DIY CNC Part 1: Research
You ask yourself what is a CNC? Well, CNC could stand for Chicken Noodle Coalition but I really am not interested in creating a chicken noodle coalition, however I am interested in building a machine to automate the process of cutting RC parts for my growing fleet of aerial platforms. A CNC machine stands for Computer Numerical Control and is used for the automation of tools to cut, weld, drill, and/or to print objects in 3d. Yes, star trek has arrived on scene and you can now print up any thing your heart desires like AR15 parts, but that is another DIY project for another day.
The system basically uses a computer which sends commands to a tool, like a Dremel, telling the tool what direction to cut, weld, draw, drill, or print. There are desktop type machines for the hobbyist and industrial type machines but regardless of the size, they all function similar in that they generally operate on the x,y,and z axis to create the product.
To give you an idea of the difference between price gouging and what is available out there, I present this brief example. I recently needed a part for one of my aerial platforms. After several days of browsing on the internet I was not impressed and quite honestly I was extremely fired up about the cost of the part. Who would think a little part cut out of carbon fiber would cost over $150.00 dollars? Sure carbon fiber is nice, but after pricing the materials to make the part, it was clear to me what steps I should take.
Epoxy sheet $8 bucks, miscellaneous parts $20 bucks and so for approximately $30 dollars in parts, I could make the part which would work and function as required, and save around $120 dollars in the process. That kind of savings could purchase quite a few materials for my CNC machine. A CNC machine used to make your own parts can have the effect of saving you a fist full of dollars in the long run.
Now keep in mind, I have never owned nor operated a CNC machine so building one is certainly going to be a challenging task but I hope to learn a few things along the way which I plan on sharing with you. When I told a buddy I was building one his response was “good luck finding the parts.” Sounded like the first challenge to me.
There are many sources of information and plans on the internet on how to build a DIY CNC machine and many choices on buying one. I thought about just purchasing a kit but this would do nothing for me other than making it easy to get it up and running. I wanted to understand the process so if I had any troubles with the machine I could easily troubleshoot the problems.
The first step was deciding what I wanted to build and I landed on a company page who sells an eBook with some good information at a reasonable price. The $14 dollars for the eBook was reasonable and the startup company was located in the US who got the funding to develop their desktop CNC machines through Kickstarter. I personally always try and support small US companies and often browse and support projects on Kickstarter.
The eBook was detailed enough to provide me with information on how to go about getting the parts and building the machine. A link to the eBook can be found below. Reading the book, it was clear I would be able to obtain most of the parts through Home Depot, Lowes, Ace Hardware and other sources and now the journey begins on the build.