Thursday, April 7, 2016

My 'Initial' X-Carve Setup

After a few months of having the X-carve up and running, I have got some time to talk about my current setup and some recent upgrades.

Several years ago during my college years, I started out with the ambition of building a CNC machine from scratch; using MDF as the build materials, Makerslides as the liner rails, 1/4-20 threaded rods as the lead screws, NEMA17 stepper motors to drive the machine, and a Netduino running a custom CNC controller to control it. Once I got 2 of the three axis built, I realized how imprecise the machine was, and how little time I had to code, debug, and update a custom CNC controller. While this was a fun adventure, I wanted to get to making things and needed to speed up the process.

I had been following the shapeoko 1 and 2 and was in the process of purchasing the necessary parts when I heard rumors of a new machine being released by Inventables. The announcement of the X-Carve was exactly something I was looking for, and waited many months to get my parts, I started to put together my modified X-Carve. 

X-Carve Setup (4/1/2016)

Items used in this build: (purchasing through these affiliate links helps me to hack on)

  • CNC Z-Axis Tool Setting Touch Plate Probe Compatible With Mach3 and Other Router Mill
  • Raspberry Pi 2 Model B Project Board - 1GB RAM - 900 MHz Quad-Core CPU
  • JBtek 4 Channel DC 5V Relay Module for Arduino Raspberry Pi DSP AVR PIC ARM
  • DEWALT DWP611 1.25 HP Max Torque Variable Speed Compact Router with LED's
  • uxcell 5 Pcs 600V 15A 12 Positions 12P Dual Rows Covered Barrier Screw Terminal Block

  • For most of my journey, I followed the instructions laid out by Inventables. Here are the highlights of the parts that I went a little rogue with... 

    Work Bench

    • 48x48" Table
      • MDF Top
      • 2x4 construction
      • Pull out drawer for electronics and computer
    Pull out drawer for electronics and laptop


    • X Carve 1000mm (silver makerslides)
    • 3D printed spacers/supports in Y-Axis 
      • Added 5 of these printed in ABS, spaced evenly along 1m piece
    • Y-axis Guards
      • 1/8" ply covers held with (2) t-slot inserts and M5x8mm bolts
    1/8" plywood y-axis covers (view from front)
    1/8" plywood y-axis covers (view from back)
    • MDF waste board
      • 30" x 30" x 0.75" thick (workable area - surfaced using 1/2" bit)
        • threaded inserts every 6 inches
      • ~24"x ~6" x 3/4" MDF pieces under waste board for supports
    View of right side
    View of left side


    3D Printed Dust Shoe (v3 1.5" hose)
    TinyG v8 Board with Fan cooling
    • Rasperry Pi 2 running JSON server to wirelessly control x-carve
    • Relay controlled plug for vacuum and spindle control (on/off)
    • Terminal blocks connecting motors to controller
    Terminal blocks and relay controlled plug

    • CNC Z-Axis Tool Touch Plate Probe 
      • This thing is amazing. I highly recommend getting one! Just hook it up to the z-min end stop and you will have accurate z depths!

    My Build Notes

    • Want at least 12 foot cable for steppers
    • Eccentric spacers are much easier to work with than the eccentric nuts
    • Insert x-axis supports before installation
    • Terminal blocks make moving/changing electronics easy
    • Waste board size of cutting area makes sure entire thing is surfaced flat
    • Relay controlled vacuum and spindle is awesome!
      • Safety note: turn off power switch on spindle whenever changing bits!!

    If you have any questions or would like more details, please add a comment and I will update the post accordingly!

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