The Omni multi-machine

Laser cuts, routes, plots, engraves and makes vinyl stencils and more for makers ,crafters and builders.

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The omni multimachine is conceived to combine several useful operations from a single design machine capable of cutting materials to size , engraving them and routing them for instant placement into a design for rapid prototyping.
In the past I have been making more single use machines such as cnc lathes for turning, mills for shaping and pcb work etc and while single use tool machines are great, they just lack some basic interchangeability for more than one real purpose. Sure you can make tooling to add functionality extensions to a machine but the machine often suffers in rigidity or is just plain awkward to setup.
My idea was not to make a machine to do everything, but to make a machine that could do a lot of common tasks that I did lots of...Cutting flat material, make a quick prototype pcb or make some one time use stencils. Often I needed to make multiples of items(sometime LOTS of multiples) and wanted the machine to start up and go no muss no fuss..This is the goal.

The basic machine will be a familiar looking design to many. It is a 3 axis setup with a long x and y and a moderately short z. I am 3d printing the major components including gantry type z overhead axis so it can be scaled up and using very standard parts throughout. Everything on the mechanical side can be got at a hardware store and the steppers and leadscrews from ebay etc. Nothing is expensive and nothing is particularly hard to come by. I have been printing machines and basic axis for several years and have finally formulated a nice mix of functionality and easy to make axis that just is working out well for my needs.

I was new to laser cutting and etching when I started this and went through several laser power levels before landing one that worked for one of my common material cutting needs-Balsa(and thin plywood). I make lots of balsa  prototype stuff,some flying machines and rockets, some decorative stuff and lots of impromptu stuff just screwing around. My thickest are about 3/16ths thick and when I settle on some crazy design it involves make a bunch.....for some reason. I first used a motor and router bit which worked fine but when I saw the price of those small lasers come down I tried one at 2.5 watt(about 40$ from ebay. I would etch fine bit only would pierce and cut 1/16 material. So next I tried a ten watt and it proved to cut even a bit beyond 3/16ths. It would also cut very thin plastics and that proved useful for make some spray paint type stencils. Ten watt versions are still inexpensive and can be PWMed for etching details in wood etc. making cool effects and decorative as well. If I needed to cut thicker wood and plastics the motor bit setup was easy to bolt on to the z axis(just two wing nuts!) and plugged in the same plugs as the laser. 

Later I would add a vinyl pen knife older as an additional accessory which cuts sign vinyl(sticky backed) just perfect. This was an easy thing to make just using a servo for pen blade direction.

Of course the sharpie pen was the first accessory and I still use that for a variety of jobs

 The controller was my next bit of planning. I could never get gerber setups working all that well. I had problems with the software, with the setup and it always seemed lie it was too much fiddling.

I stuck with an Arduino but did some serious and contemptable acts I never dreamed I could pull off...I made my own file converter for several commom cad file formats that takes the file and creates sketches from them that could be flashed to the Arduino or read from an SD card. Yes-I did in fact reinvent the wheel, but it is so simple to implement and made everything work seamlessly. The Arduino can hold many cut files that could keep residence in the Arduino and executed from a pushbutton, or loaded from an sd card. I was shocked and amused at the simplicity and no tinkering with feeds and speeds, weird crashes or stupid errors. I could have used many other microcontrollers for this but used the Arduino as it is cheap,I had several, and in reality the end builder can sub whatever they desire anyway.

The machine also features a small onboard joystick to execute jogs and a port for a large analog joystick used for freehand cutting and slicing of material. It is good for ripping strips of material up or just making some nice graphics in wood, plastic and paper.

Another use I have for the machine is making a quick pcb. I use the motor bit attachment and import the design and let it have at the copper pcb. I got some phenolic board and it really saves the bits for lifespan. Most of the boards I make are pretty basic I send serious stuff off to a fab, but there are times when I need it now or to test an idea. I guess I am a rather impatient person on things like that. I just want an answer now...

It should be noted that this first machine is very prototypy...ish. I need something...

