Learn how the LongMill is set up, the types of projects it’s capable of, and much more!

Your Machine

Surfacing the Wasteboard on Your Longmill January 22, 2020

Want to learn to surface your wasteboard?

  1. Surfacing your wasteboard helps level the surface in relation to your machine. This means that if you have bumps or uneven surfaces on your wasteboard, or if your wasteboard is higher on one side that the other, surfacing will even out and flatten the board.
  2. Cleans off old marks and scars, leaving you with a new, clean surface to glue, clamp, and mount your workpiece.

Check out our newest video that covers how on Youtube:

For more info and surfacing code for all LongMills, visit our resources page: https://sienci.com/dmx-longmill/surfacing-the-wasteboard/

Check out these new instructables on modding your Mill One January 28, 2018

Troy, a.k.a tmbarbour has put out some really cool instructables on adding some new functionality to the Mill One! You might know him from his Add Homing Switches to a Sienci Mill One CNC project, and he’s made some other cool changes to his machine.

Easy Z Axis Probe for Your CNC Router

This instructable walks you through adding a Z axis probe to the Mill One using the built in pins on the CNC V3 Shield. This makes it a lot easier to automate the process of finding the Z height of your workpiece.

Add an Arduino-Based Optical Tachometer to a CNC Router

Knowing the RPM of your spindle can help you get more consistent results out of your Mill One. Not only that, it’s a cool little add on that’s fairly inexpensive and fun to make. Troy’s instructable covers everything you need to know to make your own.

Sienci Mill One Air/Oil Mist Coolant System November 6, 2017

There’s been talks and photos of different coolant systems on the Sienci Mill One Group over the last few months, but this is the first full guide I’ve seen on setting it up on a Mill One. Check it out here: https://www.instructables.com/id/Sienci-Mill-One-AirOil-Mist-Coolant-System/

So why a coolant system? Well, when it comes to cutting aluminum, one of the biggest challenges is to keep the end mill from clogging with aluminum chips that weld themselves due to the heat created by friction. Aluminum has a fairly low melting point, making it a material susceptible to this.

There are a few methods to make sure you don’t damage your end mills. One is to make sure that the chips you’re creating are large enough to carry the heat created away from the cut. This is where using a single flute aluminum bit works well, since the single, large flute creates larger chips than what a 2 flute or a 4 flute would typically do. This works great with most jobs, and typically you won’t reach those temperatures. However, with long jobs that can take several hours, some sort of cooling is nice to have.

Andrey’s method of using a mist coolant system is commonly used in industry on large, industrial machines. It uses a blast of air, mixed with a stream of vaporized coolant, pointed toward the end mill to lubricate and cool the part and the tool. Unlike flood cooling, which uses a stream of liquid coolant that sprays at the tool, mist cooling requires far less coolant, and if properly set up, a lot less messy.

If you’ve had this mod in mind for your Mill One, check it out!

 

 

Turning the Mill One into a 3D printer April 11, 2017

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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…
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Adding homing switches to the Sienci Mill One, by Troy March 30, 2017

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/

Projects

Creating a Resin Filled Table With the Longmill March 5, 2020

Patrik from Sienci Labs connected us with Alex from Curate Vintage to trade a custom made table for some custom Sienci Labs swag. In this project, we are carving the logo into a table using the LongMill and filling in the pocket with epoxy resin. 

Software

For this particular project, we are using Easel by Inventables (http://easel.inventables.com/users/sign_in). Easel is a free, web-based, and simple to use CAM software that is excellent for beginners looking to do 2D projects like signs, trays, and lettering. Easel is compatible with many CNC machines, including X-Carves and Shapeokos. 

There are many video tutorials on using Easel available online.

Importing an Image into Easel

By using Import — Image Trace on Easel, you can import JPG images to cut with your LongMill. Images that are black and white or made up of solid colors typically work best for this process. You can also watch this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-sfK-QxwzQ) which covers a slightly different method of using an image to create a carving.

