Rolling Around A 4th Axis


[Perry] was interested in adding a 4th axis to his CNC machine, but not very excited at the prospect of spending hundreds of dollars on the parts and electronics to make it work. There is a very clever and very inexpensive way to add a 4th axis to a CNC machine, though, and after a bit of fabrication, he was able to add a ‘rolling’ 4th axis to his machine.

[Bob]’s ‘rolling’ 4th axis.

The idea for this build comes from [Bob] over on the CNC Shark forums. Instead of adding a motor to rotate a work piece around, [Bob]’s build simply mounts it between two jaws, and rolls everything around against the bed of the CNC router. Don’t have a clue what that means? Check out the picture to the right, and you’ll see brilliance built in Delrin and HDPE.  By mounting two rack gears to the bed and two geared jaws to the carriage of the machine, moving the router in the Y axis also rotates the 4th axis. This is far, far too clever; it doesn’t require any additional electronics and the only software tweaks are a bit of G-code hacking.

[Perry] took one look at [Bob]’s project and decided this would be the perfect build to get him a 4th axis. The parts for this build were fabricated out of black HDPE, with the only real change to the design being a ‘variable length’ 4th axis. Instead of two rack gears mounted to the bed of the machine, [Perry]’s build only uses one rack, with the other end simply rolling on the bed.

There are a lot of clever inventions that don’t work, so what’s the verdict with this CNC hack? It actually looks pretty good. [Perry] was able to turn some square stock into round stock, and able to engrave a spiral around a cylinder. You can check out those videos below.