Zenbot Resurrection – Part 1

Zenbot comes out…of Storage

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For the past number of years my Zenbot Mini CNC has been in storage as I don’t really have a place to run it where I’m currently living. It was also cumbersome to use, not size wise, just dusty and noisy when I’ve done work with it in the past. With the ‘Othermill’ getting a fair bit of publicity in the maker arena, this has picqued my interest in CNC again, so I decided to dig out my Zenbot and look at how I can overcome these factors preventing me from using it day to day where I currently live, without too much complaints from those around me.

As outlined above, my main issue is space, I dont have a lot, even worse I dont have a garage where I can do any noisy and dirty work. Another factor for me is it uses an old parallel controller for Mach3, this controller I build and have it connected to 3 external stepper drivers, also no limit switches so I can’t do homing, no touch plate abilities for easy tool changes, spindle control was my clipping a power source to the spindle motor of the fantastic Wolfgang Engineering Spindle (mine is the earlier one)…..you get the picture and can understand why it’s been sitting in storage these past years.

Today things have moved forward considerably with the DIY CNC front, with the likes of open source GRBL running on Arduinos with all-in-one shields such as CNC shield or the GRBL shield or even a 32bit TinyG controller, it’s all very affordable to convert an existing Mach3 controller over to one a all in one controlled over USB with the likes of ChiliPeppr rather than Mach3. In conjunction with Fusion 360 (free for makers) which has full blown CAM integrated makes it a dream come true in terms of cost and functionality for a home CNC Router.

Over the next couple of blog posts I’ll document my Zenbot rebuild into something more usable that I can easily use where and when I want too at home, I’d love to have it sitting near my 3D printer on a desk. The othermill achieves this, but at a pretty high premium (although I do like the ease of their software), well I’d like my Zenbot to become an ‘Othermill’ in terms of this ease of use for me.

The features I want is, well as much as I can implement, I want this to be really easy to use so I will use it much more than I currently do.

So here is my current wish list as it stands today and may change at any time, all very achievable and shouldn’t cost alot.

  • Homing with HW interlocks on all axis
  • Full Spindle Control from GCODE, i.e. On/Off + Speed
  • Enclosure to limit dust and noise
  • Tooling touch plate for manual tool changes, edge detection.
  • mill small aluminium and brass jobs
  • mill PCB,  so autoleveling is a BIG + (this is what I originally got my Zenbot for)
  • Work with ChiliPeppr

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Author: Stephen Eaton

Geek at heart. Loves to tinker and find out how things work, which inevitably leads to items in pieces and not working for much longer :)

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