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  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’s list?  Let me know in the comments below!


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!




DIY CNC: Great Site Addition for DIY CNC Related Content


I feel like I’ve been on a roll here the past week when it comes to promoting DIY CNC machining.  I don’t know whether I’m getting better at Google search or if Google just “knows” what I’m looking for.  Either way, I’ve found yet another great site to recommend to you for the DIY CNC aficionado’s out there.


I came across DIY CNC today while parsing through a number of DIY sites.  This is a well organized ( not bad on the eyes either) site filled with varied content related to DIY CNC.

A quick perusal of the site:

  • DIY CNC plans and projects
  • CNC machine tutorials
  • Tools, products, and software
  • 3D printing, build-kits, resources, and more

Whether it’s a love of the  DIY CNC hobby or just the love of machining, it’s blog’s and website’s like the a-fore-mentioned that can grab ahold of you and inspire.  I’ve had plenty of days when the job felt like a grind and the love I had for CNC machining felt like it was slipping away: used CNC machines going  down  and needing repair, parts getting scrapped, customers cancelling orders, etc.  Thankfully those times were short blips on my life’s radar, but I can only imagine how different those times might have been had I had some personal projects of my own going on.

How about you?  As we head into the weekend to unwind and enjoy ourselves, are you striking up a new DIY CNC project?  If so, let me know. I’d be happy to showcase your work if you’d like to share!

DIY CNC: Using SketchUp

I’ve been thinking about DIY CNC for quite some time, and it seems the more I dig into it, the more interested I become.  The DIY/Maker movement is  fascinating, and once you start down the DIY rabbit hole you discover there is a whole world of useful and exciting possibilities out there.  One of the great things about DIY is the community and the sharing of knowledge, tips, and CNC hobby tutorials.  I was digging around over my lunch break the other day and started thinking about software.  Free software (free as in beer!).



Enter SketchUp (previously known as Google SketchUp).  The FREE download of SketchUp allows you to create 3-d images with a highly intuitive interface.  Think AutoCad but stripped down and simplified.  I’ve known about SketchUp for a time but never toyed around with it, though I began wondering if the DIY CNC hobby machinist might be able to put this piece of software to good use.  A bit more investigation revealed that with a bit of fortitude you most certainly can.

DIY CNC: SketchUp to CNC

This tutorial, while looking a little dated, will give you the general break down on how you can utilize SketchUp for your own DIY CNC machine projects.  A basic summary: You export your SketchUp file, which uses the same file type as Google Earth, and you upload it into another free software package: Blender.  Blender is a powerful, and free (free as in beer) 3-d creation software package which will then allow you to export your file in DXF or STL format.  According to the author, “Once created, these files can be loaded into MeshCam or CAMBAM Plus (or another similar program) and used to generate 3D G-code for your CNC.”

The article is a bit older, and looking at leaves me to the conclusion that you no longer have to separately download the Python file.  DIY made somewhat simpler.

Now since we have the software down, tomorrow I’ll be digging into building your own CNC machine.  While we can often find good prices on used CNC machines and parts, some may be limited by financial and space constraints.  We’ll look at that tomorrow, in the meantime, how about you?  What software do you use for your DIY CNC projects?

Haas CNC Machine Operation Tutorial

As I was traversing the web this morning looking for CNC machine resources I came across an interesting site.  This falls perfectly into the DIY movement and involves building a robot. Yep, I’m not joking, building a robot. The Society of Robots covers all the angles to build a small robot: parts and hardware needed, tools, and tutorials (though it appears he charges 50$…looks legit to me but do so at your own discretion). Best of all, there is a section dedicated to creating robotic parts with a Haas CNC machine.


DIY CNC Machining: A Quick Boilerplate Intro


Now, I can’t say I completely agree with the persons assessment that you can only find a Haas CNC mill for 100k (a quick jump over to All-Haas proves that you can find a used CNC machine for about half that) but this little no-frills intro could be interesting for someone just starting to get the itch for a little homegrown DIY CNC.  All you need is the inspiration (albeit the robot) and a person can be on their way to learning a whole host of new skills.

I have to admit, after perusing the site I’m interested in building a little robot of my own.  Maybe something that could grab me a Bud Light from the fridge and bring it to me when I’m watching a ball game.  Hmmm….


Bonus: 2007 Haas Mill Operators Manual


Okay, so maybe you’re not interested in buying a used CNC machine or building beer wielding robots, but I’m constantly hearing calls for operators manuals.  If you do have a used CNC mill resources like this can be very handy.  I came across this today as well and thought I’d toss in a link. I hope you might get some use out of it.  How about yourself: do you have any CNC operators manuals you’d like to share?  They don’t have to be Haas specific.  In the end, I’m trying to build a CNC resource location.



DIY CNC Hobbyists: Blogs and Resources


image via Make

For a lot of CNC machine operators the love of CNC machining doesn’t end once we clock out at the end of the day.  Many of us go home to personal shops where we’ve mottled together used CNC machines and parts over the course of a number of years (some of us even buy new!).  Maybe it’s for the simple pleasure of doing it yourself, making money on the side, or maybe your daily job is somewhat of a grind (pun intended) and you’ve a creative streak that needs more expression.  Whatever it is, for those of us with home shops there is a vibrant and thriving DIY CNC community out there.

DIY CNC: It’s Not Just Machine Repair


For some, DIY means repair and replacement. It means learning about your machine and saving yourself time and money knowing how to maintain it’s upkeep and to repair it when it breaks down.  They would be correct, but DIY doesn’t end there.  DIY also means awesome projects, creating stuff for the sake of creating, or even hacking existing products to Make something new.

As Bob Warfield said recently over at his CNC Cookbook blog, manufacturing IS cool again.  We owe some big thanks to the push of the DIY/Maker community for sparking a whole new generations imagination…and some older ones as well.

If you’re new to DIY CNC than take a look at some of the links above: they’re a great place to start and should lead you further along.  If you’re already familiar, or actively engaged, why not share where you find great DIY related information and reading?

DIY CNC Machine Training Videos

I recently joined and now visit a number of  CNC machine forums on a daily basis. I do this for a number of reasons:  I’m looking to stay on top of the CNC machine landscape, I’m looking for DIY CNC how-to’s or to help out someone with a question, and I’m simply looking to be a part of the CNC machining community.  It’s a robust community with some great personalities and a wealth of experience and knowledge.  A couple I recommend if you’re interested: The Practical Machinist and The CNC Professional Forum.

DIY Training Videos: A Crash Course in Milling on YouTube

image via Wikipedia

image via Wikipedia

One thing I’ve noticed quite a bit recently during my forum visits are persons looking for basic CNC training materials.  They have new recruits in their shops with limited knowledge and are trying to supplement them with solid training materials.  While looking at a few CNC Crash videos over my morning coffee I came across a series of high quality intro to milling videos.

There appear to be 9 video’s in total, with each at around 3 minutes.  These look like a great intro for a student or if you’re taking someone on with little to no experience.

You can start here: Crash Course in Milling: Chapter 1

Always on the lookout for CNC How-to’s and Training Materials


If you know of some valuable CNC machine repair and replacement how-tos, or quality training materials,  drop me a line and let me know.  I’ll happily include them within the site.