Feeds and Speeds

The feeds and speeds used for this project was 60in/min (1524mm/min), 15in/min (381mm/min) plunge rate with a 0.125in (3.175mm) depth of cut. In the video the depth of cut says 0.18in, however since the pocket is shallower than the max depth of cut, it only cuts 0.125in down. These speeds are fairly conservative and should work with most types of woods.

End Mill

For this project, we used a ¼” downcut end mill (https://sienci.com/product/1-4-spiral-down-cut-end-mill/). We chose a downcut end mill because we knew that we would not be able to sand or finish the surface of the table after it had been cut or poured, as the surface would be ruined, and using a downcut end mill would prevent any splintering or fuzziness on the top surface.

Epoxy Resin

We bought 946mL of resin for this project and ended up using approximately 2/3s of it. This was our first time using epoxy, but we found it was a fairly easy process. Our particular resin required a 1 to 1 mix ratio which was measured out by scale. We added powdered color mica resin dye to provide the color. Our particular resin brand was called “ArtResin” which hardened in about 24 hours, but you can find an epoxy that fits your needs.

Project Learnings

This was a super fun project, and things turned out pretty well. 

If we were to do this project again, we would probably want to use solid wood or high-quality plywood for the table material. This is because melamine covered MDF does not allow for us to sand or mill off the surface of the table. Instead, we needed to be careful to drip resin onto the uncut parts of the table. 

Thank you again for following along!

How to Put an Image on a Piece of Wood Using Your Longmill November 15, 2019

Hey guys, check out our latest tutorial for your LongMill!

Taking images (JPEGs and other bitmap images) and carving them into wood and other materials is an awesome way to make signs and other projects. In this video, we’ll be walking through the steps on how to turn an image found on the web, making a v-carving, and carving it into a piece of material.

The description below covers some additional information that may not be covered in the video if you want to do some extra reading.

Links to software:

https://inkscape.org/

https://carbide3d.com/carbidecreate/

—Note: I personally use Inkscape and Carbide Create to do projects like these. There are many alternatives that you can use. Some programs that can also turn images into carvings include Easel and F-engrave. Your process and results may vary.

Tooling for v-carving:

A general purpose 60 degree or 90 degree v-bits for routering are quite easy to find, especially at your local woodworking or hardware store. If your project has a lot of wide lines, then typically a wider bit, like the 90 degree v-bit, would be preferred, as you don’t have to cut as deep to get a wide line. On the other hand, if your project has a lot of thin lines, using a narrower bit, like the 60 degree v-bit, can be a better option, as you can get a little more detail, and more contrast in the carving since it cuts deeper.

Speeds and feeds:

The general settings used in the video work well for most woods, but you should have a lot of headroom to play with on the LongMill if you choose to boost your speeds and feeds.

One other factor that can play a role in your cut time is your retract height. You may choose to lower your retract height to speed up your cut as well. 

Material prep and finishing:

You will get the best results with material that is flat. This is because the variance in your material’s thickness can also cause variance in the width of your lines for your v-carving. 

Having a contrast between the surface of the material and inside of the cut is important in ensuring that your carving is visible. For this particular project, I used melamine covered particle board, which has a reasonable contrast between the top white layer and the underlying brown particle board. Some methods of increasing contrast can be pre-painting the surface (paint outside of the cut), painting and sanding the surface (paint inside the cut), or choosing materials that have contrasting layers or surfaces (such as with color core HDPE)

Ideas and further learning:

You can use the first technique of turning images into vectors for a large number of other projects, such as with contour carving. If you have sketched artwork or hand-drawn pictures, you can also use photos of those items, as long as they have white backgrounds and are mono-colored.

Making a plywood shoe rack on the LongMill October 26, 2018

One material that I really enjoy milling on the CNC machine, either the Mill One or the LongMill, is plywood. It’s a strong, forgiving material that’s fairly inexpensive, with a decent sheet of  4′ x 8′ sanded 1/2″ plywood costing around $35 to $40 at Home Depot.

