Written By: Bill Griggs - May• 31•13

Aluminum Warp Drive Project

I love to make CNC Router tables. I am constantly modifying my 3 axis CNC Router table to add new features and functionality. I originally built the machine in 2009 and have done 3 major upgrade prior to this. Each upgrade has worked  better than the previous version so I decided make an aluminum CNC router build. I am adding machined aluminum parts to replace all the MDF parts.

The original machine was built from a set of plans I got from Joescnc. the plans showed a basic machine that could be easily built and modified with out the need for metal working machinery. I have slowly been tweaking the machines construction for the last 4 years to the point that it is now a distant cousin to the original 3 Axis CNC Router with MDF carriages and Lead screws. After my 3rd rebuild (Warp Drive Project) was so successful I decided to finalize the design in aluminum.


3 Axis CNC Router with MDF carriages and Lead screws.


This time around I am adding all aluminum parts that I designed nearly 2 years ago. Time and money kept me from completing the project up till now. I have been slowly chipping away at the project and building the parts one at a time. First I completed the Y axis plates from 3/4″ 6061 aluminum bar stock.

Y axis plate

3/4″ aluminum Y Axis carriage plate.

The new Y plates will support rack & Pinion drives from CNC Router Parts. I did all the design work using Alibre Design and Mastercam.

V-bearing standoffs

V-bearing standoffs

The plates will ride on V-Bearing mounted to specially designed steel standoffs. The V- Bearings are fully adjustable for tightness and contact. The neat V Bearing standoffs were developed by the students for the Y carriages. The standoff is threaded into the plate so it can be adjusted by screwing it in or out. There is a smooth surface for the CNCRP drives to rotate on and a threaded stud for the lock nut. I replaced the threaded rods with these.




The original MDF carriages worked great in most application so why build in aluminum? Because I am a maker and like to learn new things. I just like building machines and always wanted to learn how to work metal. I was fortunate to have the chance to work along side the Mechanical Engineering Technology students at Morrisville State College  and help  the  students make A CNC Router table.

I supplied my own materials and provided the sweat equity to build my parts from aluminum bar stock.  during the process I learned quite a bit about machining and taught the students more about CNC Router tables. I will continue to volunteer at M.E.T. program because I believe in what they are doing. Training the next generation of Engineers to tackle unusual projects.


I wanted to make the X axis easier to adjust and keep in aligned to the  angle iron guide rails.  I also wanted to make the X axis extrusion less prone to flexing. To do both of these things I decided to double the thickness of the extrusion. I did that by bolting two identical pieces of 8020 extrusion together with threaded inserts and bolts. I joined two 8020 rails together with special threaded inserts. I milled/drilled through both rails while they were clamped together on a Bridgeport mill. Then I drove the threaded inserts into the 8020. This setup gave me a very solid rail and allowed me to use materials I already had.

Threaded Inserts

Threaded Inserts join the 8020 extrusion together.

I also changed the mounting point of the extrusion from the sides to the ends. This allowed me to bolt the Y carriage plates directly  to the extrusions. The new mounting system is very robust. I have yet to see any flexing on the machine we built at the college (which uses the same 8020 mounting scheme.

On the X axis carriage I widened the bearing mount rods and eliminated the threaded rods in favor of a shaft and spacer bushing. I turned the spacer bushings on a  metal lathe to ensure a tight fit.  I also added an adjustable bottom bearing system with set screws to lock the carriage in place. Adding these made the carriage rock solid.

x gantry

X Gantry assembly prior to mounting.


Z axis

Out with the old. Two prior MDF versions.

The new Z axis is quite different from previous versions of the Z axis. The major Z axis change from the first version is to do away with the lead screw in favor of a Rack & Pinion system. I spent a good deal of time on that modification (The Warp Drive Project) and even made plans available. The aluminum CNC Router build takes the Warp Drive Concept a step further. I added the ability to tram the head, a wider range of adjust-ability for the bearings and hardened guide rails.



So was it worth it doing all these modifications? In my opinion yes. I have a more serviceable machine now with extremely rigid construction. The rails roll smoother than before and the cuts look better. The tramming head feature alone was worth the change. Besides that, I got a great deal of pleasure from experimenting and building things in a new way.

The new Aluminum CNC Router build  has one other benefit I was not counting on.  It is able to lift significantly more weight on the Z axis. My next change will include adding an air cooled high speed spindle to the Z axis. it should allow me to cut 3/4″ plywood in a single pass.


I haven’t decided if I should make plans available for the aluminum CNC Router parts.  I have plans available for the MDF version already. Most people could build that version without advanced tools. What do you think? Let me know by leaving a comment below or reach me on Twitter: @BillGriggs.





You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Leslie Ubeda says:

    Hi Bill,

    Great work you’ve been doing. I would like to know if you decide to make plans for the aliminum CNC Router parts. Let me know please


  2. mcduffey says:

    If the plans didn’t cost too much I would like to build this machine. Is there a way of getting them?

  3. Bill Griggs says:

    Thanks Leslie. Do you have the equipment to machine aluminum?


  4. Bill Griggs says:

    I have plans for an MDF version available but have not decided if I should make plans for the aluminum available.

  5. Bill, i’d like to take a look at them for the purpose of a new build.

  6. Mike Falkner says:

    Great job and very nice presentation. Do you have plans that you want to sell?

  7. Rick McCaskill says:

    Great job. Love how smooth it is. Will follow your progress.

  8. Bill Griggs says:

    Thanks for the encouraging words Rick. I have had fun building it and it taught me a lot.

  9. Francisco Gutierrez says:

    I like your work so much!! If i have your plans it would be simply perfect

  10. Bill Griggs says:

    Thanks Francisco. Check out this link for more CNC information.


  11. Bob Avery says:

    Hi Greg … nice job on the router. I see you also are involved in RC Planes …. I have my controller and steppers all together … I like your design …. the old KISS principle … nice. I am up north for the holidays but will be back down to my home in Florida before Jan … I’ll order you plans when I get there. I have a full metal and woodworking shop there. No problem putting this project together. Have a good holiday and keep the young boy interested … take care, Bob

  12. Bill Griggs says:

    Hi Bob,

    Glad you like the site. Yes I have flown R/C for over 40 years.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>