This article gives you an insight on how I’ve built my CNC machine and what my considerations were along the way. You’ll find an overview of all the individual parts as well as a budget for everything.
During the making of my machine I’ve learned so much; it was (and still is) a great trip on a technical and practical path, but it’s also a great learning curve in understanding how the whole CAD/CAM process works and give a great inside view on how GRBL and GCODES work.
For me, building this machine was not only about having the machine in the end, but also about the fun of learning everything while building and using it.
Goal of the machine
The purpose of this machine is, first and foremost, to create a guitar and cut small aluminium parts.
This build is aimed to be affordable, easy to build and with enough rigidity and precision for reaching my goals. It doesn’t need to be ‘professional-grade’ or precise up to a billion behind the comma, but then again, I tried not use too much ‘the-easy-way’-solutions.
Why I didn’t buy a complete machine
There are many professional machines available which are very good, but are also very expensive. For most machines goes: the bigger the workarea or more options, the more expensive it gets. But these machines are also way too big to place in a house-like environment. Most machines need some special in-depth knowledge for controlling the machine or the controller. So in short; most machines offer way too much and are too pricy or too bulky, which in my case, is totally impractical.
There are a number of ‘lighter’ machines out there as well; these are less expensive than the professionals. But most of them do not provide the workarea, stability or features I’m looking for. After a good search on the internet I found that many of these machines are improved later on by users themselves, so you end up still spending money on something you bought already. So why not build one myself to begin with, with my exact wishes?
Please keep in mind; shown machines are all fine, but just don’t have the options or dimensions I like.
My overall setup
My machine is setup in 2 parts: the CNC machine and it’s controller.
The controller houses a small computer with Wifi so it can connect to Dropbox on which the GCODE files are stored. This way it also frees up my MacBook so I can do some more drawing while machining.
The controller also provides the power drivers for the motors and the limitswitches give feedback to the controller when the maximum position is reached.
I want the machine to be solid and stabile and driven by a leadscrew instead of a belt. I think that a belt equals less precision and stability.
I wanted my machine to have:
- CNC Machine in an enclosure to minimize noise and dustpollution
- T-slot bed for securing stock
- Safety limitswitches
- Minimal workarea of 900mm x 400mm with enough height to fit 5cm stock material
- CNC mill with adjustable speed
- Strong enough steppermotors to be able to work with most woods and aluminium
- Strong rails with support to give a fair amount of stability
- Leadscrews to create movement
And for the controllerbox:
- Emergency button
- Powerbuttons for cnc spindle, steppermotors, Rpi etc. on 1 central controller
- Standalone controller which is dedicated to the machine
- Wifi connectivity for connection with online Dropbox (my gcode files are stored here)
- As lowcost as possible
Here’s a parts overview of the CNC machine and Controller (click to enlarge).
To get an idea on how much money this DIY CNC machine costs, I created this overview; it shows you each part, how many and the total budget.
I hope you find this helpful and gives you an idea on how to build your own CNC. Feel free to use this as a guide or even beter; send me an email if you have any questions or suggestions! If you’d like to receive a PDF of this document, shoot me an email! Have fun!