The Importance of a Plan
Plans are very important because they force us to build into our machines design features that otherwise would end up afterthoughts (i.e. dust collection, bellows, 4th Axis, wire housing, etc). In addition, costly mistakes are minimized and speed of building is significantly increased. When thinking through planning a machine, there are two routes you can go: Design your own machine or purchase plans.
There are many plans available on the internet ranging anywhere from very complete professional plans to homebrew hacks.
Here is a partial list illustritive of what is available:
- Pilot Pro CNC Routers and Projects
- Hobby CNC
- Doughty Drive
- CNC Router Source
- CNC Plans on Instructables
- Joe’s CNC
- Build Your Own CNC Machine
The second option is to take a look at the many different designs available, collect your favorite ideas and then draw up your own design on CAD. The information on this site is principle-based and designed to give you the key information you need to be succesful in your own design. We highly encourage you to work through the design process yourself. If your level of proficiency on CAD is low, this is a good opportunity to learn since much of owning and operating CNC machines involves skill in using CAD software. One of the amazing things about CAD software is that you can design it exactly how it will look in real life. It is truely an amazing experience to take a 3D model of your machine that does not exist and rotate it around and visualize it from various angles. This rotational analysis of your virtual machine enables you to identify problems before they materialize and you can change your plan as you discover new needs. There are many readily available 3D part libraries so that you don’t have to recreate the wheel. You can simply import the complicated, difficult to draw parts from manufacturers (i.e. ballscrws and linear components).
The challenges associated with designing your own machine are far outweighed by the satisfaction of prototyping and customizing to your exact specifications. One of the things to keep in mind as you design is to avoid getting too aggresive in the design phase if you have not yet purchased your major components. If you design too much too soon, when you actually purchase your components you will end up redrawing most if not all of it to match what you bought. Keeping the big picture in your head until you have the major machine components makes a lot of sense.