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Some cut plywood pieces

The LongMill is designed to handle 2′ x 2′ sheets, specifically because you can take a 4′ x 8′ sheet and get exactly eight pieces from that (minus the cut width of the blade on one or two sides.

I just moved into a new apartment in Downtown Kitchener, and I realized that I didn’t have a shoe rack yet, so I figured that it would be a good project to do on the LongMill as a simple and quick test, and it would also let me get something useful out of it as well.

You can find all the design files and gcode here: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3178323

Want to make modifications to the design? Find the Onshape model here: https://cad.onshape.com/documents/a13ff69cba130fe9a7fbe081/w/e8122a12fba4c941c5dcb6f0/e/f80cc298643b4db924d45b1c

Here’s a quick video showing off the milling:

Joinery Box Project October 5, 2018

One of the nice things about having a CNC machine is that it makes it super easy to make a lot of different types of joinery. This project shows how to make and mill out a simple box out of plywood. If you want to get some inspiration on some other designs for joining wood and other materials together, I would recommend taking a look at the Make Magazine’s CNC Panel Joinery Handbook.

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You can find the models and gcode here (designed jointly by me Andy and Bojun Li): (upload the gcode and STL files to Thingiverse)

This article will cover some of the basic concepts around how this particular box was designed and how this very basic joint was designed. We’re using Onshape here, but you should be able to use whichever 3D CAD software you prefer. Just a quick note, the dimensions used in the diagrams below may not correspond with the actual dimensions of the box. The dimensions were just created as examples.

Male joint

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There’s a couple of key dimensions here when creating the male part of the joint. First thing to look at is the 0.5″ dimension. This corresponds to the thickness of the material. Since the next piece of material will be 90 degrees to the joint material, having the width of the joint equal to the material thickness will ensure that the completed joint is flush on both sides of the box.

Next is the 0.125″ diameter dimension. This corresponds to the diameter of the end mill that you are using. CNC machines are unable to cut sharp inner radii, so we’re cutting in a bit further so that we can make sure that the two parts come together without interfering. Just a quick tip: sometimes your CAM software might not recognize the feature if your end mill diameter and your dimension are equal. If that happens, I’d recommend increasing the dimension a little bit until the CAM software does recognize it.

Lastly is the joint width (0.75″). You can change this to whatever you want.

Female joint

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A lot of the dimensions here are going to correspond to the ones that we created above for the male joint.

First off, we have the 0.5″ dimension, which corresponds to the thickness of the material.

The 0.125″ diameter dimension corresponds with the end mill diameter as well, but this time, the sharp corner we are taking care of is in the inside of the joint. As I mentioned above, you can make this diameter just a tad bigger if your CAM software does not recognize it.

Lastly is the 0.75″ dimension. This should be the same as the width set for your male joint. You may find that if the joint is too tight or hard to put together, you can add a bit more space in this area to allow for a better fit (a few thousandths of an inch should do the trick).

Coming together

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You should be able to line up all the joints on each side of your box so that you can fit it together once you mill it out. You can use 3D CAD software to “assemble” the box as well, to double check.

CAM

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We’re using CAMLab to generate the gcode.

Here are some recommended settings:

  • Tool: 1/8″ flat end mill
  • Step down: 2mm-3mm
  • Feed rate: 800mm/min to 1000mm/min
  • Plunge rate: 250mm/min

 

Conclusion

I found that through doing this project, that figuring out all the joints and where to place them can be a bit tricky, but once you’ve made a few joints, making boxes on a CNC machine is super duper easy. I hope that this post can help get you on the right track on designing your own boxes. You can also get started by using our Onshape files and modifying them to fit with the dimensions you want.

Anyways, happy making!

 

Thingiverse: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3138612

Making the Template for the 3D puzzle August 30, 2018

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This is a tutorial on how to make the puzzle in the picture above. You’ll be able to get the dimensions to generate the files for all parts of the puzzle at the end of this tutorial.

