CnC Router

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The workshop now has a CNC router. It has been loaned to us by Matt Harding. So please be kind to it.

It is a 4'x4' sliding table/fixed gantry setup with a maximum 10" of Z travel. Currently it has a handheld router attached that has a 1/4" chuck.

We will be using Mach3 to control it. Run the Mach3-Loader and then choose the "Logitrol-Mach3" profile.

For reference the gantry is the X axis, and the table is the Y axis. There are no limit switches so be careful not to run to the end of each axis. Doing this repeatedly will cause the ball screws to fail and it is an expensive repair.

Setup and Configuration

How to use

While using the CNC router does require that you go through training with applicable trainer, it's useful to already have an understanding of both basic woodworking and milling concepts. The following link is a tutorial put together by MAKE which demonstrates many of the concepts needed to safely operate a CNC router. Tutorial on MAKE


  • Dust boot around the spindle to contain and collect the dust
    • Brennan is to be looking for a supplier for buying a dust boot appropriate for this spindle
  • Limit switches added to each end of each of the axis
    • Limit switches just need to be wired up to the emergency stop pins on the back of the ESC
  • CNC router needs a new bed if you want to cut anything flat
    • Bed should be rebuilt from the bottom up so that we can better secure it to the mounts underneath
    • Bed will need to be surfaced by the CNC to make sure it is flat for the tool
  • Cable tracks
    • Installation of the cable tracks currently on the machine need tweaking to ride properly
  • Cable management
  • The Y axis needs a collar on the ball screw to protect the machine when (not if) you run the machine off the axis
  • Mount the spindle cutter
    • Buy and install mounting brackets to hold the new spindle to the Z axis
    • Install shielded power cables from the VFD to the spindle motor - The cables should be 8 gauge
    • Buy and install a stop button to kill the VFD
    • Buy and install breakers for 40A of power
      • Breaker for the VFD
      • Breaker for feeder line
      • Perhaps installing a separate sub panel near the router for these new breakers
    • Install liquid cooling - We have the pump but we still need a cooler and all of the hose needed for installation
  • Zeroing plate


Q: What's the depth limit (ie: can I cut 5/8" boards)?

A: At least an inch usually. It depends on the depth of the end mill and surrounding clearance. The Z carriage however will likely never give you problems with depth.

Q: I assume it's a 3D cut, so it can route out domes?

A: Likely yes however it is untested. You would need to change mills from what is in the machine because an end mill won't give you a nice cut or be efficient. You'd need to use a v bit or ball nose bit.

Q: Will it cut plywood, or should I be sticking to MDF?

A: It cuts plywood perfectly. Probably better than MDF actually. However, MDF is a heck of a lot cheaper than plywood and so that's what we're cutting with right now.

Q: What's the size of the cutting head? (ie: what's the narrowest line I can cut)

A: The end mill we're currently using now is a 1/4 inch diameter end mill.

Q: How deep should I cut per pass?

A: A good rule of thumb is to cut with a depth equal to the radius of the cutter. In our case, because we use a 1/4" cutter, that distance is 1/8" or 0.125".

Q: How fast does the router bit spin?

A: The router is a fixed speed style machine with a target RPM of 25,000. Use your ears and gut to figure out how close it is from reaching that target.

Q: At what feed rate should I be cutting?

A: The feed rate can be calculated using the equation found in the tutorial above along side various chip load charts for different materials from across the internet.