CNC Mogul Router

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This is gone. It was donated to Indie Labs to make room for the new large CNC router.


The CNC Mogul is a 4x4 CNC Router located in the HackRVA Fab Lab. It can cut materials such as wood and plastic. We use Mach3 control software. The CNC Mogul is HackRVA's first crowdfunded tool. The router is the Dewalt DW618. There is a Dewalt repair center at 2256 Dabney Rd (804-353-1197) that sells replacement collets and other parts.

Access to CNC Mogul requires CNC Training from a qualified member.

File:Cnc router.mov

Startup and Calibration

  • Clear off table and inspect tracks
  • Check visually for loose wire connections
  • Check visually for loose screws/bolts
  • Open vacuum hose and shake to make sure it is free of blockages
  • Turn filtration unit on
  • Check all other vacuum dampers closed
  • Check power switch in the off position
  • Slide computer out and power on pc
  • Log in and open Mach3 software
  • Switch table power to on position
  • Turn soft limits off (pay close attention to machine position while soft limits are off)
  • Make sure table enabled in Mach3 by checking reset (e-stop) button
  • Page up to move Z axis up enough to remove resting block
  • Page up enough to fit Z reference block under motor frame
  • Page down to proper Z homing height (block should loosely fit between table and clear motor frame)
  • Remove Z ref block and set aside
  • Use arrow keys to move table in X and Y motion to ensure proper working order
  • Send home command by clicking “Ref All Home” button (Machine will then move to bottom left corner closest to screen until it hits switches Z will home to current location)
  • Turn on soft limits and make sure soft limit light is lit green
  • Move spindle back and out of the way and begin project setup

Project Setup

  • Place project material onto table and square out to cutting area.
  • Setup project offsets in program
  • Method 1: measure exact distance from home position and change project offsets on offsets tab.
  • Method 2: Manually move spindle to location and zero each axis by clicking each axis button.
  • Secure project material to table using user preferred method
  • If not already, load G-Code and inspect for errors.
  • Using Toolpath Display Window in Mach3, check display mode shows soft limits and check all toolpaths are within limits.
  • If necessary use jog method to visually check where cuts will be.
  • Using tables and bit manufacturer recommendations determine expected feed rate and cut depths in G-Code are correct and edit if needed.
  • Move spindle close to project start point
  • Install dust skirt to bottom of router
  • Turn router on and set required speed
  • Make sure code is on correct starting line and press start to begin cut
  • It is recommended to not leave the router unattended while the cutting is in progress if something does go wrong with table it can break the table

Project Completion and Shutdown

  • After code is complete turn router off
  • Remove dust skirt from bottom of router and place in rack
  • Move spindle to back left corner
  • Place rest block under spindle
  • Move spindle down in the Z direction by pressing page down on keyboard until spindle just barely touches rest block
  • Turn toggle switch to off position
  • Remove project from table and clean work area
  • Close Mach3 software and shutdown computer
  • Please make sure computer fully shuts down before walking away


CNC-Mogul Router Tips and Safety

Using the Machine:

  • Wear safety glasses. Chips will fly.
  • Don’t put your hands in proximity of the cutting spindle while it’s running. The machine might make a move you’re not expecting.
  • Watch the machine while it’s cutting. Be ready to turn it off in case something malfunctions.
  • Never grab an end-mill or router-bit on the business end. They are sharp. Remove them with care.
  • If the machine is flexing or is make a more than usually racket, you’re cutting too deep or the router-bit/end-mill isn’t sharp. Stop the machine and adjust.
  • If you have doubts about your G-Code, run the CNC in the air with the spindle off and/or the tooling removed. You can see it’s path without damaging your work piece.

Mach3 Software Tips

  • If Mach3 isn’t responding, hit the “RESET” button. There’s a good chance it’s flashing at you.
  • If you need to start over on g-code, the “rewind” button takes the code to the start. The “Go Home” button takes the spindle to your original starting place.
  • There’s a virtual tool-path graphic in the top right corner of the screen. It can give you an idea of what’s going to happen when you hit start.
  • You can pause the machine with the yellow button between start and stop.
  • You can edit your g-code inside Mach3 if needed. This is a fast way to make adjustments.
  • You can increase/decrease the travel speed inside Mach3. If the machine is going too fast, you can slow it down there with the arrows.

G-Code Tips

  • Be aware of your “Z-travel” or “safe-travel” height. You don’t want the tool to bang the work piece.
  • Use a feeds and speeds chart to guide you on setting parameters.
  • Never cut deeper than ½ the width of your tool. For our machine ¼ tool width passes are probably best and in some cases much less.

Software for Making G-Code

CamBam

CamBam is probably the most frequently used g-code generating software at the space. There are many tutorials on how to use it and a 50 use free copy is available from the website. This software is installed on the digital design station for your convienience (be sure that it isn't set to laser). (Note that the URL is at "cambam.info", not ".com". Documentation pdf is here: CamBam documentation

MakerCam.com

MakerCam.com is an in the browser vector drawing program and g-code generator. There is a tutorial and help button on the site.

Inkscape with G-Code Plugin

Inkscape is a free and open-source vector drawing tool. There is a G-Code Plugin for inkscape.

There are tutorials on youtube on how to use these together.

(Inkscape with g-code plugin is also set up on the HackRVA Digital Design station)

AutoDesk Inventor with G-Code Plugins

Inventor is complicated compared to makercam and inkscape, but it's also true 3D, and supports more robust machine operations with the G-Code plugins.

It is typically available for free as an education license.

There are two popular G-Code plugins for Inventor: FHM CAM and Fusion 360. I have downloaded these plugins for free as educational in the past.

(the availability of these softwares and plugins as "free" is always changing, but in general, a little digging and persistence, they can be had as educational free or as a trial)

We will be installing some combination of these on the HackRVA Digital Design station.

Blender CAM

Has lots of options, and can give great results, but it isn't well documented. Excellent if you're comfortable with Blender.

Using Blender CAM with the HackRVA CNC router

Other Software

There are many cool softwares out there for making g-code. Especially artistic stuff, like reliefs. Some of them are terrible, some are great. Don't be afraid to explore. We'll update this page as we find new ones that work.

Additional Information

Shapeoko Wiki

The Shapeoko is an opensource CNC tool.

The Shapeoko Wiki is a really good resource for beginners to learn about CNC Routing.

End Mills

End mills and router bits are the cutting tools used with the router.

Here is a basic introduction to end mills.

Here is a a more extensive guide to end mills.

Feeds and Speeds

Feed or Feed-Rate is how fast your tool moves across the works surface. Speed or spindle speed is how fast the spindle/tool spins.

Here is a chart for feeds and speeds: A Chart

Cut Depth or Step Down

Cut Depth or Step Down prompts from software are asking how deep you want to increment each pass.

PRO TIP:The general rule of thumb is for soft materials (like pine wood) you can do 1/2 the diameter of your bit. For really soft materials you can do the diameter of your bit. Never exceed the diameter of your bit!. For harder materials choose something light.

Remaining Tasks

  • Wire limit switches -- Done (Y home/limit switch may be bad)
  • May need to make minor adjustments to touch-off plate
  • Wires and connections need some attention.
  • Check into possible solutions to strengthen framing.
  • Dust collection system needs some love.
  • Add physical E-STOP button

CNC Driver Manual