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August 12 – 19, 2022 “Your Favourite 2.5D or 3D Carving/Relief Project” Contest

Hey everyone, thank you for participating in this week’s contest! It was tough for us to choose the winners since all the projects were amazing. We look forward to seeing all the projects shared with us and the community.


Last Week’s Winners

We are happy to announce that Kootenay Woodcraft, Guitares Perro, Erik Nielsen, Jannik Hahn, and Tom Woodhouse are the winners of the “A Project You Made to Have Fun” contest! Watch out for a prize coming your way!


This Week’s Theme: Your Favourite 2.5D or 3D Carving/Relief Project

This week’s theme is “your favourite 2.5D or 3D carving or relief”! Post your favourite nature relief, multi-sided carving, guitars, flags, or any project that incorporates a 2.5D or 3D technique using the LongMill for a chance to win some free stuff!

Weekly Themed Contest Guidelines and Rules: www.sienci.com/contest

Happy making!

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August 2022 Production Updates

Hey everyone, here is the update for this month. For all news and updates, please see our Blog.

Just as a reminder, if you’d like to get these updates as a weekly email newsletter, please subscribe here: https://sienci.us13.list-manage.com/subscribe/post?u=720f140325aaa668a8aa09916&id=e18d59a085

Not too much new to report, so this will be a shorter post than usual.

LongMill 48×30 and Extension Kit Orders

We did have a stop in production last month for a short period of time as we got shorted some Y gantry plates for the 48×30 and EX plates but that has now been resolved. We’ve shipped out another batch of around 50-60 machines since.

Because of a higher than expected number of orders for the 48x30s, we are currently out of stock on X rails and are waiting for another delivery of material on August 12th. While we expected 48×30 machines to make up around 30-50% of our machine sales, we’ve now found that the larger variant has recently become nearly 60% of our sales in the last month. The new batch of rails that are on the way has been adjusted to reflect the new ratio.

Once the rails arrive, we will ship machines out again and should take about 2 weeks to complete the remaining queue.

LongMill 12×30 and 30×30 Orders

Orders for LongMill 12×30 and 30×30 have been mostly shipping out within one business day. We currently have parts in stock and ready to go.

LaserBeam Orders

We have received new drivers and are currently packing and shipping the rest of the queue. Most customers should have gotten theirs shipped already, and most new orders are going out within a week. If you have a machine on order waiting to be shipped, the Order Status page may not show as completed since both items haven’t shipped yet.

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August 5 – 12, 2022 “A Project You Made to Have Fun” Contest

We are excited to announce that we are now doing a weekly contest based on a theme! Each theme will be one week long. We will release the next theme at the end of the winners’ post every Friday. We will choose the winners throughout the week and the cut-off time for winners is Friday at 1 pm. Make sure to post your projects before then to ensure that we do not miss them!


The Theme of the Week: A Project You Made to Have Fun

This week’s theme is “a project you made to have fun”! Post your cribbage boards, chessboards, cornhole boards, wooden toys, connect 4, or any toys or games or “fun” related project that you made with your LongMill, and we’ll choose our favorite ones to send cool stuff for free.

Weekly Themed Contest Rules and Guidelines: https://sienci.com/contest/ 

Happy making everyone!

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How to make a Giant Connect 4 on your LongMill

Hey everyone. We’re excited to share another really awesome project tutorial for your LongMill! If you want to check out the last project we did, please check out our article Make your own CNC workholding with your LongMill!

For all of the project files, gcode, and DXFs, please check https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/13dB2GdV_zdN0aFZ8ULrZV_tzBj3636fF?usp=sharing to download.

For the Onshape project, see https://cad.onshape.com/documents/f24bc250089e8290988cf97f/w/118c48f226a5c07c6859a878/e/67296551e93f8799debc4d14?renderMode=0&uiState=62ec1d8fc0c2246fe5c7b44e

Parts and Materials:

All you need for this project is a sheet of 1/2″ plywood and a 1/8″ end mill. Everything fits and slots together with friction and some persuasion with a mallet. If you want to use a different size material and modify the dimensions of the design, we’ve included a few variables that can be adjusted in Onshape for your specific materials.

By default, we made it so that the thickness of the wood is 0.5in, the thickness of each puck is 0.5in, and the diameter of the pucks are 3 inches in diameter. You can change the number in the variable to change the dimensions. If you use the pre-made project files and gcode, we’re assuming your material is 0.5in. Although most 0.5in plywood will work, if you want materials to fit perfectly, you can measure the thickness of your material with calipers, input that as a variable, and all of the slotting surfaces will automatically scale up or down, with additional clearance added in key areas to slot things smoothly.

Since the LongMill 30×30 is our most popular size, we’ve made everything work on the 30×30 size. Below is a diagram of how we broke down a 4×8 plywood sheet into sections for the LongMill.

Onshape offers a free, hobby and education use license that offers the full functionality of their program on the cloud, with the exception that all projects made on the free plan are public and searchable. This means that derivatives of this design will also be available to the public.

To modify designs, you will need to create an account on Onshape and duplicate/copy a new version to make changes. A few other notes:

  • When importing your DXF into a CAM program like Carbide Create or Vectric, please note that if they are coming out the wrong size, you may need to change your project units. I’ve found that setting the project units to inches usually works the best. Alternatively, you can scale them to the right size.
  • DXFs from Onshape are not usually joined, so you may need to use a “join vector” tool before creating toolpaths.

