Here we will discuss how to build these inexpensive CNC test/hobby machines which seem to be sold by different companies but look pretty much the same. I add pictures and add explanations in addition to the assembly instructions found on a USB stick. The Instructions are a bit funny as you will find instructions in both Chinese and badly translated English, overlapped in boxes on pictures. There are also instructions to build a Woodpecker CNC, which seems not to be this product. The instructions are fairly accurate but sometimes the boxes are badly sized so you don’t see all of the text or the part looks different, or is mirrored while you are instructed to watch the orientation.
I bought the CNC from Beautystar, the ones from TopDirect seem to look pretty similar. There are other CNCs that look also familiar. In any build like this you will have to somehow be a bit flexible in your mind, as parts seem to constantly changing and evolving. So we can only present here a rough presentation of what you will expect. This guide is just intended as an addon to all other documents you can find to build your first CNC.
I needed actually only a screwdriver, oil and vernier caliper, besides the computer to assemble the CNC.
I also noticed that docx reader on my Mac (OX 10 Sierra) reveals instructional boxes on the pictures in the assembly instructions, while my Openoffice on Windows 10 doesn’t show these boxes.
There are instructional videos on Youtube, which look nice but
This is the machine I acquired.
This is an equivalent from TopDirect
Links accurate at time of posting.
The package arrived very quickly and is a repost from China to Amazon Prime.
The parts inside are well cushioned and packed in bubble wrap.
After we remove the bubble wrap we are faced with the following packaging.
We find several boxes.
The biggest box contains most of the frame assembly. Most noteable are that besides the aluminum rails, many side plates are scratched and seem to be 3D printed.
You will also be faced with an adapter for your electricity. The power block leads to a US style block. Coming from Europe, I have no problem with the block provided or adapters, but if you are British you might feel safer connecting your own plug types.
A user on of the CNC reviews on Amazon went to great length to explain the details of this approach in the UK. His main concern is grounding.
It’s a good idea to go through the reviews of all similar looking machines on Amazon to get an additional feel for what you will be purchasing.
The stepper motors looked ok.
These are additional pieces in the box, many brackets for the aluminium rails, a USB cable that will go from the “Teensy” looking arduino clone to your computer you intend to use for CNCing. Then there are connecting cables, the actual motor and insets for the guide rails.
In above picture we see a neat wee box with all the screws and tiny parts you will need, the actual motor control board with the teensy looking Arduino clone howling the GRBL code. Then we have the box that holds the stepper motor over the spindle motor and the power brick that powers the mechanical parts.
Besides the small screws the box holds rod connectors, screw connectors, dials for manual jogging and the counter nuts that will go into the railing. These will keep you busy and are the most annoying part of the build.
In my package there were some of these blocking nuts badly machined. If you have too many bad ones you should not proceed. I had two and got away with it as there were too many supplied. Exactly two. One was machined but distorted but I could get the screw in, barely.
Here is a panorama of all the pieces I found in the box. Besides the coffee cup. The Chinese writing on the monitor was from a video that I didn’t use.
I started off putting all the pieces on the table as the instructions showed them. Be aware that the instructions have pieces missing. As I tried to copy the described moves, I will have copied that error in the picture.
The first move is fairly simple. Just use the blue rod connector and place it onto the big screw securing it with grub screws with the supplied Alan keys. The grub screws are weak. Especially in the tiniest size M3. On the rod connector they are still up to the job.
Then assemble the first guide nut with the screws provided. (The shorter ones). Make sure that you only use two screws in the positions as seen above. The next step will make clear why.
Then add to that the spring cushioned nuts. I think the use of them is to dampen distortions through backlash. Here is an explanation.
Then add the guide rail holders. This can be snug fit.
Here they are supposed to be level with the surface of the 3D printed part.
Now continue to add the first part of the X- Axis screw nut.
Add the backlash preventing spring loaded nut. Again make sure you have the screws to hold the piece oriented the right way.
Add the guide rail holders.
And secure the guide rail holders with the screws provided. Obviously the screws need to reach the guide rails, so make sure you use the correct length.
After adding screws to the motor holder, fit the short guide rails through. Don’t tighten the screws yet. At this stage the instructions asked to watch the orientation. I had a mirrored piece, based on the guide role holders that stick out and din’t fit any other way. It made no difference to the final build.
The way the guide role holder holes were, I could have not attached it another way, it would not have fitted.
