Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Back to my garage (COVID-19) stay at home. New CNC controller for may 30/40 CNC router

Work, travel, and some health issues kept me out of my garage for a long time.

During these difficult days, doe to my age and previous health conditions, I must stay at home.

My design workload that can be done from home is also low as my customers are also reducing their activities to the minimum necessary, so I am back to my garage.

After a few days of cleaning and reorganizing, I restarted a project that was on hold for a long time: Refurbish my CNC; I have been working on this project on and off for several months during my short home return from my frequent travel schedule.

The scope of the project is:
  1. New computer to control the machine
  2. Upgrade to MACH4 software
  3. New driver board compatible with MACH 4 and Ethernet connection
  4. Add a manual pendant.
  5. Mechanical maintenance of the router.
  6. Add limit/home switches.
  7. Add an Axis Z height probe.
  8. Add a rotary axis (B)
  9. Add a small laser head for engraving.

For the new computer, I used a laptop that my son left when he bought a gaming computer, this is an I5 8GB Ram, running Windows Vista. I replaced the hard drive with a 500GB SSD, installed Windows 10, and bought and installed a Mach4 hobby license.

After in-depth investigation and some failed purchases of driver boards compatible with Mach4, I finally found a good one with a lot of documentation and support, the PoKeys57CNC Motion Controller for Mach4, and now, after using it for some time, I am sure I made the right decision.

The next step was to order all the components and design with Fusion 360 and fabricate the controller box.

I fond all that I needed like connectors, switches, in Amazon. When I ordered the Pokey board, they offer a flat cable and connector kit that makes it very easy to interface.

The two crucial things I added are the pendant and the stepper motor drivers.

I sent the design of the sheet metal case to Protocase, and after the quotation and some engineering questions, I received the metal case in less than a week perfectly made and painted.

Once I got all the parts, I needed about 50 hours to assemble and wire the control and to install the limit, home switches, and the touch probe for tool measurement in the machine.

It took another full week to learn and start the Mach4 software, configure the Pokey in Mach4 and make the first part.

The last upgrade I made is that I bought a Chinese  5.5W led laser head, designed and built a bracket to install the laser on the body of the spindle motor, add the necessary connections to the new control and creat a laser machine profile for Mach4 I am delighted with the results although it is a very inexpensive laser device,

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