Most CNC users will likely want to export all of the parts as DXFs. This is a very easy process. Simply right-click the side of the model you wish to export the face of and “Export as DXF/DWG”. Then import the vectors into the CAM software.

https://cad.onshape.com/help/Content/exporting-files.htm

For these projects, we used a 1/8″ end mill. Since we’re working with plywood, a down-cut end mill will work well, but a compression bit might work even better. You should be able to use any 1/8″ bit, but if you want to buy some from us, you can find them below:

General Cut Settings

If you are making your own gcode, you can adjust your speeds and feed accordingly. The gcode made for this project is fairly conservative and should work for pretty much any type of wood. You can increase and decrease your feeds and speeds using Feedrate Overrides in gSender or most feature filled gcode sender.

Here are some tips that might help otherwise.

  • Use ramping to help smooth out your cut. There are many small parts to this project that are prone to flying out. Ramping reduces the cutting loads when moving between each pass and prevents the part from breaking or shifting.
  • Use a smaller final pass. In some CAM software, you can set a final pass. This is the thickness of the last pass. By making the last pass smaller, you can prevent your part from flying out as the cutting loads are smaller.

This project was made with VCarve Pro, which has all these features. If you’re looking for free CAM software that can handle 2D DXFs for this project, I’d recommend Carbide Create as an excellent option.

Assembly

Start by cutting all of the parts out. You should end up with a couple of big parts and a bunch of small parts that keep all the big parts together. Here are a few exploded views to help out, but overall, the assembly can be found in the instructions.

A few notes:

  • Using some scrap wood to help direct your mallet blows will help keep your parts from breaking.
  • Putting in the “pirate teeth” on the one side first before assembling the second half, rather than putting both big sheets on first and putting the teeth on after, rather the way it was shown in the video may help keep things from shifting when assembling the two halves together. This will also help protect the tabs from breaking from the other side as well.
  • We’ve made some changes to the design between the video and the final public version to help things fit better and make tweaks. If you have some differences in your design, don’t worry too much as you’ll probably have the better version! However, if you run into any issues, feel free to reach out.

I hope everyone enjoys this new project. Stay tuned for new projects coming down the pipeline and make sure to subscribe to our Youtube!

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Open-source CAD for the Full Public Release of the LongMill MK2 design files is finally complete!

The LongMill Benchtop CNC has finally seen a revitalization in the form of its new MK2 design. In development since late 2020, many aspects of the design were sought to be overhauled in the name of everything the LongMill project stands for – low cost of manufacture, design simplicity, ease of assembly, and rigidity. With the MK2 all these improvements are brought further due to a complete reimagining of what the LongMill could look like with a redesign from the ground up.

MK2 distinguishes itself from the original LongMill project by a couple of key factors. Though many of the common components carry over such as v-wheels, lead screws, motors, anti-backlash nuts, etc. the biggest differentiator is the use of two completely custom-designed extrusions for each X and Y-axes which allow for much higher rigidity, ease of assembly, reduced part count, and more rigid mounting of the Y-rails to the tabletop surface. The MK2 design was also further optimized by the shape of the X, Y, and Z carriage plates to squeeze more travel out of the same length lead screws while also increasing the CNC’s rigidity by how the v-wheels are located. The blank canvas of the MK2 also meant we could ensure that add-ons our customers have been enjoying on their existing LongMills could be made available on the MK2 with much simpler implementation such as dust shields, dust shoe, and limit switches.

With MK2s shipping out our doors starting April 2022 it took a couple of extra months to get our CAD in order for public release but we also pride ourselves in doing as much 3D model clean-up on our end as possible before public release so that the design files are more ‘open-source’, as open sourcing not only comes with making designs available, but the spirit of open-source is also to make resources for replication as accessible as possible to the average person.

Check out and browse through all of the MK2s parts and assemblies here: https://cad.onshape.com/documents/59335d21bb649cd2b941a693/w/290c65d1d584435649b87e46/e/600153589e983bb0a499494f

Read more about our open-source project and other aspects of what you can download here: https://resources.sienci.com/view/lmk2-open-source/

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USMCA Tax Exemptions on Orders to the US

Since June, we’ve started shipments placed for US orders as DDP or DAP (Delivery Duty Paid or Delivery at Place), which means that customers have not been charged for duties and taxes on shipments. We’ve been monitoring and testing our system for the last few months to make sure it was all working properly.

I’m happy to announce that things have been working as they should and we are letting everyone know that going forward our American customers won’t have to worry about duties and taxes when ordering from us! This means that any duties, taxes, or brokerage fees will be billed directly to us.

For our previous update and additional details on this topic, please visit https://sienci.com/2022/06/21/update-on-duties-and-taxes-to-the-us/.

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Adding a spindle to your LongMill?

Over the last few months, I’ve been playing around with using a spindle on the LongMill MK2. Originally, we didn’t recommend for customers to use spindles on their LongMills due to the overall cost and complexity, as well as because we hadn’t done much testing on how a heavier spindle would behave on the LongMill.

I recently wrote about working with Andy McTaggart, one of our beta testers in one of our posts. There I mentioned that at the speed and cutting depth he was running his project, I could audibly hear his Makita router struggle. Although the project was completed without incident, I also realized that now with the LongMill MK2 bringing significant rigidity improvements, there were a few more areas in which we could push the boundaries of how hard we can run these machines.

Now with the overall rigidity improvements on the LongMill MK2, we are more confident in recommending installing a spindle for some customers who might benefit from the extra power and features a spindle can offer, which we’ll discuss in this article. We’ll also talk generally about installing a spindle and some of the things I recommend watching out for.

Disclaimer

I have done my best to make sure the information in this article is useful, accurate, and relevant. However, I do not take any responsibility for any issues, injuries, or damage arising from this. We do not provide direct company support for spindles and VFDs, so we cannot help you with your specific setup or installation. If you have any inquiries or questions, please direct them to the manufacturer of your spindle or VFD.

This article is designed to provide some general information, not a step-by-step instructions for adding a spindle to your machine. Installation will vary significantly depending on what hardware you are using.

