Router Forums banner

Another Build Thread

7307 Views 73 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  TimPa
I guess I should start this thread by going through my thought process for selecting the type of CNC router I wanted to build. I have a very limited work area in my basement so that was going to be a limiting factor right out of the gate. This is going to be a woodworking tool and later a laser etching & engraver. I love lasers.

The other major factor was budget. CNC routing can get very expensive, very fast! My target budget for this project was 2000 USD.

I have an existing sturdy worktable where I plan to locate the router. Next, what am I going to do with it; basically, small woodworking projects and laser engraving. Therefor I chose to build a machine with 750 x 750 mm footprint which will give me about 22.44” x 20.66” of travel.

The next consideration is what materials will this router be constructed from. Most DIY CNC routers are built using either MDF, aluminum extrusion, or steel. MDF can be easy to work with and cheap to buy and many first time builders use this material. Slotted aluminum extrusion, commonly from a company called 80/20, is used on many DIY CNC router design plans available on the internet. It offers many design options due to the large amount on mounting brackets and configurations the slotted design allows. Aluminum extrusion would also be the most expensive of the three methods I listed. Steel is also used to construct many DIY routers. Square tubing, angle, and flat stock are common and can usually be locally sourced. In most cases steel machines are welded together so a welder and the ability to weld are necessary. Steel is generally going to be less expensive per foot than aluminum extrusion. Unfortunately I don’t have access to a welder and power hacksaw so I am forced to go with the aluminum extrusions even though the cost is higher. :(The OX kits available from Bulkman 3D all use aluminum extrusions and this is the mechanical system we will utilize for the construction of our CNC router.

The OX kit utilizes V-groove bearings. The chamfered slot along the aluminum extrusion is designed to fit standard V-Groove Bearings that are part of a carriage assembly built with a simple Dual Bearing Plate. Bearing pressure is easily adjustable using a wrench and Eccentric Bushing. This seems to me to be a good compromise as opposed to the much more expensive linear rail systems.

One of the keys in making my decision to go with the OX kit was the type of linear drive that it utilizes. The most common on DIY CNC routers are ribbed belts, ACME screws, and ball screws. It seems to me that the main consideration when choosing which system to use is not about how “good” each system is, but what materials you are intending to cut, and what tolerances you will require.

Belts are the cheapest of all solutions, and look increasingly cheaper on longer runs where you would otherwise have to deviate away from standard 8mm leadscrews. All in all, belts are the simplest and cheapest to implement. Belts have the additional advantage that when the motors are powered down, you can move the gantry around by hand. The OX kit utilizes belts for the X and Y axes and a lead screw for the Z-axis since this machine will primarily be a woodworking tool as well as a laser engraver.

All of the OX kits include an option for stepper motors. I chose to include the stepper motor option when I purchased my mechanical kit of parts. The motors are NEMA 23 rated at 345 oz-in torque (2.45 Nm).

Cost: I estimated my cost for the complete machine and electronics around $2000. Here is the breakdown:
Mechanical kit including NEMA 23, 345 oz-in (2.45 Nm) stepper motors: $535.00
Router spindle assembly including VFD, mounting bracket, and W.C.: $265.00
Motor drivers: $100.00
Controllers & Misc. Electronics: $400.00
Miscellaneous tooling: $200.00
Software: $275.00
Total Project: $2000.00

I suspect that I will end up going over budget given the cost of tooling and software, but that is down the road. I will try to post to this thread on a weekly basis as we go through the selection process for the stepper drivers, controller and spindle, as well as getting into the wiring of this machine tool.


See less See more
61 - 74 of 74 Posts
Yes, I succumbed to the virus everyone loves to hate. Fortunately, I have been vaccinated & boosted but that didn't make me immune. Coughing, running nose & general lethargy were the primary symptoms. I didn't really feel like going into the workshop - just wanted to sleep. Finally came around today and thought we might catch up.

Main electrical Panel

Finally got all of the wiring finished and mounted the electrical cabinet to the base. Still have to make up cables for the Home & Limit Switch wiring.

Electrical wiring Gas Computer hardware Engineering Machine

Electricity Electrical wiring Wood Circuit component Gas

Bicycle tire Wheel Automotive tire Wood Automotive exterior

VFD Panel

Got the VFD panel hooked up permanently to 220 VAC. Also, all the wiring from the controller is now connected to the VFD panel as well as the spindle power connections.

