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CNC Machines With a Slice of Raspberry PI

Did you know that the Raspberry PI could be used in a CNC milling machine?

Raspberry PI single board computer image by Mr 2853 (via Shutterstock).

Tasty: the single board Raspberry PI computer. Image by Mr2853 (via Shutterstock).

The Raspberry PI, since its introduction in 2012, has become an unlikely British success story. With over 10 million PIs sold, it has taken over from the Sinclair ZX Spectrum family as the biggest selling computer system of British origin. It has been taken on (its single) board by computing enthusiasts seeking a barebones machine. Some have used their PIs for playing 1980s computer games or as weather stations.

Did you know that the Raspberry PI can be used for CNC machinery? It is possible to turn your PI board into a CNC controller. In a thread on The Instructables website, we see how one is used to make an Alamode CNC controller.

In video form, we see how a single Raspberry PI board is used to control a CNC machine. Notice how small the single board is in comparison to the machine. It is the size of a cigarette packet.

You can also buy a dedicated CNC board for the PI. One of them is the CNC xPro Controller, priced at £100 excluding VAT (or €107.54). Spark Concepts manufacture the board, which is aimed at the professional market.

Which operating system for my Raspberry PI powered CNC machine?

The default OS on the PI is Raspbian, but other UNIX and GNU/Linux based operating systems (like RISC OS, Arch and PIdora) should work. Make sure all the connections and software packages are correct. To get your PI powered CNC machine in good working order, you need LinuxCNC.

LinuxCNC is the belly and the guts of a Raspberry PI powered CNC machine. It is also suitable for Debian and Ubuntu derived Linux distros as well as PIs. To round off this post, we shall leave you with this clip of a CNC machine powered by LinuxCNC.

Stoney CNC, 29 August 2017.

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