UNDERSTANDING, DESIGNING & CONSTRUCTING ROBOTS & ROBOTIC SYSTEMS
■ BY VERN GRANER
THE PROBOTIX FIREBALL
V90 CNC VISITED
HAVEN'T WE BEEN HERE BEFORE? If the machine
shown here looks familiar, it's because we first
introduced you to it back in the December ‘08 column.
In that article, we detailed the PROBOTIX Fireball v90
— one of the first high-accuracy/sub-$1,000 CNC
systems on the market. We explored what came in the package, detailed
how the machine went together, and gave a few examples of how the
machine could be used. We then shared our experiences as newbies using
the machine in a high-pressure environment for a couple of non-stop days at
Maker Faire Austin. At that event, the machine was used to cut recycled CD-ROMs into gears, key chains, and even a set of snazzy earrings (Figures 1 - 3)!
Since then, we've had time to become more familiar
with the v90 and — though there's nothing wrong with
cutting CD-ROMs into earrings — we figured it would
certainly be more practical to use the machine to create
something useful for the electronics hobbyist. This month,
we're going to describe how our v90 has evolved since its
debut and then show how the machine can be put to
some real work making practical items for use in your
every day electronic and robotic projects.
READY TO RUN? YES!
When we originally received the V90 back in August
‘08, the hardware came with all the required electronics
components, but you were expected to provide (or create)
your own electronics enclosure. In addition, you had to
solder/heat shrink the wires to each of the stepper motors
and then attach the ends of the wires to each of the
motor controller boards using screw terminals. Though this
approach worked fine for us and is still a viable option for
folks who expect their CNC system to "stay put," having
the wires screwed to terminals in our system didn't lend
itself to portability.
Any time we needed to move the machine, we had to
unscrew each wire from the stepper controllers, pull them
out of the hole in the enclosure, and then set the control
electronics inside the enclosure for transport (Figure 4).
When reassembling, we had to reverse the process and
make sure we got all the stepper motors wired back to
their controllers correctly. Also, using our method of
electronics assembly (i.e., screwing everything down to a
hunk of wood), you have to take special care to avoid
both the spinning fan blades and possible short circuits
with the exposed electrical connections (Figure 5).
To avoid all this hassle, a new “Ready To Run” option
allows you to purchase all the electronics factory assembled in a nice, fan cooled custom cabinet (Figure 6) with
■ FIGURE 1. CD-ROM gears.
■ FIGURE 2. CD-ROM cut into
shapes for key chains.
■ FIGURE 3. At Maker Faire, a young
passerby turned a pair of Texas key
chains into earrings.