This article will go through the whole machine and the different options. You can choose to create your own plates from HPL or aluminum and have different type of electronics and drive systems, let’s go through it all.
The first thing you need to do is to decide what type of machine you are building. Raw 1.5 comes in 3 different versions.
- Raw 1.5 with timing belt and pulleys
- Raw 1.5 with Racks and pinions
- Raw 1.5 Extended with Racks and pinions
Raw 1.5 standard model is a 100x100cm machine with belt or racks. Raw 1.5 Extended is the longer version of a raw machine and has racks as the only alternative.
Raw with timing belt and pulleys. The machine is designed to use 15mm wide belts with 12-20 teeth pulleys. Timing belt can be good or bad depending on how you use them. I have seen many projects that builds CNC machines with a G2 timing belt that is 6mm wide. These are like rubber bands and are only suitable for 3D printers, decal and paper cutting machines. The backlash with a 6mm belt must be brutal. I use timing belts for my machines as well but these are HTD3M belts 15mm wide and with a steel core. These work very well and you can even turn the belt upside down to avoid dirt. I like belts, they are cheap and easy to replace. As with the rack you will get speed and strength and very good accuracy. I recommend you to use belts for your first machine. Belt machines runs smoother than a rack machine and I usually recommend timing belt before racks for machines under 1 meter.
- Protection against dirt = Very good
- Backlash = Good (with wide belts)
Racks and pinions (For standard raw 1.5 and Extended)
Raw 1.5 and Extended. The machine is designed to use MOD1 racks with 12-16 teeth pinions. Racks makes the machine stronger and has less backlash than belt. With racks you will get maximum speeds with enormous powers. This is the dream option for you who really want to work with your machine. On our Raw 1.5 machine we have racks as an alternative. To make the construction as cheap as possible, the rack hangs outside the machine and up side down to prevent dirt from getting caught in the teeth. The advantage of this is that we do not need a mechanism that forces the gearwheel against the rod, a Raw uses gravity to handle this for us. Many have questioned this idea, but my tests show that this works ridiculously well and are extremely easy to construct. Check our videos if you are in doubt. One disadvantage of a rack is the sound when you jog the machine back and forth. We do not want to lubricate racks in a dusty environment, so it’s steel against steel, but this does not affect the cutting results.
- Protection against dirt = Very good (probably the best solution)
- Backlash = Very good (If you find high quality pinions)
A machine with a rack drive requires top quality gears. If you buy gears/pinions from various online stores, they will be in such poor quality that the machine sounds and vibrates. We have been searching for gears that are grinded (hobbing) 3 times or more and these are included in the hardware packages we sell at our shop. The gears come from a Swedish company and are very expensive and not like the others you find out there. The rack, on the other hand, is usually the same everywhere. Even with good gears/pinions, a rack machine has a mechanical sound since it’s steel against steel without lubrication. The sound does not affect the cutting results.
Plates and hardware
The second thing required is the hardware and plates. We sell this in our store but if you have good sources for this you can buy it from there, just follow the rekommendations from the BOM (Bill of materials) list on our site. The plates can be bought from us or you can use the included .DXF files and send them to a company who can cut them for you.
Make your own plates (templates included in the download)
If you are on a tight budget or would like to go the hard way you can actually make the plates yourself. Go to this guide for more information: http://rawcnc.com/how-to-create-your-plates-by-hand-tutorial/ There is two ways of doing this. The idea is to make the plates by hand with the included templates and then cut new perfect ones when the machine is up and running. For this you need to print the templates on to self-adhesive paper or plain paper that you glue on to a sheet of aluminum or HPL. You can also buy the templates from us and have them sent by mail. The outside of the plates don’t need to look good at all, it’s only the alignment of all holes that needs to be as good as possible.
HPL (High Pressure Laminate)
You can find HPL in any shop that sells laminate floor, choose the widest one you can find and 8mm thick. Glue on the templates and start cutting the profiles and drill all holes by hand, use a sharp object and punch the holes before you drill them so that the holes are perfectly centered. You can thread HPL but don’t tighten the parts to hard or the thread will break. The idea is to make it somewhat ok so that you can cut new ones in aluminum once the machine is built. There is also laminate called HDL, it’s not as hard but works ok.
You can use any non-hardened aluminum you like, the one we use and is standard EN AW-6082. Glue the stencils on to the plates and start cutting with a jigsaw or any other saw. You can cut aluminum with a miter saw but be careful so the piece don’t get stuck, that can cause injuries. Remember that we warned you. For the holes, use a sharp object and punch the holes before you drill them so that the holes are perfectly centered. The idea is to make it somewhat ok so that you can cut new ones in aluminum once the machine is built.
