TB6600 Stepper Driver Shield

Can your grbl based CNC setup control all this equipment (at the same time!)?

This is what is in the picture.
  • (4) Stepper motors, each on its own driver with up to 4.5amps of current and 40V. The Y axis uses (2) synchronized stepper motors 
  • X,Y & Z homing switches on optically isolated circuits.
  • Z Touch disk on an optically isolated circuit.
  • 3 Spindles
    • DC Quiet Cut Spindle with speed control. 
    • AC Trim router with on/off control
    • 3 phase VFD controlled spindle with 0-10V speed control.
  • Vacuum controlled by gcodes M7,M8,M9
  • Feed control buttons (Hold & Resume)
Introducing the TB6600 Shield

This shield routes all of the signals on the Arduino UNO to the right places on the TB6600 Stepper Driver PCB.  It also adds an on board DC spindle control and feed control buttons.  There are 3 and 4 axis versions of the TB6600 board.  On the 4 axis version, the extra axis is slaved to the Y axis for Shapeoko 2 type machines.  The only option you need to configure with grbl is whether or not you are using a variable speed spindle.  For a fixed speed router like an AC trim router, you use one of the relays.  With a variable speed router you can use both relays for accessories.

About the TB6600 Stepper Driver

This is a very powerful and versatile all in one stepper driver and CNC machine interface board. You can get them on eBay and other sources.  There are different version, but most of them should work.  We spent some time testing these and will be selling the highest quality one we found. Here are the major features.

  • 3 or 4 axes of 4.5 Amp stepper drivers.
  • Switch selectable resolution from full step to 1/16 microstepping
  • Switch selectable current per axis.
  • Automatic 50% idle current reduction implemented independently per axis.  This means each motor drops its current shortly after it receives the last step.  This allows the motors to run cooler.  Stepper motors draw the most current when they are not moving and are very strong in this mode, so they don't need full current.
  • 100% optical isolation on all I/O.  This prevent shorts, voltage spikes or wiring errors from breaking you controller
  • High current AC relays.
  • .PWM to 0-10VDC conversion circuit for VFD based spindles.

They are designed to work with PC based software like Mach3 on a parallel port.  Things get complicated if you want to run this from a USB port on a Mac or PC laptop with open source tools.  This little shield removes all that complexity.

Carry It or Bury It?

We have it designed and tested and a have a few, but we want to gauge demand before buying hundreds of them.  Please check out the product page and add your name the waiting list it you want to cast a vote for "carry it"


Power Supply Interface Follow Up

Thanks for all the feedback on the DC Power Supply Interface PCB we posted last week.  We got enough signups on the product page to justify moving forward.  We digested all the suggestions we received and finalized a design.  Here is a quick rendering of what it will look like.

  • We added a shroud to the assembly to make it safer, stronger and easier to use.  The shroud is aluminum and is silkscreened with labels for all the features.  
  • We moved the PWM connection to the front on a terminal block.  
  • We added a 3 positon switch for the spindle.  
    • The top position turns the spindle on full power.  
    • The center position turns the spindle off. 
    • The bottom position enables PWM control from your controller
Some of the parts may change slightly, but the basic layout should remain.  Look for it in the mid to late February time frame.


Making stuff and rocking out with White Mystery!

We unexpectedly got to hang out with local rockers White Mystery at the Chicago Made booth at SxSW last year. They were curious about our machines and we really enjoyed their "acoustic" set in the middle of the trade show floor. Once we were all back in Chicago, they came by our workshop a few times to prototype some ideas.

A photo posted by @michaeluna on

To give you an idea of what they're about, here's a music video from their most recent album Dubble Dragon:

The projects continue to evolve as the dynamic duo stops in during breaks in their grueling tour schedule. Here's a few highlights from the last couple sessions, making some bling for their merch table at shows and pop-up paper doll business cards:

Here's to making more awesome projects in 2015!


A Better Way to Wire Your DC Power Supply?

The Problem

The basic enclosed power supply is the workhorse of the DIY CNC world. It is used in most small scale 3D printers and CNC routers. Unfortunately they are not the easiest items to wire cleanly. They are also difficult to add a power switch to. It gets even uglier when you add things like power controls for DC Spindles.

