Saturday, July 25, 2009

Re-Tinker CNC

A quick Google and we have more then a few pages on home build CNC machines of all sort...

There are 4 major components that make up a CNC machine
1) The tool head
2) The linear motion
3) The Motor drive
4) The controller

The tool head is what one decide to use the machine to achieve, be it lathe, milling, punching, grinding... etc. The criteria has not changed much since the industrial revolution and I do not foresee much changes in the near future. The new comers are water jet, plasma cutter, laser cutting, EDM or even 3D printing. These had revolutionized how many things are done and I will expect more to come.

Linear motion used to mean linear motion in X, Y and Z axis, but today, it does include rotational movements around the axis, which are called "DoF" Degree of Freedom. The design considerations involves size & material of work piece, speed, accuracy required, finishing requirements. is how the tool and work piece move with respect to each other.
Fix toolhead with moving work piece? Fixed workpiece with moving tool head? or move both partially?
Tranmission & motion conversion from rotation to linear motion,use mechanism such as lead screw & nut, belt & gear, rack & pinion, gear on chain...
Rail guides to ensure transverse in straight line using linear bearing on rod guide, roller on rail... etc

No drastic changes from what I learn in my school days...
I think I'm still pretty up-to-date in this area.

The greatest different were the controller and the motor driver development and availability.

The drive system, for stepper system, it consist of the stepper motor and driver; for the servo system, it consist of the servo motor, encoder and the motor driver.

Today, micro-stepping driver are available at an affortable price, I think this is the main reason for the CNC boom in recent year. Well within hobbyist pocket size.

Servo system too has become much more affortable, but still has room to go.

Only a few years ago, 'serious' CNC machine are built with a customized controller console with its own computing capacity and PC based controllers are in their infancy.

The controller takes in G-code, A.K.A. command list and send control signal to the driver which consequently operate the stepper motor.

What is G-Code? Its a code that the controller take in for processing and the code normally starts with 'G'. Serious... eg, G 00 means stop, G 19 is move to... etc

There are software that convert .dxf files from most CAD programs to G-code, or one can write the G-code manually. I'm still looking into such programs presently.

Currently, there are many affordable, pseudo-free & free PC based controller software, they all have active supporting forums, the two that cough my attention are Mach3 and EMC2.

Mach3 is a window based controller software, it is free until you decide to "go commercial" with it. USD150 will buy you a pop.

EMC2 is a Linux based open-source controller software under GNU license. This thing runs real time kernal, all the bells and whistle and more...

I think I've reach my typing limit for the day... blurry vision...tired finger joints...

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