DIY CNC Machine

Project Description


After the recent foray of large projects, I’ve been trying to find ways to build better, faster, and more efficiently. I’ve also always been a fan of CNC machinery. So, after saving up $5,000 while in college, I bit the bullet and began ordering the several thousand parts necessary to build my own CNC machine! The goal of this project was to expand upon the traditional 4’x4′ DIY CNC machines, to a 5’x6′, as well as increase stiffness to the gantry design seen around the web, so I could eventually cut aluminum (thinking about my quadcopter here).

I documented it on JoesCNC forum, a private CNC enthusiast forum, but here you can get the gist of the amount of labor involved. While school was eating me alive, I would spend my weekends and sleepless week nights working on the design, and assembly of this behemoth. I don’t recall the exact amount of hours spent, but the machine took 6 months of assembly and LinuxCNC tweaking to make it operational.  Today, I use it mostly for birthday and Christmas gift making, and the occasional odd job for coworkers and friends.

Biggest lessons learned:

  • Screws like to come loose
  • Mild steel, is very malleable
  • 1/4″ carbide bits flex quite a bit
  • Precision is more important the harder the material being cut is
  • Speeds & feeds – gotta know them!
  • Linux is extremely versatile
  • CNC machines can break themselves when not babysat

Project Details

1 Computer Running LinuxCNC
1 HobbyCNC Control Board
4 Nema 34 Stepper Motors
4 Limit Switches
1,600 Nuts and Bolts
24 Feet of Rack and Pinion Drive
4 Full Sheets of MDF
100 Feet of Angle Iron
10 Bandaids