A Simple Solution

un plus assembled.jpg

For a little side project, I had a few of these PCBs made. This is a simple little PCB that screws right onto the terminal block of the power supply. It cleanly adds a universal AC input socket with a switch. This assembly can be easily mounted to the wall of an enclosure.

The DC power is brought out to a large terminal block. The DC output has two sets of terminals on a pluggable terminal block. The right set of two terminals are powered whenever the switch is in the on position. The left two are controlled by a 5V signal (and the switch). This can be used as an on/off control or a replacement for your speed controller using a PWM signal. GRBL and TinyG both have PWM options for speed control.

How would it be used?


Mount the PCB assembly to the power supply terminal block. Connect your device to either the always on terminals or the logic controlled terminals. You can use both sets if you have two devices and you want one to always be on and one to be controlled via a logic signal. Connect your logic signal to the smaller terminal block. You could also wire a simple switch that connects +5V to the logic input for low-voltage manual control.

Here it is being controlled via a signal generator with a 0-5V square wave.


Not all power supplies are alike. You need one with the correct orientation and the AC connections on the right side. Inventables power supplies are like this. The PWM-responsive circuit is designed for a maximum of 48VDC and about 8.5Amps before active cooling will be required. 

Note: This does not have a knob for speed control- It needs to be done via your controller.


This is design for people comfortable with AC line voltages.  There are several places with live exposed voltages. The end user should ensure the application is safe. Make sure to select the appropriate power supply (48VDC max) for your application. Do not exceed the maximum current of 8.5A. With this said, the scattered wire alternative is probably less safe.

Carry it or bury it?

We are in the process of determining if there is enough demand for this product. If you think we should sell it, sign up on the product page to be notified when it is available. If the signup count hits about 40 in a reasonable time, we will stock it. Also feel free to comment on this post too.

The sell price is probably going to be in the $20-$30 range, which is cheaper than the existing speed controller. It will be sold as a kit that requires very basic solder skills. We will include detailed instructions for usage.

If it proves to be a popular product we might make version for other power supply types.


Our favorite projects of 2014

Now that's we've had a chance to recover from the holidays, the Inventables team put together a quick roundup of our favorite projects of 2014. What was your favorite project? Share it in the comments and we'll compile a list of our customer's favorites for next week.

In no particular order:

Engagement ring box by Joe Ternus. This project went viral and for good reason- it's beautiful, it's a heartwarming story, and it was all made using one of our desktop 3D carving kits. Photos of the design and building process here.

Bar Mixvah bartending robot by Yu Jiang Tham. Uses 3D printed parts, peristaltic pumps and an Arduino to make custom drinks, with in iPad interface. Full blog documenting the build here.

MDF laptop stand by our own Paul Kaplan. A 3D model from 123D Make that was sliced into carveable 2D shapes and cut with Easel. Instructions to slice your own 3D models or make this laptop stand here.

Word clock by buckeyeguy89. It lights up to tell you the time in a more prosaic format, and once a year it turns rainbow colors to with his brother and sister-in-law happy birthday. Full instructions in the imgur album

Lightning box by our own Jim Rodovich. It's a two-sided box with mating halves, made on a desktop 3D carving machine. Instructions to make your own located here.

RepRap Wally by Nicholas Seward. Unique DIY 3D printer design that uses a tri-polar coordinate system for motor control. Full development discussion on the RepRap forums here.

Monogrammed box by our own Tait Leswing. Super easy to make, instructions here.

Our customer Martin P. made an awesome bit of custom software and tutorial for height probing using the new features in GRBL 0.9, for measuring variance in the surface of a copper board before milling a PCB. This is some legit work that solves a real problem! Full blog post here.

So what was your favorite? Wanna how off something you're proud of? Post yours in the comments below and we'll feature them in the next blog post.


A visit to Lane Tech High School's Innovation & Creation Lab

A little while back we helped high school Computer Science teach Jeff Solin spec out a maker lab for his school. Many months and lots of sweat later, the Innovation and Creation Lab is up and running and Jeff's students are making a lot of awesome projects.

