Custom CNC Head

The Problem

The standard machine head that comes with most hobby size milling machines does not come with a lot of features that make it very adaptable for a cnc machine.  Many basic features that are found on high priced CNC machines are just not practical to add due to the overall quality of the head itself and the fact that the head would be prohibitively expensive.

The stock milling head for RF45 clone machines can have many problems such as oil leaks, bad bearings, noisy operation and limited speed.  There is an attempt to strike a balance between cost and basic manual milling machine features.  Converting a manual machine can be a great addition to any shop but usually does nothing to remove the problems inherent to the head.

We need a milling head that has more features found in a high end CNC machine but is done in a way that keeps the price within a reasonable range for either a dedicated CNC machine or as an upgrade to an existing CNC upgraded milling machine.

 

My Approach

While still keeping the familiar shape of the MD001 miling head, the insides have been completely redesigned.  Even the shell has been fabricated from laser cut 1/2" steel plate then custom machined on a 4 axis CNC machine for high precision.  New features added to the head include...

  • BT30 cartridge spindle for high speed and high quality long lasting bearings
  • dual range speed selection for high speed at one end and high torque at the other
  • pneumatic tool release
  • indexed motion for rigid tapping and tool changer locating
  • Belt drive for quiet operation
  • Laser cut and welded steel plate fabrication

Once assembled all the features I want to include will make this head a fantastic addition to the MD001-CNC machine or any other RF45 style conversion.  Mounting holes will line up with the original MD001 manual machine (IH Clone) and the new MD001-CNC machine.

 

Summary and further work

The design is almost complete.  The steel plate has been cut and is just about ready to weld together.  I have purchased a high quality 8000 rpm BT30 spindle that is ready for installation.  The fabricated head will still need to be machined.  My 4th axis rotary table project along with the MD001-CNC prototype machine will be used to complete the machining of the head body.  The internal timing pulleys still need to be cut.  The pneumatic release and index electronics will be installed when the main body has been assembled.

With a final cost that should be a small fraction of what an equivalent purchased head would cost, this will be a welcome addition to anyone's CNC mill.