4th Axis Frequently Asked Questions
This article will attempt to address the most common questions that customers have brought up. It will be continually updated as time goes on with new questions that arise.
Question: Will this 4th axis work with any other machine, other than the 4040 Pro CNC?
Answer: Short answer, No; Long answer, maybe with a lot of work and experimentation. You will need to consider the following:
- The rotary axis comes with its own stepper motor driver installed into it, so the first step is you would need to unplug & uninstall that and find an adapter so that you can connect the stepper motor itself to a longer wire.
- A NEMA 17 stepper motor is used, so you may run into issues integrating this into machines that use NEMA 23 stepper motors.
- The bolts and mounting holes are designed for the 4040 CNC specifically. You will need to find some means of securing it to your CNC.
- The rotary axis, before any sort of engraving is considered, takes up 3.39" or 86 mm of vertical/Z axis space. That's just the room you need to install it. You also need to have enough Z-axis to accommodate the endmill you are using, and the travel space above that to navigate the Z-axis up and down for the engraving process.
- The 4040 Pro CNC is specifically configured with the firmware for a 4th A rotary axis, called the A axis. None of our other CNC's have this, and the source code or hex file is not available for public use. What you can do is unplug your X or Y axis and plug the rotary axis into that, but it will limit certain capabilities compared to a machine like the 4040 which allows it to operate as a true 4th axis.
- In addition to plugging the stepper motor into the X or Y axis, you will also need to calibrate the firmware so that the steps/mm for that axis makes it so 1mm = 1 degree of rotation.
If, and only if you are able to address all of these issues will it be worth you purchasing this rotary axis for another CNC.
Question: What software can you use to make files for the 4040 with a 4th or rotary axis?
Answer: We are still investigating the full list of compatible products, but right now we are aware of the below, which are specifically designed for the task:
- V-Carve Pro
- Fusion 360 (specifically with the Machining Expansion module. There is a free trial for this module if you scroll down on this page)
- DeskProto Multi-Axis Edition (The other editions will not work for this)
- Aspire (Under investigation, needs confirmation)
Question: Is there any free sofware that I can use for this?
Answer: Most 3-axis software, including the free ones can be forced to work on a 4th axis with manual editing of the code. For example, if you make a program to cut normally halfway through your stock material, then you manually enter code to rotate the 4th Axis 180 degrees and run the same program again, also only cutting halfway through, you would be able to get a 3D object out of it.
Because this requires experimentation, practice, careful coordination, manual editing of CNC gcode, and careful centering of the stock material to work, this is something that only very advanced users should attempt.