Industrial Punk's New Family Member!
Stepcraft 600 CNC machine
Today, I am very happy to welcome a new family member... A Stepcraft 600 CNC machine!. I ordered the machine from Stepcraft's website and it took about one week to arrive here in Japan.
As you can see, it arrives in kit form, ready for the brave soul and new owner to take on the build process.
If you're the type of person that has pieces left over when you are building flat-pack furniture or plastic models, then this may not be the project for you! But, saying that, its really not too hard to build as the instructions are very well designed. I did have a couple of scratchy-head moments where the instructions were lacking in detail slightly, but, those moments were soon overcome by trial and error or going back a step or two.
Altogether an enjoyable build and one that took around two and a half days with lots of breaks in between.
If you are going to buy a Stepcraft or are currently building one, here are a few handy things you might like to know.
Building a Stepcraft CNC machine - a few handy tips
- The parallel port upgrade is a MUST!. The machine is entirely useless with just the standard USB port and entry-level software. If you choose the USB connection then you are severely limited in what you can do. In this configuration, only cutting at a single depth at a time with no dynamic three-dimensional control is possible. When you have the parallel port installed and more professional controller software such as UCCNC or Mach3, the Stepcraft comes to life.
- You will also need software capable of creating the G-Code, necessary to transfer 2D and 3D data into three-dimensional coordinates which is used by the controller software. There are a few options around but I found Aspire 8 by Vectric to be pretty easy to use, especially after watching some of their really well thought out lessons on YouTube.
- Building the Z-axis - from Step 1 in the instruction book. When bolting on the rollers to the Z-axis, there are four black adjuster screws (two for each set of rollers). These screws are tightened to widen the distance between the rollers thereby adding friction between the rollers and the frame where they roll. I didn't see in the instructions that these should be left loose at first. They get tightened once the Z-axis is inserted into the frame. Leave these loose! If they are tightened before inserting the Z-axis into the frame then it will be a struggle to do.
- When connecting the belt rollers for the Y-axis you have to insert tiny little set screws to keep the rollers from turning independently of the Y-axis screw. These teeny little set screws are really easy to cross-thread. I would recommend using some kind of locking fluid or glue to keep these in, and don't over tighten!
- Not buying from Stepcraft! Yes, I said it. I had absolutely no problems when I ordered the machine itself, just when I wanted to upgrade to the parallel port. I had to contact Stepcraft over a week after I placed the order because it still hadn't arrived. They replied with an email saying, "excuse me" because they had, "sent the parts to the wrong address", and that they would send the parts out six days later!! Finally the parts arrived after a two and a half week wait. If you are considering buying a Stepcraft, I highly recommend checking out Stoney CNC who provided a great service and was very gracious with questions and especially machine profiles, which are essential if you wish to use UCCNC.
After upgrading my Stepcraft with the parallel port I couldn't be happier. Its a very basic machine, but, in combination with some good design and controller software, it really is worth the purchase. There are quite a few options, at extra cost, depending on what level you would like to go. I am using the Stepcraft with a Dremel 4000 spindle, and although a little slow, it can do what I need it to do.
If you have any comments or would like to add anything, please write in the comment box below.