Oh happy, happy, joy, joy! My Sherline mill is now under computer control! The picture shows my mill with the steppers installed but I hadn’t yet remounted the head stock & motor. You’ll also notice I cleaned up all the aluminum chips! I filled a small garbage bag with debris from previous milling operations.
A few weeks ago I ordered a CNC stepper and controller from Xylotex and it arrived last Thursday. It was packaged very well and arrived in perfect condition. I spent the afternoon today installing the Sherline CNC conversion kit and the Xylotex kit.
I’d been worried about installing the stepper mount as the directions indicated I’d need to drill and tap holes in my existing mill. As it turned out the X and Y axis were already drilled and tapped but the Z axis still required the extra work. Overall the installation went smoothly. The Sherline instructions were ok but were a bit light on detail – I guess they expect you to know your mill inside and out, which I really didn’t. I got a good introduction today though, and now I know such things as the X axis lead screw is a right hand thread.
The Xylotex kit was pre-assembled so there wasn’t really anything to do except mount the steppers and plug everything together. Of course by itself it doesn’t really do much, as it requires the computer and some software to drive it. I opted to give the Mach3 demo a try based on a recommendation, and so far I really like it. I need to clean up my work area to locate the computer closer to the mill (I’ve got cables stretched around rather awkwardly right now). I ran a few tests to move the steppers around and so far the whole thing is working really, really well. The alternative is EMC which is what Sherline uses in their full CNC mill package. It runs on Linux and has a “live cd” boot image.
I took a few photos during the installation, you can see the gallery here.
Tomorrow I plan to fix up the work area and try to actually cut some metal. I’ll probably end up purchasing Mach3 as I’ve been quite happy with the built-in CAM tools for simple operations like square or circular pockets. Yippe!