I bought a CNC machine on eBay. Here's how I got it to work.
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readme.md

readme.md

Getting Started

Rationale

I'm one of the co-creators of DIYLILCNC, a project that aims to make CNC more accessible to artists, designers and makers. We started right around the same time as Makerbot, and we all know now that cheap 3D printing won out in a big way. CNC milling is harder, requiring more steps and technical know-how. But it can also be more rewarding, as the resulting objects preserve the character of the materials they are carved from.

The first two DIYLILCNC kits were intended for folks that were willing to trade some accuracy for cost/accessiblity. Now that those two designs are out in the world, I got interested in purchasing a machine with a heavier metal gantry.

Suppliers

You can find full kits or just mechanicals (gantry with no motors, spindle or electrical control) on Amazon, Ebay and Aliexpress. I was surprised to find that Aliexpress was not the cheapest route. A few sellers maintain warehouses in the US, but shipping on heavy items can still be pretty pricey. This site helped me compare search terms on ebay to find the best deal. I searched for "6040 CNC".

Specs (What I Purchased)

  • Work Area: 60cm x 40cm
  • Motor Size: 57 / NEMA 23
  • Axes: 4 (XYZA)
  • Spindle: 800w, fluid-cooled
  • Controller: Parallel-based (so I can use LinuxEMC)

Manufacturer(?)

After I purchased my rig from eBay and started using it I did some repairs. This exposed manufacturer part numbers, which brought me to this site. I can't vouch for the site personally, but it certainly looks less sketchy than the eBay sellers (who are probably just selling outdated/knockoff versions of the OmioCNC product). These kits come with some nice extras, like a tool touchoff sensor and a USB-based controller. The tradeoff is that you're looking at ~$300 for shipping from China and need to find/purchase your own compatible machine controller software.

Additional Considerations

Lots of folks have done this before, so we don't have to go into things totally blind. Many reviewers indicate that the control systems that come with these machines are no good - you'll hear a lot of complaints about the dreaded blue board (which I did not end up with). I also picked up a TinyG controller board just in case, but I haven't had to use it yet.

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Signal Culture, where I was Toolmaker in residence in January 2016. Debora and Jason at Signal Culture provided me with the space to get this project started. If you are an artist who works with technology you should check their program out.