I finally finished assembling the Zen Toolworks CNC machine! I even managed a decent test etching of a Jolly Rogger into some PVC panels I got from ZTW. I did lose a milling bit in my initial test, but I still chalk it all up as a “win” and should have purchased multiples anyways.
I overcame a longstanding issue I had with stepper motor speed consistency, and just plane speed. I discovered my video card was overtaxing resources that affected the Pulse Frequency of Mach3. At first I started just shutting down things I wasn’t using (sound card, USB, infrared, wifi, etc). This helped but it still wasn’t acceptable. So I ditched Windows 7 and installed a version of TinyXP that not only had a small footprint on your hard drive, but it’s also very streamlined and designed for low resource usage. This gave me my interface for the machine. I could not get the wifi working again, but I really don’t care as its one less thing for me to worry about.
After that I decided to calibrate the spindle motor with the info on the web. I was waiting to get a laser tachometer to dial in the speed, but decided that dialing in the voltage and getting an acceptable temperature would work for now. The heat really doesn’t seem to be a problem. I only read temps in the 90′s on the outside casing, and I let it run for 25 mins straight. It’s way quieter then I was expecting. All around very impressive!
I really just slapped an etching bit in and kept trying to figure out how to get it to cut a proper depth – I know I need to do more research. Well, half way through I stopped it to grab a vacuum and when I started it back up the bit broke. But then i got one of the wood etching bits, and that turned out really nice. I’ll have to do more research, calibration, and work but I’m still really pleased that it all hasn’t overwhelmed me.