CNC ROUTER MACHINE (not a network router!)

This is the place for any magazine-related discussions that don't fit in any of the column discussion boards below.
User avatar
Lenp
Posts: 1388
Joined: Thu Oct 26, 2006 8:11 pm
Location: Maryland
Contact:

CNC ROUTER MACHINE (not a network router!)

Post by Lenp » Sat May 02, 2015 12:50 pm

Ok, maybe I posted something similar before but the response was underwhelming!
I am on the edge of ordering an imported (Chinese) CNC router, like the 4030 or 6040 that are all over eBay. I have to believe some forum members are familiar with these machines, and I would like to hear about their experiences.
Thanks......
Len

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a big pile of junk.” (T. Edison)
"I must be on the way to success since I already have the junk". (Me)

User avatar
MrAl
Posts: 3862
Joined: Fri Jan 11, 2002 1:01 am
Location: NewJersey
Contact:

Re: CNC ROUTER MACHINE (not a network router!)

Post by MrAl » Sun May 03, 2015 12:54 pm

Hi there Len,

Long time no chat.

My router shoots Wifi up to about 15 feet (haha, just kidding about that).

I am also interested in this topic. I have read about these small routers and i think they might be very nice to have.
I saw one for under 500 dollars. The 'repeat' accuracy is about 0.002 inches, and that would be fine for most of the stuff i do. You'd have to check if that is good enough for surface mount stuff, the real fine pitch IC's. That's assuming you'd like to make PC boards with the machine. That one also comes with software.

Some of my questions would be:
1. Can we use a fake parallel port?
2. Can you use it for fine pitch surface mount parts?
3. Can you make your own files for the software, then use them to cut the boards? This means i can use my own software to make the board copper pattern, then load it into the machine software. If i had to do CNC programming one step at a time, it would not work for me. It would have to be able to accept a file that i can make myself with my own software.

Very interesting topic, i think i will ask elsewhere as well.
Only downside i can see is they require a parallel port.

If you do get one make sure you can return it, and please report back here with some details if you can. Thanks.
LEDs vs Bulbs, LEDs are winning.

User avatar
Lenp
Posts: 1388
Joined: Thu Oct 26, 2006 8:11 pm
Location: Maryland
Contact:

Re: CNC ROUTER MACHINE (not a network router!)

Post by Lenp » Sun May 03, 2015 7:39 pm

Hi Al!
Wow, just about the time you were sending that last message I was meeting with 'Caesar', and your name came up!
Since you have taken a low profile lately we wondered, and hoped, that all was well.

Now, about the router hardware....
I have been sidelined with a knee replacement for several weeks and have had way too much Google and YouTube time. These sites are well populated with CNC routers.

So here is what I have determined:
All the popular machines are designed for cutting soft materials, like wood, fiber, carbon fiber, and soft grades of non ferrous metals. No steel! You need a CNC mill for that job!

The two most common routers are the 4030 and the 6040. Both are similar in design, except for the table workspace, and the 6040 unit is available with a water cooled 1.5kw spindle motor vs the air cooled .8kw that is standard. Also the 6040 is available in a 4 or 5 axis version, but more about that later. It also seems that all the frames come from the same factory in China with a variety of different controllers. The one downside is they are all from overseas and the few with a US connection only ship from there with all support from China. The prices are pretty scattered and a low price is usually accompanied by high shipping cost, so they tend to balance.

These machines use stepper motors for the x/y/z/a/b axis. The steppers are powered by drivers that receive control signals from the computer port via an interface card, often referred to as a breakout board. The breakout board also supports limit switches, and x calibration inputs plus there may be a spare input or two! Some controller designs use all in one boards, some use separate drivers and interface. Most of the interface cards use a parallel port but a few companies supply a USB/parallel adapter. These adapters are notorious for being a bit flaky so unless it was supplied with the machine it may not work well. Adding a parallel port card is an option. There is also a VSD for the spindle and a power supply.