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  • The Axis X, Y and Z

    castvee804/13/2019 at 00:02 4 comments

    The prototype uses axis made from 3 D printed parts and off the shelf components. I used the pancake type steppers on these but have designed mounts for other footprints. The printed parts are designed to self align, are fast printing and very rigid and stable. Here are the major parts for each axis:

    After many designs the axis have never been easier to make. Here are things slipped together and ready for final assembly.

    Not sure yet what the final design will be yet. This years contest leans heavily toward mass manufacture.

  • The Pen/Plotter attachment

    castvee804/12/2019 at 15:05 0 comments

    The simplest of the machines functions is a plotter,graphics drawing application. I made the holder so it fits sharpie markers which are widely available  and used frequently by lots of folks in making.. The pen holder is adjusted so just the weight of the marker itself provides ample pressure for drawing.

    The colors for sharpie seem endless!

    This attachment consists of two 3 D printed parts fused together. It bolts on the Z axis like the others using the two wingnuts.

     I often use this before laser or routing on a piece of scrap paper to check the tool paths and make sure everything is a go.

  • The router attachment

    castvee804/10/2019 at 20:47 0 comments

    The router attachment simply consists of a motor in a cylindrical mount that attaches to the Z axis like the others. The motor can be of different sizes depending on what materials the user is working with. The motor has a collet type chuck and holds the bit securely while in sideload.

    I have been using bits smaller than 2mm for most of my projects as they leave a nice smooth edge on woods and a super smooth edge in plastics. Here is a general look at the motor attachment:

    This motor is about 2 inches around and 2 1/2 inches long with ball bearings on both ends I made several of these motor attachments including one with a very large shaft for use with a drill chuck. I must confess I never used it as a cnc driven head however it is handy to use a drill press by steering the X,Y axis with the joystick and then drilling with the Z. I have never had the need yet for drilling so many holes in a workpiece to set up a program for doing that.

     I do use this to make a prototype PCB from time to time and the holes I drop in the router bit. Normally I mill pcbs on this with a .5mm to 1mm bit so it works out ok but does add wear to the bits. I have been buying these bits at a pretty good price though so I don't feel to bad about it. I also have been using more phenolic PCB material instead of FR4 and that also seems to help if I dig a little deep on the traces(sloppy setup on my part).

    The nice thing about the smaller motor9if you can use it) is less noise and screaming from the machine running a part. I often use this machine in my house so noise can be an  issue sometimes(cats hate it) But I have more horsepower available if I need it and the attachment swap fast and easy.

  • The Laser module attachment

    castvee804/10/2019 at 19:50 3 comments

    I always liked the idea of laser cutting but the cost even as low as it has gotton was still not in my reach. I was cruising the ebay pages of laser products and started seeing laser engravers-thsy are basic woodburning type beasts that make really nice engravers but lack the power to actually cut. I first bought a 2 watt version and was going to settle for the engraver as an attachment but after using it to make some cool wood etches I wanted more power. I found a 7.5 watt version for around 45$ and bit the bullet and got it. I couldn't help but notice that this version would actually cut thin materials and really engraved well also. Again I ordered the next step up a ten watt version. This thing was pretty amazing for the cost and I quickly experimented to find its limitations. It is shown in the prototype photo.

    Here is the 2 watt version:

    It does etch/engrave just fine but will only cut very thin stuff-and not all that well.

    If you just want to engrave-this is cheap and perfect. The final version of the machine will be able to accept the 15 watt version. I am underfunded right now and just can't afford it. all of my data and photos will reflect the ten watt version.

    In order to save my table from laser damage I simply found a material that the laser could not cut through and did not burn well to make a smelly mess. under the material to be cut I place a small 3 D printed frame shown here:

    This elevated the workpiece away from the table and allows space for the laser to pierce and safely absorb the beam without problems.