We want to create a plug-and-play option for a spindle for the LongMill in the future. However, at this time, there is no timeline or plans for this to be available anytime soon. If you wish to stay up to date on future development, please sign up for our mailing list: https://sienci.us13.list-manage.com/subscribe/post?u=720f140325aaa668a8aa09916&id=e18d59a085

Who would I recommend spindles for?

I’ve had the chance to work with spindles in both industrial and hobby settings, as well as play around with a variety of different types of spindles over the years. I’ve also spent many years using the Makita RT0701 router which we recommend for the LongMill as well.

The biggest and main reason I don’t recommend using a spindle is because spindles and VFDs are much more complicated than routers. Yes, a spindle comes with a lot of advantages, but for most beginners, I don’t think the benefits outweigh the potential cost and headaches of setting one and using one brings. Although there are now some plug-and-play spindle kits available for hobbyists, such as from PwnCNC* that can take some of the guesswork out, there are a lot of settings, wiring, and other technical details that may confuse users. From my experience, cheaper spindle kits that you can find on Amazon and Aliexpress have many quality issues and come with pretty much no documentation and support. Most also don’t come with any cables and require additional cables and soldering to set up. If you are just starting out with CNC and don’t want to make your life more complicated, using a small router is still an excellent choice.

*I have not used the Spindle Kit from PwnCNC and cannot vouch for the product. This is not a recommendation or endorsement.

Over the years, I have played around with several different spindles from different vendors which are all “budget focused”. Here are some common things I learned:

  • They don’t come with any wiring, so you’ll have to source your own.
  • VFDs are not pre-programmed out of the box to work. Running the spindle without the right settings can cause damage.
  • Some come with a very brief instruction manual which requires a lot of research to decipher. There are usually a lot of different variations of VFDs and finding manuals online can be difficult
  • It is hard to judge the actual quality without taking the spindle apart or with special tools. I would take any specifications posted for each spindle with a grain of salt.
Anemic wiring on a 1.5KW air-cooled spindle

I think it’s also important to give credit to how good the Makita RT0701 actually is. Although 1.25HP (0.9KW) doesn’t sound like a lot when you compare it to a 1.5KW or 2.2KW spindle, because of the constant speed control under load feature, the router will keep a constant RPM even at high loads. On the other hand, 3 phase motors in general typically require to spin within a certain range to provide a certain level of torque, but may not provide the full torque potential of the motor. This means that the power rating of the spindle may not represent the actual usable power at the RPM ranges you want to work in. With the exception of certain types of high-load jobs, such as surfacing and bowl cutting, the Makita 0701 should be able to keep up without issues. We’ve used the Makita router for cutting steel and aluminum and it’s survived if that’s worth anything.

Here is a general list of pros and cons with a spindle compared to a router:

Pros:

  • More overall power
  • Quieter
  • More durable, as it does not need brushes
  • Less runout
  • Allows for speed control using gcode or the computer interface

Cons:

  • More expensive, typically $300ish on the low end, and $1000+ on the high end
  • Complicated to set up and use
  • Additional electrical installation to handle added current loads may be needed
  • Safety concerns with dealing with mains voltages
  • Higher chance of user error and damage
  • Higher chance of having EMF issues

Choosing a spindle and VFD

The two main components of the spindle system are the spindle and VFD. The spindle is the motor part, which holds the bit and spins it. The VFD (variable frequency drive), is an electronic driver or controller that controls the frequency and current of the electricity going into the spindle to adjust its power and speed. We’ll be talking about both of these components and what to look for when selecting them.

Common example of a spindle
Common example of a VFD

Power

Most spindles in the size category will either be 0.8KW, 1.5KW, or 2.2KW. VFDs can be matched with the spindle as required. The larger the diameter of the spindle the more power it usually has. Most 65mm spindles will generally have a power rating of 0.8KW to 1.5KW. 80mm spindles will generally have a power rating of 1.5KW to 2.2KW. Larger and smaller spindles do exist, but for the purpose of this article, we won’t get into them.

It’s sort of difficult to suggest one power rating over another because cutting loads vary a lot based on material and tooling used, but for context, the Makita RT0701 is about 0.9KW. A 1.5KW spindle theoretically would have up to 67% more power and a 2.2KW would have up to 144% more power.

I would recommend going with the 2.2KW if your power outlets can handle it, but if you are on 110V/120V with standard 15A breakers, you’ll be limited to a 1.5KW model. A 2.2KW spindle on 120V will peak at 18A and a 1.5KW spindle on 120V will peak at 12.5A. On my setup, I am using a 2.2KW spindle and VFD but limited the max current to around 10A to prevent the breaker from going off.

Size and weight

CNC spindles for this type of CNC use typically come in 65mm and 80mm diameter sizes. We sell a 65mm and 80mm that works with any LongMill. The larger the diameter of the spindle the more power it usually has. Most 65mm spindles will generally have a power rating of 0.8KW to 1.5KW. 80mm spindles will generally have a power rating of 1.5KW to 2.2KW. Larger and smaller spindles do exist, but for the purpose of this article, we won’t get into them.

It’s also good to note that spindle size also generally determines what collet sizes you can get with it as well. Most 65mm spindles will have an ER11 or ER16 system. 80mm spindles usually use an ER16 or ER20 system. The number of the ER collet dictates the largest shank that the system can take plus one millimeter. So an ER16 system can hold up to a 17mm shank.

An ER11 collet

The next thing to consider is the weight of your spindle. I don’t have exact weights for the different sizes, but this 80mm spindle weighs about 10lbs. A 65mm spindle would obviously be lighter. The one below is an air-cooled model, which has some extra fins and bits for heat dissipation, and based on some cursory online research, a water-cooled spindle of the same diameter and power should be slightly lighter. A lighter spindle makes it easier for the machine to control the acceleration of the spindle and puts less stress and wear on the overall machine, but in my testing, using the 80mm air-cooled spindle was totally fine with default LongMill settings.

