The Internets: DIY CNC Machine Resources & More

A CNC Turning Center in the FAME Lab in the Le...

A CNC Turning Center in the FAME Lab in the Leonhard Building at Penn State. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When it comes to CNC machine resources there is nothing better than having the internet at your fingertips.  Whether you’re into DIY CNC, looking for used CNC machines and replacement parts, sharpening your g-code skills, or pondering the pursuit of a CNC hobby, you’ll find a wealth of valuable information.

If you’ve been following me for some time you know that there are a number of sites and locations I’ll periodically tout.  The Practical Machinist immediately comes to mind as a wonderful forum and valuable CNC machine resource for the machinist/operator and CNC hobbyist alike.  Another blog that I frequent, and which I’ve linked in the sidebar some time ago  is the CNC Cookbook blog.

The CNC Cookbook blog  posts are interesting, in-depth, and accessible to all CNC machine enthusiasts.  Bob Warfield covers a variety of topics from cookbooks on using his G-Wizard G-Code editor to advancements in 3-d printing.  With 20,000 and counting members you know you can’t go wrong by dropping in for a visit.

DIY CNC Machine Resources

Which brings me to mentioning a recent post/cookbook Mr. Warfield put together over at CNC Cookbook:

DIY CNC Cookbook: In-Depth Articles on Building CNC Machines, CNC Routers, and 3D Printers

This is the kind of resource you are going to want to take a look at especially if you are considering going the DIY CNC route and building your own.  Mr. Warfield has put together an in-depth cookbook covering all the angles.

G-Code Tutorials

Since I’m touting the expertise over at the CNC Cookbook I thought I’d mention they’ve also cooked up an extensive G-code tutorial and course.

As the man say’s, every machinist should know g-code, and that means you as well.  Jump on over and see what I’m shouting about!

CNC Cookbook: G-code Tutorial and Course

Your Turn

What about you?  Know of a great CNC machine related blog or resource and would like to share?  A favorite CNC internet stomping ground?  Let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to share!

CNC Machine History & More

Continuing with last weeks post on CNC machine education, I thought I’d drop a link to the CMS North America Inc. site which contains an article entitled:  “A Brief History of CNC Machining”.  The article highlights John Parson’s work on the precursor to CNC – numerical control – and how this work led to developments at MIT in 1949.  As the article states, while these beginnings were rudimentary compared to today’s machines, there is still much commonality: the requirement of a command function, a drive/motion system, and a feedback system.

An interesting, though brief read, for anyone interested in the history and development that has led to their CNC machine center.  Now just imagine finding that humongous bad-boy at your local used CNC machine outlet?  Sheesh…

CNC Machine Manuals

Keeping with the resource nature of this site I came across a post over at the Practical Machinist forum earlier today that led to a trove of CNC machine manuals.  While I had hoped to come across a bounty of Haas related manuals and resources, this could be a valuable and helpful list for those of you out there with different types of CNC machines. I don’t recognize all the types, but could be helpful for the DIY CNC or hobby CNC crowd out there as well.

One quick caveat, and don’t let it discourage you: this is a French site.  Just use your Google translate and you should be good to go.  Say you want a milling manual.  Select milling from the category, select the manual type, and you’ll find a link at the top that should lead you to a pdf or a download.  Much to be searched and discovered here.

A trove of CNC machine related manuals

CNC Shop/Business Tips

Last but not least for this glorious Friday afternoon is  “10 Tips for Growing Your CNC Machining Business” from Thomasnet.com.  Some decent, general advice here for the self-employed shop owner.  It’s never a bad idea to read up a bit and see if there are aspects of your business you’ve neglected, or ways to improve and expand your business that you may have overlooked.

Your Turn

How about you, any related bits you’d like to share regarding the history of CNC machining, links to manuals, or shop and business tips that should be included with Thomasnet.com’s list?  Let me know in the comments below!

CNC Machine Manufacturing: Education

image via ToneAudio.com

image via ToneAudio.com

Imagine my surprise today while perusing the internet’s for some CNC machine related goodness and coming across a mention of  Rock Valley College over at The Modern Machine Shop.  Let’s just say that I’m familiar with Rock Valley College and have met many an upstart who schooled there.  From everything I know about the school and the quality of it’s graduates it definitely speaks to a well-rounded and thorough program.

CNC Machining and Education:

The Modern Machine Shop has a great video describing some of the aspects of what it is like to study manufacturing.  This video serves as an introduction for anyone considering a career as a CNC machinist or any other related specialty in machine manufacturing and the education that accompanies achieving that goal.

You can view their video and brief here: What it is like to study manufacturing.

A couple of points I liked from the video (I’m paraphrasing here):

Misconception: “…the misconception that there are still some ‘easy’ jobs out there. The reality that there is a wealth of knowledge one has to immerse themselves in before they are a skilled enough employee to be of real value to a company..”