So now here comes the software....
You need to use a CAD or other program that can output a DXF file to produce your design. A 3D program is needed if you will have 3D profiled cuts, but not if you just do straight Z axis cuts. The depths can be controlled. The DXF file is passed to a CAM program that will establish the tool paths and generate the machine control code, called G Code. This is a step by step tool code that is run on the machine control software, and the most common is Mach 3. The G Code has a number of codes that will control the spindle position through the different axis, depth of cut and many other functions. If all this goes well you're soon making a mess!

Except for the CAD software, the CAM software and MACH3 control software are available in limited function free downloads, which for many users, are more than adequate. Even the full versions are not a price killer. The stumbling block is the CAD software, with it's high cost and the sometimes steep learning curve. If you have that down already that's most of the hard work done. I use an older CAD program and it will output the DXF code but there is a quirk and the CAM software may not always recognize it. I can upgrade to a newer version for about $500 but the company can't assure me the DXF is any better? I heard that there is some software that would use PDF files but to date I cannot comment on it. There are also several blogs, CNC Zone is one that has a zillion tips. Some guys build from scratch, almost like a cult, arguing over what does what best! I think their head rush is the machine, and not he work it does!

What would/could I do with it?
Well, aside from it using up any available free time and producing copious amounts of scrap, I hopefully expect to be able to machine control panel and enclosure faces, fabricate some parts I now do one-up on a lathe, mill PCB cutouts, and possibly the traces although I'm not overly fond of that method. One side application, going back to the multi-axis axis machines, is to replace the spindle motor with a custom applicator for glue, epoxy, or solder paste. The extra axis could be used for the applicator control. As a side note, the MACH 3 software has the capability of driving 2 parallel ports and with a simple parallel port relay board, the G Code could operate the relays for whatever else, like fixture clamping, dust removal..whatever your hacker heart could dream up!

Close:
Do I need it...No
Do I want it.....Yes
Will I get one.....Strong probability!
What's stopping me?... The overwhelming number of vendors, controls and dubious support, plus digging out a space for it.
I'll keep you in the loop as things move on, and if you want to collaborate it would be more than welcome.
Len

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a big pile of junk.” (T. Edison)
"I must be on the way to success since I already have the junk". (Me)

User avatar
MrAl
Posts: 3862
Joined: Fri Jan 11, 2002 1:01 am
Location: NewJersey
Contact:

Re: CNC ROUTER MACHINE (not a network router!)

Post by MrAl » Mon May 04, 2015 6:36 am

Hi Len,

Just to note, i've been talking on other websites mostly electronic oriented, and i check here now and then to see if there is anything interesting coming up. Now there is, so i had to reply :-)

Let me state my position so far and what i've been thinking about in the past.

First, i started building my own machine a while back, some years now. it was originally intended for 'drawing', not milling, so i made the Z axis a little shabby, where it could hold a pen but not motor. If you remember back then, you actually made one of the PC boards for my machine :-)
But anyway, i never finished it, and just starting thinking about it again recently, and then you brought this subject up and i started looking around myself and found some interesting machines, and wondered if it would be simpler to buy one.

What i intended to do myself was to make all the drawings in a program like Paint, where i could copy and paste patterns pretty quick, to make my own layouts. Then, write up a program to convert those traces to instructions, which would then get sent to the software, which would then control the stepper motors via the control/driver boards, and this would probably be through either the RS232 or the USB port. I could get this far without too much trouble.
One of the problems i ran into was getting the ink to flow properly, but with a drill motor that would not be a problem.

So the above would have eliminated any software/port problems because it would all be designed from scratch. This could still be done though, provided the control boards allow microstepping, or the steps that they can take are small enough for the required resolution. I think i found that i could do some small outline packages but not the super small outline packages without microstepping.

