The CNC Router Project

1.) What was the intent?

The intent of this project was to obtain a CNC router to use in my independent study.  A CNC (Computer Numeric Control) Router is a machine that takes programmed commands and translates them into actions to remove material from a greater piece of material (known as stock) to create a desired part or result.  CNC is the industry standard for automating manufacture.  Automation and robotics are my passion, and having access to a CNC Router would enable me to pursue this passion by learning the ins and outs of industry automation with a practice machine.  Furthermore, possessing a CNC router would give me the manufacturing power necessary to create parts or items for any future projects out of a plethora of materials, such as wood, plastics, and soft metals.

Assembling and troubleshooting the CNC Router

3.) What issues were resolved?

2.) How would the intent manifest?

A CNC Router is by no means an easy item to build from scratch.  To start out, I decided to seek building a CNC Router from a kit.  I did research on the most bang-for-your-buck item, and with the guidance of my mentor, Mr. Ball, we settled on the Carbide Shapeoko 3 kit.  This kit goes for upwards of $1,000, and we decided to attempt to get it funded by our school, Guilderland High.  Mr. Ball advised me that the CNC Router kit had to meet several criteria in order to get funded by the school; it had to be safe, it had to be an item that was the best financial investment for the school for several years to come, and it had to be so imperative to the success of students as to warrant the purchase.  The nature of the selected kit met the first two criteria, and we fulfilled the last criterion by justifying the item as being imperative to students success by offering to integrate showcasing the standard of industry automation with the machine as part of the school's capstone engineering class' manufacturing unit, which neglected CNC entirely at that time.

Obtaining the funding proved the most problematic part of the whole project.  There were upwards of 40 emails concerning the project, and countless in-person interactions with my mentor, Mr. Ball, and my two coordinators for the independent study, Mrs. Gergen and Mr. Bott.  Eventually, there was a meeting with Mr. Bott, Mrs. Gergen, myself, Mr. Ball, and the math-science coordinator for Guilderland High School, Mrs. Anderson, where we delivered the first pitch for the machine.  Things started to look up; I was told to do more research about the machine before we went further up the ladder.  I verified with the company offering the kit, Carbide 3D, that the machine was compatible with the software the school already owned (V-Carve and Autodesk Fusion).  From there, we were able to obtain a meeting with Dr. Singleton, who through my pitch saw the value of integrating CNC into an engineering class devoid of it, and he greenlit the funding.  Once the machine actually arrived, it was simpler to assemble than an ikea furniture item.  The only mild difficulty laid in the wiring and sensors, which were redone a few times to function correctly.

4.) What was gained? 

Guilderland High School gained a CNC router that will be used to showcase the standard of automating manufacturing in it's capstone engineering class.  I gained a new tool to learn the specifics of CNC and automation throughout my two remaining years of highschool, but also so much more; I had gained the people skills and persistence necessary to obtain such funding.  I had to take the technical knowledge necessary to appreciate the value of the CNC Router for the school, and condense it into an easy to understand persuasive speech that I would deliver a multitude of times.  I learn to stay motivated, even when at first the only answer I heard was no.  Yes, I did get the CNC Router funded and I did assemble it, but for me, that was merely the cherry on top.  The real cake was the fight I had fought to get it.

Learning the basics of programming the machine with just a marker