Posts Tagged ‘CNC’

The Easy Way to Square a Gantry!

Posted in Building Machines on May 7th, 2012 by Judah – Be the first to comment

UntitledI figured it out!

As is often the case, after stepping away from the problem for a bit I came up with a simple solution:

First, secure one side of the gantry to the table (or have a friend hold it).  Next, apply power to the machine, but engage an e-stop.  Now take a long square (I used a drywall T-square) and place the short side flush against the side of the gantry that is secured so the long side is pointing across the table to the unsecured side.  Make sure that one edge of the long side is lined up with some landmark that appears on both sides of the gantry (I used the vertical edge shown in the above pic).  Finally, go over to the unsecured side of the gantry, manually deflect it until the same landmark is lined up with the appropriate edge of the square, and then release the e-stop switch to apply power, thus locking it in.

Granted, this is not a super-precise method, but given that you’ll probably get your deflection down to less than an eighth of an inch over the entire width of your table, it should be close enough for most work.

Ok, back to making Kickstarter rewards!

Starting Over

Posted in Adventures on April 23rd, 2012 by Judah – Be the first to comment

I’ve been dissatisfied with how I handled my Kickstarter project for a while.

Several ideas have been kicking around inside my head for a couple weeks, but this morning I got kick in the rear.  Mcphill, one of my larger backers, commented on my project, noting that he had heard nothing for several months.  He had voiced his displeasure with my progress before too, as had another of my backers.  Back then I didn’t know how to handle it, so I did nothing (silly me).  This time, I resolved to fix things.

I immediately posted a comment thanking mcphill for the comment, and promised to write an update right there and then.  Which I did.  In it, I apologized for the lack of contact and progress, outlined what I think I did wrong, and explained how I’d do better from now on.

It felt really good to get it all off my chest.  I’ve felt horrible about this for months, but apparently I needed that kick to get me to finally bite the bullet.  I’m not proud that that’s what got me to finally do something, but I’m glad that I finally have.

One of the things I committed to do is to get all the smaller rewards out the door within the next 30 days.  It’s a pretty scary deadline, but I think I can do it.  I might have to take time off from the day job, but I’ll do it.

Speaking of which, I’m off to work at the Asylum now.  Wish me luck!

That’s right! I’ve got a blog, don’t I?

Posted in Adventures, Building Machines, CNC Machines on January 23rd, 2012 by Judah – 4 Comments

IMG_0092My apologies for the long silence; the last month has been a bit of a rollercoaster.

Right after I finished milling out the parts for the next Kikori gantry up at MakeIt Labs, it got shut down.  This meant that instead of getting to work on the kickstarter rewards I had to dismantle my entire operation up there, move everything down to my new space at the Artisan’s Asylum (living up to their name, as always), and build a new gantry first.

If you’ve been following my photostream on Flickr, you’ve watched as I assembled a new Kikori gantry.  While I did find a few minor things that needed tweaking, for the most part it came together beautifully.  This was especially encouraging since the Kikori up at MakeIt was having all sorts of mysterious issues that prevented it from maintaining positional accuracy (given that the new machine has none of these issues, I’m told that it could’ve been caused by a “dirty” power supply in the MakeIt building, which would’ve caused the machine to miss steps).  This showed that even under a worse-case scenario, the Kikori is still capable of self-replication.

In rebuilding the Kikori I also tried out a couple different methods of driving the X axis.  The problem I was having with the original setup of using a single NEMA 23 motor to drive sprockets on both sides of the gantry was that I’d get significant twisting along the drive shafts; enough that the gantry would ‘chatter’ as is moved in that direction.  My first solution was to upgrade to a NEMA 34 motor which uses a 1/2″ drive shaft instead of the 23’s 1/4″.  While this did eliminate the chatter, it also revealed that without the twisting  rod acting like a spring, the motor wasn’t powerful enough.  Finally, I decided to try using two seperate NEMA 23 motors to directly drive the sprockets on either side.  This proved to be by far the best solution: it gave me the best strength, the smoothest motion, and also eliminated the need for drive shafts, bearings, and couplers.