Part 1: Dimension Calculation

The most important measurement to keep in mind is the thickness of the material. My acrylic sheet was ½ inch thick, which dictated everything else about this project. Since your project will vary in thickness and spacing preference, sharing my .STL files wouldn’t do much for you.

 

(Also my puzzles didn’t fit at first, this systematic way to calculate is an afterthought to save you time. …ssshhh)

 

Consider the following picture, this puzzle consists of 3 pieces with slots cut out to fit the other pieces perpendicularly. I named the pieces based on the shape of the slots. Each square represents a building block of NxNxN.

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Each square is N x N, where “N” is also the thickness of your material.

Each square has a margin/gap of “g” which represents the spacing you decide on.

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All in all, you need 2 numbers, thickness of the material (“N”) and the amount of spacing between pieces (“g”). Now, figure out the remaining dimensions of your pieces based on the following reference diagram (click to enlarge):

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Red shows what’s included

i.e. Max Width = 5 blocks inclusive or 5N + 4g
Min Slot width = 1 block with margins or N + 2g

 

Part 2: The Inner-Corner Issue

If you are making this project with a CNC laser cutter or a 3D printer, then you can skip this part. For the rest of us using a CNC mill, we know inner corners are limited by the flute diameter.

The following are ways to address that issue:

  • Sharpen the inner corners via post-processing
  • Incorporate air-pockets  in all inner corners
  • Rounding the outer corners, either add fillets in your design or via post-processing

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Part 3: Solving the Puzzle

No help from me. Good luck with that! 😉

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If you haven’t already, please follow us on social media. Don’t forget to tag us if you make this puzzle!

PCB Milling Tutorial by Ayesha Ebrahim August 23, 2018

Hi everyone! In this tutorial we will be going through how to mill out a PCB with your Sienci Mill One. Let’s get started!

 

STEP 1: Create PCB Design

To create our PCB design, we will be using EAGLE. EAGLE is a PCB design software that allows you to create schematics and transform them into board designs. You can get the free version here: https://www.autodesk.com/products/eagle/free-download.

 

Step 1.1: Create New Project

Start off by making a new project. To make a new project, open up EAGLE’s Control Panel and go to File → New → Project.

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Step 1.2: Create New Schematic

Once you have made your project you will want to create a schematic within it. To create a schematic, find your project in the “Projects” folder located on the left-hand navigation sidebar on the Control Panel, right-click on your project, go to “New” and select “Schematic”.

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Now that you have a schematic file open, design the schematic of the circuit you wish to mill out. Here is a good tutorial to get you started on how to use EAGLE for schematic design: https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/using-eagle-schematic.

 

Step 1.3: Create Board

When you are satisfied with your schematic, create a board for it by opening up the schematic and going to File → Switch to board.

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This action should open up a board file that is linked to your schematic file and should look something like this:blank

At this point you can go ahead and lay out your parts on your board. This is a very useful tutorial on EAGLE Board Layouts: https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/using-eagle-board-layout.

 

Things to note when creating a board layout in EAGLE:

  1. The EAGLE route thickness default is too thin to mill out. For a PCB with 1oz copper thickness aim to get a route thickness of around 32mil**. The mill can handle thinner traces but it is nice to keep them thicker to reduce the chances of traces breaking. To change your route thickness go to Edit → Change → Width and then select the width you would like and all the routes you would like to change.
  2. Try to make your pads as big as possible as that will make soldering components to your board easier. You can change pad size by going to Tools → DRC → Annular Ring.
  3. Make sure that there is at least 0.7mm** of space between all wires and pads. You can check this by going to Tools → DRC → Clearance, set the desired clearance, and press “Check”. Once again, the mill can tolerate less than 0.7mm of clearance but it is better to avoid having traces touch each other.
  4. If you are a beginner, it is recommended to keep your board one-sided (avoid making routes on both the top and bottom layers) as having traces on both sides of the board makes the milling process more complicated.

 

**These values are also dependent on the thickness and angle of the engraving bit. These particular numbers are based upon a 0.1, 30° engraving bit. If you have an engraving bit that is wider or has a larger angle, increase these values.

