Retired Welding Robot Picks Up Side Hustle As CNC Router
Who says you can't teach an old robot new tricks? Nobody, actually. That saying is about dogs. But it applies to robots too, at least judging by the way this late-90s industrial beast was put to use in a way it was never intended: as a giant CNC router.
The machine in question is an ABB IRB6400, a six-axis, floor-mounted industrial machine that had a long career welding at a Eurorail factory in Austria before [Brian Brocken] made its acquaintance. He procured the non-working machine — no word on what he paid for it — and moved the 2-ton paperweight into his shop, itself a non-trivial endeavor. After a good scrubbing, [Brian] tried to get the machine started up. An error prevented the robot controller from booting; luckily, there's a large community of ABB users, and [Brian] learned that one of the modules in the controller needed replacement.
After fixing that — and swapping out the controller's long-dead backup batteries, plus replacing the original 1.44 MB floppy drive with a USB drive — he was able to bring the machine back to life. Unfortunately, the limited amount of internal memory made it difficult to use for anything complicated, so [Brian] came up with an application to stream coordinates to the controller over a serial port, allowing for unlimited operation. With that in place, plus a simple spindle mounted to the robot's wrist with a 3D printed adapter, [Brian] was able to carve foam blocks into complex shapes. The video below shows everything from delivery to first chips — well, dust at least.
This build seems to be a significant escalation from [Brian]'s previous large-format CNC machine. He must have something interesting in mind, so stay tuned for details.