The Kikori is now performing beautifully, maintaining accuracy to within 1/32 of an inch even at feed rates of 100 IPM!  This means that production of the Kickstarter rewards has finally begun.  I’ll be milling out the sets of gantry parts first, then working my way down the list of rewards.  I hope to get them all out within a month, but we’ll see how things work out.

This also means that I’m about to start selling Kikori kits as well!  After all the changes and additions, it looks like I’ll just be able to keep it under the $5,000 goal, but I’m going to try to do a special introductory sale to get things moving.  I’ll send out an announcement soon!

So. Close.

Posted in Building Machines on October 3rd, 2011 by Judah – 3 Comments

The new couplers are doing great!

Mostly.  I think.

Since I’m done traveling for the next few months, I finally got to spend some time working on the Kikori last week. I wanted to mill out one of my tablet stands, but to make sure everything was staying nice and accurate, I did a test first.  I decided to drill a hole at a known location, do an air-cut of the hole pattern, and then have the machine return to the hole location to see if it had gotten off at all.

It had.  Only about 1/16th of an inch in X, sometimes in Y (I tested it multiple times), but it had.

The two most likely culprits are set screws working themselves loose and couplers slipping.  I applied loctite to the set screws before I left, so today they should be set.  I’ll make registration marks on the couplers to check on slippage there.  Wish me luck!

New Vial Box Reward on Kickstarter!

Posted in CNC Machines, Product Designs on July 27th, 2011 by Judah – 2 Comments

open1Ok, so we’re really getting close now.

3 days left and just $1300 left to raise.  Hopefully, this new reward will help us get over this final hump.

Allow me to present the cleverly-named vial box!

I designed this box after noticing that several friends of mine who are fans of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (commonly known as BPAL) had piles of these small vials called ‘imps’ with no good way to store them.  Some people use bullet boxes, but this requires wrapping the label around the imp, and makes it impossible to tell at a glance what you’ve got.

I knew I could do better.

opentopdetailAfter playing around in my CAD program I came up with this clever system that would hold each imp in such a way as to make all the labels easily read and each imp accessible.  It also closes securely, keeping the imps safe from harmful sunlight.

The box is 10″ x 9.75″ x 3″, holds fifty imps, and I’ll do a custom bit of inlay work on the lid! It’s available now for a pledge of just $60!  Hurry, the project ends Sunday!

The Kikori Has a New Home!

Posted in Building Machines, CNC Machines on July 16th, 2011 by Judah – Be the first to comment

The Kikori is now at MakeIt Labs!

Granted, right now it’s little more than a pile of MDF and various bits of gantry, but it shouldn’t take long to put back together.

My biggest concern right now is the torsion box.  Unfortunately, very few of the ribs survived the move intact; most of them are in two if not three pieces.  Thankfully, I have all the pieces and it’s clear which pieces go together. This means that while I can reassemble the torsion box, but I’m not sure how strong it will be.

My current plan is to put it back together as-is and immediately use it to make a new set of ribs out of 3/4″ MDF instead of 1/2″.  This means I would have to use the reverse side of the skins since these new ribs would no longer fit into the slots the original ribs fit into, but given that the slots were too tight to begin with, this might actually be a good thing.  Another option is to make them out of 1/2″ MDF again, and simply make them taller this time, increasing their strength that way.  I could sand out the slots to make them looser.

Of course, if the reassembled torsion box seems fairly strong even with the broken ribs I might just use it as-is. After all, having a perfectly flat milling plane is only super-important if you’re doing 3D carving; it doesn’t matter as much for simple profiles.  Besides, I’m itching to start prototyping the launcher!

New Gantry, and Another Reward in the Works

Posted in CNC Machines on July 13th, 2011 by Judah – 2 Comments

short gantry 7-12The 2’x4′ Kikori is out!

The MDO parts are available now for just $400, but hurry; I’m only offering five at that reward level.  After that, they’ll go up to $500.

The reason they aren’t cheaper is because  only nine pieces actually change between the 4′ version and the 2′ version.  However, this also means that the 2’x4′ Kikori gantry has the ability to upgrade itself by making only nine new pieces!

I’m also offering the mechanical and full kits at reduced reward levels: for the first three backers the mechanical kit is only $2000, and the full kit just $2500!

