fab academy 2012
final project: suitcase CNC
My final project is a 3-axis Suitcase CNC. The CNC was inspired by the mtm snap, similar electronics and joint connections were used. It is about 20" x 15" x 10" in total, while the cut bed is about 11" x 8" x 2". The design was drawn in Rhino3d, the red HDPE was milled in about 5 hours using a Shopbot, and the PCB for the electronic controls was milled on a CNC and then soldered. The goal of the suitcase is to be a traveling CNC with a simple setup that can be used anywhere around the world. The intention is to be a tool used in teaching workshops on digital fabrication. The machine breaks apart at its midpoint to allow for a more compoact storage. There is still a little fine tuning to be done to the final package, but the CNC is built and running within the suitcase boundaries.
The electronics for the suitcase are a mix. Originally the Arduino controlled grbl shield developed for the mtm snap was going to be the controller. As it was built and tested in our lab we consistently ran into issues, some on the physical end and others on the software end. When it came time for the final test, the grbl shield was not successful in running the suitcase CNC, yet. The CNC is currently being run off of a HobbyCNC 3 axis kit. As the suitcase is tested, both boards will be as well. This will help to compare the durability and consistency between both electronics options.
The final suitcase used a Hobby CNC control board, different motors, and a larger power supply. The Hobby CNC control board was used because we were unable to get the grbl shield to properly move the motors, and we wanted to use Mach3 as the control software. The motors were updated from the original MTM snap stepper motors because the control board required motors that pulled more Amps. The power supply was changed so that we could have sufficient Amps running to all parts. The power supply was also an automatically switching one because the suitcase was designed to run in other countries with varying current.
the suitcase ran successfully in Albania, Kosovo, and France. It was used as a tool to teach students about making architecture with digital fabrication equipment and it gave them a chance to cut scale models of their work on site.
Follow the makeLab blog to keep up with the suitcase's updates and travels.