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Step 7: Z-Axis Transmission Nut
This tutorial is dated, if you are considering a CNC for your personal use, we would highly recommend purchasing a kit that is very stable from our wide range of machines available. Instead of using allthread for the lead screw and a standard nut, consider using a 5 start lead screw and anti-backlash nut. It will keep you from pulling out your hair by running much smoother and faster. We will install the method that provides transmission to the z-axis. The transmission consists of a lead screw and a nut. Very simply, the motor will turn the screw, and the nut is fastened to the z-axis assembly, moving the assembly as the motor spins. That is to say, when the motor turns clockwise, the nut will travel up, and if the motor turns counter-clockwise, the nut will travel down.

For this CNC router tutorial series, I will be using the cheap 1/4"-20 type threaded rod. The 1/4" is the diameter of the rod, and the 20 is the threads per inch. It's the standard that you can find at your local hardware store. In addition, the length available will be sufficient for our needs. Backlash may be an issue with this type of assembly; hwever, I have had no problems in my routing. The backlash is not discernable, especially if you use the long nuts. Also, a lot of junk will get into the threads and make the rod/not assemble pretty tight.

For those who will use an acme screw and nut, or ballscrew, the method of installation is similar, with only minor adjustments. After this initial video series, I will go over homemade antibacklash nuts for acme screws. I also intend to devise a homemade ballscrew (let's see if I'm successful).

So, you are finished with the z and y axis assemblies. In this video, we will bore a hole right through these assemblies to provide for the lead screw. Start off by determining where the holes will be located on the y-axis linear bearing supports. Drill the holes and then drill a long hole all the way through the z-axis back to allow the screw to travel through and provide a place for the nut. The nut is tightened into this hole and is held in place with tightness and friction. The nut should be positioned on the bottom of the z-axis back so that gravity will assist in the longevity of the placement. It's pretty tight, so you won't have to worry.

Technique to Minimize Backlash by Gérard C.

Getting rid of backlash seems to be the biggest concern for the CNC hobbyist, especially when milling PCBs since copper traces for surface mount devices are used. Surface mount devices are very small electronic parts that contain leads that are extremely close together, or the leads are found on the bottom of the component and the part usually lays flat on the PCB (Printed Circuit Board).

Gérard C. has an interesting technique in solving this problem using two special nuts, one on either side of the MDF, to minimize the backlash (and is adjustable). I've said the word a few times, but you are saying to yourself, what is backlash? Backlash isn't the character located above your enter button, that's the back-slash, nor is it the post experience from a fight with your wife. Backlash is caused by the space between the threads of a screw, and the threads in the nut. If space exists where the two mate, then there will be a loss of movement in the linear motion when the screw is turned, or worse, vibration can transmit through this space make for undesirable accuracy or precision in the cut. Software can eliminate backlash for the short term, but calibration in needed constantly. Totally eliminating the space in the mating of the screw and nut can also cause binding problems, so it is a good idea to lubricate the screw and nuts before use, or use ballscrews.

From Gérard C: Backlash occurs when the screw changes direction of rotation because the driving strength is reversed and then applied to the opposite wall of the threading. Interchangeability and machining allowances make compulsory a functional gap between nut threading and screw threading, so it exist a dead time while nut is not driven when screw rotation has just reversed because rubbing against the opposite wall is not immediate and screw must turn some degrees before it occurs.

Principle :

Backlash is lowered if functional gap is reduced, a simple way to do this is to use two opposing nuts, one is permanently rubbing against the left wall of threading while the other rubs against the right one. Opposing nuts are here threaded inserts for hard wood, they are both screwed inside the same hole bored through a MDF part. First insert is locked while second is firmly held in the opposite hole entry, it can nevertheless be rotated for adjusting.

Boring and screwing inserts:

Pay attention with the MDF part thickness, it must be at least twice the insert nut height. If not, glue together two MDF boards for obtaining the necessary thickness. Use of a drilling machine mounted on its stand is mandatory for boring perpendicularly to MDF surface. Use three points wood drill.

Don't drill hole completely, stop drilling when center point of drill appears on opposite side.

Then return MDF part upside down and use the little hole to center drill before drilling the other entry of the hole.

It's advised to chamfer hole edges with a conic countersink cutter ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Countersink )

Inserts must be screwed perpendicularly regarding the surface of the piece of MDF to avoid misalignments.

Here is a method to do this easily, your drilling machine is going to be used as a hand screw-driver (this method is also available for holding a tapping tool if you want to tap holes.)

- Unplug the power supply from the drilling machine, it's for safety.

- Tighten a small stick of threaded rod in the chuck of the drilling machine (replace the stick with a tapping tool if you want to tap holes)

- Screw the insert onto this stick.

- Place the MDF part on the stand plate, hole just below insert..

- Press the stand lever for moving down the insert until it enter the hole, Move the MDF part to center the insert when it's very ready to enter the hole.

- Use one hand to turn the chuck while continuing to press the stand lever, the MDF part must not turn when screwing the insert inside.

- Return MDF part upside down.

- Repeat the same process on the other face of the MDF part with the second insert.

First insert flange may be cumbersome, so place a wooden spacer between MDF part and stand plate for a correct laying.

Nuts adjusting:

The two nuts must be fully screwed inside the MDF. Introduce the screw in the first insert, continue turning the screw until it is stopped, unscrew gently the second insert until the screw accepts to turn almost freely.

Ordinary threaded rods are not perfectly accurate so it's important to check this adjustment over the entire length of the screw. It must not exist any hard point, if so, screw/unscrew the second insert to readjust free rotation and re-check again.

Remember: lower backlash is a compromise between hindered and free rotation of the screw on its entire length.