal has debuted a CNC Etch-a-Sketch robotic platform powered by an Atmel-based Arduino board.

Aside from the board, key project hardware components include:

  • Two stepper motors
Two bracket sets
  • Two couplers and a 2mm Allen Key
  • 12V power supply
  • One Adafruit Stepper motor shield

On the software side?

“I considered using remote procedure calls, I thought about implementing Hewlett Packard Graphics Language (HPGL) as used in pen plotters, but in the end for fun I decided to use GCODE as my drawing protocol – GCODE is how laser cutters and 3D printers and many other CNC machines are driven, so it seemed like good experience to learn a bit about how it worked,” Toal explained in a recent Instructables post.

“I found an Arduino GCODE interpreter and modified it to suit my project. Mostly the mods were just to remove the Z-axis code that wasn’t needed (you can’t lift or lower the pen in an etch-a-sketch – when you move, it always draws a line) but the main modification was to remove some machine-dependent stepper-motor-driving code and replace it with portable calls to the Adafruit libraries.”

To create a functional LOGO interpreter, Toal turned to Marcio Passos from Brazil who quickly coded an interface (EASiLOGO) based on the “Papert” LOGO interpreter written in Javascript by Thomas Figg along with an Etch-a-Sketch demo from the Mozilla Developer network.

“Marcio and I modified Papert to use the ‘Node.js’ system which gave the code the ability to drive the serial port so that we could send GCODE commands to the Arduino and make the Etch-a-Sketch draw,” he said.

“In a mammoth 30-hr session over the weekend, we got the LOGO interpreter working and sending drawings to the Etch-a-Sketch.”

So, what’s next for Toal? Well, the Maker says he hopes to polish the software so that anyone can use it without needing to build a physical Etch-a-Sketch robot.

“The emulation of the computer-controlled Etch-a-Sketch on our web page is very accurate and we’ll continue to work on it to make it look and perform even better. Programs that run on the web page will run just as nicely on the real hardware,” he added.

“If you can’t build the hardware, you can do the human simulation we described in the introduction, by writing down the instructions on a piece of paper, and giving them to your kids to execute on a real Etch-a-Sketch toy by hand. It’s a great way to learn to program, even without a computer.”

Interested in learning more? You can check out the project’s official Instructables page here.

DIY curved display with an Arduino Mega

A Maker by the name of Marin Davide has designed a DIY curved display with an Atmel-powered Arduino Mega (ATmega1280), nichrome wire and thermochromic liquid crystal ink.

According to James Hobson of HackADay, the current prototype uses a sheet of plastic coated in thermochromic ink – curved on an MDF frame.

“To display digits, Davide created tiny segments of the 7-segment display by wrapping the nichrome wire around pieces of cardboard, which then have been glued to the back of the display,” Hobson explained.

Meanwhile, Davide noted that although the prototype shows a 7-digit display, the detailed build guide can be easily modded to create a small dot-matrix display.

“The working prototype uses a sheet material printed with thermochromic liquid crystal ink,” Davide wrote in an official Design News description.

“It changes color (bright blue) when heated above 27C. Nickel-chrome wire is used to heat the segments and everything is controlled by an Arduino Mega board.”

The DIY curved display was made with 4mm Mdf, cut with a CNC, although this can also be done by hand. In addition, Davide used a 24V DC power supply, converted to 20Vdc with a KIA7820A. A 1000uF capacitor reduces noise on the 24V line, while a 220uF reduces noise on the 20V line. Last, but certainly not least, the Atmel-based Arduino is USB powered from the PC.

Interested in learning more about building a DIY curved display with an Atmel-based Arduino Mega? You can check out HackADay’s coverage here, the Design News article here and a detailed build tutorial (PDF) here.

Video: Atmel-based Arduinos in a semi-auto production line

Alexander Kozusyev from Kiev recently contacted the official Arduino blog to describe how he integrated Atmel-based boards into a semi-auto production line designed to cast polyurethane foam.

According to Ardunio’s Zoe Romano, Kozusyev is using an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) to read RFID codes and control a number of components, along with an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) (+ firmware GRBL version 0.9) to control the CNC.

“[The] production line has two independent CNC 3-axis manipulator. The first [is] spraying of [a] release agent. [The] second [is the] automatic pouring [of] polyurethane into the mold,” Kozusyev explained.

“Before spraying or pouring, [the system] reads RFID unique code for the mold, and then loads the G-CODE from the database server based MySQL. After pouring, the mold is moved to the waiting area.”

