Turning the Mill One into a 3D printer


3D printers technically ARE CNC machines because they use “Computer Numeric Control” systems, but when it comes to CNC routers we start to see some major differences between the two types of machines.

Almost all consumer facing 3D printers are FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) 3D printers, laying down layer by layer of molten plastic to create 3D objects. They use a variety of mechanical systems to move a nozzle which extrudes out the molten plastic to build up that object.

CNC routers work in a similar way, except starting with a block of material and removing material using a rotating cutting bit until you’re left with a object.

Before we dive into how the Mill One was converted it’s important to point out some major differences between CNC routers and 3D printers.

The most important is the differences between the mechanical intent of these machines. CNC routers experience huge amounts of force during milling and rely heavily on the stiffness of the mechanical systems to maintain accuracy. This makes them significantly heavier and slower than a 3D printer. 3D printers on the other hand need to move the extruder nozzle quickly, and because they are relatively lighter than a router or spindle, the mechanical systems lighter and are much more nimble.

While there are several 3D printers which can act as a CNC milling machine, due to the different mechanical requirements of each machine, they are either slow at 3D printing or underpowered as a CNC router. It’s up to the customer to choose if they want a machine that can do one thing really well, or a few things so so.

Regardless of this fact, we still went ahead to see what would happen if we turned the Mill One into a 3D printer!

The first step to modding the Mill One into a 3D printer is to find the right electronics. We had a RAMPS 1.4  control board on hand so we chose to use this. The RAMPS 1.4 has all the sockets and pins needed to control all the periphery devices of a 3D printer (like a hot end, extruder, homing switches). You can find newer, more powerful control boards with many more features that the RAMPS, but the RAMPS is fairly easy to find and can be found inexpensively online.

We followed this dossier to help me wire the RAMPS together and wired the 3 motors which power the X, Y, and Z axis, as well as a spare extruder we had lying around from the old, out of commission Tevo Tarantula. It was quite busted, and some hot glue was to put it together.

Next we made a hotend mount on Onshape (https://cad.onshape.com/documents/52436466fea12dac661480ae/w/b7dc1b1b106c004039ce4fb9/e/b29df9762dbf3a03104811ec) to mount the hotend and set that up as well. We printed it out on the 3D printer.

As for the hotend, we bought a E3D Volcano hotend clone online for a few dollars. It works pretty well, although if you do use this hotend, make sure to use the fan included otherwise it will clog.

Last thing to do is upload the firmware to the Arduino Mega in the RAMPS 1.4. We used this tool to configure the firmware, which will help you configure the firmware to match the rest of your hardware. It took a bit of trial and error to select the right settings. You can also change some of the settings through the EEPROM settings in Repetier Host (the gcode sender/slicer) we used, in case you need to fine tune things.

Installing the firmware is as easy as selecting the right port and device on the Arduino IDE, extracting the downloaded firmware ZIP file, and opening the Repetier.ino file. Simply click “upload” and the firmware should install onto the Arduino.

There’s a couple more things we could add, like a part cooling fan, homing switches, heated bed, etc. However, we wanted to keep things simple and just prove that it was possible to turn the Mill One into a 3D printer. All in all, the Mill One did a decent job at printing out this little low poly Pikachu. You can see there is some blobbing, which can be fixed with fiddling with retraction settings, and we can improve the pointiness of the ears by adding a part cooling fan.

In comparison to a regular 3D printer, the Mill One is a little bit slower and a little bit louder, but it can still produce high quality prints because the mechanical systems are more rigid and more precise. It was a really fun modification to make and the total cost in parts, had we purchased everything new would be around $60, making it a pretty inexpensive mod as well.

Until next time…



Assembled units from Kickstarter shipping now

Assembled units for the Sienci Mill One ordered on Kickstarter are shipping now. Three left our garage today, and the remaining units will be shipped next week!

Finding the right sized boxes was kind of tricky, but we did find a couple that matched the dimensions we needed at Home Depot. That’s why if you ordered a assembled unit, you’re going to get a Home Depot branded cardboard box. Actually, for extra protection, we put another, smaller Home Depot box inside the large one plus some extra padding to make sure everything is packed as securely as possible.

We’re happy to say we’ve had no items damaged through transport yet, and we hope we can keep it that way!

Clearance sale ends tomorrow!

We are currently in the process of building another 100 Sienci Mill Ones and are clearing out space to make way for new inventory!

Exclusive coupon codes for Midwest Reprap Festival and our mailing list will be expiring tomorrow!

Carving cedar on the Mill One

Here’s a quick project done on the Mill One, made from some blocks of cedar that Chris had found at Home Depot.

We had gotten a new 1/4″ 2 flute upcut bit as a gift that I hadn’t tried out yet, and I felt like a box would be a good project to try it out on. With the geometry of this box, most of the work is done carving out the inside of the box, and so a large bit which could remove a lot of material per pass was perfect.

I started off my surface milling a few mm into the wood, getting the thickness of the piece to about 1.375in. I did this because the top of the wood was slightly curved, and I wanted the top of the box to be flat.

In the beginning I had put the feedrate at around 700-800mm/min, but it felt to slow at that rate, so I bumped it up to about 1000mm/min. I think if I had kept the same feedrate, it would have given it a slightly nicer finish, but after some light sanding, the results would be indistinguishable.

One of the quirks about milling solid wood is that it will leave burrs, especially with softer wood like fir or pine. Cedar is a fairly light wood, and so there was a small amount of fuzzing at the edges, but it was easily picked or sanded off. Having a sharp bit certainly helped, and I did vary the router speed between 12,oooRPM to 16,000RPM to experiment, and found somewhere in between worked the best.