In other news, since the Artisan’s Asylum is going to be moving to a new location, it’ll be closed during the month of August.  This means that even if I got the Kikori set up there for July, I’d have to turn right back around and tear it down again, and then have no place to work for an entire month.  As you can imagine, I was not happy about this prospect, so I got to work finding some place to work.

I remembered that Joseph Schlesinger, one of the guys who helped me build the the blackFoot at the Asylum, had just moved MakeIt Labs (a “Makerspace/Hackerspace/Open-Access Workshop”) into a new space up in Nashua, so I shot him an email asking if I could set up the Kikori there.  Sure enough, a few emails later and he’d talked his board into letting me set up shop there for a couple months!  This means I’ll be able to get rewards out for the Kickstarter project much sooner.
TB crossbow

I’ve also been hard at work finishing up another reward: the launcher!

While it’s designed to launch tennis balls, it’ll launch pretty much anything under 4″ in diameter: water balloons, snow balls, confetti…  It’s designed to be adjustable, so you can alter its strength without swapping out the elastic.

I can imagine all sorts of uses for this, from playing fetch with your dog to ambushing your friends with blasts of glitter.  However, I know I’ve just barely scratched the surface.  What would you use something like this for?

More Kickstarter Rewards!

Posted in CNC Machines on July 11th, 2011 by Judah – Be the first to comment

Y rail clamping systemI’ve been getting a lot of questions about the $600 reward on my Kickstarter Project.

Many people were asking if the MDO pieces came with any mechanical components as well, which they do not.  However, as the questions kept coming (long after I added the answer to the FAQ section), I realized that people might want this option.

I had held off on this before now because most of the necessary hardware can be bought locally.  However, I also know that those parts that cannot be sourced locally can be a royal pain to find.

I eventually decided to bite the bullet: I did some research, found some additional sources of various parts, crunched some numbers, and finally came up with two new rewards:

The first kit, available at the $2500 level, will have all the mechanical parts necessary to build a Kikori gantry.  This means it comes will all the nuts, bolts, cross-dowels, aluminum rails, sprockets, roller chain, and other various mechanical bits that are needed to put a Kikori gantry together, as well as the MDO gantry pieces themselves.

The second kit will be available for $3300, and will have everything the first one does plus the stepper motors, electronics, cables, and router!

Neither kit comes with a computer or a table, since the former depends on personal taste and the latter would be far too big to ship.

What do you think?  Are there other possible combinations you’d like to see?  Let me know!

Our Kickstarter Project is Live!

Posted in Adventures, Videos on July 5th, 2011 by Judah – Be the first to comment

Last Friday we finally launched our project on Kickstarter! We’ve already gotten 12% of our goal and were mentioned on BoingBoing!

Right now we’re working on more rewards, so if there’s something particular you’d like to see, let us know!

More Open Source CNCs on Kickstarter!

Posted in CNC Machines on June 28th, 2011 by Judah – 1 Comment


There are two great open source CNC projects on kickstarter right now: The ShapeOko mini CNC machine shown to the left, and the DIYLILCNC redesign shown below.

Both appear to be made out of laser-cut MDF, and both plan to make the final plans freely available so that anyone could have their own set of parts cut out by their own local hackerspace or services like Ponoko.  As you all know I’m a big fan of this open approach to design, so seeing it catch on is very encouraging.

The ShapeOko is a great little machine that appears to be primarily glued together.  While its small size is limiting, it also makes it very portable, which I know is one of the things people appreciate about MakerBot’s 3D printers.  The project also mentions that this is just one of three designs in development, so I’m very curious to see how those machines differ from this one.

The DIYLILCNC is a larger, older design that the project’s creators are looking to update.  They’re also doing an interesting thing with their rewards: they’re letting backers vote for which improvements they’d like to see implemented.  I think this is a great idea, and I’m looking forward to seeing which improvements make the cut.

However, what I’m curious about is what you all think of these designs.  If you’re here reading this, you’re probably interested in CNC technology, open design, or both, and I’d love to know what you like (and don’t like) about these designs.  I ask this because (as I’ve mentioned before) I’m gearing up to launch my own Kickstarter project soon, and I’d love to incorporate your feedback into where I take my own designs.

So: what do you think of these?


First image from | CC3.0

Second image by Chris Reilly/Taylor Hokanson/DIYLILCNC