3018 CNC router/table

Hi, I just ordered a “3018 CNC”
CNC= Computerised  Numerical Control : Of any device that will cut, draw or build objects according to a set of numerical instructions.
Googling “3018 CNC” 
will bring up a lot of interesting stuff, especially on YouTube.
It is a series of entry level 3-axis routing table devices with dimensions  of 30 cm wide by 18 cm deep- Hence the designation-
about 11.8″ by 7.1″, X and Y axes.
A drill motor above as the third or Z axis can be controlled to move up and down by some 4cm (1.57″) for all of which three stepper motors are provided, and a controller board running a flavor of Arduino.

You will notice when Googling that there are a lot of similar-looking, but not identical units named “3018”  All I have seen are shipped as a flat pack kit which is fun to assemble, but can be baffling for several reasons. – – Typical price is $200 US. I found one on Amazon for $130.00 that seemed to be a loss leader of some sort but was absolutely complete.

Directions are not always clear. esp. as all units are Made in China

  • Directions can be WRONG as redesigns seems to happen all the time
  • The controller electronic board in particular varies considerably in design and it takes some patience to go figure the labelling out
    I needed an illuminated magnifier.= and Googled Like Crazy : )
  • The software supplied on a Mini-CD was 2016 era and a few generations behind, HOWEVER I did START with this to get familiar with the Project
  • The Controller Board itself in nearly all cases contains software running on what usually appears to be an Arduino NANO although it will not physically  LOOK that way. It contains an ATMEL SOC just as the Arduino does, mind you, all the same hardware, and more.
  • I LATER had to familiarise myself with the free programmer and tool GUIs from https://www.arduino.cc/en/software but you do not need this to Start out.
  • the device obeys your computer commands using CNC control codes know as “G-Code” interpreted by onboard firmware, in my case: GRBL 0.8. It’s free software available as a ‘sketch’ and as HEX code
    As of this writing the latest is actually ver 1.1f but AVOID trying updates till you get the hang of everything or you will end up as I did ‘in limbo’ uncertain why odd things were happening.
  • Important To Understand: Google “GRBL” and you will see its job within the Arduino  is to take G-Code (The CNC Language) sent by your computer, and make decisions about how and when to drive the three axis stepper motors that create your workpiece.
  • If in Windows (10) I needed to install a small Driver that allowed the USB connection to the control board to operate and to appear on the PC as a COM port like COM4 at a speed of 115200 bps standard
  • Linux in my case automatically ‘saw’ it as “/dev/ttyUSB0” as it has built-in recognition of the non standard serial chip used in this ersatz “Arduino UNO” device (to save Money, NO Doubt!) 
  • Now that your Computer can see your CNC: I used a piece of software called CANDLE (scroll down the page to see the Linux and Windows compiled executables)
  • CANDLE is ONLY a G-Code Sender. It does NOT allow the design of anything much– But you can bump the stepper motors up and down for testing and use its built in console to learn G-Code commands
  • YOu also need a small Sample Object to send. the Mini-CD i got included a few very simple objects to ‘send’ the the CNC. Keep ’em as simple as possible! Other software is needed if you want to design anything (Another Post Elsewhere, leter)
  • My CNC contained NO Limit Switches. It’s easy to run the stepper motors ‘off the end’ which makes a horrible noise but does no harm
    — But the CNC head literally does not know where it is until you have done some slightly tricky setups to indicate this fact. 
    Hard Limiters are always more reliable than ‘soft’ settings : )
  • I bought a kit of 6 micro switches and with drilling and screwing fixed 2 limits on 3 axis and wired these to the Controller so it would ‘know’ . This is NOT straightforward as the Kit is not constructed to accept such things. SOME ‘pro’ CNC models come with a mark-up to indicated that the Limit Switches are already built in
  • The 6 limit microswitches on tiny printed circuit board were $7 & included screw holes for mounting, and very importantly, LEDs to show they had been activated. PHOTOS TO FOLLOW!
  • there will be A LOT of Wire! Oh, my God! I bought a kit of tie-wraps and used a small drill to provide tie downs. Phew!
  • — To Be COntinued — With Pix! Jan 2021