Here's a vent cover one of the students designed with Jeff's face on it:

The first part of this year's curriculum focused on the laser cutters, with students starting out making cubic boxes and moving to freeform projects from there:

Phase II involves each student designing a 6"x6" tile in Easel and then carving it out on a Shapeoko:

 Inventables' Tait Leswing was on hand to make sure all the machines were in good working order.

Here's Jeff showing the first completed tile to the class. Once all the pieces are finished, they'll be assembled into a grid and displayed in the room. As you can tell, he was pretty excited about it:

We're looking forward to seeing more as Jeff and his students get comfortable with the machines and really start to dig in.

Edit: The class's twitter account just posted a photo of the first batch of completed tiles and they're looking awesome!


DIY Gift box roundup!

We all would love to make every holiday gift from scratch, especially for family and loved ones. But there isn't always time, you may not have the right tools or materials or skills, and then all of a sudden there's two weeks left and what to do?

If you have a 3D Carving machine on hand, there's an easy way to put a personal touch on a thoughtful gift: make a wooden gift box!

Turns out it's pretty easy to do and there's a couple of different ways to go about it. A few strategies, with examples:

Boxes with mating halves

A box with mating halves is one of the easiest to make, because there's only one joined edge, and you can just glue the pieces together. Adding a nice detail like an initial or icon adds that extra bit of fancy and earns you major bonus points. This one was made by Tait Leswing, click through for the project details:

Here's another example from our programmer Jim Rodovich using a more complex shape as the outline:

Parametric box generators

There are some great online tools for generating laserable and carveable box patterns. Here's a few example made by our own Paul Kaplan, click through for the project files:

To make your own box like this, consider using Makercase or Makeabox.io. Both are web-based parametric box pattern generators that allow you to specify dimensions, material width, kerf and etc to make a perfectly laserable or carveable box pattern in vector format.

Protip: set the "kerf" width to the width of your cutting bit for a perfect fit. This won't solve the need for "dog bones", but it'll get you pretty close. I find that using a 1/16" bit makes the parts fit well enough to knock together with a rubber mallet. A little glue for insurance and you're set.

Add a sliding lid!

Another nice touch is to take the above example and add a sliding lid to one of the faces for more secure opening/closing, like this example from Paul Kaplan:

There are a whole lot more ways to go about this, but that should be enough to get you started. Have you made your own boxes and have some projects to share? Hit us up in the comments and we'll feature everyone in a future roundup.


Snowflake Generator

We used to love making paper snowflakes, folding a piece of paper into quarters and snipping little pieces out, then unfolding it into a radially repeating geometric shape.

Then, our software engineer Paul Kaplan showed us this and we all put down our scissors and started using it instead.

It's an online snowflake generator! You create shapes in the same sort of repeating way as the folded paper method, but with more control and variability. Originally created as a Processing sketch by Windell Oske at Evil Mad Scientist, Paul ported it to the web and added the ability to download SVG files.

Play around adjusting the handles to make the perfect unique snowflake, then you can download an .svg of the design and bring that into either Easel or your favorite lasercutting or papercutting software and let your Shapeoko, laser cutter, or paper cutter work its magic.

We like glitter acrylics. But maybe you like wood veneer, or just plain old adhesive paper. Or just paper.

Try it out for yourself:

Then import that .svg into Easel and get wild with the snowflake-making. You could even add a little hole into one of the edges to tie a piece of yarn through, like this:

Have fun, and please tweet a photo at us if you make one!


Holiday ornament projects to make at home

In giddy anticipation of the impending holiday season, our own designer Alex Berger created a handful of fun projects to share. These simple ornaments can be cut on a Shapeoko or a laser cutter, which means you're free to use all kids of materials- natural woods for a more traditional, rustic look, or even glitter acrylics to add a twinkle to your home.

Take a look through our materials section for inspiration:

All of these projects have an "Open in Easel" link for you to resize and customize to your heart's content. Have fun! And send us your re-makes!

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