While there may be some easy jobs out there, somewhere, CNC machining is not one of them.  Sure, if you’re a general operator (sometimes referred to as a ‘button pusher’) your work may not get too complicated.  The reality is that many a machinist is a living compendium of knowledge and skills: Electronics, mathematics, programming, trouble-shooting know-how, mechanical and machine aptitude, materials knowledge, etc.  The reality is also that you’re probably not working on a brand spanking new CNC machine (if you are you have my heartfelt jealousy at present).  More likely you’re running a used CNC machine that has seen it’s fair share of use and abuse.  With that comes trouble-shooting CNC repairs, CNC parts replacement, alarm diagnosis, and beyond.

Education is going to cover many aspects of what you’ll need to know, but as the man said, it’s pertinent for the beginning student to understand that this field does require immersion into a wealth of knowledge.  If creating with a CNC machine get’s your juices flowing than prepare to fill your brain with a variety of information and knowledge.

Subjects:  “…studied physics, electronics, strength of materials…”.

As the young man describes in the video, he has been introduced to and required to study a variety of topics and information.  He’s also working hands on with the machines, processes, and is involved in actual projects.  Like I mentioned above, there are many more skills one needs to acquire as well.

Employment Opportunity:  “…job placement right away…companies interest greater than the number of students at present…”.

Drifting?  Milling about in your garage with that CNC hobby?  Put that interest to work!  Granted, job placement and industry interest is going to vary depending on your location, but all the signs are pointing to the positive regarding manufacturing, and specifically CNC machine manufacturing, at present and in the future.

Your Turn:

What do you think about the content of these video’s?  Are they simply nice product placements for Rock Valley College, Haas CNC machines, and Fadal, or are they doing the good work of promoting manufacturing education?  What are your thoughts on the quality of students you’ve interacted with whom have attended programs like the one in the video?  Leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments!

DIY CNC: The Kickstarter Way

English: Fireworks on the Fourth of July

English: Fireworks on the Fourth of July (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Fourth of July has come and gone, though for many of us the celebrations continue throughout the weekend.  What a wonderful time of year to celebrate our independence and the innovative American spirit!  When I think of what makes America great much comes to mind: our indomitable work ethic, our spirit of innovation, American Manufacturing (…hat tip to our CNC machine operators and machinists out there!…), the bravery and sacrifice of the men and women of our armed forces (a hearty salute to those American warriors!)…the list is endless.

Kickstarting CNC

 

Speaking of innovation I came across a few items this past week that the DIY CNC crowd may find interesting.  Heck us “regular” CNC metal heads may find it of interest as well.  Kickstarter is an interesting idea/funding generator.  It speaks to that ingenuity and innovation I mentioned above: a truly American spirit.  When I was pondering our great American heritage and what it meant to be a CNC machinist in America, I got to thinking about our inventiveness and curiosity.  One thing led to another and I came across these Kickstarter projects (see below).  In hindsight, it seems an obvious extension of the CNC machinists inventiveness and curiosity to find a place among the innumerable Kickstarter projects seeking funding everyday.

The Handibot:   From the site: “Handibot is a robotic, multi-purpose tool for makers that’s controlled by smart phones and computers via programmable apps.  Think of it as a portable CNC that’s capable of cutting, drilling, carving, and many other machining operations.”  

Now this is obviously a limited-capability machine, ideal for the DIY individual, tinker-er, garage workshop environment.  When I first saw this little CNC machine I thought it was made out of plastic, but viewing some of the sites video’s leads me to believe it may be a bit more durable.  Also, while I understand the video’s are intended to demonstrate the Handibot’s versatility and variety of applications, some of these demonstrations seem a bit contrived.  Example: as someone who has done a fair share of his own home construction it’s much easier to use a handheld router to cut a utility box hole in some drywall.  You’d be finished with a room by the time you set this thing up.  The same goes for cutting out stair risers: much quicker for the reasonably seasoned person to line out their steps with a square and knock it out with a skill-saw.

What I do like about this is the fact that it’s open source.  To me that means that that innovative and curious spirit we harbor is going to find ingenious uses and expressions with this little guy.  I can only begin to imagine the various apps and programs the DIY Maker crowd will come up with.  I also think it’s a great introduction for the younger set out there.

The Othermill:  From the site: “The Othermill is a portable, computer controlled, 3-axis mill that is specifically designed for use at home or in a small workspace. Our objective is to build a mill that is compact, clean, and quiet enough for use at home, yet is precise enough for high level electrical and mechanical prototyping work. The Othermill will be at home on your desk, in your workshop, or on your kitchen table.”

Another DIY-centric machine, though specializing in custom circuit creation.  This just “sparks” my imagination.  Now only if I were more electrically inclined.  Once again, an open source project with quite a bit of versatility.  Ideal for those with limited space but large imaginations.  It will be interesting to see in the day’s ahead what interesting and varied creations people come up with!

 

Your Turn:

Know of any innovative CNC related Kickstarter project’s out there that need some attention?  Let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to share!