Water-cooled vs air-cooled

Spindles are available as water-cooled or air-cooled. Each has its pros and cons. I would preface to say that I don’t have any experience using water-cooled spindles, as I chose to go with air-cooled ones due to their simplicity. This part will come from general research done online plus some of my experience using air-cooled spindles.

So the first major difference is in sound level. Because air-cooled spindles need to have air flowing through them, a sound is generated in this process. Water-cooled spindles are generally quieter since it uses a liquid flowing through the body to cool the spindle.

When comparing the air-cooled spindle to the Makita, the air-cooled spindle is much quieter. It may be worth noting that during cutting, the sound of the bit cutting is much louder than the spindle itself, so I am guessing that the overall difference in real-life use isn’t too large. I chose to go with an air-cooled to avoid needing to deal with coolant lines and such. Once you add in the sound of your dust collection as well, my opinion is that I would expect that the difference would be minimal.

The second big difference and the reason I chose to get an air-cooled spindle is regards to the fact that coolant lines and a bunch of other parts are not needed. Water-cooled spindles need coolant, lines, a reservoir, and a pump to keep the spindle cool. Although not particularly complicated to set up, I wanted to avoid the clutter. I also wanted to avoid dealing with coolant and the chance of it leaking, spilling, and making a mess. It’s important to note that since air-cooled spindles use ambient air to cool themselves if you are in a high-temperature environment, a water-cooled spindle may be more suitable.

Voltage and phases

In a spindle system, you’ll need to concern yourself with the voltages and phase count of both the VFD and the spindle itself. Most will be 110V or 220V and accept it in single phase or three phase. Usually, VFDs can accept a range of voltages within their base working voltage. For example, if you have a 110V VFD, it should work within 100V and 130V. Although most VFDs are 3-phase, VFDs that have different numbers of phases also exist.

Using a higher voltage, such as 220V over 110V, typically makes it easier to transfer more power with the same cable thickness. When you start wiring your spindle, you’ll have to consider the wire gauge and power requirements of your system. The limit to the power you can carry on any given wire generally comes down to the amount of electrical current you are carrying and the resistance of the wire itself. A thicker wire has lower resistance and thus can transfer the same amount of current while generating less heat. If the heat generated is more than the amount that the wire can handle, you will have a meltdown, and lots of bad things happen. Note that these formulas are assuming DC instead of AC, and are simplified for sake of ease of explanation. For more info on calculating with AC, please check out this article.

Heat in watts =(Current in amps^2) x (Wire resistance in Ohms)

Power in watts = Voltage in volts x Current in amps

Based on these formulas, current is inversely proportional to voltage. This means that a 220V circuit requires half of the current to carry the same amount of power as a 110V circuit. A 220V circuit will also generate less heat flowing the same amount of power through a wire. This concept will be important when balancing choosing your input and output voltages of your VFD.

Here’s a pretty cheap on I found on Amazon

To choose your input voltage and phase, confirm how you’re planning to power your VFD. Most North American households will have access to 120V, single-phase outlets. In this case, you’ll want to either choose a VFD that accepts 110V or use a transformer to change the voltage to the VFD you have.

Next, you’ll want to select the output voltage of your VFD. You’ll need to match this based on the voltage rating on your spindle. I’ve found that 220V tends to be the most common and is probably the one you want.

If I were to make a recommendation it would be:

  • If you have 220V power available to you, to get a 220V VFD and 220V spindle.
  • If you have 110V power only, find a VFD that has an input voltage of 110V in single phase and an output voltage of 220V in 3-phase.

Frequency

Most VFDs and spindle motors have a rated frequency and speed range. Most VFDs for CNC use will usually be rated for 0-400HZ, but it’s important to check that the working frequency range can support the spindle speeds you want. Spindles will have a speed range with the max RPM being the speed the motor can run at its rated frequency. Most that I’ve seen have a range from 10,000 to 24,000RPM.

Set up

Wiring

Setting up a VFD from scratch involves a lot of wiring. If you have a pre-configured kit that comes with everything you might be able to skip this step.

First, we’ll talk about the AC input. In my, I cut a spare power cord to expose the green, black, and white wires. The green wire is connected to the ground and the white wire to the “L”. On the “N” terminal, I’ve wired in-line with the black wire an E-stop switch for a bit of extra safety. If you don’t have a E-stop, your wire color will probably be black, but in my case the E-stop wire is red.

Just as a side note, please make sure to check the gauge and current carrying capacity of your AC cable. In my case I am using a 14AWG cable good for 15A. I have experienced AC power cables melt from being used beyond their current limits. There should be a rating stamped or printed on the side of the cable for you to double-check.

Next, we’ll want to wire up the three-phase size to the spindle which is denoted by “W”, “V”, and “U”. This is where the lack of documentation makes things a bit more complicated. Some VFDs will say “U”, “V”, “W” instead as well.

In my case, the single sheet of paper that came in the box instructed me to wire Pin 1 on the provided aviation plug with “U”, Pin 2 with “V”, and Pin 3 with “W”. This involved doing some soldering to get the wires onto the aviation plug. If you have everything wired up correctly, the spindle should turn clockwise when looking from the top.

I would mention that the spindle did not come with any cables. I am assuming that the user is supposed to source their own. Spindles generate a lot of EMF, and so proper shielding is also important, but for some reason the paper manual also said to not ground the spindle and the cable. I did open up the spindle at the top cover and indeed the body of the spindle was not grounded.

In any case, if you have a shielded cable, you can ground the shielding and be on your merry way. I haven’t run into any interference issues yet, but your results may vary.

