ABOUT THIS PROJECT
Tell us briefly about your project. Is it a work of art or does it serve another
The DIYLILCNC is a free, open source set of plans for a tabletop CNC mill. Computer Numerical Control tools are used to convert digital models into precise physical carvings. We’ve just finished development of lil’ CNC version 2, and will be releasing full documentation at http://diylilcnc.org in the next few months. You can see DIYLILCNC V2 executing a drawing in the attached video, but the tool can also be used to carve wood, foam, plastics and light metals.
When did you start working on this project and how long did it take you to complete?
DIYLILCNC version 1 is based on a set of plans that we found on instructables.com in 2008. The process of building Stuart McFarlane’s design taught us a lot about CNC, so we decided to make improvements and return our work to the open source community. We released lil’ CNC version 1 in 2010, then spent a year promoting the project and collecting feedback from our build community. Our efforts culminated with a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2011, providing crucial funding to help us complete DIYLILCNC version 2 in 2012.
What was your goal in building this project?
To increase accessibility of open-source CAD/CAM tools through software development, curricular development, open source design and community outreach.
Does your project help to solve a problem? If so what problem?
Falling prices, increased computer literacy, and the availability of Do-It-Yourself CAM projects like DIYLILCNC and Makerbot put rarified, commercial-grade design tools and vocabulary in the hands of educators working on a budget. Though professional-grade machines have found their way into some art/design schools, the size and cost of such tools can be intimidating to beginners. When students build a DIYLILCNC from scratch, they learn CAD/CAM from the ground up, allowing them to anticipate problems and take risks that would be much more costly on a large device.
What makes your idea unique?
Our project takes the tools of high industry and makes them available to the everyday maker/hacker. Though there are many general DIY CNC projects to be found online, we wanted to make a kit that was useful for a specific community: beginners, on a budget, who might lack access to specialized parts and tools. Our overall design owes a lot to existing open source projects, but we’re pretty sure our skate bearing motion solution is a first. Nonetheless, we encourage our build community to appropriate and remix any and all aspects of the DIYLILCNC V2 design.
In what capacity are you using bearings and what type of bearings?
We designed all of the linear motion in the DIYLILCNC around common skate bearings. Though we’re aware of more complex/expensive solutions found in industrial CNC, we want to support our international build community, many of whom live outside the first world. Our bearings are mounted to the “end-on” faces of plywood, allowing for greater flexibility when it comes to choosing locally sourced materials (1/2” vs. 12mm plywood, for example). This approach also helps reduce kit part count and cost while increasing the overall “hackability” of the project.
What is the most important thing you want people to know about your project?
CNC may seem complex, but our project is made specifically for beginners. Building a lil’ CNC will open your eyes to a world of DIY engineering possibilities and introduce you to an international community of like-minded makers.
How will you use the $5,000 prize?
If we win the $10,000 award, the money will go straight into the continued development of the DIYLILCNC project. This could include travel to conferences, materials for R&D, and the ability to hire contractors with areas of expertise outside our own (on topics such as software development, motor-control circuitry, and more).