First desktop wire bender hits Kickstarter

The first desktop CNC wire bender has hit Kickstarter with an Atmel MCU (ATxmega192/TinyG) under the hood. Created by Pensa Labs, the DIWire transforms drawn curves into bent wire that can be assembled to make just about anything.

“To date, desktop manufacturing has focused on 3D printers outputting plastic volumes and laser cutters cutting 2D planes. However, nothing exists that converts lines into bent rod, wire or tubular forms quickly, accurately, and repeatedly,” the Pensa Labs crew wrote in a recent Kickstarter post. “The DIWire can bend various metals and plastics, allowing for the output to be used as the final product. Additionally, the build volume is limited only by the length of the wire.”

Indeed, by being transportable, accessible and affordable, the DIWire fills the market gap between time-consuming hand-bending and large scale, mass production CNC wire bending, which is often too costly for custom, short-run productions.

This significantly changes the dynamics of STEM education, as well as local, mass customized, prototype and just-in-time manufacturing for industries ranging from aerospace, automotive, medical, to consumer products.

So what can DIWire be used to create? Specific examples listed on Kickstarter include antennas, robotics, architecture models, design prototypes, art, furniture, jewelry, small crafts, surgical implants, orthodonture, puppetry, lighting, stage sets and signage.

Interested in learning more about the Atmel-powered DIWire? You can check out the project’s official Kickstarter page here.

Will.i.am hearts Makers

Wikipedia describes the Maker Movement as a “contemporary culture or subculture representing a technology-based extension of DIY culture.”

Typical interests pursued by Maker culture include engineering-oriented projects such as electronics, Arduino-based robotics, 3D printing with Atmel-powered printers like the MakerBot or RepRap and the use of CNC tools.

Larry Magid, a technology journalist who writes for the San Jose Mercury News, recently noted that the Maker Movement is growing exponentially by taking advantage of 3D printers, inexpensive microcontrollers, robotics, CAD and the ability to control machines with computers, tablets and smartphones.

The truth is, says Magid, we are all Makers to a certain extent, even if some of us don’t know it yet.

“All of us – even Leonardo da Vinci – were late comers as far as the Maker movement is concerned,” he explained. “Our prehistoric ancestors millions of years ago, figured out how to turn stones into tools so that they could make things. Only they didn’t have fairs, books and websites to document the process.”

And now Will.i.am, the technophile founder of The Black Eyed Peas, has offered a ringing endorsement of the Maker Movement and related culture on Facebook.

“Every young person is going to be inspired to be a maker from now on,” said Will.i.am. “It’s like how everyone used to want to be a musician, an actor, an athlete — but a maker is what people are going to want to be.”

Indeed, as Arduino’s Massimo Banzi once famously noted, “You don’t need anyone’s permission to make something great.”

Atmel is everywhere at the 2013 Maker Faire, episode 2

So after seeing Atmel in the parking lot, I go and check in at the Atmel booth. Suffering from ADHD and OCD, it was less than 20 minutes later and I was wandering the pavilion. It seemed every cool thing I liked had Atmel parts in it. This time it was a Hexapod style 3-D printer. I had no idea the fine folks at SeeMeCNC used Atmel, until I got talking to John Oly. He explained they were from Indiana and got hit as hard as anybody by this here depression we just went through. So rather than close their machine shop, the folks at SeeMeCNC decided that they could build a clever 3-D printer and sell it at a fair price.


John Oly from SeeMeCNC shows off the board containing the Atmel chip used to run their hexapod-style 3-D printer.

As a former auto engineer I admired the great mechanical engineering in the SeeMeCNC 3-D printer. I also admired their Indiana roots, since I am from Ohio and Michigan. I mentioned that the aluminum extrusions they used on the uprights of the machine were quite expense, a friend had just used that system to build an RC sailplane field bench. John smiled and said: “A lot of people think you have to use the expensive stuff, but you can go to a local extrusion shop and they well make you the same sections of a lot less money.” See, this is why we are lucky to live in an industrial society—you can pop down to your local extruder, and get them to make you some nice structural framing, while helping your local economy. It’s not just lettuce that we should encourage the local production of.


Here are the Atmel chips on the board from the SeeMeCNC printer near the aluminum structural uprights they had made locally for 1/10 the price of the ready-made stuff.

So I took a little movie of the SeeMeCNC printer working—that’s John you might hear in the background. Let’s see if I can embed the video into our blog. I love these motion control applications for Atmel chips, you can watch your code working. Only downside is that a crash is really a crash.