So right now i guess i am in between somewhere, where i am not sure what i want to do next. Either continue with the old machine or just shell out for a new one with control boards already intact. What i dont like however is all the software and the parallel port requirement.
The software for designing PC boards should be simple because it's only 2d really. The Z axis only has to go up and down, and maybe slowly for drilling. So the way i see it is:
1. Draw the pattern
2. Convert to instructions
3. Run the instructions

Downside is this would not allow a program like Eagle, unless there was a way to convert those files.

What i have read also is that the G code (i think that is the one) is in text format. If so all we would have to do is learn the text format and then we could develop a 2d CAD program or just use Paint or another line drawing program. If you want to do 3d though then you'd have to continue with your 3d CAD program.

I have seen a few pictures now of PC boards made with the CNC machines, and they are not too bad i guess. The main feature i see is that the traces are not just traces, they are traces cut out from thin lines cut out with the tiny router bit, so there is a LOT of copper clad left on the board that we dont normally see. It's a little strange looking, but i guess it works.

I'll be reading more about this also, but recently i purchased a new used car and am working on that trying to get it up to decent working condition so that is taking a lot of my time and energy too now. When i will get back to building or working on the CNC machine again i dont know yet. It could be several months or a few weeks. I might have some of the work done by a mechanic as some of it is a lot more involved than with my last vehicle, which had a simpler electronic system.

I'll keep checking back and adding more as i find out new things now that i know there is an interesting topic again :-)
LEDs vs Bulbs, LEDs are winning.

User avatar
Lenp
Posts: 1388
Joined: Thu Oct 26, 2006 8:11 pm
Location: Maryland
Contact:

Re: CNC ROUTER MACHINE (not a network router!)

Post by Lenp » Mon May 04, 2015 1:12 pm

Hi Al,

I do not have the stamina or inclination to reinvent the wheel. My choice would be to part with some of the fortune and just make it work.
I think just getting the whole lash up together, and making productive dust, is in itself a task to reckon with.
Yes, the G code is a text based language and there are many references to the G, and M code online.
It is entirely possible to send instructions via G code that were hand coded with a simple text editor (ala basic) that simply referencing to x/z/z coordinate tool path and the z axis lifts when needed. After all, hand coding was the way the early 'tape' CNC machines worked.
(As an aside, Mach 3 has a 'REWIND' button to re-start the code from the beginning!)

I really don't know why the parallel port is still the standard in most all of the controls, but, it works, and apparently well.
Many of the advertised USB controllers are actually Parallel controllers with a USB/Parallel cable supplied.
The PCI Parallel cards are plentiful and from what I understand, most all work well.

I have loaded Mach 3 onto the system I plan to use, and in the next few days I will be testing the on-board parallel port plus an added port, just to be sure they behave with Mach 3 as expected. I have a parallel port relay card that will easily confirm the outputs, and Mach 3 has diagnostics capabilities to look at the inputs.
I'll let you know what, if anything, happens...


If you want to work from the ground up and if I can offer anything, you know where I am, (if the forum is still around!)
Len

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a big pile of junk.” (T. Edison)
"I must be on the way to success since I already have the junk". (Me)

User avatar
MrAl
Posts: 3862
Joined: Fri Jan 11, 2002 1:01 am
Location: NewJersey
Contact:

Re: CNC ROUTER MACHINE (not a network router!)

Post by MrAl » Tue May 05, 2015 8:10 am

Hi Len,

I'd like to hear more about your tests and the results.

So i guess you are saying that the parallel printer 'cards' work ok for CNC. My only experience was with the flat bed scanner, where i went to set the EPP option and there was none in the software! What a surprise that was. So to scan one 8x10 page would take about 5 minutes! That was nuts so i had to move on. A USB flat bed scanner did it better and faster anyway, and was cheaper than the original.
But my issue was not about the basic compatibility, it was compatible, but it was SLOW, very SLOW compared to the EPP enabled mother board parallel port. So you might want to include at least one speed test too.

