All our desktop machines are currently based on OpenBuilds components and designs. OpenBuilds is a design community that supplies components and specialized parts intended to be used to build just about any kind of machine imaginable. The community supplies designs for basic machines, and encourages its members to improve, innovate, and build upon the basics and share their own custom creations with the rest of the community.
At 3D Tech, this is exactly what we do. We like to re-engineer the original designs wherever possible to improve function, strength, versatility, and quality. We use only the finest quality components and assemblies, and are always striving to improve our products. We are always working on new designs and improvements to the existing designs.
The OpenBuilds concept is based on a set of aluminum extrusions available in various sizes with a specialized slot system called V-Slot. This slot is designed to accept a special angled wheel assembly that can be used to make linear carriages and slides that glide along the V-Slot rails. This system, along with a bunch of universal components such as plates, brackets, and other motion control hardware can be combined in nearly infinite combinations to build just about anything you can imagine.
We can also design and build machines for specialized applications to improve your workflow and streamline your assembly processes. Give us a call to see what we can do for your small business!
All our builds currently use Arduino based controllers, running GRBL G-Code interpreter firmware. The Arduino is a very popular open source microcontroller that is easliy adapted for CNC control. It connects to any PC or laptop via a USB cable, and draws it’s power from the control computer. Other controller options are available such as the ESS, CNC xPro, Smoothieboard, etc. We can also supply MACH 3 compatible controllers as well.
All of our builds also use an integrated electronics package of our own design which includes a high current power supply, separate high current Stepper Motor Driver modules, and the Arduino based Motion Controller loaded with the latest release of GRBL motion control software. This electronics module is all mounted to a single panel on the back of the machine, and is designed to reduce wiring and simplify the whole machine. Having the electronics mounted right on the machine eliminates the need for complex cabling, separate controller boxes, and simplifies a lot of the cable management. The only cables coming off the machine are the power cord and the USB communication cable.
Our electronics are robust, simple, and can handle anything you can throw at them. Everything is also convection cooled so there are no fans to wear out and no worry of overheating. The system is also modular, and any component can be replaced in minutes and at low cost in the unlikely event of a failure.
We supply a complete suite of software which includes most everything you need to operate your machine. The standard workflow used to create a CNC router project goes something like this:
- Create your design in a 3D CAD program such as Sketchup or Autodesk Fusion 360. We supply download links to these programs, or you can use whatever you are already familiar with.
- Make a g-code representation of your 3D model, using CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) software. G-code is the language the machine uses to control the operation of the CNC. G-code is a set of instructions in plain english text that basically tells the machine to move here, lower the cutter, cut to here, raise the cutter, etc. Usually a separate program is used to convert your 3D model or other input such as photos, text, etc to the G-code representation your machine understands. However, Fusion 360 has a built in function to do this, and Sketchup has a plugin extension which can also perform this conversion. Some other programs, like F-Engrave, will generate G-code from text or photos.
- Send your G-code file to the machine using a program designed to control the machine and feed it G-code, usually called a G-Code Sender program. This program also keeps track of the machine position, provides jog and other operator controls for the machine, and allows things like calibrating and changing setup parameters.
There are lots of examples of these 3 types of programs out there. We supply a few examples of each to get you started, which are all public domain or free to use programs. If you want to get a bit fancier, there are lots of programs that you can purchase with expanded feature sets and specialized functions for whatever task you need to perform.
The learning curve on the software is not too bad. You can have your machine up and moving in a few minutes, and executing your own g-code programs in a few hours. Doing your own designs and learning CAM software may take a bit longer. You can do basic stuff like signs and carvings in a few hours of work, the more detailed or complex projects will take a bit more work.