It is possible to purchase spindle-specific cables. The one I’m holding is one from an Ebay seller, which is probably the best type to use. However, because of the small size of the plug that came with the kit, I used a thinner, less durable 4 conductor security cable. Since it’s an 18GA wire, it’ll probably be ok for 10-15A, but it’s not ideal since this isn’t specifically designed to get bent and moved around that much.

A proper 3 phase spindle cable
4 conductor shielded security cable

Programming

I’ve found this to be the trickiest part of the setup, because there are a lot of parameters to select before running the VFD. We’ll go through some of the basic settings and talk about what they do, but it’s likely that the parameters and names of each are going to vary depending on the model you have. Having the wrong setting might fry your VFD or spindle so make sure to keep track of what settings you are changing and write notes down if you need to. I’m going to write down the name of the parameter and the description of the setting, but they may not be the same for your VFD.

First, get into “Programming mode”. There is probably a PROG button or something similar on the main panel. This will bring up each setting and you can navigate them using the arrows. You can choose to modify the setting with another button (“FUNCT/DATA” in my case) and save it. Make sure to double-check your settings persist regularly to make sure your settings are staying.

These are some of the settings that I feel like are most important. However, you should double-check all of them.

P00 Maximum voltage: Output voltage setting, or what we want to voltage going to the spindle to be. 220V.

P01 Reference frequency: This is the incoming voltage. For our case, it should be 60Hz since that’s the frequency our grid uses.

P02 Intermediate voltage: This is the incoming voltage, which in our case is 120V.

P07 Minimum operating frequency: This is the minimum frequency you can set for your spindle. In my case, the air-cooled spindle may overheat if it goes too slowly, so it may be good to set this at 166Hz, or a minimum RPM of 10,000.

P10 Working frequency source: This chooses where you want to get your speed control from. You can either control it directly on the control panel manually, but it’s likely you’ll want to be able to control it in gcode or software. If you have all of the other wiring set up, you can choose to use an external signal (in our case, a “2, external analog signal“) to control the speed of the spindle.

P11 Start/Stop control source: You can also choose how you want to turn on and off the spindle. The best way to set this up is to have it turn on with an external signal, such as the signal controlling the speed of the spindle.

P50 to P55 Multi-function binding post: This setting allows us to choose what turning on one of the input terminals does. In our case, we have it set up to “wire forward operation” because we want the spindle to turn when the terminal is active.

P62 Display options: You can choose what to display on the panel, such as RPM, current, operating frequency, etc. In my case, I just wanted to see the RPM so I have it set to “2 revolution”

Installation

As we discussed earlier, most spindles will come as a 65mm or 80mm body size. You’ll need a mount that fits this. If you already have a Makita RT0701, you can probably use the same original router mount as it is also 65mm, but if you are going with a larger 80mm body, you’ll have to order a new one. Router mounts can be purchased from our store.

From this point, you should be able to mount your spindle and route the cable back to the VFD through the drag chains in the same way as the Makita router.

Firmware and gSender settings

If you wish to have control over your spindle speed through gcode or gSender, you’ll have to check a few different settings for your machine. Some of the added features include:

  • You can have the spindle turn on and off automatically. For example, you can have your spindle turn on and spin up for 10 seconds before starting your cut, and then turn off the spindle automatically after the job is complete.
  • You can change spindle speed directly in your gcode. If you want to start the cut with a fast spindle speed, then slow down later in the job, you can do that directly with the code.
  • You can change your spindle speed on the fly with a few clicks, rather than fiddling with the knob on top of the Makita.

First, we’ll do a bit of wiring. Start by adding two leads from the SpinPWM output terminal from your LongBoard and wiring it to the input on your VFD. If you’re running a laser as well, you can have them in parallel as long as your laser is off. It should also be noted that you may need to change your min and max intensity values on your laser to match with your spindles min and max RPM so you don’t have to keep changing them in your firmware.

For more details about the LongBoard and stuff you can do with it, please check out our resources.

If your firmware settings using gSender, you’ll need to select your minimum and maximum spindle speed settings. In my case, I’ve selected 24,000RPM for the max spindle speed and 0 for the minimum. When the controller outputs a PWM signal, it will set the PWM duty cycle to 100% at 24,000RPM or higher, and between 0 and 0.4% duty cycle at 0RPM. Don’t forget to press “Apply New Settings” to have the settings propagate.

It’s very important for us to discuss the difference between analog input and PWM input. They are different and need to be taken into account when wiring your VFD and controller. I’ve talked to a lot of folks adding accessories that have been confused about this. The LongBoard controller and most GRBL controllers will have a PWM output. This means that the controller produces an on-off signal very quickly. Depending on the percentage time it is on, or the duty cycle, determines the speed or intensity that we want to have in controlling a device. This means regardless of the actual voltage being output, a PWM signal can represent the intensity accurately.

However, most VFDs use an analog voltage control. This means that the higher the voltage, the faster your spindle will run. Most have a 0-10V range, although some can be configured for 0-5V. This means that simply plugging in a PWM signal to a VFD that uses analog control may not work. If you are using an analog input VFD, you may want to find a digital to analog converter like the one below.

With the specific VFD that I’m using, I was able to set the voltage range to 0-5V. I have the PWM signal lines connected to the analog inputs directly and I am able to control the speed this way. This only works for a small and very specific set of reasons:

  • The output voltage of the PWM signal is close enough to 5V, or the max input voltage so that when the PWM signal is at 100% duty cycle, the spindle speed is also set to 100% speed.
  • The way that the VFD measures the voltage is by taking the average voltage over a certain period of time. So running at 50% duty cycle means that it thinks the input voltage is 2.5V.

