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Some links about me. Many of my 3D designs are free. I also post on Google+ and in another blog, oz4.us
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Monday, March 30, 2015

CNC fail? 3D printed design blows my ears instead of the dust

I bought a well-built Chinese CNC machine last year, namely a 4 axis CNC3040Z-DQ router/engraver, for about €1000 (as far as I remember).

Milling a PCB with a low cost CNC router/engraver controlled by LinuxCNC.
My initial need was to "etch" electronics PCB boards at home, to get rid of so called proto- and perf boards. This machine is overkill for the job, but I do not regret my purchase since it can do much more than PCB milling...

But only recently did I spend enough time to use it. Even though the reliability and consistency of a CNC milling machine is way better than that of a 3D printer, the whole process is cumbersome. It takes a lot of time to get used to the software, which is a decade behind the ergonomics of more intuitive 3D printing software. Worst, the controlling software like linuxCNC or Mach3 still require a parallel port and a special real-time distribution of linux. Both are a real pain because you need a dedicated and obsolete machine just to drive the CNC. Recent projects like GRBL are knocking at the door though, as an alternative to parallel port hardware: they rely on Arduinos, but are limited by the power of this platform. ARM-based boards are more promising, especially for fast machines, or when you have more than 3 axis of freedom (e.g. see 6DoF)

Note: I may write more about CNC machining at home, its software and process in other posts. But I start here with a quick, funny, and miserable failure of mine, that was meant to be an improvement in the first place. And, well, it mixes printing and milling so it is a good transition.