The box was drawn in Onshape and the gcode was create with Kiri:Moto, which you can add as an application in Onshape. Check out the design here: https://cad.onshape.com/documents/b27ffd01f4c9a086501d6171/w/13922f3e1399a3ddda8572bf/e/4a509eaa67fd88133009dc32

I have designed a lid for the box as well, and will be milling one out some other time.

You should be able to download the design and modify it to fit the dimensions you like. This box is designed to be made using router bits 1/4″ and smaller. If you want to use a larger router bit, increase the inner radius of the box to accommodate.

Have project ideas you want us to try out? Feel free to reach out to us!


How can the Mill One be used in your makerspace?

3D printers, CNC machines, laser cutters, saws, tools galore. Makerspaces are the best place to go when you need access to tools and machines to create your next product. One of the challenges the people who operate makerspaces is that machines offered to their members need to be robust, reliable, easy to use, and affordable.

While easy to use and reliable 3D printers can be found in abundance, and there are a wide selection of laser cutters, there are no clear choice for a CNC router. With CNC routers coming in all shapes and sizes, some costing a few hundred, all the way to hundreds of thousands of dollars, it can be daunting when choosing the right tool.

So where does the Sienci Mill One come into play? Learning to use a CNC machine is a daunting, and with industrial size machines, can be dangerous as well. Users need to understand concepts like feedrate, depth of cut, and different types of passes to have success with a CNC milling machine. The Sienci Mill One offers a easy to learn platform to get users familiar with basic CNC milling concepts that can be used in all types of CNC milling machines. And at the price point it offers, makerspaces can purchase several units for the price of one expensive unit, giving more members access desktop CNC milling technologies.

The Sienci Mill One currently resides in several makerspaces in North America, and we’re looking forward to be putting our machines in more areas where people can mill amazing things!


Adding homing switches to the Sienci Mill One, by Troy

With Troy’s instructable, you can now add homing switches to your Sienci Mill One!

What are homing switches? Homing switches allow a machine to touch off of each end of the axis to help find the absolute position within the unit. When the Mill One is first turned on, the current location in which it is at is considered the origin (0,0,0). Until the origin is reset, the machine will consider the movement of the axis to be relative to that origin point. By homing the machine, we can reset the machine to call the same physical position of the endmill to be the origin.

While in most cases, homing switches are not necessary, but in some cases, they can be useful. In a case where you want to make the same part over and over again, it is possible to make a jig to clamp the material in the same position on the bed. By homing the machine, you can set up the Mill One to start milling in the same location of the material every time. This is just one example.

To find out how you can add this feature to your Mill One, visit: https://www.instructables.com/id/Add-Homing-Switches-to-a-Sienci-Mill-One-CNC/

Back from MRRF 2017

The Midwest Rep Rap Festival was amazing! Last weekend, over 1200 makers gathered together to share their projects and ideas. Our trip started off with a 600km journey to the middle of nowhere.

It was about a three hour trip through southern Canada, then through Michigan, Ohio, and finally to Indiana. We stopped a few times for gas and the washroom, but what really kept us going was the shepherds pie I had made at 2am last night.

And finally, we made it! We made it to Goshen, IN, home of MRRF.

Over the next few days, we’d be talking to hundreds of really interesting people, checking out really cool projects, and having a great time.

Well until next year, MRRF!

PS. A special thanks to everyone who came out and especially Kelly, who was our photographer for the trip.

220V Router Delays

If you’re one of the 13 backers who are waiting on kits with 220V routers, we are still waiting on our UK supplier to receive new stock from Makita. In the meantime, they have offered to send us 4 routers which are in stock first.

Thank you to the 13 backers for their amazing patience as we figure this out. Your kits are currently ready to go and are just waiting on the routers to arrive. Once they are here we we’ll ship them out immediately!

We are attending Midwest Reprap Festival!

Midwest Reprap Festival coming up soon! Hosted in Goshen, Indiana, The MRRF brings thousands of makers around the world to share their reprap (replicating rapid-prototying) projects. We’ll be there to show off the Mill One all the other awesome projects we’re working on, because we love 3D printing too.

This is the first time we are attending MRRF and we are super excited to be there this year. Will we be the only desktop CNC company there? We’ll see!

Want to attend? Admission is free, sign up for a ticket here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2017-midwest-reprap-festival-mrrf2017-aka-mrrf-tickets-28382784673

Read more about previous years on Hackaday: http://hackaday.com/tag/midwest-reprap-festival/



FRIDAY March 24, 5pm – 10pm

Setup day and hangout day as in past events, with many people showing up and bringing in all their stuff to show off.  The event hall will open at 5pm and stay open until 10pm for setup for anyone coming to attend.  If you’re just coming to walk through you’re welcome to come friday as well!  Plenty of hang out time and meetups on Friday.  Feel free to wander out and grab food then come back and hang out.

SATURDAY March 25, 10am – 6pm

Doors open by 10am and let the show begin!

SATURDAY March 25, Noon – 6pm

We’ll have speakers and presenters throughout the day starting at noon giving talks on all things 3D printing and/or related.


SATURDAY March 25 7pm-9pm

Dinner for all registered attendees.  Chinese Buffet is where it’s at again, so come hungry!

SUNDAY March 26 10am – 5pm

Doors open by 10am.  There will be FPV Drone racing outdoors weather permitting and a few more presentations this year on Sunday.  Event ends 5pm and load out/cleanup afterwards.