This may not work for you and I don’t recommend setting things up like this, as factors such as your PWM voltage and the way your VDF interprets the incoming signal may vary. The most ideal way to set things up would be to find a VFD that can accept a PWM input.

Also, disable “laser-mode”. Again, if you have a laser you may need to change these settings back when you use your laser again.

Next, by clicking on the gSender’s setting button (the gear icon at the upper right corner of the interface), you can toggle on Spindle/Laser interface and the max and minimum spindle speeds. In this case, I have it set to 10,000 to 24,000RPM.

Once you exit out of the settings, you’ll be able to find the Spindle/Laser controls in your gSender interface.

From here, you can run your machine clockwise with the “CW (M3)” button and stop the spindle using the “Stop (M5) button”. If you have a VFD that can input a signal to run the spindle counterclockwise, you can also wire this with the “SpinDirection” pin and another terminal on the VFD. We won’t get into this since I don’t most folks will need this feature.

Another important thing I want to touch on the spindle dropping down due to its weight and inertia. The lead screw on your LongMill may not have enough drag to keep it in place when the motor is powered off. You can combat this by:

  • Setting the $1 Step Idle Delay to 255, to hold your steppers.
  • Adding a counterweight or using the lightest spindle possible.

To change your Step Idle Delay, you can find it in the Firmware tool again. Changing it to 255 means that the stepper motors will hold their position when they are not moving. Otherwise, they will power off after a small delay which allows them to move freely.

It’s important to note that setting the steppers to hold their place means that power continues to go to the motors, which may cause them to get hot. I would recommend shutting off the machine or changing the step idle delay back to the default if you aren’t using the machine. Although you shouldn’t have any issues or damage with regular use, you do run a larger risk for fire, which is why I try to avoid having the steppers hold.

I’ve created some macros to basically hold and unhold the stepper motors, which makes it easy to get around this issue. If you want to download and install them yourself, here’s the code:

To install it, just download the file and upload it into your macro section.

Alternatively, you can counteract having the spindle fall with a counterweight or springs, which we won’t get into here.

Using your spindle

If you have your spindle set up to run manually, for example, so that you turn on and off the spindle with the button on the front panel and speed with the potentiometer, then you can use your spindle by adjusting these.

However, if you’ve wired everything up to control directly through your computer and controller, you’ll be able to control your spindle directly through gSender. I’m assuming most users will want to do this as this is one of the most convenient parts of having a spindle in the first place.

First, you can control and test your spindle using the interface at the bottom left. Simply click the “CW (M3)” button to run the spindle, and set your RPM with the slider. A small note, you may need to reclick the “CW (M3)” button again to have the speed update. You can turn on and off your spindle using these controls. If you’re wondering what “CCW (M4)” does, this is the command to run the spindle counterclockwise, which sends the same PWM signal to control the speed but also a high signal on the “spindirection” output terminal on the control board to indicate the VFD to turn the other direction. You probably won’t need to worry about this one, unless you’re doing some really advanced stuff. Finally, the “Stop (M5)” command stops the spindle.

If you want to control spindle speed in your gcode, you will need to include it in your CAM. Find the setting that selects your spindle speed in your CAM software. The setting may be specific to each tool, or be a global option for your whole job. Another note is that once your spindle is running at the speed set in gcode, you can use the feedrate override controls to change the speed of your spindle.

And lastly and my personal favorite, is using the “Start/Stop Gcode” feature in gSender. This basically adds gcode at the start and end of every job. So when you press “Start Job”, it’ll run some code first. For my setup, I’ve made it spin up to 24,000RPM (M3 S24000) and then have a dwell (G4 P10) for 10 seconds to give it a moment to get up to speed. At the end, it sends an M5 command to turn off the spindle. You can adjust and change the code to fit whatever works in your system.

If spindles are a bit too confusing to you but you want to control accessories like your Makita router or vacuum with a relay, please check out our page about IOT relays.

Conclusion

As our community continues to grow and folks continue to push their LongMills further and further, I’m excited to test and share what we’ve learned to add more capabilities to our machines. When I’m using the LongMill for my personal projects, I’ve found myself running the machine harder and with more confidence as well, and I believe that upgrades like these can provide significant improvement to the machine’s productivity.

I found that setting up spindles and VFDs are pretty complicated. However, I’m hoping that as the hobby CNC market expands, we’ll see more third parties create plug-and-play options to eliminate the confusion that exists with budget setups. In the meantime, if you have a spindle set up with your machine, I encourage you to share your knowledge and setup! I’ve already found a lot of great info on our forum, if you’re looking for what’s already out there.

Happy making!

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Make your own CNC workholding with your LongMill

Hey everyone, we just wanted to share a quick and simple project to add some extra workholding options for your LongMill. This project also works great for other CNC machines so feel free to adapt them for whatever setup you have. We’ll be providing links to all of the files, gcode, and links to the parts and bits you need to use below.

One thing that we want to experiment with is in providing ready-to-run gcode to the community. Basically what that means is that rather than for us to provide the general design files, such as with a 3D model or vector file, users just need to have the right size material and bit to be able to create something. We believe that this will help lower the barrier for new beginners to do projects as they continue to learn to CNC. This also means users will be able to make stuff without needing to go through a CAM program, which we believe is one of the more challenging parts of the process. We’ll of course still be providing all of the other design files and info so that users can still modify and remake the files to their liking.

Clamps used for CNC workholding are always at the front lines of where the action happens, and because of this, are prone to getting chewed up or damaged. Having a CNCable design that can be made from scrap wood makes it easy to make extras whenever you need more or want to replace them. The goal for these designs is to be able to allow folks to make their own clamps using cheap and commonly available materials.

