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CNC Plasma Cutter

The goal of this project is to build a CNC plasma cutter capable of cutting a piece of metal 4'x8'. This is my first CNC machine, so it will take some time to complete because I will need to learn everything along the way. This is a fairly large project and I certainly would not take it on without the help and support of the Milwaukee Makerspace.

This was the first project I talked about at the space and was met with a lot of enthusiasm. I did some reading and found several designs out there and have selected one that I think is the most reasonable and easiest to build accurately. Here is a link to the site I am getting the most info from: There are drawings of many of the parts and assembly instructions and tips and tricks.

With the design selected, I turned my focus on electronics as this was the area I needed the most help as I did not know anything about it. Tom Gr had some large steppers and drivers that he donated to the cause, so I was on my way. Ed Cramer took some time to help test the drivers and motors, but it looked like the motors were fairly weak and may not be able to do the job.

With some confidence that we would be able to get the electronics working (Ed really taught me a lot), I figured we should start looking for some materials to start building the hardware. Tom Gr introduced me to a scrap yard that specialized in industrial machines and I spent a day there and found a really cool frame that could be used. I started to dismantle the frame, but so much of it looked like it could be used, I just bought the whole thing. The picture below is that machine. It had previously been a perfume bottler, so it was in for a major transformation. day_one_1.jpeg

stripping_3.jpeg My daughter helping me strip the bottler to transform it into it's new role as a CNC plasma cutter.

size_of_frame.jpeg Beefy design - should provide a solid base for the plasma cutter

After finding the bulk of the machine, I kept going back to the scrap yard to find newer motors, rack and pinion drive parts, and a proper gantry setup. Well, the parts are almost all aquired and at the space. I still need some stuff for the Z axis, but I have enough now to start working on the individual components. stepper_1.jpeg

I started by cutting the cross bars that will support the bed. Then worked on the design for the motor mounts with Bill Murray who showed me how to get started in solidworks and drew up the part based on the drawing from Then I drew the bracket that rides on the linear slides, holds the gantry and is attached to the motor mounts. motor_mount_model_2.jpeg

Allong with working on these components, Ed and I tested a new set of motors that were much stronger than the previous set. I made the mistake of trying to stop the motor at high speed and my thumb got caught in the coupler. stepper_damage.jpeg

Got the design put to paper and all the parts laid out in solidworks except the frame tool holder and electronics, but this gives us a good footing to start on machining the components to build it. main_assembly.jpg

Project Members

It is really hard to list everyone that has or will help with this project as there have been so many people help with this project, from brainstorming to helping me source materials to teaching me how to use the tools needed to draw and build the hardware to testing electronics and building models. This is really a group effort and everyone has helped me in some capacity and I would like to thank the entire membership as without your help and support, I would not be able to do this project.

 * Joe Rodriguez - Lead
 * Ed Cramer - Electronics expert
 * Bill Murray - Solidworks modeling
 * Jim Rawson - Cambam and CNC router models
projects/cncplasmacutter.txt · Last modified: 2013/06/26 02:46 by bigjoe