CNC Tesla - First Prototype

The first attempt to build an CNC machine from ground up.

The Next Machine:

Having MakeBot's CupCake around is nice, but it can do only so much. New bigger and better CNC machine would add to the manufacturing abilities. The Tesla CNC will be controlled by more common software for CNC machines that allows for milling, drilling etching and other abilities that are common in these machines. Unlike CupCake which has its own software of control that has limited gcode command acceptance.
The name Tesla CNC come from the hope that the experimental EDM (electrical discharge machine) tool head will be completed and would be able to process harder metals.

Evolution of the Design

Design of Mark I.

The first design (mark I) is somewhat based on original RepRap Darwin whose frame was cube with reinforcing cross braces for frame stiffens. First Tesla CNC designs was very similar, but further modifications heavily changed the appearance and functionality. The main difference is that all xyz axises are joined together unlike Darwin's design where z axis is separated form XY axis. Another main difference between Tesla and Darwin design is that the moving parts are quite massive unlike Darwin parts, that are made of plastic and thin rods.

Further modifications of mark 1 were made for ease of manufacturing. These included simple wooden blocks as the connecting corners. This was to emulate purpose of aluminum plates in mark 1 design into the same shape. However this was proven to be difficult to manufacture with home tools.

Upgrade to Mark II.

The Mark II was thought to be manufactured with minimum numbers of tools and to have the simplest structure possible. The frame was to be made of wooden cubes that should be easier to manufacture then metal. In additions, the more complex parts would be printed by CupCake. However this was proven to be too difficult as the dimension of the machine are larger than what CupCake can produce. Even if the parts would be made of segments, they would still need to have 4 hours print time and CupCake can not handle such long print times without modifications.
There are no renders of Mrk II as the only thing that had been done was the prototype assembly that showed the behavior of the machine. This experience helped produce newer design, Mrk III, that has better and more stiffer frame.


CNC Tesla Mrk I was fully designed in CAD program. However the material used and methods to manufacture the CNC changed the functionality and appearance of next designs.
The linear motion rods were sold in standardized lengths, therefore the Mkr II design was forced to have tetragonal or square cuboid shape.

 Bill of materials for the Mrk II assembly


Prototype assembly of Mrk II.

Major Components and Hardware

The New Design: CNC Tesla Mrk III

After prototype assembly has shown the the structural behavior, there was a need for further modifications of the previous design. The Mrk III design includes more structural support and better xyz axis.

 CNC Tesla Mrk II (under development). The new design introduces higher stability
 and lower working height that can be adjusted according to the work conditions.

Acme Upgrade (3/8" - 12)

An ACME upgrade had been added to the design. As the M10 and 3/8" have similar diameters (3/8" is 0.475mm thinner), it is possible to simply upgrade the existing design. The original M10 threaded rods were chosen due to cost efficiency, but for increased cost the mark III can be outfitted with the more reliable and durable motion system. 

Water Jet Parts

The below picture show all the water jetted parts for mark III design as well as the aluminum corners that have yet to be machined. Picture also include updated linear motion brackets which replaced the extruded ABS plastic brackets from version 0.75. 

 Water Jetted Parts were order from Big Blue Saw

Mark III Pre - Assembly



Detail view of the Main Axis (X axis) motor and coupling joint
Partial Axis Assembly


Main Axis



Sub Axis


 Z Axis


Plan B

As the machining of the aluminum crones for the Tesla CNC is proving to be challenging, a backup plan is been exploited. So called "Plan B" is a emulation of the aluminum corners with 0.25inch plates with interlocking assembly. It simplifies the manufacturing process by substituting aluminum plates that can be made by water-jet or cnc machine. This allows the Tesla CNC to achieve self-replication where only few easily accessed components are needed such are threaded rods, nuts, bolts, and raw aluminum plates.



Making Some Progress

Finally, all the parts are complied at one place for complete assembly. Some minor adjusting and fitting of the parts was required, which included sanding and light girding. The water jet parts had satisfactory precision and fitting. Note that in the CAD drawing compensated for tight fit by 0.2mm space between all pats that had to fit together.

 Detailing view of the Plan B corners

Notice that all parts have no sharp inner corners


Bracket for the drill DC motor

X Axis two square brass nuts for motion transfer

Full view of the Work Table

Detail view of the Printed Timing Wheel
Drill motor lowered to the Work Table

Overall View

First Tests


 Simple Plotter Tool-Head
Finished Plotting

New Drill Bits

Need had arose for more aggressive drill bits than hose that come with the Proxxon Drill. After careful searching I found store [CARBIDE-PLUS] that sells PCB hole drilling bits, but also have miniature end mills bits.


New Bits

Sample of Different Types of Bits

Initial Test
Note that the drill was spinning at ~16,000rpm

 with 1mm resolution and 4mm depth in MDF

3D Milling Sample

 This test consisted of a semi-sphere with cutout of a smaller sphere at the top. Simple test for the contour and depth control.





PCB Etching Test

 Simple sample for manufacturing PCB's from EAGLE board layouts. The final results were unsatisfactory, however this was due to software not been calibrated for CNC tool size. New tests are under way with smaller tool bits.


Schema of Predator Segment

Board Layout

POV Render

Finished Etching

Note: the etching was done with 30degree bit

Test fit assembly of holes for all components

New Gantry

Some of the sample test have shown that the Z-Axis has a minor glitch that can reduce the accuracy. The tool bit does not move in a perfect line up and down. This is due to the design flaw where the smooth rods are placed too far way from the centroid and motion transfer point. The flaw only shows up when the tool moves up and down freely or with little resistance, such as etching or vector drawing. It does not show up when drilling or milling a material that exert larger forces.
This issue has been addressed in new gantry system that replace the previous design. The new gantry was designed to be made on current version of CNC Tesla.

New Gantry Mark 4

More detail view of the new mechanism

Aluminum Etching and Milling

 Sample engraving into aluminum sheet for with v score tool and square end-mill to for outline cutout.
 Unfortunately the code was not set correct speed and the end-mill tool broke off.






Successful Aluminum Milling

This aluminum part was made at 250mm/min at depth of 0.2mm into 1/4 inch 6010 stock.





Getting The Job Done

Final machined pieces and assembly of new gantry.




Beta Video 

A bit longer movie promoting the design of the CNC Tesla Mark 3

Part 1.

Part 2.

Subpages (1): Development