Circuit component Hardware programmer Electrical wiring Electronic engineering Electricity

Cable Tracks

I procured a couple of cable tracks that I am pondering how to attach and mount. The one on the left will be mounted on the X-axis and is 10x20 mm. The one on the right is the main cable track and will be mounted parallel to the Y-axis. it is 15 x 30 mm. How to attach the ends of these cable tracks poses some interesting challenges.

Automotive lighting Hood Automotive tire Motor vehicle Circuit component

Spindle Cooling

The following photos show the spindle cooling system I have chosen. It consists of two separate components. The first is the coolant reservoir and pump combo. It operates off of 12 VDC. The second is the fan and heat exchanger (radiator) which also operates off of 12 VDC. There are two challenges associated with utilizing this system. The first is how to physically mount these components on to the gantry. The second challenge is to figure out how to plumb these components since the tubing diameters for the heat exchanger and the pump are different and the tubing for the spindle is totally different. Stay tuned for future posts how I figure this out.

Fluid Liquid Gas Gadget Audio equipment

Home appliance Wood Gas Audio equipment Wire

Wood Audio equipment Gas Record player Hardwood

Z-Axis Rebuild

Still waiting for the parts to arrive from China. Stay tuned.
See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 2
Now that I have all of the electrics permanently installed, I have been checking to see if all systems are still working as they should. The X, Y and Z axis drives are working quite well, very smooth and quiet.

I have been able to get the spindle running directly from the VFD drive itself but have not been able to establish communications with the controller.

The tiny booklet provided with the VFD drive is full of tables that you need a magnifying glass to read. However, I found one table that I believe has the answer to what I need. This is a list of what they call Basic Function Parameters, and it lists 22 of them. I am only interested in two of them so I will replicate a portion of the table here:

Function Code
Name of Function
Setting Range and Data Content
Ex-factory Value
Parameter Locking​
0: Invalid 1: Valid
Control Mode​
0: Keyboard
1: External Terminal
2: Communication Port
Frequency Setting Selection​
0: Keyboard
1: A|1
2: Communication Port
3: Panel Potentiometer
4: A|2
5. PFI
6. A|1 + A|2

Let’s start with F001 Control Mode. We are given three options, one of which is the keyboard. This refers to the keypad on the faceplate of the VFD drive itself. Obviously, I don’t want to have to dive underneath the router every time I want to start and stop the spindle. So, the obvious selection would be External Terminal which would be the RMHV3.1 Controller.

The next parameter is F002 Frequency Setting Selection. This is the spindle speed control. Raising the frequency increases the spindle speed. Decreasing the frequency reduces the spindle speed. As configured from the factory, I can increase or decrease the speed of the spindle by rotating the potentiometer on the faceplate of the VFD. If I want to control the spindle speed from the RMHV3.1, I need to select Option 1: A|1 which supplies a 0-to-10-volt signal to this terminal which is proportional to the speed of the spindle.

Next, I am heading to the shop to implement these changes and report the results of the test.

Well, I just got back from the shop after implementing the changes (I think, cause it aint easy) and nothing, nada, bukes. Only local control for the spindle. I just finished a virtual on-line meeting; I have another tomorrow evening and I’m trying to get past the ravages of Covid. When will I get time to work on my machine?

Just to make my evening complete, I got an e-mail from Open Builds telling me that a couple of parts I ordered for the Z-axis upgrade are no longer available. I just poured a glass of merlot and I’m going to settle into bed with a good detective novel. Good night!
See less See more
Things have slowed down considerably on my build. The primary reason is that I am a mentor for a local high school robotics team, and we are in the middle of build season with our first competition scheduled for the second week in March. So, it has been all hands on deck - six days a week.

However, things have not stopped completely on my build..........

Spindle Control

Still trying to figure out why I cant turn the spindle on and off from my controller. In truth I have been doing a lot of research, but not a lot of time in the shop.

Cooling System

I have pretty much figured out the configuration and how I want to mount the components on the router frame. I have an evening off tomorrow and will cut some aluminum and fabricate a mounting bracket.

I also ordered some 9mm OD x 6mm ID for interconnecting the components. This is very flexible and replaces the stiff tubing supplied with the spindle.