 

Once you are satisfied with your board move onto the next step!

 

STEP 2: Get Gerber (.gbr) Files

To generate G-code to mill out the PCB you need to get the Gerber files from EAGLE. To get the Gerber files, open your board file and navigate to File → CAM Processor.

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This will open up a window where you can download the output files you need.

 

We are interested in the following files:

  1. Top Copper (under Gerber) – Contains the data for the traces on the top of the PCB.
  2. Excellon (under Drill) – Contains the data for the holes that will be drilled out of the PCB.If you are creating a PCB with traces on the bottom of the board as well (i.e. a double-sided PCB) you will also need:
  3. Bottom Copper (under Gerber) – Contains the data for the traces on the bottom of the PCB

 

Step 2.1: Get Excellon (.xln) File

The first file we are going to download is the Excellon file. None of the settings need to be changed but you can reference the image below to make sure your settings match mine.

When you are ready click “Export File”. Do NOT click “Process Job” as that will download all the output files.

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Step 2.2: Get Top Copper (.gbr) File

Now we are going to export the Top Copper Gerber file for the top traces. Once again none of these settings need to be modified, but you may choose to check the “Board Shape” option, as I have, to include the board outline. Click “Export File” when you are ready.

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Step 2.3: Get Bottom Copper (.gbr) File

This step is only necessary if you have traces on both sides of your PCB. If you only have routes on the top layer in EAGLE you can disregard this step.

Unlike for the other two files, the “Bottom Copper” settings need to be modified. Since you will be flipping your board to engrave the traces on the other side of the PCB you will need to mirror the “Bottom Copper” design and adjust the offset to accommodate the mirror. These changes can be made under the “Advanced” settings section at the bottom of the window. Since I will be flipping my board from right-to-left I have chosen a mirror that mirrors the output Gerber horizontally and set “Offset X” to be the width of my board. If you choose to flip your board from top-to-bottom you will need to select the mirror that mirrors the output Gerber vertically and set “Offset Y” instead. Click “Export File” when you are done.

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STEP 3: Generate G-code

To generate the G-code we will be using Carbide Copper: http://carbide3d.com/apps/pcb/. Let’s go through each step taken within Carbide Copper together.

 

Step 3.1: Copper Material

Material Size: Enter the width and height of your material

Thickness: Enter thickness of your PCB board

X/Y origin position: Select where you would like to zero the mill

Flat surface: N/A

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Step 3.2: Bottom Layer Signal Traces

Click “Choose File” and select the “copper_top.gbr” file.

Count: This is the number of outlines that will be made around a trace. I went with 3 but having more may ease the soldering process as more of the excess copper around the traces would be removed, however, it does increase the milling time considerably.

Tool: Select the engraving bit/ V-bit size you are using.

TIP: If you are finding that the mill is cutting too deep when milling your PCB try selecting a tool with a larger tip diameter and angle than yours as it may trick the program into making a more shallow cut.

Feed rate: Use 13.33mm/s – this value is from Sienci’s “Feeds & Speeds” page under resources (to convert from mm/min to mm/s, divide by 60).blank

 

Step 3.3: Drill Holes

Click on “Choose File” and upload your “drill.xln” file.

Tool: Select your drill bit size

Depth: Select the depth you want to drill

Plunge Rate: Use 1.67 mm/s – this value is from Sienci’s “Feeds & Speeds” page under resources (to convert from mm/min to mm/s, divide by 60).

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Step 3.4 & 3.5: Board Cuts & Large Area Rubout

We will not be using these settings in this tutorial but you may find them useful. So feel free to test them out.

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Step 3.6: G-code Output

Safe height: Use 3 mm

Rapid move rate: Use 25 mm/s

File extension: Use .nc

Once finished, click “Generate and save to disk” to download the G-code files. You should have two files downloaded in a zip file: bottom_contour.nc and bottom_drill.nc.

