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  1. #1
    Hi there,

    Has anyone built a machine that is capable of milling/engraving plus laser cutting/engraving plus 3d printing?

    I have just started to build my machine which i wanted to use for the three main uses of a cnc machine, I have been trying to find anyone who has built a machine that does all three to try and get some of the problems they came across during the build.
    Looking around different site's/forum's i cannot find and one who tried it and what either stopped them from finishing it or what main problems they came across, i cannot find a 3D printer that runs direct from a PC they all seem to be run via a Arduino plus one of the many shields like:- RepRap, Makerbot, Ramps, Mendel is there a way of doing it direct from the PC or do i have to fit two control method's and just switch from one to the other.

    if anyone has any ideas of how to sort it out i would love to hear from you.

    This is my first attempt at building any sort of CNC machine I took a guess at what sizes i wanted and had decided that i would have X any Y axis at 420 mm and the Z axis at 250 mm but now i have started to build it i think i went a little to large as I am building it on my kitchen table as i do not have any other space to put it (I need a larger home but the local council would not consider moving me to a larger place just so i have a hobby room) I am lucky that i live alone so no one else is going to give me a hard time over it taking over the kitchen.

    up to now i have just fitted the x axis linear rails, stepper motor and lead screw i have almost all the items to finish the main frame build it will take me a while to finish it as i am disabled and for around half of my days i cannot even get out of bed never mind try building something like this. this is a list of the main items i have bought to build it with:-

    stepper control system

    usbcnc breakout board

    ball screw + ball nut

    engraving/milling spindle
    I know this spindle is small for milling but it is just to give me a try and see if i want to go larger.

    I am building the machine frame out of 20x20 mm 20x40 mm 20x60mm 20x80 mm aluminium profile so that it goes together easy so if anyone can offer any advice i would be very thankfull

    regards Poppy Ann.

  2. #2
    Hi Poppy ann
    Welcome to the forum, i am a novice @ the cnc game but you have unfortunately made the classic mistake of buying equipment without having a working drawing/plan. however the guys on the forum are better equiped than myself to advise if the gear purchased will be suitable. the general rule is first do a lot of research ie read the build logs( i know they are long but the information they contain is priceless) then use Google sketch up to design your machine and offer it to the members for comment.
    They will point you in the right direction.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Popp Ann View Post
    This is my first attempt at building any sort of CNC machine I took a guess at what sizes i wanted and had decided that i would have X any Y axis at 420 mm and the Z axis at 250 mm but now i have started to build it i think i went a little to large as I am building it on my kitchen table as i do not have any other space to put it (I need a larger home but the local council would not consider moving me to a larger place just so i have a hobby room) I am lucky that i live alone so no one else is going to give me a hard time over it taking over the kitchen.
    Living alone does have some great advantages and the kitchen table being an extension of the work shop is just one . . Lol

    Well like mike says you have gone slight wrong way aound it really but damage is done now and it's not massive damage so we'll make the best of it. ( Could have been far worse being the TB based drives you bought which often happens.!)

    Regards the Combi machine then 2 out of 3 is easy enough, being milling/engraving and 3D printing (yes Mach3 can do it) but the Laser cutting side is a bit more involved if you like keeping your sight.! . . . But still do-able just expensive and involved which is what I think stops it happening so much.
    Also like any combination machine they never do it the same as a dedicated machine built solely for that purpose and if your going to invest the money and time required you will certainly want it to be the best it can be.!

    Can't advise on your machine without seeing some kind of design but a few things you mention cause a little concern regards structure. 250mm Z axis is on the long side also 20mm width profile is a little skinny.! . . . Do you have a plan or drawing you can show giving some clue to your thinking.?

  4. #4
    I think one reason people don't combine the machines is becasue using the laser or the 3D printer they generally build a light and nimble machine whereas the router requires something more substantial and maybe not so nimble. Still possible maybe but if you are raster engraving with the laser it might take a while.
    Spelling mistakes are not intentional, I only seem to see them some time after I've posted

  5. #5
    Thanks to everyone for the replies,

    When i first started thinking of building a machine i was just going to build a 3d printer but then decided to add a simple laser system using a laser diode instead of a laser tube which removes the cost of most of the optics due to the fact they are now selling 10W laser diodes and i bet not far in the future they will start on 20 W plus diodes also if you use a diode system they are much better on power conversion.
    All the machine is far is something to play with, i like building things

    All i want to try is cutting with the laser is thin ply between 1/8" and 1/4" and foam board which is for model building and the router will just be for soft wood the spindle i got is only 300W so i doubt it will cut that much i just added it as the price was low and i thought it would do for a "toy"

    when i started thinking about it i started off with a size 200x200x150 but when i was ordering the cost difference was almost nothing direct from china using AliExpress and i thought if they are to big i can always cut them down to a smaller size.

    the reason i am building it in the kitchen is i have no access to any workshop now since i can hardly stand up or walk most days before i gave up working for a living 13 years ago i had a great workshop at the side of my house which was meant to be a garage it was 18'x38' and i had it fitted out with a lot of tools and equipment (boxford lathe, bandsaw, 20 ton press, stick,mig, tig, oxy acetylene welding systems plus electronics bench with most tools including a nice 4 trace oscilloscope, signal generator etc) then i had to get rid of the lot as i could not pay the mortgage so i sold the house bought a sail boat and went sailing for 11 years around the caribbean but as my disability has got worse i had to return to land as it was getting dangerous for me getting on and off the boat but i have wandered off topic a long way sorry for that, now i am in a small one bedroom bungalow with almost nil storage space in the kitchen i have covered 3/4 of the walls with shelves/cabinets and still have tools in my wardrobes to try to put them away i had more storage space on my sail boat Bear Necessities than i have in here. (if anyone wants to buy a 40 foot sail boat it is up for sale at a low price located in Puerto Rico which is a part of USA)

    re Jazz about the thin profile the router part will only be very light work if at all i like to build things and have always done the same it is seldom i start off with a drawing due to my drawing ability is around 1 to 2% of what most people are able to do i get an idea in my head and go from there and then make the drawing to match, in the past i have done a lot of machine wiring systems for various things from re-wiring a land rover after removing every wire switch lamp motor ect to wirring 100 foot access platforms (cherry picker) plus many many boat rewires so i expect the electrical side to be easy for me to manage it is the software part that has me worried as i have not come across a PC based 3D printer and my programing skills are not so hot now a days due to brain is getting a little old its a pity we cannot upgrade our brain just like replacing a CPU in a desktop.