- When two plates have to be identical like the side plates, Create the first one and use that as a template when you drill the holes. Start off by choosing two holes furthest apart and fasten the two plates with a screw and nut so that the plates don’t move while you drill the rest of the holes.
- When you are done, and the machine is working. Cut new plates from aluminum. Go slow, really slow. No need to hurry. The speed should not be faster that 500mm/min and the cut depth for each pass should only be 0,2mm or less. Use a 1 flute endmill for aluminum. You can find these on eBay or Amazon. You can cut aluminum faster once the machine has perfect plates. Look at the videos on our site on how to cut aluminum, its very difficult and you need to practice.
- HPL version, It’s only recommended that you build a machine with belt drive this way. You can go over to the rack version once you cut new plates from aluminum.
- HPL version, If the threads break you can use inserts or thread t-nuts.
When the plates are ready you can start building the machine. The machine is built with Metric screws and measures. We have had customers who has sucsessfylly built the machine with non metric screws, just stay as close to the original sizes and you will be fine.
As a non-European it might be difficult to find the same Aluminum profiles we use over here. The measures are 20×20 up to 20x80mm. If you can’t find standard aluminum profiles you can use the Open build profiles with a V-slot, found at Openbuilds.com, While you are over there you can also see a tutorial of the Raw machine sent in by a user: https://openbuilds.com/builds/rawcnc-1-5-desktop-edition.5771/ . Instead of shaft clamps you can glue the rods directly in to the slot or groove. This can also be done with standard profiles and the result is actually better than with shaft clamps. We have not tested the open build profiles, but it looks like it has wider slots around 6.7mm, the steel rod that we use is 6mm, so you need to be creative when you glue on the shafts and please let us know how you did.
If you decide to glue the shafts directly in to the slot, this is how it’s done.
As seen in the pictures we use silicon to glue the shafts in to the slots. This works if the shafts are clean from dirt and grease. Use other profiles to press the rod down as seen in the picture. Let it dry for 24 hours and you are done. Our machines are made this way to test the solution and they have been running daily for over a year without any issues at all. The only modification needed is to make the lower bearing holes on the plates a bit longer, just use a file to make the holes 3mm longer. You will understand when you tighten the bearings. Silicon is good since its flexible and wont crack like regular glue.
Once the machine frame is built its time for the scary part… ThE ElectRoniCs….
Sounds scary, but its simple, especially with our instructions. Don’t worry about that, just follow along. We have worked hard to make this as easy as possible with video instructions and illustrations.
What electronics do i need?
There are basically two types of electronics, one modern that uses USB ports and an older version that we prefer that uses the good old printer port. There is many different electronics, but we use these for Raw 1.5. You can use any electronics you like if it’s for nema 23 motors. Let’s break it down.
Arduino+CNC shield elektronics
Arduino with CNC shield is a simpler version of CNC electronics and can be used with any computer that has a USB port. These electronics has some limitations, such as handling multiple switches and zeroing plates found on our other machines. You can do well without these features if you only cut from time to time. Arduino cannot handle 2 switches at the same time, so it is not possible to calibrate the machine 90 degrees at startup, but it is easy to do it manually. It is usually this kind of electronics that comes with other DIY kits on the market.
CNC shield is not capable of having an advanced touch-off plate (Zeroing plate), so you have to start the machine from the surface of the material you cut, which is the way most people work anyway. Touch-off plate is a feature that is not needed, and you can do well without it. If you want a more advanced machine, look at Driver Electronics. You can also upgrade your electronics afterwards if you notice that you need a more advanced machine. Any upgrading requires upgrading of motors and other electronics.
Drivers with Breakout Board are the most professional electronics you can have for these types of machines. They are more expensive and require an older computer with printer port and 32Bit Windows operating system (if you run Mach3 software)
Some of the benefits of drivers are that the machine gets much stronger and has many more features like advanced touch-off plate (reset plate), calibration switches, on and off spindle, laser and plasma functions. The range of software is much larger, and you can also use software that the industry uses.
If you choose Driver Electronics, you will be able to calibrate your machine so that it starts at 90-degree angle and you can also have an advanced touch off plate that we offer as a separate product or you can make your own. Read here what you need to run drivers electronics http://rawcnc.com/set-up-mach-3/
You can look at our website which drivers we use.
We have tried all kind of USB electronics with drivers but it didn’t work well when we tested. There are circuit boards where you can get the best of both worlds ie USB and Drivers. The problem we encountered is the same as with Arduino, it works ok but you cannot calibrate the machine 90 degrees and have an advanced touch-off plate. We continue to work on this and find a solution and we will inform you.
You will find more information about the electronics when you build the machine.
After the machine is built you need to configure the software. Go to our article section and read the instructions on how to set up Mach3 or Estlcam or use other software you know of.