What's my next step?

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22 Apr 2009 22:10 #132 by fishead
What's my next step? was created by fishead
Hello Everyone.

I'm new to CNC and Linux, and am working on building a machine in my basement, but just don't know which direction to take next.

I have been dreaming of building a cnc router for PCB fabrication for a while, and have been working on it one step at a time. My problem is that I just finished building my stepper driver circuitry, and am now stumped.

Instead of buying an off the shelf stepper driver circuit, I constructed my own using a pic 16f84a microcontroller and 8 sweet little power transistors. If anyone needs help with a similar project, I am willing to share my schematic and stepper code.

I tried using Mach3 software under Windows XP, but just couldn't get the step pulses to be stable enough for any useful movement. Because EMC came as a live CD, I booted it up and liked it so much I installed it on a second HDD for dual booting. This is odd for me because normally I give up on linux software after getting frustrated with nothing working.

Because I don't have a machine yet (I have some sweet linear bearings and an awesome idea, just no real machine) I stole my son's Etch-a-sketch and attached my motors to it using some fuel line and hose clamps. Yeah, I'm a red-neck. After some tweaking and adjusting, I got my "machine" to draw the "EMC2 AXIS" splash screen on the etch-a-sketch. What a thrill!

My problem is, what next? After the emotional high of seeing my machine work, I don't know what to do next and have hit a big low. I have spent a lot of time going through the web looking at my options, and have seriously got myself confused.

I think my main concern is that I don't want to waste precious time learning in the wrong direction. I am pretty good at drawing stuff in Google Sketchup, and have experimented with various export plugins with no immediate success. Is there hope down this route?

Eagle Cad seems to be pretty popular for schematic and PCB generation. Is there a straightforward path from the Eagle Cad layout tools to the code that the EMC2 Axis software uses?

Is there any decent beginner level how-to's out there that I have missed? Where does EMC2 Axis software fit in the puzzle in my head?

Thanks for your help all, and I am not averse to open sourcing my pic code and schematic if it can help anyone, and will gladly post pictures of my rig if anyone is interested.

Chris.

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23 Apr 2009 02:52 - 23 Apr 2009 02:54 #133 by Dan Falck
Replied by Dan Falck on topic What's my next step?
Hi,
I'll admit it, I'm a redneck too. I've used duct tape to hold things together and have a lot of clamps and bungie cords doing things that they weren't meant to do....
But anyway, on the question of creating Gcode:

I always start by point people in this direction-

wiki.linuxcnc.org/cgi-bin/emcinfo.pl?Cam

You might find something interesting there for free. If you get into computer programming at all, you might find that you can use chunks of one open source program along with sections of another to create your gcode for emc.

I'm using something called HeeksCAD from here:

code.google.com/p/heekscad/

I'll attach a screenshot of something that I did with it last night.

Good luck,
Dan
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Last edit: 23 Apr 2009 02:54 by Dan Falck. Reason: image too large

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23 Apr 2009 07:30 #135 by alex_joni
Replied by alex_joni on topic What's my next step?
fishead wrote:

Eagle Cad seems to be pretty popular for schematic and PCB generation. Is there a straightforward path from the Eagle Cad layout tools to the code that the EMC2 Axis software uses?


yes, there is. A couple people are using it that way. There is an "ulp" script which eagle runs and generates g-code. I think there is one included in eagle, but there are more out there contibuted by various people.

Here's an example of the outcome: timeguy.com/cradek/cnc/pcb

Regards,
Alex

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24 Apr 2009 14:42 #145 by WildRice
Replied by WildRice on topic What's my next step?
fishead wrote:

Eagle Cad seems to be pretty popular for schematic and PCB generation. Is there a straightforward path from the Eagle Cad layout tools to the code that the EMC2 Axis software uses?


I have had good luck using pcbgcode . It installs into Eagle as a ULP (user Language Program). It generates G-code for EMC2, but the tool paths are not optimized. There is a second program called Optimizer that optimizes the tool path to speed the milling up.

So if you want to make PC boards (or just simulate them on your cool Etch-a-Sketch hack), you want to research and install the following software:
  1. Eagle Cad
  2. pcbgcode
  3. Optimizer
  4. EMC2

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24 Apr 2009 15:53 #146 by fishead
Replied by fishead on topic What's my next step?
Awesome. That's the kind of feedback I was looking for. There are so many possible paths out there that a straight road map from start to finish helps cut through the confusion.

I am thinking about Heekscad too because I would like to delve into 2.5D machining of foam and stuff.

Thanks guys.

Chris.

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