    sorry for the long off topic post but when i start i forget to stop (I think it is due to not speaking to many people during the day as it is seldom i get to go out and even less often someone comes round to visit)

    Regards Poppy Ann.
    If a cluttered bench indicates a cluttered mind what does a empty bench indicate!!!!!! Albert Einstein

  6. #6
    forgot to say to Jazz what is " the TB based drives i bought"? ( i did mention i have only just started on this pastime) you also mentioned that Mach3 can do 3D printing i had not come across that i noticed in one forum that Mach 3 can do laser cutting/engraving so maybe i can get away with just one lot of software to do all three things it could be funny to see it trying to do all 3 at the same time a little bit of milling wood then 3D printing bumpers on the end and then etch a design on it (if i could get it to do that it would make a great you tube video just for laughs)

    again thanks for your advice.
    regards Poppy Ann.
    If a cluttered bench indicates a cluttered mind what does a empty bench indicate!!!!!! Albert Einstein

  7. #7
    Hi Poppy Ann, welcome to the forum. It does sound like you have lead an interesting life, and great to hear of all the "boys toys" you have had to play with.I am sorry to hear about your disability, but it does sound like you will need a bigger kitchen table. Once into CNC (be it router,laser or 3d printing) I am sure that you will love it and will wonder how you ever survived all these years without it!!! Personally I would go for a small router first, then after some fun building and playing with it think about adding the other facilities later. The router can probably do most of the laser disciplines, and as I see it the main advantage of the laser is that it does it far quicker, which will not be the case with a "universal machine". Anyway, I wish you the best of luck with whatever you decide. G.

  8. #8
    Eddy's correct that a big put off with router machines is the speed or more impotantly acceleration and speed together is a lot higher for 3D and laser.
    This causes a conflict of interests in the way the machine is built and components esed.
    For instance good engraving requires high resolution and stiff machine so smaller pitch screws are needed but this slows the machine down so acceleration and speeds required for 3D/laser is not reachable with steppers.
    Routers are some where in between but then they need a much stronger design which starts to slow things down regards acceleration, so again very difficult to reach acceleration and speed required for good 3D/laser.
    Then you have all the difficulties of each having there own business ends which don't mix very well.! Saw dust, high heat and molten plastic don't really mix very well. Changing out each one isn't as easy as it sounds so thats not feasible in reality and will soon become pain in the arse.

    Regards 3D printing then the technology is so cheap and easily available it's not worth struggling to make a combi machine that will be compromised when you can have the real thing.
    Also while mach3 can fullfill all three requirements all the action and software 3D printing developments are happening on the Arduino based systems so it will always be behind in technology. Programming isn't required for 3D so thats not something to worry about.!

    Poppy Ann I've built a machine that lives in Mansfield and I will be calling there some time soon to give it a check over. So if your available then I'll gladly call on you for a Cuppa tea and chat.

  9. #9
    Hi again, one of the main reasons i was thinking of a 3 in 1 machine was not to try and save money but to save space i know if i build one machine as soon as i try it a few times i would want to start on a second one, I have been back in UK around 2 1/2 years now and in that time i have replaced quite a lot of my tools even though they will not get that much use, i have built two large size quad copters 2 planes and have a couple of 1/8 scale off road cars and every time i think i will just give something a go i get a little too interested and end up with more "toy's" to try and store i can hardly turn round without falling over something, every time i see something new which catches my eye i end up getting one then have to try and find somewhere to keep them. i have already had a go with arduino and raspberry pi i wish some of these things were out when i was younger i started off programing back in the 70's on a acorn computer at the time you could not buy one ready built and i ordered a kit which came in a big plastic bag and you had to solder every thing together even the keyboard was supplied in little parts with each key made up of two springs and 2 contacts which had to be soldered together and then attached to the board i had a extra 1 KB of memory which gave me 2 KB ram which 1/2 KB was used by the operating system but i managed to write the classic space invader game in the 1 1/2 KB, and from then on i think i had a go at just about every home computer there was available but that is many years ago now i doubt i will be writing any programs now people now do not know how lucky they are with all the great things that are available as long as you have a little money.

    I was under the impression that all the laser and 3D printers used stepper motors for movement if not stepper motors what do they use? i know by the time i get this finished i could have bought a ready made machine.
    I remember when i was starting out in engineering one machine i use to run was a sort or computer machine but it had a huge programing board where to get it to do something you had to plug in little colored pegs into the board which told it what movement to make that was back around 1969/1970 and that was meant to be the cutting edge of machine tools.

    if you want to call round for a cup of tea you will be welcome the only time i will be out is around 4.30 as i have a doctors appointment then for my yearly "mot"
    If a cluttered bench indicates a cluttered mind what does a empty bench indicate!!!!!! Albert Einstein

  10. #10
    If you Google Tweakie CNC you'll see a CNC machine that routes, engraves, laser cuts and I'm sure by now 3D prints (not checked the site for a while now mind...) As Jazz says you're in danger of having a jack of all trades and master of none machine if you're not careful.


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