Tag Archives: CNC Controller Software

CNC – Update 5: Jog Box

The USB CNC Controller has a 14 pin connector for connection to an external “Jog Controller”. This controller allows the user to move the spindle along each of its three axis, and control the speed at which the movements are made. While there were no instructions for this, a little trial and error established the connections and the necessary circuitry to perform axis movement.

Even though I’m waiting for the 14 pin connectors and big fat momentary switches (on order from China), I made a prototype. It consists of a sloped-top wooden enclosure with an engraved fascia (CNC’ed, of course). I have populated it with LEDs, small momentary switches (which I have previously found to fail intermittently !!) and the jog speed control. The Jog Box connects to the CNC USB Controller with a 14 conductor ribbon cable.

CNC-USB Jog Box-Final

CNC USB Controller Jog Box: Final version with large toggles

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CNC – Update 4: Limits & homing

I have been playing with the CNC machine and all too often I’ve accidentally hit both X and Y extreme limits of travel. I don’t know if there is any damage being done but felt I should do something about it.  The controller software has a panel in the setting menu for both positive and negative limit switches for all three axis so I needed to find the associated hardware connections. The company I bought the machine from claimed not to have hardware schematics for the CNC controller or the USB interface. However, I did receive an image of the CNC Driver Board board indicating where limit switches may connect (top left).

CNC Drive Board

CNC Drive Board

Through trial and error, I found that the model of my controller only provides one input per axis for a limit switch. This means that in the X and Y axes, a limit switch only works when the unit is traveling in a positive direction (i.e. towards the back and right edge). For the Z-axis, the limit switch only works when the spindle moving downwards.  In normal operation the limit switch input is open circuit. If and when the machine moves to a limit, the switch shorts the input to GND and this stops the movement immediately.

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CNC – Update 3: Cutting images in plastic

If only Matisse had his own CNC machine…

The CNC Controller software has the ability to import 2D images in .bmp, .jpg and .png formats. I chose one of my favourite Matisse’s black and white line drawings of a woman’s head and shoulders, called “La Pompadour” (see note below) and uploaded it into the software. The following screen shots show the sequence of windows and screens as the image was converted to a cutting pattern.

CNC image details

CNC image details

CNC image processing

CNC image cutting control

CNC image pattern trace

CNC image cutting pattern






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CNC – Update 1: Cutting heart shapes

So, I was playing with my CNC machine and its control software and started to cut some shapes and designs. I make no excuses, as i’m starting to learn how to use the machine and software. Here is a very amateur video (sorry about the quality) of the CNC machine cutting a heart shape into some primed MDF. The tool is a 1/8″ spiral upcut so consequently the shape outline is quite thick.

As you may be able to see, one of the screens of the USB CNC Controller software shows the G-code (on the left side) and a real-time graphic of the cutter position (x-axis in green, y-axis in red and z-axis in blue) and the heart-shaped path it is taking.

I’ve set up the machine properly so that step size is now accurate in X, Y and Z axis and have been playing with different g-code designs. As an example, here’s a heart within a heart (just for Lili).

CNC Hearts

CNC Hearts

Hearts cut from 3/16" MDF

Hearts cut from 3/16″ MDF

Using a 1mm bit, the inner heart was cut to a depth of about 4mm and the second to nearly 8mm. This outer path was actually created by scaling the first by 200%; a feature of the software.

I guess I’ve just passed my first test – I broke my first 1/32″ milling bit (sob). [Note to self: remember to turn the spindle on before starting the cut!].

I also cut two hearts from 3/16″ MDF using the 1/8″ (3mm) end mill cutter. I used the multi-pass feature to make 7 passes, each pass lowering the mill by 1mm. The results were very impressive, yielding parts with clean features and sharp edges.

Onwards and upwards (or is that side-to-side?)

Cool huh?

CNC machine (or “drool, but don’t touch”)

Enter stage left, my new Model 3040 CNC Machine. Ta da!

CNC 3040 Machine

CNC 3040 Machine

Now, this is what I would call a real man’s toy!

For those of you (myself included) who are not very clued up about computer numerical control (CNC) machines, I guess we’ll teach each other.

The unit basically moves a high-speed rotary tool in three different orthogonal (90 degree) axis. The unit sits on a substantial aluminum base with an extruded aluminum bed. A heavy-duty gantry straddles this bed and rides up and down on the base (Y-axis) while the rotary tool assembly on the gantry can move from side to side (X-axis) and up and down (Z-axis). Hence, the three axis!

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