Once, long ago when magazines still existed, I bought a copy of Popular Mechanics. Inside was a guide on how to build a robotic lawnmower. Now this was back in the 1980s so it wasn’t a very complex machine – it basically backed up when it hit stuff – but I was amazed. Being only ten at the time I was unable to build the thing and, now that I’m 40, I still can’t fathom how to build this DIY CNC plotter out of a DVD player and some Arduino gear.
The CNC-Machine Instructable, created by the folks at CNC World, is fairly straightforward. You take apart a DVD player and then use the case to create a sort of platform for the system. You can then add in an Arduino Uno R3 – basically a single-board computer – and the proper motor controller. Once you have all that set up all you have to do is program the DVD drive’s head to move in two dimensions, X and Y, and cut out or laser the things you’re messing with. In other words it kind of makes me feel like I’m 10 again and reading Popular Mechanics.
To create the drawings for the CNC the creators suggest Inkscape, a free vector art program. Because the CNC machine is fairly flexible you can have the robot draw on paper, cut surfaces with a nice sharp Xacto, or shoot lasers at plastic. It’s basically a fun little project that doesn’t take too many smarts and you can easily fill up a nice weekend with a little hardware hacking and CNCing. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go figure out how to put metal blades on my Roomba for some 1980s era outdoor action.