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Step 3.7: For Double-Sided PCBs

(If you are making a single-sided PCB skip this step)

Rename the downloaded files to top_contour.nc and top_drill.nc instead of bottom_contour.nc and bottom_drill.nc, respectively. This should be done to avoid confusion when downloading the files for the bottom traces.

Now go back to Step 2 in Carbide Copper and reupload the Gerber_RS247X signal file. This time, upload the “copper_bottom.gbr” file. Then go straight to Step 6 and redownload the G-code files.

The downloaded files will include both bottom_contour.nc and bottom_drill.nc, as before, but now you can delete the bottom_drill.nc file as you will not be using it.

In summary, you should have three G- code files: top_contour.nc, top_drill.nc and bottom_contour.nc.

 

Now you are ready to use your Mill One to mill a PCB!

 

STEP 4: Mill it out!

 

Step 4.1: Cut Out a Board

Use an end mill to cut out the PCB board to the appropriate shape. You can usually find a end mill specifically designed to cut PCBs such as corn cob end mills. The G-code can be generated regularly by creating a 3D model of the board shape you would like and then generating the G-code using a CAM program such as Kiri:Moto or MakerCAM.

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Step 4.2: Mill Out a Slot in Wasteboard

(If your PCB is single-sided, skip this step)

Next switch out the bit for a regular mill bit, and mill out a slot into a board for your PCB to fit inside, using the same method mentioned above.

The reason we are milling out a slot is to be able to accurately realign the PCB with the mill when flipping the PCB to mill the copper traces on the other side of the board.

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Step 4.3: Engrave Top Copper Traces

After that, use double-sided tape to secure the PCB in the slot.

NOTE: If you find that the tape is not strong enough to hold the board down, you can use hot glue, but beware of the board warping.

Make sure you align the corner of your PCB to the corner of the slot. Once the PCB is secured, change the bit to your engraving bit and zero the mill. After zeroing the mill lift off the z-axis by 0.2mm and reset the z-axis’ zero. In order to achieve an optimal cutting depth, go through the following process:

  1. Bring down the z-axis by 0.05mm and reset the z-axis’ zero
  2. Run the G-code (top_contour.nc for double-sided boards or bottom_contour.nc for single-sided boards) and check if it cut through the copper
    • If the copper is not cut all the way through, stop the program, lift the z-axis, return to zero and then repeat the process
    • If the copper is cut all the way through and you are satisfied with the depth of the cut, let the G-code run

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TIPs:

  1. After the x and y axes have been zeroed, they should not be zeroed again throughout the entire milling process so that all the layers line up.
  2. To ensure that the machine does not move between bit changes, enter the command “$1=255” within the command line in the Universal G-code Sender and move the mill in any direction to activate it. This command ensures that the motors are always on, even when a job is not running, so that the mill’s position is fixed. You can undo this command by typing the command, “$1=35” and moving the mill in any direction (35 is an arbitrary number, you can choose any number between 1 and 254).

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Step 4.4: Drill Holes

Once the top traces have been engraved, bring up the z-axis and reset the z-axis zero, remove the engraving bit and replace it with a thin drill bit. The drill bit should be between 0.8-1.0mm. Return to zero, zero the z-axis to the new bit and then run the drill G-code (top_drill.nc for double-sided boards or bottom_drill.nc for single-sided boards).

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Step 4.5: Engrave Bottom Copper Traces

(If your PCB is single-sided, skip this step)

 

Now remove the board from the slot, remove the tape and tape the other side. Flip the PCB the way you specified in the Cam Processor within EAGLE and secure the PCB once again in the slot, aligning it to the same corner as before. Then change the bit to your engraving bit and repeat the same process used when engraving the top traces.

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Step 4.6: Remove Excess Copper

In many cases this step is not necessary, but it can really help when trying to solder components onto your PCB later.

 

To remove the excess copper use a utility knife and your nails to try and get under the copper layer. It is easier to start at a corner. Once you have a hold of the copper, peel it back carefully.