For these projects, you’ll need some

  • Plywood or other sheet material. We recommend using 3/8″ or 1/2″ material
  • 1/4-20 hex bolts of various lengths. I’ve found 1-1/2″ and 2″ bolts are pretty good lengths to start with
  • 1/4-20 nuts
  • 1/4-20 threaded inserts
  • 1/4″ washers

We’ll also assume you have some sort of t-track or threaded inserts installed in your table as well. Depending on the t-track you have, you may need t-bolts that fit as well. If you’re looking for a t-track for the first time, I’d recommend finding some that have a profile that fit ¼” hex bolt heads instead, as compatible hardware will be easier to interchange and source.

The pre-made files for this project are made for 3/8″ to 1/2″ plywood because they are common sizes, but if you want to use other thicknesses, the Onshape design document is publically available and can be adjusted to the materials you have on hand by changing the “thickness” variable on every Part Studio. The downloadable design and gcode files are pre-made for 3/8″ and 1/2″ material.

Files for download on Google Drive: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1-yqwXRzFJ7Vkuc_LlHl02ixcUFjN3CYX?usp=sharing. You’ll find:

  • DXF files
  • Gcode files
  • Image preview of the parts

Onshape offers a free, hobby and education use license that offers the full functionality of their program on the cloud, with the exception that all projects made on the free plan are public and searchable. This means that derivatives of this design will also be available to the public.

To modify designs, you will need to create an account on Onshape and duplicate/copy a new version to make changes. A few other notes:

  • When importing your DXF into a CAM program like Carbide Create or Vectric, please note that if they are coming out the wrong size, you may need to change your project units. I’ve found that setting the project units to inches usually works the best. Alternatively, you can scale them to the right size.
  • DXFs from Onshape are not usually joined, so you may need to use a “join vector” tool before creating toolpaths.

Most CNC users will likely want to export all of the parts as DXFs. This is a very easy process. Simply right-click the side of the model you wish to export the face of and “Export as DXF/DWG”. Then import the vectors into the CAM software.

https://cad.onshape.com/help/Content/exporting-files.htm

General Cut Settings

All of these clamps can be milled easily on a CNC machine and assembled by sliding the parts together. While the downloadable designs are made for 3/8″ and 1/2″ material, variations in the thickness of your material may affect how well parts slide together. For the most accurate fitment of parts, I recommend measuring your material’s thickness with calipers, then using that thickness plus 0.1mm on the “#thickness” variable in Onshape. This will automatically adjust areas of the design that rely on thickness, such as the joining slots and holes. That being said, some gentle persuasion with a mallet will usually do the trick as well. 

Everything is designed to be cut with a 1/8” bit, and extra reliefs or “dogbones” have been added for everything to slot together nicely. Please note that if you use a different sized bit using our pre-made gcode, your parts will not come out to the correct size.

If you want to make your own gcode files, here are some general recommended settings.

If you want to get the cleanest looking cut, a downcut bit will work well and a compression bit will work even better. For the sake of accessibility, all of the designs have been made to work with ⅛” bits. 

As a side note, I just wanted to mention about using corncob bits. Whenever I make slot-together projects, I actually generally use a 1/16” corncob bit because 1) it leaves a fairly clean top and bottom edge 2) has a thicker overall body, which makes it less prone to breaking compared to a fluted 1/16” bit 3) because it leaves most of the dust in the cutting path, most of the time I can get away without needing any tabs or something to keep the piece from flying out 4) since the radius is pretty small, a relief on the inner corner radius isn’t necessary for parts to fit together and 5) because the cuts are thinner, it also makes less dust and waste overall. Since ⅛” straight bits are almost ubiquitous, I’ve just made the designs work with those, but if you can get some 1/16” corncob bits to experiment with, I highly recommend it.

Project 1) Hold Down Clamps

Hold-down clamps are versatile and simple to use. They work by “holding-down” your material by pushing down on the top of the material.

There are a million different ways to make a hold-down clamp, but this design is unique as it uses a rounded support at the back to allow for the right angle to apply downwards pressure against your material. The most optimal angle for securing your material is at a level or slightly angled down position. Based on the thickness of your material, simply flip the clamp upside down to use the side that offers the most optimal angle.

Since these clamps are made of wood, even if you have a bit of an “oops” and run into them while carving, you’ll minimize the damage you’ll do to the machine and since you can make them on your CNC, you’ll basically have an unlimited supply!

Exploded View 

Tips, notes, and suggestions

  • Threaded inserts are super handy in adding threaded holes to wood. Simply fit a hex head driver or Allen wrench into the top end of the insert and screw it into the pilot hole. We sell these in the store but they are also easy to find on Amazon or at hardware stores.
  • Knobs and the semi-circles are prone to flying out after cutting, so I recommend milling them a little slower on the final pass than you would on the body of the clamp.
  • You’ll need different length bolts to accommodate different thicknesses of your project, but I’ve found that 1.5” and 2” bolts are suitable for most applications.
  • If you make the toe clamps in the next part of the article, make sure to make extra knobs as you’ll need them there too!

Project 2) Toe Clamp

If you don’t want to have clamps in the way of the top surface of your material, toe clamps are the way to go. By pushing in from the side, they stay away from the top of the material, and by angling the force downwards, we’re able to keep the material from lifting up as well.

This clamp must have some sort of hard stop for the other side of the material to butt up against. I’ve also included some designs for corner stops that can be bolted to a t-track table, but any solid stop for the material will work fine.

Tips, notes, and suggestions

  • If your clamp can’t get close enough to your material, try using some scrap blocks to fill in the gap. This can also help if your clamps are getting in the way of your spindle or router
  • Watch out that your clamp doesn’t slide away on the table when you turn the knob. Because of the mechanical leverage you get in the screw, the amount of force you’re putting on the material may be enough to slide away the clamp as well.

