View Full Version : Purchasing a z-axis?

08-11-2008, 12:09 PM
Hi there,
I have been putting together my own cnc mill. I've put together the X and Y axes, but I have been thinking lately that I'd prefer to purchase the z axis instead of making it. It just seems a little to findly, and I don't think I could make it accurate enough.

The only problem is that I can't find anywhere that does one at a reasonable price! Can anyone help?

I found this:

but its a little expensive for what is essentially three blocks of metal a lead screw and some bearings?

Also found this:

Scroll right to the bottom...

That would have been about right, but communication with the guy went dead when I asked him if he could put the item up on his ebay store instead of me sending money through the post.

Looking for something in the 200 - 250 range. Anyone know where I could get something like this. Or would someone be willing to use their CNC machine to mill me some parts?

Thanks for your help,

Lee Roberts
08-11-2008, 12:50 PM
How much do you want for that kip?

Lee Roberts
08-11-2008, 01:08 PM
ok mate, pop an Ad in the buy/sell section so we know when as i may have a bid on that myself. Whats the sizes..

08-11-2008, 02:13 PM
Hey Kip,
Thanks for the welcome and reply.

Definitely looking to mill alu, and about 100mm to 150mm travel on the z axis. Not much in other words.

Your z axis interests me, but I can view the larger picture, it keeps on asking me to login, even though I am. The fact that it does't have a motor mount is a little worrying. What would be involved in getting a 23 Nema motor mounted to that?


Lee Roberts
08-11-2008, 02:17 PM
Hi dave, welcome to the forums mate, dont know why its asking you to login, hover over the images they should auto open/go bigger for you.

also try this link:



Let me know !

08-11-2008, 03:20 PM
How much with the motor mount :) Direct drive I think.

I'm a CNC newbie, so I'm not quite sure what you mean by "It will be light cuts on AL at 100mm extension".

Also, any chance of a 43mm spindle mount?

Lee; the images seem to be working now, but I didn't know about the hovering thing. I was clicking. Cheers!

08-11-2008, 06:37 PM
I think you might have a deal...

Motors are the standard steppers going around...


Unfortunately there is no datasheet going around for them, but I measure the shaft to be 20mm.

Picture attached should give you some idea... The design isn't great I know, but it was more about ease of putting together. I figured once I had something working I could then design better parts etc.


08-11-2008, 08:46 PM
Hey kip,
sent you an email.

But just for anyone else...

The whole thing is made out of aluminium... If anyone has anyone wants to recommend changes or point me to some pictures / designs of a more suitable mill for al, please do.

Also, if anyone has a use for a 400mm long ballscrew + nut with machined ends please let me know... it will be going on ebay soon. Bought with the intention of making a zaxis but of course now I don't need it :D.

Will post a picture of what I have so far soon.


09-11-2008, 03:31 AM
... a 400mm long ballscrew + nut with machined ends ...
Dave, what diameter/pitch/make? I may be interested

09-11-2008, 06:24 PM
As it turns out its not 400mm, more like 340mm, 230mm usable thread. 16mm diameter at the threaded bit, 10mm shaft, and 6.35 tip. I'll double check that later. Pic attached, with a 300mm ruler next to the screw.

09-11-2008, 10:13 PM
Ace, how longs it taken so far?

13-11-2008, 01:35 PM
This looks like one of mine?
If so this is the details, and it is mm pitch.


As it turns out its not 400mm, more like 340mm, 230mm usable thread. 16mm diameter at the threaded bit, 10mm shaft, and 6.35 tip. I'll double check that later. Pic attached, with a 300mm ruler next to the screw.

23-11-2008, 04:58 PM
Hi Dave

I'm interested to see how you're getting on. I'm also in the process of designing (and hopefully, later, building) a CNC gantry style router.

I was wondering about how much Z travel to allow; seems on the face of it that 250 mm is a good compromise between rigidity and travel. I haven't done any calcs, but just by 'seat of the pants' engineering it looks to me that much more than that and it just looks a bit too far. Most of the time I imagine it will be operating at the far end of its Z travel too, unless I put a riser on the table.

Does your Z axis screw have a 'zero backlash' nut? How much are you looking to get for it?

I attach a pic of my design so far, for what it's worth. Criticism and suggestions are most welcome :D!

24-11-2008, 06:50 PM
I'm sure the guys on here will give you a good estimate on what's a good amount of travel for a z axis (maybe start your own build thread? i'll be doing the same soon enough). I'm just a beginner on these things myself, so I'll leave it too someone more informed :).

The one I got off kip has about 115mm of travel, but I won't be using it all, because I simply will never be milling that far.

I had the ballscrew on ebay for 50, but no one was interested, so I guess I'll take 45 for it. After all a new ballnut alone from Zapp is that much, and it is new. Single nut.

I like the design on your router, but again... I'm just a beginner. I'm using linear rails now myself, and I do like :). My bank balance doesn't though :)

Also, by the looks of it your going to use some square alu tube for the frame? I suppose it depends on what tools you have available to you, but you might want to consider aluminium extrusion frame? I decided to go down that route after making a complete mess of the alu tube. It was alright, but I was never going to be able to make it accurate enough with just a hand drill.

24-11-2008, 11:58 PM
Well, I did wonder! Zero backlash sounds like a hard thing to achieve in the real world.

The intention is to build the whole thing, more or less, from steel, on the grounds that it's cheap, can be easily welded by someone I know from work, and is about 3 times more rigid than ally. I appreciate that the associated 3 times higher density might compromise the acceleration of the moving bits and bobs, but I reckoned that it would be fairly easy to upgrade motors and drives in the future, but much harder to rebuild with a rigid frame.