Repeat this process until all the copper around your traces is gone. If need be, you can sand off any copper burrs coming off your traces.

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Now you are done and your PCB is ready to be soldered!

 

Sienci Labs_ PCB Milling Tutorial (Download this tutorial in .PDF)

Milling Halftone Images Using the Sienci Mill One June 26, 2018

I recently stumbled upon this idea of milling halftone images and found it to be a neat way of transforming regular photographs into CNC millable projects. While it does work with any photograph, I have found that black and white drawings provide the best results, especially when working with a relatively small work area.

I created a youtube video on the process and chose to mill the following two images: 

 

 

The images are sourced from Ken Hunt on Deviantart and the software I used was the Half-Toner V1.7 by Jason Dorie.

 

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Using the Software

The software is relatively straightforward to use. You can set the angle of the bit you are using which in my case is a 30 degree v-engraving bit for the dead pool image and a 45 degree bit for the Batman image as well as the dimensions of the material you are working with. You can play around with the size and spacing of the dots depending on how detailed the image is and how detailed you want your print to be. The Deadpool print was simpler and as a result, required lower resolution. It ended up being comprised of around 22 000 dots while the more detailed Batman print was 35 000 dots.

Choosing the Material

The nature of this project requires that you have a very flat piece to mill on as even a slight variation in height can cause variations in the size of the dots. Having a different color beneath the surface of the material helps the dots stand out creating a more defined image. I decided to work with what I had and paint some poplar plywood black.

In my video, you can see I decided to sand and coat the plywood in wood glue prior to milling it. I found that the wood was slightly fuzzy and absorbed a lot of the paint I spayed creating a rough surface. Sanding removed the fuzziness while the wood glue made the surface even smoother and created a barrier keeping the paint on the surface which is why the finish on the Batman image looks significantly better than my first attempt with the Deadpool Image.

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Milling the Piece

Halftone images are definitely one of the more time-consuming things to mill using the Mill One, especially when printing detailed images that can be comprised of over 30 000 dots. The Batman print in the video took over 8 hours. Reducing the depth of the dots and increasing the feed rate will help speed up the process. Another option is to use a bit with a higher angle which will allow the mill to create bigger holes at a shallower depth which is why I switched to a 45 degree bit for the second Batman image.

 

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If you create your own halftone images, be sure to share them on the Mill One Facebook Group and If you have any questions about the projects I milled or need help milling yours, I encourage you to reach out.

 

CNCing faces using the “3D Face Reconstruction from a Single Image” demo October 8, 2017

So a couple of months ago I had a friend who asked me if I could scan and CNC mill a copy of her face. CNC milling? No problem, we could certainly do that. However, we didn’t have access to 3D scanning tools to create an accurate 3D scan of her face.

Accurate scanning tools that can capture a face at a high level of detail are somewhat expensive and hard to come by, but I have used the free app, 123D Catch (now discontinued), which allowed users to use a smartphone to create a 3D model. It was frustrating to use though, due to the fact that it could take forever to process the images into a 3D model, and resulted mixed results. It is also worth noting that using a scanner like 123D Catch needs the subject to be still for some period of time as the scanning takes place, and unless you have $60,000+ 360 degree scanning rig, it would be the case for most scanners. Needless to say, we shelved that project.

Then one day I came across this interesting project from the folks at the University of Nottingham, who had created a tool that could take a single picture and turn the face in the model into a 3D model. And so for fun, I decided I would try using a photo of one of our professors to create the 3D model.

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So I took this model and converted it from a OBJ file and imported it into Kiri:Moto, then carved it out from some wood. Two tool changes and an hour and a half later, I had a little face in my hands.

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Well what can I say. It looks like a face, although I don’t feel like the AI got it 100% right. I suppose we’ll have to see over the next few years how this technology progresses, but it looks like we won’t be getting super realistic masks out of the Mill One just yet.

