Category Archives: CNC

Nixie Tube Clock

Design files for this project can be found here

For the longest time now, I’ve wanted to build myself a Nixie tube clock completely from scratch. Building one isn’t easy though given the various barriers to entry: the high cost of Nixie tubes ($10-$50 each), high voltages for driving the tubes (~170V), designing the PCB, the desire for an nice enclosure that isn’t made out of laser cut acrylic.. All together, it meant that I didn’t have the time and resources to put towards this project until now.

Since I anticipate that I’ll be actively working on this project over the next 8-12 months, this post will not have the usual changelog at the top. Instead, I’ll be slowly appending my progress to this post along with any useful info I find.

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Roland Collet Fans

Design files for this project can be found here

The Roland MDX-540 that I’ve been working with gives great results when working with woods or plastics but less so when milling aluminum. While the Roland does have (barely) enough horsepower to cut through aluminum, the lack of chip clearing ends up being the limiting factor for the feed rate. While I normally use the Tormach P770 when working with metals, the Tormach lacks the nice fixturing table for mounting stock. Luckily for me, Roland provides a fan design for the NDC7S tool holder that I easily modified for a more secure fit on the collet nuts.

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Roland Fixturing Table

Design files for this project can be found here, here, and here

1/21/2017 – Update to the alignment blocks

One of the issues with the Roland MDX-540 is that it’s surprisingly difficult to mount stock for milling when not using the vise in the rotary unit. The old fixturing table consisted of an MDF sheet with a few holes drilled in it to allow it to be attached to the aluminum extrusions. Removal of the table was required to mount anything, so it was nearly impossible to mount stock with any sort of accuracy onto the table. My fix for this was to redesign and remake the fixturing table out of aluminum together with some custom clamps and alignment blocks to allow for the precise positioning of stock onto the table.

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Roland Chuck Spanner

Design files for this project can be found here

Here’s another small project I did a while back. The chuck spanner for the Roland MDX-540 in the Garage went missing, and without it the entire machine was out of commission as there was no way of tightening the lock nuts on the tool holders for the end mills. Rather than order and wait for a replacement spanner, I decided to model up and mill out a replacement on a Tormach PCNC 770. Results were great, but I did hit some alignment issues on the Y-axis which resulted in a small ridge running along the side of spanner. Lesson learned: check both the Y-origin as well as the X-origin after flipping the stock in the vise, the Y-axis origin may vary by up to a few thousands of an inch.

Compact End Mill Case

Design files for this project can be found here

One of the downsides of working with a large variety of materials (wood, plastics, aluminum, steel) in CNC mills is that each material requires a set of end mills tailored for that material. The basic requirement for each material is a square (flat) and ball (round) mill, but on top of that you have roughing (1-2 flutes) vs finishing (4+ flutes) mills, different sizes (1/2″, 1/4″, 1/8″, 1/16″, and 1/32″), and a number of specialty end mills (chamfer, dovetail, keyway, drills, threading, and engraving). All together, that’s a significant number of end mills to have to carry around.

My initial solution was to carry around my end mills together with my calipers, but that quickly became impractical as the number of end mills I had rapidly increased over the last few months. Instead, I ended up making a case capable of holding 22 1/4″ 2.5in length end mills, 8 1/8″ 2in length end mills, and 18 1/8″ 1.5in length end mills.