I started playing with EMC on a simple home-build concept mill I built about 9 years ago and it’s been shelved for most of the time since.  I really enjoyed the experience of getting that to work and have followed several other software/hardware projects online since including EMC2 and the RepRap/Makerbot crowd with great enthusiasm.  A couple years ago I was even able to apply what I’d learned to a job running some small CNC machines for a manufacturer in Aurora Ontario.

While at different times I’ve held paying positions doing electronic, electrical and mechanical design, programming and machine building I now spend most of my days at a desk doing sysadmin work and have been neglecting the part of me that really enjoys building.  Now I want to pick it all up again and use EMC2 as a corner stone for an overly ambitious number of projects.

Some of the things I have in mind are:

  • An EMC2 controlled 3D Printer
  • Rebuild the mini CNC mill for engraving/PCB milling/etc. w. vacuum table
  • CNC conversion of my King PDM 30 mill/drill
  • Retrofit a CRS A255 robot arm and C500 controller with EMC2 and use with a variety of end effectors
  • CNC conversion of my 7×12 Grizzly mini-lathe
  • EMC2 driven laser cutter/engraver (diode/CO2)

I think this is going to be the first of these projects as it’ll allow me to get my feet wet with some interesting material to share and lend itself both through practical knowledge and utility gained by being able to fabricate intricate parts allowing me to more easily pursue some of the other projects.

This project will be especially interesting to me as a particular challenge in re-purposing existing parts and assemblies at minimum cost to bootstrap the operation.  Of course the nature of a 3d printer (and a foundational concept behind the RepRap) is that it can make parts for itself, so if this thing becomes even semi functional, it can in turn make parts to either improve itself or fully replace itself.


1) To build a 3d Printer (ala RepRap/Repstrap/Makerbot)

2) Fabricate as much as possible from re-purposed devices (ie. Flatbed Scanners, Printers, Computers, Electronics, etc. Focus on Inkjet printers and scanners (or all-in-one devices) from thrift/surplus stores, garages sales, junk piles, etc.

3) Integrate using EMC2 software to keep electronic and software related costs down.

4) Open Source / Freeware tool chain as used in RepRap and other projects

5) Document as much as is reasonable about the discovery process online including copy, photos and diagrams pertaining to disassembly, assembly, research, troubleshooting

Physical Requirements

1) 8″x8″x8″ minimum working envelope.

2) Standard cartesian mechanisms moving in XYZ space.

3) Accuracy below 0.25mm, precision below 0.25mm

4) Tabletop device, easily transportable with minimal to no recalibration/adjustment.

5) Build from scrapped printer/scanner parts where it makes sense to use pre-engineered mechanical motion control solutions.

Control Requirements

1)  Open-source or easily replicated / low-cost electronics.

2) Full homing/limit-switch operation assisting in easy setup and safe operation

3) Full emergency-stop system implemented in hardware feeding back to the EMC2 controller so it’s not relying on software for safety. (Yes this is over-kill given the small forces likely in this machine, but consider it a dress-rehearsal for larger projects.)

2) Reuse scrapped printer/scanner electronics where it makes sense.

Software Requirements

1) Open source software tool chain for finished part production including any tools used from concept to final fabrication under CNC control.

Documentation Requirements

I’d like to document at least the following details about the project.  In some cases I already know a fair amount about these areas, in others I’ll be learning as I go and you’ll have some of that process inflicted on you.  No promises, as I may get impatient and get ahead of myself in this, but ideally there will be even more covered than I’ve thought of here.  If you’d like to add something to the list for me to describe or detail, please let me know.

  • The treasure trove of parts to be found inexpensively
  • Web pages and other information I stumble across along the way
  • Optical sensors
  • Stepper motors
  • Optical encoders and the different types found
  • Servo motors
  • Salvaged drive electronics (where I’ve taken the time to reuse instead of replace)
  • Different drive mechanisms
  • Heaters
  • Temperature sensors
  • Experiments in motion/temperature control with EMC

I won’t commit to any kind of schedule as I’ve found that usually back-fires on me.  I’ve already started on some of the above pieces and purchased a collection of old devices to salvage from and new devices to tinker with while experimenting.  Hope this goes somewhere and I hope you enjoy it.  I know I will!