Maslow was created by @bar as a way to bring cnc to the average user on a budget.
Chapter 1 Overview and Frank Discussion
A Maslow system is a community-supported, open-source, computer-controlled wood-cutting router mounted on a frame controlled by three DC motors. It takes input from gcode generated from a number of different CAM software programs. It is built on a tilted frame to minimize the footprint and hangs with two of the motors controlling chain length for position control and one motor controlling the height of the router for depth of cut. Targeted at one full sheet of plywood or mdf as a cutting piece, Maslow can be sized up or down to fit the desired user cut area. Control software consists of two machines working in concert. The motor controller is currently an arduino Mega that takes gcode lines one-by-one from a computer to which it is USB tethered. The firmware on the arduino is specific to Maslow and the Ground Control or Web Control software running on the control computer is also specific to Maslow. Both source codes are available and can be modified as the user desires. Several small businesses supply parts or kits which include motors and electrical hardware, sleds, rings, chains, etc. to help a user get set up and started, but there is no “Maslow customer service” department standing by to take a call, which is why the cost is so low. There is no guarantee it will work and the purchaser must build the system. The average builder, with all the parts on hand, can make a frame in a day. Putting the electronics together, mounting the motors and controller may take a couple hours. Calibrating, building the temporary sled, cutting the sled, and then building the full sled may take half a day to a day, so it is expected if done continuously, the build time is roughly 3 days. The user’s ability to be precise in construction the frame and assembling the controls will largely determine later how accurate and precise the system will be. This manual is an attempt to help a new or potential user find answers and perspective on the system and its use and configuration.
While on the subject of cost, it must be mentioned that the advertised price of Maslow is for the unassembled kit, which may or may not include the router. Some kits include a sled, some do not and have basic instructions on how to make one. The price of admission is low, but it is not the whole story. The kit price only covers the hardware. The software is free and the users maintain the software. If a new software update or feature is desired, any user can add it, but there is no guarantee of a fix unless a user takes it on and makes it happen. While currently the software is well supported with a few specific users shouldering the burden of patches and updates, this may not always be the case. A new user must plan on frame material costs, electrical switches (if desired) for the various components. Emergency shutoff switches are recommended, but not required and additional upgrades that will become apparent once improved functionality or reliability is desired. There is always another upgrade or an improvement that can be made and turn-key just isn’t part of the vocabulary in this community with respect to this system.
A potential Maslow owner must have patience and an interest in making things work, solving minor problems and experimenting. A Maslow is NOT a turnkey high-speed industrial CNC mill. One of the most common complaints is that the Maslow is slow. It is limited to 48 inches per minute feed rate because of the control system and motors that were chosen to keep costs down. Professional systems start at roughly 10x the cost of a Maslow for much smaller cut sizes and have professional tools and support standing by. The good news about Maslow is that it is user owned, user operated, and user supported. Those who help have an interest in improving the platform. While the Maslow community is not paid customer service, it is a collection of individuals, hobbyists, professionals and interested folks who share a common interest in the system. The community survives because each has something to offer and some experience that is of value. Sharing earned knowledge and wisdom with the new users who are working to get going is encouraged. Any user can provide welcome input to improve system capability. With respect to design sharing, ideas, suggestions, and other discussions, the forum and community garden are evidence that there is a wealth of information available for free with tips and suggestions for how to best get the desired results.
To build a standard Maslow, a cube roughly 10’ wide x 5’ deep x 8’ high will be required. Users have installed these in garages, basements, workshops, outside, and in various rooms in areas larger and smaller than the cube mentioned. While the standard frame can hold a full sheet of plywood, it is generally accepted that one can only cut to within 6" of the edge to keep the sled from tipping off the side. There are frame modifications to allow more complete use of the work piece. With the standard 10’ beam, cutting in the lower corners also becomes a challenge without user intervention. If a full size sheet is the desired work-piece size, consideration should be given regarding upgrading to a 12’ top beam. A nice calculation tool that provides data in a google spreadsheet regarding chain force and sled weight is available here. (LINK)
In summary, a Maslow is an open system with the flexibility to be fully customized by the user, it is low cost, and can provide a savvy user great value once the time has been put in to build the system.