     In the final version machine the table will have a laser safe shield to protect  the user from laser energy. The shield will also function as a router shield from chips, etc.

    useful tips on these laser modules:

    Be careful when you hook up and test these things. The light will cook your eyes, your skin and anything,even across the room. You need a backstop, and some eyewear that is laser rated.

    When you are purchasing the laser module of your power choice::

    Buy from a reputable dealer with perfect feedback and good customer ratings. Many of the power ratings are NOT as advertised. The higher the wattage the more fudging they tend to do. My first ten watt laser module was only tested at 7.4 watts. I balked greatly and got another. The ten watt one measures at 11.2 watt.

    So many China dealers are fudging the ratings on these modules. Beware.

  • Stencil and Vinyl cutting

    castvee804/08/2019 at 23:17 0 comments

    I made this as an accessory as many times I want a spray paint a one off stencil or want to cut out some designs in sticky backed vinyl. It can cut other thin material and cardstock up to 90lb.

    It was a tricky little attachment to make as the knife blade must always stay in the direction it is cutting and on sharp corners the z axis must lift the blade, rotate the blade then lower again. It was an interesting set of problems to solve.

    Here is the attachment mounted to the machine:

    Note the servo which rotates the knife shaft. I fashioned the mount for use with an exacto penknife as they are widely available as well are the blades.

    Here is another view of the mounted assembly:

    I normally put a heavy pasteboard under the material to be cut. This allows an easy setup when mounting the knife and getting the blade pressure correct so it cuts perfect every time. The blade lasts a long time too!

  • Controls,buttons and switches

    castvee804/07/2019 at 03:07 0 comments

    In trying to keep it simple I built the machine for minimal effort to operate. The lower set of controls consist of three pushbutton switches and a joystick. The joystick function is simple-it allows the user to move the X and Y axis manually. It is nice if you want to set up something on the table to avoid material waste and also useful to manually rip sheet stock into strips or just straight line cutting without any CnC control. A DB15 connector is also installed to allow the user to connect a large analog joystick for freehand cutting or engraving. The Z axis can be run up and down via 2 of the pushbuttons. A third pushbutton runs a built in table calibration if some table is alignment is suspected. Pushing in on the joystick sends all axis to the home position. The home position is part of every  program and all axis return automatically home after each part is done,however of the joystick is used manually it can be done manually.

    A pot control is installed to control router motor speed(markings show recommended settings for material/bit size and also laser power control.

    The remaining pushbuttons shown on the upper left are imported part programs. These switches will be replaced with a 16 key keypad in the final version and the user can upload multiple designs and select from them when desired. An LCD soon to be added will display which parts have been uploaded and what button to press to make that part as well as show progress and inform the user which tool needs to be mounted on the Z axis to manufacture it. This will be a nice neat tidy solution that will allow first time users easy access to their part formation. In the end version all buttons may be moved to the keypad for simplicity and ease of manufacture with the exception of the joystick and power control.

    I am pretty sure as this  evolves it will get streamlined more for ease and simplicity of building it. This prototype has already yielded lots of new ideas for the next version.

  • Sample video of machine running

    castvee804/06/2019 at 23:07 0 comments

    Quick demo of machine routing, laser cutting and pen drawing. Nothing fancy just a demo. The material is 1/4 inch on the motor router,two stacked 3/16ths thick wood on the laser and posterboard on the pen drawing.

    On the laser cut I made a bit of a mistake-Instead of putting the beam stop under the 3/16ths material I stacked  2 3/16ths material on top of each other. The result was the top layer was cut fine but did some scorching as a result. All is well wood scraps are plentiful. The camera did not like the laser light as you can tell in the video....

    I wiil add the vinyl cutter and a few other accssories soon.

  • Electrical System

    castvee804/05/2019 at 02:21 0 comments

    The circuitry for this machine is really brutally simple. The controller is an Arduino, right now an Uno but soon a mega. A number of files can be flashed into the Arduino and accessed via some buttons(or a keypad) and of course with the SD card.

     I had a board made at: and it was very well made, super fast in production and well worth the effort. I have used them before and you just can't beat the price!

