Built from Scrap: This CNC Machine Was Made for $160

CNC & Machining Digital Fabrication Workshop
CNC V0.6 Testing
CNC V0.6 Testing
Testing the CNC V0.6 on a sheet of 3mm plastic. Photography and diagram by Norbert Heinz

There’s been a surge in affordable desktop CNC routers over the past few years, but you’d be surprised at how easily you can cobble your own together. Using dirt-cheap chipboard, an Arduino, motor breakout board, angled aluminum, and a few gears and servos pulled from a tray-style computer CD drive, Norbert Heinz has created an unbelievably inexpensive CNC router — the total cost for Norbert was around €150 (or about $160 in US dollars).

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While not as cute or portable as the Raspberry Pi-based CNC drawbot Norbert shared with us a few months ago, the CNC V0.6 (as he calls it) can handle more serious work. During testing, the machine was able to engrave wood, glass, plastic, aluminum, and Depron foam with surprising precision. One drawback for woodwork, however, is that the setup as-shown can’t handle woodcuts deeper than 5mm without overheating.

CNC V0.6 Wiring Diagram
Wiring diagram of the CNC V0.6
CNC V0.6 Behind the Scenes
Behind the scenes of the CNC V0.6 you’ll find an Arduino Uno, H-Bridge dual-motor driver, power supply, relay, and plenty of wires.

The software used to drive the CNC machine is written in C and runs from the command line. Designs must be saved as Scalable Vector Graphics (.svg) files with outlines converted to polygons.

Full instructions, including chipboard templates, software downloads, and schematics are available from Norbert’s web site, HomoFaciens.

CNC V0.6 engraving glass
A shot of the CNC V0.6 engraving glass. Soapy water was introduced during the process to keep the engraving bit cool.

Update: Norbert Heinz has since upgraded his machine to version 0.6.1. A video of this improved version can be seen here.

12 thoughts on “Built from Scrap: This CNC Machine Was Made for $160

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  3. Shawn Kelly says:

    First, I’m not knocking Norbert Heinz, Awesome job dude! Thanks for sharing!!

    As far as Make, telling people they can make a router for $160 is WRONG.
    There are way too many things you need to know and understand about tools, materials and assembly. Like aluminum 90° is rarely true 90°, but if your design depends on it you’re screwed. Things look great in Sketch up until you buy the material and find out it isn’t “exactly” like you planned on. Uh-oh, hmmmm. Uhhhh…. Not funny.
    I’ve sold CNC stuff from 2002 to 2012 under the name bluumax. I made all my own stuff, even most of the electronics so I know what I’m talking about.
    I have an excellent rep because I always told the truth about what I was selling.
    If you’re new to tools and machines and don’t know what you’re doing, JUST BUY ONE. It will save you a ton of $$, and a giant mountain of frustration.

    1. aidan says:

      Shawn it REALLY SUCKS to advertise your stuff via another post

      1. Shawn Kelly says:

        I said I am NOT selling ANYTHING right now.
        “I’ve sold CNC stuff from 2002 to 2012 “

    2. sophiacamille says:

      This guy built the thing for $160. So we think other readers should be able to as well. If it’s a requirement to know everything there is to know about all of your tools, materials, and assembly before embarking on a project, many things would never get built. Lots of people learn by doing, and educating yourself is often worth the potential extra money and frustration :)

      1. Shawn Kelly says:

        Look, I’m 100% self taught, I KNOW from experience. I learned by doing. I know the pitfalls and would rather save others the frustration than sell them false hope.
        Norbert and I have the experience necessary to build this stuff and make it run reliably. No, you don’t need the skills or experience and you can make one but it will have the accuracy of a barn door and that is not what they will be expecting.

        1. NorbertHeinz says:

          I know children that build machines like that as a school project and for them, even a barn door accuracy is a great success. The process of self teaching (I run through it, too) is accelerated when young people get an instruction how to build a working machine, no matter what accuracy it will finally have. It’s great, if that accuracy is good enough to make something physically and this machine can e.g. engrave glass with really good results. Nonetheless the student fraction usually asks for higher precision machines, they should indeed go the way you suggest.

          1. Shawn Kelly says:

            Norbert, I have nothing but praise for what you are doing.
            You are very honest about your machine, the build and it’s capabilities and your pages are very well done!

            My complaint is the way Make presents these projects to it’s readers, not just this project but many.

            Make writes things like “you’d be surprised at how easily you can cobble your own together.”
            “the machine was able to engrave wood, glass, plastic, aluminum, and Depron foam with ease and surprising precision”

            “unbelievably inexpensive CNC router” “how easily” and “surprising precision” THAT is what they see and that is what they expect. It’s called keyword sales.

            You are very clear on your page that things do not always work right and it takes some learning. Compare that to the Make article.

            Look, the people who are going to be doing these projects are for the most part inexperienced beginners,
            otherwise they wouldn’t be here, right??

            The problem is Make will turn people away from the hobby by being be dishonest in their writing.
            You’re honest, I’m honest. I would like to see Make be honest too.

          2. NorbertHeinz says:

            Absolutely right!
            I am currently upgrading my CNC v0.6 and I will tell Donald about this discussion when the video about v0.6.1 is online.
            People that are interested in building this machine will visit my page or watch the video and so see what the machine in fact can do (or cant do).
            Make needs clicks to exist, but sometimes readers have to give authors a slight push into the desired direction ;)

      2. NorbertHeinz says:

        Yes, the main intention of my project is spreading knowledge. This CNC is meant to learn how those machines work in principle. I have demonstrated that the precision is not outstanding an that it is pretty slow. Who ever starts to build his own CNC will learn a lot and that’s worth more than 160$. If you buy a machine for that amount of money, that CNC won’t be a better tool and all you buy is frustration. There is nothing better than watching your own creation come to live.
        Currently I am overhauling the design to get a (slightly) improved accuracy. I really enjoy “working” with that machine.
        This is just an intermediate step from my drawing bot:
        to a man’s tool.

    3. NorbertHeinz says:

      Sketch up?, aluminum90°? Well, it’s obvious that I have build this machine following the rule of thumb…
      It’s in fact no great tool, but a good learning machine and I enjoy doing some engraving work or cutting acrylic plastic. Many ways can turn someone being new to machines into an expert. There is nothing totally wrong with what you say, but this machine is another option, not the only way and it’s no expensive failure if you don’t bring it to live. There are also followers of my projects that don’t have access to all materials within 24h delivery, thus they must create machines with things they can get.

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I make stuff, play music, and sometimes make stuff that plays music. Fan of donuts, Arduino, BEAM robotics, skateboarding, Buckminster Fuller, and blinking lights.

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