Maybe the CNC doesnt need to transfer as much information in a short time. The old scanner had to transfer a lot of bytes just for one page.

I see there are a lot of companies selling CNC machines and accessories now too. Some offer kits with all the parts for about 600 dollars. Some offer books too, with instructions for building one from the ground up.
LEDs vs Bulbs, LEDs are winning.

User avatar
Lenp
Posts: 1388
Joined: Thu Oct 26, 2006 8:11 pm
Location: Maryland
Contact:

Re: CNC ROUTER MACHINE (not a network router!)

Post by Lenp » Tue May 05, 2015 1:40 pm

Hi Al,

I'm not sure but I think more data moves out of the port than in, like to a printer. Sure, there are status inputs but the amount of traffic they handle must be much less. so it's likely the speed is faster. I would think a scanner passes data opposite to that of a printer. I'm also not sure what the data format between the software and the interface cards looks like. It may be a 4 or 8 bit word, or pulses streaming on a few pins for the axis controls. I have not found a clear description of that as of yet. With the relay card, it is a simple 8 bit binary, and it can sends bits, or words as needed. Much more to absorb....

But, tell me, are you still moderating the forum? Is anyone doing tech support? There has been a number of posts about issues and there has been no response.
I, for one, ceased getting any email a while back when a post goes up that I have subscribed to, and the profile info is still correct.
Sorry if I got your foot in the bucket!
Len

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a big pile of junk.” (T. Edison)
"I must be on the way to success since I already have the junk". (Me)

User avatar
Lenp
Posts: 1388
Joined: Thu Oct 26, 2006 8:11 pm
Location: Maryland
Contact:

Re: CNC ROUTER MACHINE (not a network router!)

Post by Lenp » Tue May 05, 2015 7:24 pm

More about CNC and parallel ports...
://www.cncrouterparts.com/my-computer-does ... p-154.html
Len

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a big pile of junk.” (T. Edison)
"I must be on the way to success since I already have the junk". (Me)

User avatar
MrAl
Posts: 3862
Joined: Fri Jan 11, 2002 1:01 am
Location: NewJersey
Contact:

Re: CNC ROUTER MACHINE (not a network router!)

Post by MrAl » Wed May 06, 2015 8:07 am

Lenp wrote:Hi Al,

I'm not sure but I think more data moves out of the port than in, like to a printer. Sure, there are status inputs but the amount of traffic they handle must be much less. so it's likely the speed is faster. I would think a scanner passes data opposite to that of a printer. I'm also not sure what the data format between the software and the interface cards looks like. It may be a 4 or 8 bit word, or pulses streaming on a few pins for the axis controls. I have not found a clear description of that as of yet. With the relay card, it is a simple 8 bit binary, and it can sends bits, or words as needed. Much more to absorb....

But, tell me, are you still moderating the forum? Is anyone doing tech support? There has been a number of posts about issues and there has been no response.
I, for one, ceased getting any email a while back when a post goes up that I have subscribed to, and the profile info is still correct.
Sorry if I got your foot in the bucket!
Hi Len,

Technically i am still a moderator, but there has been nothing to moderate in a while now so i do not come here as much as i used to.
What do you mean by tech support? You mean about the web site itself? Yes i asked a few questions a while back too and did not get a response. It's almost like the site is being run by 'ghosts' now :-)
LEDs vs Bulbs, LEDs are winning.

User avatar
Lenp
Posts: 1388
Joined: Thu Oct 26, 2006 8:11 pm
Location: Maryland
Contact:

Re: CNC ROUTER MACHINE (not a network router!)

