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First off, I am Extremely Challenged (dumb, unlucky, stupid) when it comes to things electronic – me + soldering iron + pcb = expensive blue smoke!
But mechanically I know my way around – so much so I have built a small cnc and am looking to convert an old architects drawing board into another cnc controlled “thingie”
Long story short: in over 10 years I have not been able to connect the steppers on the mill to something that will tell them what to do. Wife is REALLY starting to make noises about “the junk in the garage”!
So, if I buy a “Raspberry PI” and the “AlaMode for Raspberry Pi” from Makershed, would you be able to sell me the memory card with an OS suitable for CNC, your GRBL Controler software and anything else that I would need so that I can just “plug it all together” (WITHOUT a soldering iron!!!)
The idea is to develop the g-code elsewhere, save it to a stick, plug stick into Pi, start Pi, boot your app, load program from stick, run it, sit back and have a beer.
1) Will it work?
2) Are you prepared to sell me a prepared memory card?
3) How much?
4) How do I pay you?
5) Which specific Pi and AlaMode must I buy?
Looking forward to your reply because I am sure that I am not the only idiot out there who cannot get g-code to the steppers and whose projects have stalled.
All the best
As far as the memory card goes, that’s not a difficult thing – there are two possibilities – (a) I post an image of the memory card I am using with Alamode with all the software, including instructions – you just download and install onto a 4GB card you have available or (b) I send you a complete card. Easy.
The rest is tricky. Let’s start with soldering – is there any way to build this without soldering? The Alamode requires soldering. You could buy a usb hub and connect the pi to an Arduino Uno, which requires no soldering. Then you still need a stepper controller – the best bet is grblShield (if you only plan on using three motors) for $70 on inventables.com – it doesn’t require soldering. You stack grblShield on the Uno.
You do need to extend the wires from the steppers, and in theory you could use crimp connectors, but soldering and heatshrink tubing is ideal.
Regarding loading program from a stick – I advise against that since you will be doing it a lot and the pi’s USB connector is sensitive. A better solution is to run an ftp server on the pi and install the filezilla client on your laptop – then copy the files straight to the pi. I could include that in the file I create, I think.
OK, so you’ve got all the parts – now you have to wire it all together. You have to provide power and make sure that you have everything hooked up correctly. There is a step-by-step procedure for this, not too tough.
You then have two other hurdles – designing the part in a CAD/CAM program and ensuring that you are getting accurate stepping when running a long job. Problems that you may encounter are overheating the controller causing missed steps (you can’t burn it out, but you can mess up your work) and incorrect steps/mm settings (scaling is wrong). And let’s not forget the typical mistake after mistake that everyone goes through like running into the limits of the mill, etc. Finally – you may find that the job quality is lower than you like and want a faster spindle or additional helper stepper (if you have a shapeoko) – more work!
I don’t want to scare you with these stories, you just need to be aware that there is more to it than meets the eye – even after you run your first job.
Two interesting options suggest themselves – (1) I write a “beginners how to” to go step by step with no or minimal soldering or (2) – my preferred recommendation, is to find a hacker/makerspace that encourages collaboration – perhaps you can share your mechanical knowledge with someone who knows electronics and together you can help each other out.
I was going to write a document from start to finish CNC from a kit, but your post has me rethinking that to expand it to ‘beginners’ guide.
Anyway, thanks for posting, I think it is really useful for others to know the pitfalls of going the almost DIY route, but also the satisfaction of completing a complex project.
I LIKE !!!!
Please email me so I can pick up your address – we need to speak about stuff which should not be available publicly.
All the best
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