Looks like some folks did some of the heavy lifting required for getting the makerbot MK5 extrusion head working on a CNC mill:http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:5233
I've been giving some thought to what it would take to adapt our current mill setup to be a more generalized 3-axis build/make platform, and I think this is a good example of what kind of possibilities a conversion like that might open up. The way I see it, our mills should provide more accurate and repeatable XYZ movement with a larger range (excepting Z axis probably) then a cupcake or equivalent. If we would take on a Mach3/EMC2 conversion of the mills (or perhaps just the ability to run in either the Anilam or Mach3/EMC controller configuration initially), we would gain the ability to potentially adapt the mills to be:
* 3D routers with a router head (a router is significantly higher RPM and lower cutting force than the mill spindle)
* FDM plastic extruders (using a makerbot extruder head)
* Low-power laser etchers
* CNC foam cutting
* Tangential knife cutter
And probably some other things that I am not thinking of (the low-power laser is pure speculation. I have no experience with laser cutting). As a side effect we would also gain:
* The ability to leave behind the proprietary Anilam conversational format we have so painstakingly debugged and move to a pure gcode solution.
* No longer a need to serial drip-feed larger programs
* Simpler automation of the spindle RPM
* A more modern mill interface using commodity PC hardware
Of course, this would all take a fair amount of work, careful tuning and some hardware investment (a PC, a PCI-based motor controller card and a PCI digital I/O for starters). However, it seems to me like that sort of investment might pay better dividends than, for instance, just getting a makerbot (not that that is under consideration AFAIK).
More food for thought for what a more programmable 3D CNC platform could provide:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNZnUiDq ... re=related
(Mach3 controlling a laser etcher)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfR3Y8aR ... re=related
(Mach3-controlled CNC router)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOXY4O0U ... re=related
(Interesting use of Mach3 probe capability for tool centering)
All that being said, there is definitely a benefit to our current mill interface that is tuned to the mill and basically "just works" once you know how to wrestle it. Also having a big red clown nose to mash when things go south is nice, but I presume we can implement a similarly safe setup.
I'm curious what people's thoughts are on the above.