dollars; if your machine lacks software,
be sure to add this cost to the final
price. (Note: Most CNC routers can be
used with software from a variety of
vendors, but it’s still a good idea to
make sure yours doesn’t use some
proprietary control technique that
limits your choices.)
Finally, if the cost of a ready-made
CNC router is too rich for your blood,
you might want to consider making
your own. It’s not quite as easy as
some websites and magazine ads make
it out to be, but you can save 40-60%
by going the DIY route.
Finally, here are some additional
acronyms you should know as you look
through various CNC resources on the
5 Lathe, Prazi lathes and mills, and
Sherline lathes and mills.
CAD/CAM CNC software for
Campbell Tools Co.
Campbell targets the miniatures
market (trains, steam engines, etc.)
and these same precision tools can be
used for higher-end robotics work. The
company is a reseller for Sherline, Prazi,
Smithy, and others.
CAD means computer-aided design;
it’s the software used to create
accurate models of 3-D objects.
Carken publishes CAD/CAM CNC
• DesKAM — 2-1/2 D CAM from DXF
or 3-D CAM from STL files.
CAM means computer-aided manufacture — the software that makes a CAD
drawing and operates a CNC machine
to produce the final part.
• DeskART — Carve or engrave your
computer image files.
DXF is a popular file format created by
CAD programs; many CAD programs
can share files in this format.
• Desk Engrave — Turn your True Type
fonts into G-Code or DXF.
G-Code is a popular machine-level
output format that instructs the motors
of a mill or lathe to move to specific
• DeskNC for DOS or Windows — Run
your CNC equipment directly from
• DeskNCrt — Operate your CNC equipment in closed loop using encoders.
The following sources include
makers and sellers of desktop CNC
lathes, mills, and routers, plus a number
of informational sites for learning more
about these tools. I’ve included a
number of sources here for manual
desktop tools that are often used for
retrofitting to CNC.
Best Little Machine Tool
Mills and lathes — both desktop
and brutes — at decent prices. A printed
catalog is available. Among their
desktop products are: Emco Compact
Clisby Miniature Machines
Small precision lathes and milling
machines (for wood and metal) at
low prices. Useful for working with
lightweight materials such as brass,
aluminum, and milling plastics. These
are small and well-suited for machining
little parts — like couplers and linkages
— for your robot. They aren’t made for
rebuilding the crankshaft for a 1955
CNC Retro-Fit Links
Links to other web pages on
retrofitting manual lathes and mills for
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