How to Build CNC Router

Level of difficulty: Difficult

Hobbyists often make do-it-yourself CNC (computer numerical control) routers as part of their home workshop. CNC routers use CAM (Computer Aided Manufacture) and CAD (Computer Aided Design) software similar to a metal mill.

Materials Needed:
- Saw
- metal saw
- drill
- tap
- screwdriver
- plastic (if needed)
- wood (if needed)
- aluminum (if needed)
- steel (if needed)
- safety equipment
- lead screws
- motors
- router spindle
- CNC Linear Motion System (if needed)
Step 1
Choose the design for the CNC Router. One of the designs available is a Stationary Gantry. This uses a mobile bed. A Mobile Gantry uses a stationary bed. The former type is often used for smaller machines such as those used for engraving. The latter design allows users to work with larger pieces, and is more popular with hobbyists. Aside from these two main kinds, consider the sizes of the wood the router will be used on, the size of the machine, the desired machine tolerance, and the budget allotted for the project.
Step 2
Prepare the items needed to create the CNC Router. Make sure the proper tools are already at hand. Safety equipment should also be used to prevent accidents. Purchase the materials needed to make the device. This design should dictate the quantity needed for each item.
Step 3
Build the base and the frame. Cut all the parts needed and assemble them according to the design. This part of the machine will need to support the weight of the machine as well as the X-axis linear motion system. It will also support the cutting table. There are several kinds of base and frame combinations that can be used. The options are a fully-supported frame, fully-supported bearing rods or rails, partially-supported x-axis with fully-supported y-axis, and partially-supported y-axis with fully-supported x-axis. The base and frame will be different for a mobile bed. This design would allow a fully supported frame and bearing system for the X-axis.
Step 4
Begin assembling the Y-axis gantry by putting together the parts above the cutting bed. Attach the router spindle to the spindle arm. Then, assemble these with the Gantry side arm, making sure the Y-Axis liner bearing rods are attached as well.
Step 5
Next, assemble the cutting bed, with the linear bearing and lead screw under it.
Step 6
Attach the gantry to a vertical frame. This will need to be able to support the movement of the gantry. Refer to the chosen design for the proper specifications. The frame should also be attached to the base and frame of the device.
Step 7
Attach the linear motion system. This system is used to support the machine and guide it when it does its tasks. This will also support some of the stress on the machine like torque and lateral lodes. Hobbyists can purchase a whole system or make one from scratch.
Step 8
Add the electronics needed for the router. These include the wiring and fusing needed, the control panel, buttons and switches, manual pulse generators and jog wheels, connectors, tool sensors, lighting, breakout boards, and power supplies. These will be assembled according to the design initially created. Make sure all the proper parts are installed to power the machine. Check if everything is securely attached to prevent power failures.
Step 9
Make sure the router is assembled correctly. No unnecessary wires should be exposed. Determine if all the parts have been added. Refer to the design to make sure the machine was built as planned.
Step 10
Add the CNC controller. This uses a mechanical drive system to control and operate the electric motors in the machine. Users can purchase a fully-functional controller or create one from scratch with a personal computer.
Step 11
Choose the software to be used with the machine. There are a number of CAD and CAM applications that can be used for CNC routers. Users need to select one that fits their needs and is compatible with their machine. Install the desired programs and test the machine operation.