The plan at present is to build the rectangular frame, get it welded as near plane as possible, then get it skimmed or ground to a true plane. A machine shop near me reckoned they could do it for about 160.

I've been thinking about the Z. Although the asymmetric design looks a bit dodgy, I think it should work. After all, the Z slide has to be rigidly constrained anyway, so the slight offset load from the ball screw ought not to bother it. Also, I wanted to minimise the offset of the Z direction load from the shear centre of the gantry box beam, so that it is less prone to bending, and can be lighter. I hacen't got as far as the milling head carrier yet, but intend it to be a channel, for rigidity.

By the way, I'm using the linear rails mainly because I got very lucky and found a load in a scrap yard! Otherwise, I think I'd be using round rails and bearings.

I enclose a close up of the gantry and Z FYI.

Thank you both for your comments and help - much appreciated! Most people just think I've gone mad...



25-11-2008, 01:17 PM
It's all in an attempt to get rigidity in the head. I wanted to have two Y rails/carriages, separated by a distance in the Z direction, to provide rigidity against the Z rail flexing. I wanted to have just one lower carriage, back to back with one of the Z carriages, but then there's no way to attach them both to the plate, because you can't get to the bolt holes of one when the other is in place.

So I ended up with the slight extravagance of two lower Y carriages, and the lower of the two Z carriages, all in a line as close together as possible at the lower end of the bracket. Since I had a spare carriage, I thought I might as well use it. Then there is the top carriage, providing a brace and incidentally holding the other end of the driving plate.

I'm open to suggestions though. My main intention is to make it as rigid as possible, which hopefully would make a good foundation for any further improvements in future.



25-11-2008, 02:11 PM
I'm also planning on having a fair bit of Z travel, as I want to be able to machine moulds from foam. I've opted to raise the height of the X rails well above the table, so the gantry doesn't have to be so tall, and then fit the Y rails with a wide horizontal spacing. At the moment I'm hoping to be able to run the Z axis down between the two Y rails (see other thread on my small diameter DIY spindle to see how this might be possible).

The idea for this configuration came from looking at this machine: http://www.mechmate.com/, although I'm not building something this big (mine's about 800mm x 600mm x 250mm working volume).


25-11-2008, 02:39 PM
Sounds like your machine is to be similar size to mine - slightly shorter. I was thinking that for most jobs, if I didn't need the full Z travel, I would pack the job up a bit so the cutter isn't operating at full travel all the time.

25-11-2008, 03:18 PM
I'd had the same idea of packing the base up for shallow stuff. I may make up a second tall base from MDF using a torsion box design.

The challenge is to reduce flexure to the minimum, both by designing in stiffness and by restricting the offset distance of the cutter from the centre of each beam.

My Y axis beams are 2" square, 10g, alloy box sections, with 16mm fully supported SBR type rails fitted to the top of each. These beams are on 6" centres horizontally, so I have a gap of 4" between them. The Z axis will (I hope!) fit into this space, so that the cutter can retract back between the rails for maximum usable operating depth. Including the height of the rails, my Y axis beams are about 4.8" tall, so I'm hoping that they should remain stiff enough in the vertical axis to not noticeably deflect under the weight of the carriage and spindle.

I'm mounting the rails on top of 8" long 4" x 2" channel sections, mounted with the short faces at top and bottom, bolted directly to the carriages of the X axis. The X axis rails are also 16mm fully supported SBR ones, bolted to the top of another bit of 4" x 2" channel mounted on edge, with the bed bolted beneath. This gives me a nominal Z axis working height of about 248mm, although I can gain a bit more, if needed, by lowering the table a bit more.


25-11-2008, 05:29 PM
The challenge is to reduce flexure to the minimum, both by designing in stiffness and by restricting the offset distance of the cutter from the centre of each beam.

Absolutely! Do you have any pics of your design?

Lee Roberts
23-01-2009, 01:02 AM
What happened ? did you finish the parts for tonyel Kip ? Also why have you been editing your posts, taking pics out ?

23-01-2009, 02:59 PM
Hi Lee - sorry have gone a bit quiet! I've more or less finished the design of the frame bits, and am having a load of flat steel plate cut by a friend of mine who just happens to run a laser cutting job shop. As I'm not exactly paying top dollar, it'll just take as long as it takes, but I'm not really in a hurry. The delay allows me time to save up for the rest.

I'm also about to try and buy the steel beams for the base frame. Plan is to get them welded up at work, and then have a local firm mill a true plane on the top on which to mount the rails. I still haven't really figured out any of the motor stuff yet - I think my gantry will be quite heavy, but I'm more keen on rigidity than speed.

If anyone is interested in drawings, I'd be more than happy to post the ones I've done somewhere convenient.



ps I haven't removed any pics, not knowingly at any rate...

Lee Roberts
23-01-2009, 03:17 PM
ps I haven't removed any pics, not knowingly at any rate...

It was Kip i was saying that to mate not you :)

Lee Roberts
23-01-2009, 09:09 PM
ok just wondered because i went back to review your posts on a few diffrent threads thats all and wondered what happend to the pics, as long as there isnt a problem with vBulletin thats all.

It would however be nice to see your work, particuly this z-axis you made for Tony ?

Lee Roberts
27-01-2009, 07:24 AM

Tony = Tonyel ?

My bad (again), its David who you made one for !