Hi everyone! My wife Molly and I recently put together our 5x5 Pro machine and I wanted to document the process.
I will preface this article by saying we owned an Inventables prior to this, but had virtually no real CNC operation time prior to using this machine. The inventables machine had its own software that is vastly different from Mach 4 + V-Carve.
General assembly took two full shop days. The process was both fun and easy, honestly I was expecting a nightmare of a time after assembling our Inventables machine and various 3D Printers. That is mostly because the parts on those machine are very small. All of the screws and parts are large on the Avid CNC and therefore assembly isn’t annoyingly intricate. The frame took the longest, the gantry was the hardest part, and the wiring was the easiest.
If you would like to view the instructions you can here:https://www.avidcnc.com/support/instructions/
I can’t emphasize enough getting the tools Avid recommends for assembly. You can view those here: https://www.avidcnc.com/support/instructions/pro/6060/21.1/tools/
The one deviation from the plans was to extend the top extrusions over the front of the machine by 6". This gave us a perfect spot to mount a vertical table.
Calibration took a few more hours. Our machine was perfectly square, but needed the spindle to be trammed. This took longer than expected just because I needed to learn to use Mach 4 and V-carve first.
I followed Avid’s guide for calibration found here: https://www.avidcnc.com/support/instructions/machineSetup/levelingSquaringAndTramming/
The only thing I did differently was use a Whiteside 6220 2" flattening bit for the tramming test. The larger diameter bit, the better your results will be.
Spoil Board Design
Our spoil board design is heavily influenced by Jay Bates, with a few simple twists that better fit our workflow. The spoil board is three layers of ¾" MDF. It features T-Track for clamping and alignment as well as dog holes.
Layer 1+2: The first two layers were glued together. The t-track dados and mounting holes were cut into these layers. The mounting hole has a slot for the screw in the bottom and ¼" is left in the MDF to create the correct depth for the screw to engage in the nut. The T-Track dado is ~¾" wide x ⅜" deep.
Layer 3: This layer is glued on over the T-Track and the ⅜" slots are cut down to the T-Track using the 2nd layer as a (Z) Zero point. This is all explained in the video linked above. The reason we did it this way is to allow the 3rd layer to overlap the T-Track and therefore lock it into place. This allows for much greater clamping forces.
The vertical table is made from two layers of ¾" MDF and looks almost identical to the horizontal table. The table is mounted to the front of the machine using the same T-Nuts in the front crossmembers.
This video shares most of the details:
We are currently working on 3D printed clamps that allow you to use the T-Track slots for alignment. These clamps are also unique in that they clamp multiple boards at once.
Running The Machine
We chose to run our machine from the machine Home position instead of using a work zero. This allows us to place our parts and materials in a specific location in software that correlates to a known location on the physical machine. I made an entire video explaining this in great detail and it is also a great introduction to CNC. Please excuse any missteps or incorrect statements as I too just learned these things. This video is very informative though: