In The Air – Week 16

I missed last week’s post, and I’m sorry. I was trying to get the wireless control of the fan using dimmable sockets to work, but just didn’t manage crack the code. You can expect a post about it later this week.

For this post, I have something completely different in mind! It’s been a while since I used my ShapeOko2 CNC milling machine and since my wife’s not home, I can make all the noise and dust I want (I’ll have to clean up before she gets home though …)! The goal was to make a simple panel/enclosure to which I could mount the BB View touchscreen to give it a more finished look.

Waste board

Before getting to the actual milling, I completed a modification to the stock waste board of the ShapeOko2.

I drilled a whole bunch of holes (totally overdid it!) in the waste board and screwed in threaded insert. This will help me clamp down the work piece when milling, instead of using tape like I did until now … There were about 200 inserts to screw in, so I ended up with a few blisters on my fingers. I’ll survive, and I’ll spare you the pictures

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Inkscape & Makercam

The first thing to do was making the measurements of the screen. The BB View is not symmetrical, a bit annoying but not a problem. Once I had the measurements done and verified, I ported them to Inkscape.

The flow is as such:

  • a line drawing is made in Inkscape and exported as *.svg
  • the *.svg is imported in Makercam
  • a milling operation is associated to a line or area
  • gcode of the milling operations is exported from Makercam
  • the gcode file is interpreted by the GcodeSender application
  • GcodeSender passes the commands to an Arduino UNO which controls the stepper motors

Everything went well in Inkscape, but once I imported it in Makercam, the rounded edges caused a glitch:

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 09.29.54 Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 09.29.10

Errr, right. I tried various things to get that fixed but nothing helped. So instead, I used rounded corners. I wanted to try something different, but as it didn’t work, I had to move on and not waste too much time.
That’s when I realized I forgot to mirror my design, as the milling will happen on the back side of the panel. And of course, there had to be another glitch …

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.22.48 Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.23.20

What is it today with things going wrong ?? I removed the outer shape and redrew it unmirrored. That did the trick.


With the drawing finally properly imported in Makercam, I started associating milling operations to the lines.

The inner rectangle needs to be cut out completely. To do this, I used the “follow path” operation which will mill the rectangle for the entire thickness of the piece of MDF.
The second rectangle needs to clear an area for the screen to slide in. This calls for the “pocket” operation.
Finally, the outer edge uses the “follow path” operation to cut out the piece completely.

Makercam visualizes the operations by means of arrows, taking into account the width of the drill bit to determine how many passes are required. With the operations calculated, the gcode was exported and imported in GcodeSender. A simulation can be run to confirm everything is as intended.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 14.25.51 Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 13.06.34

All ready to go, I clamped down a piece of MDF to cut out the shape from, set the Dremel in position and hit the “send” button.

By the way: when working with a CNC or any other power tool for that matter, wear protection and be careful! Safety first!

Now, back to milling. Here are some “action” shots of the milling in progress. I regularly took the vacuum cleaner to get rid of the material being milled off.

photo 1 photo 2


The result is not bad at all (if I may say so myself). The piece came out clean and only required a tiny bit of sanding.

photo 3 photo 4 photo 5

I’ll be milling more pieces to make it a “PiBow” style enclosure in which I can fit all the electronics.


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