Moving on from this instruction confusion, it is now time to connect the first stepper motor to the guide screw with a connector screw. Use fitting grub screws for that. Fit them tight and use the flat bit on the motor spindle/metal piece to make the match secure on the motor side. The supplied grub screws are weak. I had loosening screws during CNCing at this point, which ruins a carve.
Make sure, when you fasten the motor to the 3D piece to use the waskers and orient the white plug of the stepper motor towards the flat side of the supplied 3D printed piece. Not visible here. That will make cable management less messy.
Then guide the screw through the whole assembly. Make sure the two guides for the guide rail before the hole are oriented towards the motor, so the setup fits later.
Now fit the faster at the other end, add a grub screw but don’t tighten yet.
Attach the screws for the bit that says 43 (stepper motor holder) to the main cradle.
Secure the guide rails with screws.
This concludes the motor cradle build. Onto the next bit.
Parts for the next building part. I think here a part was listed in the main instructions but was supplied. As I was just building this the first time, I will have copied that error.
Add a motor to the 3D printed part that fits the picture.
Now using the 3D printed part that mirrors the one where you just connect the motor, slow in the guide rails, secure them and add the guide screw fastener.
The guide rail holders will be hold in place by this funny constructions, where the screws will tighten the plastic around the guide rails.
Now add the screws that will hold the construction to the aluminium rails later.
Add these at the other end on both 3D printed parts.
Now add the motor cradle and the guide screw and fasten the connector rod to the stepper motor. Add the wee black knob to the screw. Fasten with Alan key.
This is what you should have in front of you.
Onto the next part.
Make the following with parts provided.
Use this connectors now to make your work plate with the aluminium parts. The fastening nuts are fiddly, good luck. The need to be perpendicular to the way the open in the aluminium plate goes and often have a habit to turn when not desired to do so.
Badly machines nuts.
I and others have learned to hate them.
Now we will make the guide rail and screw and stepper motor holders for the Y axis.
Add the guide screw nut and the backlash springloaded nut as before.
Add the guide rail holders and secure them with screws.
Now mount the motor to the third 3D printed plastic. This looked for me different again than what was in the Chinese assembly constructions. My piece looked more substantial than what was in the instruction videos. Take a note where the rectangular groove is and build accordingly.
Now add the screws that will attach the just build parts to the aluminium rail with everyones favorite countersink nuts or whatever you want to call these things.
Now add the part with the backlash spring nut guide screw holder tp the aluminium work plate. In the picture above under the motor 3D printed part. 40 mm from the end.
Do the same on the other side.
Now attach again the remaining knob to the remaining guide screw.
Now attach the guide rails with the screws to the part the motor isn’t attached to.
Feed in the guide screw and the guide rails into the other side. Attach the connecting rod to the guide screw. Tighten this with grub screws.
Now attach the 3D printed part holding the motor and tighten the connecting rod (blue). Ideally you should end up with something like this.
Now we need to construct the frame. Collect the parts
And build this.
Two of the T-Shaped frame parts will now have to be positioned 70mm, on the back side of the frame on the longer rails.
Then add the other two to come to the frame looking like this.
Space these with another screw.
Now add the work plate. Again the right corner of the rod holding mechanism has to be 70 mm from the side.
Tighten connecting rods and screws.
Now position the motor cradle. Put something on the work plate to help you with height.
Now add the spindle motor. The yellow bit is facing front.
Now tighten the screws to secure the spindle motor.
Now fasten the motor board with THREE screws to the frame.
Use the cable management plastic construction to your liking. The X Axis moves the most, so I added it here as there was not enough supplied for perfect cable management.
Tighten all screws, close to the knobs.
Wiring. Please note that there is a space (empty unused plug) between Y and Z. The motor plug plugs into the motor simply with a connector. The micro USB leads to your computer/laptop and the mains power leads to the power block.
X is the axis that goes left to right if the CNC is in front of you. Y is the axis that come closer of farther from you and Z is the axis that goes up and down.
With a bit of luck you should now have a functioning CNC.
With the Mac Book I have free for CNCing the supplied software was not much use.
I suggest testing first without the engraving bits supplied with a simple supplied nc code that is on the USB stick.
As starting wood I used Bass wood sheets, you can get from hobby craft or elsewhere. The wood is soft but not as brittle as Balsa.
I might state that as supplied the CNC is OK, but not fit for purpose without some improvements that will be in another article.