 

Milling a linoleum stamp June 7, 2017

Milling materials like rubber and linoleum can be an interesting experience. Due to the elastic properties of these materials, some of the material will compress rather than being cut away by the bit or endmill the CNC is using. Getting the right feeds and speeds took a little bit of time and patience to get good results. For this particular project, we used a v-bit and F-engrave‘s v carving feature to create the negative image of the stamp.

The first step is to create a design. We used Inkscape to draw a black and white image. When we bring the image into F-engrave, the program will use the v-bit to carve all the profiles which are black and leave the white areas alone. Choose the v-bit you have and adjust the feeds and speeds for your project. A tutorial on using the v carve feature can be found here: http://www.scorchworks.com/Fengrave/F-engrave_tutorial.htm.

Next, we secure the linoleum with a bit of hot glue and let the Mill One do the rest of the work. After milling, a little bit of post processing, namely getting excess material out of the cuts, was needed. A small screwdriver or other tool works well in scraping out the material.

Here are the feeds/speeds:

Linoleum

Feedrate: 300mm/min
V engraving at 2mm max DOC
1/8″ 20 degree v bit
28 minute engraving time

Cedar Wood

Feedrate: 700mm/min
DOC: 5mm
1/4″ 2 flute upcut router bit
8 minute milling time

We carved a quick block of wood to make a holder for the linoleum. Having a block which holds the linoleum is good because you want to be able to provide even pressure across the whole stamp, as well as keep your hands away from the ink. We pushed the depth of cut to 5mm, and the Mill One carved it out quite quickly.

The rest of the stamp came together pretty easily. The linoleum fit perfectly into the holder and no glue or adhesive was needed.

In conclusion, it was a pretty easy process to create a custom stamp. Next time however, we may try a harder rubber material, since it would be easier to mill.

 

 

Making a wooden fidget spinner on the Mill One May 1, 2017

With fidget spinners being all the rage now, especially in the 3D printing community, we decided to make our own! A desktop CNC machine is an awesome machine to make fidget spinners from, especially since you can use a wide variety of materials with a nearly infinite number of designs. This spinner was a fairly simple design, drawn on Onshape and made from a piece of scrap wood. We used three 608ZZ bearings, commonly used in skateboards and scooters, to act as weight and provide smooth motion for rotation.

Since we didn’t have 8mm thick material, we had to cut a layer off of the scrap wood to bring it down from 15.75mm to 8mm, You can see that the first half of the milling operation is just cutting away at the wood.

We started off with using carpet tape, but we found that the workpiece would shift slightly near the end of the operation, so we started again with hot glue instead. You can check out some other workholding options here: https://sienci.com/workholding-options/. Hot glue worked beautifully and held the wood on the bed without any issues.

After completing the milling operation and taking the spinner body off the bed, I tried fitting the bearings in. While they fit perfectly, a combination of the burrs and starting the bearings in at the wrong angle caused the wood to crack. I believe the wood we were using was spruce, which was quite light and easy to break. If you choose to make a fidget spinner for yourself, use a harder wood and make sure to clean the burrs out before fitting the bearings.

Overall we were pretty happy with the results, especially as our first attempt at making a fidget spinner. Stay tuned for more projects!

Feeds and speeds:

1/4″ 2 flute upcut bit at 16,000RPM
Feedrate: 700mm/min
Depth of cut: 2mm

Carving cedar on the Mill One April 4, 2017

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!

 

Software

CH340 Drivers for Mac OS 10.12 Sierra November 30, 2016

If you are using an Apple computer with the latest OS (10.12 Sierra) you may find that plugging in a CH340 chip based Arduinos (used to control the Sienci Mill One) may cause your computer to crash. Luckily there is a driver that makes everything work thanks to Adrian Mihalko.

You can find a link to drivers at https://github.com/adrianmihalko/ch340g-ch34g-ch34x-mac-os-x-driver. I have tried this on my Macbook Air and have been able to connect the CH340 based Arduinos with no issues.

If you are a Windows user, there should be no driver issues. Plug your Arduino in, and if you don’t already have the drivers installed, the computer will auto-download them over your internet connection.