    The driver electronics are all mounted on a simple small Pcb an use the typical stepsticks.The power supply is 15 volt at 6 amps.The laser requires 3 amps and is not fussy about being tied to the motor driver power so a single supply runs it all easily.Laser power is manually selected depending on job requirements and range for simple etch/engrave to max power for cutting material. The same Pwm is arranged so it also powers the router motor also.

    Endswitches are provided for each axis for safe travel as well as slot photointerupters for counting leadscrew revolutions. I sort of wanted some security past just step signals to keep track of the progress. The wiring on the 1st prototype is rather gangly looking but will be shaped into a nice neat harness when all the details of the machine have been satisfied.

    This is probably the stupid simplest wiring and controller setup I have ever made...Finally!

    I am hesitant to make an Arduino shield as many will scoff at the idea and want to go with another flavor of controller. More power to ya!

    I am also entertaining the idea of adding an lcd to show status,progress etc. There may be some other items helpful to the user friendly aspects of the machine tossed in there as things move along.

  • Structure

    castvee804/04/2019 at 15:27 0 comments

    I have built a dozen or so 3D printed machines including lathes,mills carvers and duplicators for a variety of materials and each improved drastically as I learned what I could get away with and what the limitations of each machine would be being made of plastics.

    This machine would make use of all the combined knowledge accumulated and produce the best that could be gleaned from previous designs. This machine uses a gantry design for the z axis, supported by two pylons at each end which allows excellent rigidity for the tools being used. The gantry pylons are joined with steel rods that the z axis itself can be moved on if needed and solidly supported to the base with ever widening pylons and affixed to a baseplate. The axis are also all 3 d printed as three durable blocks with a conventional 12 inch leadscrew affixed to the stepper and bearing placed throughout. I selected flat pancake steppers for this design but the axis have multimounts that can accommodate and form factor motor.

    The table for this 1st prototype machine I made woefully small and can increased on the next version but was most helpful in establishing endstop switches and slot sensors for positioning. The table size will increase by 25% or more on the final machine. All the printed parts I produced from ABS and are solvent fused together to make modifications, extra holes etc in future versions. I am making files for this entire machine to be also fabricated from laser cut plastics as well as the 3 D printed stl files.

    The steel rods are typical hardware store versions in 3/8 inch size and I opted for the zinc plated versions as they tend to be smoother and will not rust. All the mechanical hardware for the machine came to about 35$. I used a full spool of ABS printing this machine as it appears in the picture.

    As far as best way to manufacture this machine: Still unsure. 3D printing the parts is an excellent way to allow individuals to build it for themselves, but to make a bunch...That is going to take some more serious looking into. I actually made a simpler version of a gantry setup similar to this out of wood with supporting rods and it worked well(not suggesting I would use wood). There are available options that will present themselves as this moves forward.

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alireza safdari wrote 04/13/2019 at 21:10 point

How accurate is your machine when moving around?

  Are you sure? yes | no

castvee8 wrote 04/13/2019 at 22:03 point

Not sure how to answer that but the built in calibration is spot on every time I run it so consistency is not an issue. Of course this is just a prototype of the real machine to come but it is doing well. 

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alireza safdari wrote 04/13/2019 at 22:34 point

@castvee8  My bad! for some reason I read the title as "Omni wheel multi-machine", and I was politely being skeptical of the accuracy you can achieve with omni wheels :D

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aquaticedge wrote 04/07/2019 at 02:22 point

Neat little machine! looks like it has many uses too! 

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Craig Hissett wrote 04/04/2019 at 20:03 point

This is fantastic mate, great work!

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castvee8 wrote 04/05/2019 at 04:14 point

Thanks. I am hoping I can have enough good days to finish the contest out this year.

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Craig Hissett wrote 04/05/2019 at 05:31 point

Yeah I'm hoping to get more done than last year. I never got my main project beyond the planning phase.

I've just ordered a load of 20x20 extrusion for that one, so once it's done I might re-enter it. Its going to be awesome :)

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