Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Penny wise, pound foolish

I got the idea that I should try to design and build my own electronics. I've done electronics design before, including microcontrollers and FPGAs and the like, but I have little experience with power electronics. That, and I'm impatient. The upshot is that after wasting about three weeks and a few hundred dollars in trying to control stepper motors, I'm not much further ahead. Here is the affordable pre-packaged solution (which had been recommended by the guy who sold me the mechanics) which I should have used from the start:
So I'll plan to pick up a 3-axis controller and run it with LinuxCNC. Apparently TurboCNC is also very popular but I'm not about to run DOS on any machine that could be running Linux.

The mechanics cost about $300 including shipping. The steppers cost $75 (I got them from RRRF). This stepper controller will run maybe $225 with shipping, so the whole thing is $600. That's reasonable. Obviously it doesn't include waste.

I'm thinking it would be fun to fool with Python code that generates G code and sends it to the CNC. I could develop a repertoire of programmatically defined shapes.

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