Final thoughts

I hope you find these designs useful and offer a starting point in building up your CNC workholding arsenal! Since these designs are freely open for you to use and modify, please feel free to make changes to the original design to make improvements and fit your needs.

We’re planning on continuing to design and share projects for our community, so make sure to subscribe on our social media.

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Getting The LaserBeam Back On Track

June 16th 2022 the LaserBeam queue was officially cleared. We will be shipping LaserBeam orders made after June 14th 2022 before the end of this month. We will be focusing on reordering low inventory items, adding spare parts to the shop and updating the software section of the LaserBeam resources. 

If Your LaserBeam Just Shipped:

New In depth Laser Videos: 

If you ever wanted an in depth video guide for the LaserBeam we have just the 3 part video set for you. Our resident contact guru Scott put together these videos to help you get set up with your LaserBeam 

We’ve also included them in the LaserBeam Resources

Moving Forward: 

  • We are working on getting our supply chain into shape 
  • Ordered another 400 Drivers from Makerfabs, we should resume shipping LaserBeams before the end of the month
  • We are doing inventory checks so we can place orders immediately for any low stock parts 
  • We will be posting spare parts and add-ons to the shop: 48×30 Longer Cables, Lens pack, Focus Finders, Air Assist etc. 
  • Lightburn is currently available for purchase directly from us: https://sienci.com/product/lightburn/

LaserBeam Changes: 

  • We will now start shipping LaserBeams with new longer, nylon covered cables. These have been added to any current 48×30 customers who ordered the LaserBeam. 
  • The added length gives 48×30 extension customers the needed added length and provides all other Longmill sizes extra length. We will be adding these to the store for anyone to purchase soon
  • We will now start shipping updated Laser Mounts which are smaller, lighter and easier to mount

 As we wait for the new Driver order, current LaserBeam orders will have a lead time of 2-4 weeks and we will push to lower this. Thank you all for being so patient and supporting the product as well as the company!

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July 2022 Production Update

Hey everyone. Here’s our update for July 2022. Production continues to move along as scheduled and we are getting machines out the door as usual.

Just as a reminder, if you’d like to get these updates as a weekly email newsletter, please subscribe here: https://sienci.us13.list-manage.com/subscribe/post?u=720f140325aaa668a8aa09916&id=e18d59a085

LongMill 12×30 and 30×30 Kits

Any 12×30 and 30×30 orders have been shipping out as they come in and lead times on orders is 1-3 business days. Kits are in stock and ready to go.

LongMill 48×30 and Extension Kits

Starting last week, we have started shipping out LongMill 48×30 and the Extension Kits. At the current time of writing, we should have around 20-30 people who have received their orders or have gotten their machines shipped. If you have a pending order, you should have gotten an email from me that looks like this:

Hey there,

If you are getting this email, we’re either prepping your LongMill 48×30 or Extension Kits to ship or we’ve already shipped your order out. At the time of writing, we have 20 out the door already and another 140ish kits pending. We’re excited to start seeing LongMill 48x30s in the wild! Here’s some important info about your order.


LongMill 48×30 machines will ship in two separate boxes

If you ordered a complete 48×30 machine, your order will come in two separate boxes. In most cases, they will have one master tracking number and two child tracking numbers for each box. In some cases, we’ve had to make two separate tracking numbers for them depending on the shipping configuration. 


If you ordered any type of Extension Kit, they will come in one single box.


Timing of shipping of orders

There are a couple of new things that we’re tackling with this shipment which may affect the time you receive your orders slightly. If you’d like to check on when we’re estimating to get your order, please check our list here: https://sienci.com/order-status/


Thankfully we have all of the parts ready to ship, but there are some operational things we’re wrapping up to ensure every package has the proper documentation and paperwork done for shipping which will take some time. 


Here are a couple of general notes:


– US customers who are on military bases may take longer for us to process, as there are some technical issues with Canada Post (USPS) because some of their back-end shipping systems are not working at this time. We are working to resolve this or find alternative shipping options.


– We’re finalizing some of the packing and documentation for the extension kits. We just finished doing the final packing for the MK1 to MK2 Extension Kits with the MK2 XZ Gantry and should have the MK1 to MK2 Extension Kits with the Adapting Brackets ready in the next day or two. Our team is also finalizing the documentation which will be posted on our resources soon as well, but we will start shipping the Extension Kits tomorrow as they get packed so that they’ll be arriving in the customer’s hands by the time they are uploaded.


If you have any questions or need any other help, please feel free to reach out to us (https://sienci.com/contact-us/).


If you’re looking for a dimensioned drawing for the footprint of the machine, please feel free to download it here: https://sienci.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/LongMill-MK2-48×30-30×30-and-12×30-dimensions.pdf


Happy making,


Andy

New orders for 48×30 and Extension Kits will ship out in order, so we are expecting new orders to ship in about 4 weeks.

LaserBeam orders

We are waiting on another batch of LaserBeam drivers to arrive to us and should be here in about three weeks. LaserBeam orders will continue to ship when we receive the new batch.

In the meantime, please check out Scott’s latest videos on setting up the laser!

US Duties and Taxes

As a short follow-up to our last update on US Duties and Taxes. I put out a post on the Facebook group and it looks like with the exception of one customer who reached out, we’ve been able to get the LongMills cleared for everyone. We had about 15 orders get charged taxes which we’ve paid on the behalf of the customer before we sent all of the proper USMCA clearance paperwork, but we have confirmation that they have received the paperwork now so any new orders crossing into the US should get cleared properly now.

We’ve also set up an exemption on the 48×30 Extension Kits, so these orders should clear duty-free as well.

First Nations Tax Exemptions

If you are a Canadian First Nations, you may be eligible for a tax refund on completed orders. We have updated our system to process these exemptions. For more info, please visit this page.