Z-Axis Upgrade

Still no word on parts delivery. I still need to find replacements for the timing pulley that is no longer available from Open Builds.
See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 1
your work with the robotics team is commendable!! good luck in the competition!

this is probably one of those instances where the journey itself is more worthwhile than the destination...
Yeah, I really get a charge from working with these kids. Our first competition is the greater Pittsburgh Regional in four weeks and this is our most ambitious design ever. The robot will feature swerve drives and a full autonoumous mode. Unfortunately it sort of puts my build on the back burner, but hey, if the kids are all in - so am i!
  • Like
Reactions: 1
Yeah, I'm back. After 2 months working with these kids 6 days a week at the shop and at the practice field and two regional competitions it is time to get back to my router project.

If you recall, I was having issues with getting the controller to communicate with the VFD. After much trial and error, I definitely confirmed that the issue was not with the controller. (no need to get into the technical details, suffice it say we proved the controller is not the issue).

I went through the Chinglish manual going through all the programming parameters. Whatever I did only made things worse and there was no one I could talk to. I went on-line to some other forums and no one could help me with my issue. After all, what can you expect from a $75 VFD.

Tonight, I bit the bullet and bought a TECO Westinghouse L510 inverter. I chose this inverter because the manual is in easy to read English, has an easy to understand set-up protocol, and a great troubleshooting guideline.

Also, I need to get back to my Z-axis upgrade.

Talk to you soon

See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 1
nice to see you back Albert, how did the team do?
Our Team did not fare so well at the Greater Pittsburgh Regional but we did manage a 6th place finish at the Smokey Mountain Regional in Knoxville, TN. (Out of 48 teams competing all over the Southeast)

I'm heading to the shop now to tear apart the VFD panel.
  • Like
Reactions: 1
Just checked my e-mail and this is the one message I did not want to see:
"Hi Albert,

Thank you for ordering from Marshall Wolf Automation. We are processing your order and anticipate it to ship from Illinois in 4-5 weeks via UPS Ground.

Let me know if you have questions."

I did a search of other sources for an identical VFD and I could get one in 7-10 days but at a cost of $70 to $100 more.

I still have to do a re-build of the Z-axis so I will let it ride for now.

I will post an update on the cost of this project in a future post.
See less See more
  • Sad
Reactions: 1
Been a while since I posted but I have not been idle. While waiting for the new VFD I have been working to install the Hall Effect limit switches. In addition I have added the CableTrax in order to keep the cabling neat and in order. While in the process of adding the CableTrax and the limit switches I ran into a couple of problems.

The first problem was that the “Y” axis stopped working. WTF! My worst fears were that the controller shit the bed. I brought out my Siglent O’scope and checked the output inside the controller box. I got a beautiful square wave signal which matched the same signal I got on the other two axes. Next, I checked the pulse signal in the distribution terminal board in the main electrical panel. Nothing… nada. The problem was in the cable or the DB25 connectors between the controller and the main electrical panel. We eventually isolated the problem to the DB25 connector going in to the main controller panel.

I have configured my limit switches as follows:

X – Home X – End of Travel

Y – Home Y – End of Travel

Z – Home Z – End of Travel

I have not wired up the Z – axis limits since I will be completely rebuilding the Z-axis assembly. However when putting the X and Y axis limits through their paces I discovered that the Y-axis end of travel limit was not operating as it should. In other words the POS was defective!

Next steps are to replace the Y – End of travel limit and start to rebuild the X-axis assembly

Wood Engineering Gas Machine Machine tool

Electrical wiring Audio equipment Electronic engineering Computer hardware Cable

Circuit component Light Hardware programmer Electronic instrument Audio equipment

Chair Electrical wiring Cable Gas Engineering
Motor vehicle Bicycle part Bumper Bicycle handlebar Hood
Automotive lighting Motor vehicle Grille Bumper Automotive exterior
Circuit component Light Hardware programmer Electronic instrument Audio equipment
Electrical wiring Audio equipment Electronic engineering Computer hardware Cable
Wood Engineering Gas Machine Machine tool
Chair Electrical wiring Cable Gas Engineering

Automotive lighting Motor vehicle Grille Bumper Automotive exterior

Motor vehicle Bicycle part Bumper Bicycle handlebar Hood
See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 4

how are you coming along Albert?
Six weeks ago my wife underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor. For the time being I have been focused on her rehab and my project has been put on hold. Did I start this project too late in life?
  • Like
Reactions: 1
Prayers and well wishes for your wife to make best possible speedy recovery.

Never too late to experience the joy of creating with your hands and keeping your brain active.
  • Like
Reactions: 1
i am very sorry to hear that news!

i hope your wife has a complete and smooth recovery! sounds like she has a great rehab nurse!
61 - 74 of 74 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.