I’ve been away on vacation which is why MachinistBlog.com has been so stale. We only went away for one week this year but I always seem to spend the week before running around like crazy getting ready to go and then the week afterwards working like crazy to get caught up at work and with chores around the house. If you’re wondering, wifey and I went to Washington D.C. and did typical touristy things which included visiting a lot of museums. We enjoyed the American History Museum and the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum at Dulles Airport the most.
After getting the lawn cut I spent several hours today shopping for stepper motors, a 4-axis driver and other electrical components for the Solsylva 25×25-inch CNC router I’ve been building. I haven’t been able to work on it as much as I’d like but I have been making steady progress. And during the first week of October I’m going to do something I haven’t done in about 10 years, which is to take a week of vacation and stay home by myself to do things that I want to do. And my goal is to get the router finished. But to do that I need to get my electronics and leadscrews ordered by tomorrow. I should have done it at least 2 weeks ago.
I was going to buy my electronics from Hubbard CNC, a company I highly recommend because they have excellent prices and service. They usually have a 4-axis kit with stepper motors, driver board, power supply and “extras” for a good price but I didn’t see one. So I sent them an email with my phone number and Brent Hubbard called me within a few hours. He was willing to quickly put together a kit and get it in the mail. That offer and our nice conversation increased my opinion of him and his company even more.
Unfortunately, Brent’s call was too late. I’d already found and decided to splurge on a 4-axis Gecko G540 controller sold by Deepgroove1 with four 270-oz stepper motors for $601 with shipping. Their kit is almost completely ready-to-use. The Gecko is already installed in a nice enclosure with the power supply and the motors have cables and connectors already attached to them. All you have to do is mount the motors on your machine, plug everything in and configure Mach3 or whatever controller software you’re using. It’s about twice the price of a kit with a cheaper controller but there’s no soldering to do and no searching for a suitable enclosure, cables and connectors.
You can’t get much better controllers than Geckos but they are expensive. A 4-axis G540 by itself usually goes for about $250 and 4-axis TB6560 based driver is about $86 (a 3-axis board is about $75). If you want to try one of them then I highly recommend buying it from Hubbard CNC. There are dozens of vendors selling them on eBay and you can probably save a few dollars buying one from someone else. But they’re notoriously hard to set up and Brent’s drivers come tested, with documentation that makes it easy to get them running and some “extras”. Brent told me they also sell some single axis drivers (P55052/P56056?) that work very well but I can’t tell you much more about them than that.
If you’re wondering why I need a 4-axis driver and 4 stepper motors for a 3-axis CNC router, it’s because it uses dual leadscrews for the X-axis. I’m going to connect a stepper motor to each screw instead using one stepper and timing belt and pulley system. It won’t cost much more and it will probably take less work and be more reliable. Mach3 makes it very simple to slave one stepper motor to another.