Post by Lenp » Wed May 06, 2015 3:24 pm

I guess it's called 'tech support in absentia'. Now, maybe it's ripe for outsourcing the support :shock:
There seems to be some issues regarding it's sometimes quirky operation. So the question is when, not if, it crashes will anyone care enough to get it back up? I think a brief injection from (C.S.) the long absent notorious poster, may indeed be the elixir to rejuvenate it. Or, but wait. It may bring it to it's knees! :!:
Len

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a big pile of junk.” (T. Edison)
"I must be on the way to success since I already have the junk". (Me)

User avatar
MrAl
Posts: 3862
Joined: Fri Jan 11, 2002 1:01 am
Location: NewJersey
Contact:

Re: CNC ROUTER MACHINE (not a network router!)

Post by MrAl » Fri May 08, 2015 2:22 am

Hello Len,

Well a lot of the people talk in ETO or AAC, as well as here. So if this site goes down check out ETO.
LEDs vs Bulbs, LEDs are winning.

User avatar
CeaSaR
Posts: 1699
Joined: Sat Nov 08, 2003 1:01 am
Location: Phoenixville, PA USA
Contact:

Re: CNC ROUTER MACHINE (not a network router!)

Post by CeaSaR » Thu May 21, 2015 12:40 pm

Len! MrAl!

Good meeting you recently Len. As soon as I get the new cartridges, I'll let you know how the printer(s) worked out.

Long time no read MrAl. Been missing some of the old time regulars.

As to GCode, there was a time when I could read and write Gcode all day. That was back when we had a pen plotter
in the office. (shudder) A long time ago...
It's not hard, just have to remember the initialization routine to set the "0" spot for the machine, Pen (router bit or tool)
up or down commands, line and arc commands and then everything becomes a coordinate mashup of your coordinate
system and resolution. Sure, that's a bit simplified, but pretty much, that's it. I'd have to re-read the basics again since
its been so long, but hey, how many people can say they hand coded the machine code to make "X" object?

CeaSaR (Charlie)
Hey, what do I know?

User avatar
MrAl
Posts: 3862
Joined: Fri Jan 11, 2002 1:01 am
Location: NewJersey
Contact:

Re: CNC ROUTER MACHINE (not a network router!)

Post by MrAl » Sat May 23, 2015 5:31 am

Hi 'Ceasar',

Nice to hear from you too.

I stop by once in a while and i may have not replied much because there was nothing i was that interested in being talked about. As soon as the CNC issues starting coming up though that caught my interest. I started building my own some years ago and did not finish it, then Len started talking about ready made machines so that's very interesting.
I wanted a solution where i could make my own PC boards within a few hours rather than a few days or a week, and usually just one off designs for projects that i only need one of, or maybe one more for a friend or something. That would be very cool.
I was even willing to 'draw' and then etch, using the 'CNC' to simply draw the pattern with ink. I did not come up with an ink dispenser solution yet though.
LEDs vs Bulbs, LEDs are winning.

User avatar
CeaSaR
Posts: 1699
Joined: Sat Nov 08, 2003 1:01 am
Location: Phoenixville, PA USA
Contact:

Re: CNC ROUTER MACHINE (not a network router!)

Post by CeaSaR » Mon Jun 01, 2015 9:06 pm

I remember seeing a guy on youtube who hand drew pc boards with a sharpie and then etched them. So maybe you could get a hold of an older pen plotter and adapt the paper roller to move a platen instead. You might need to do a small bit of touch up, but the bulk would be there.

Just a thought...

CeaSaR
Hey, what do I know?

User avatar
Lenp
Posts: 1388
Joined: Thu Oct 26, 2006 8:11 pm
Location: Maryland
Contact:

Re: CNC ROUTER MACHINE (not a network router!)

Post by Lenp » Tue Jun 02, 2015 11:43 am

I am a great fan of PNP (Press n Peel) It works great for one or two boards. I use a laminator rather than a iron for consistent results as long as the traces are not too narrow.
(There was a thread of posts a couple of years back that had much detail)
A Sharpie is good for touch up on the PNP. I dab it to get a thicker coating on blemished traces.
Len

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a big pile of junk.” (T. Edison)
"I must be on the way to success since I already have the junk". (Me)

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 12 guests