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DIY CNC Router Enclosure

This has been an ongoing project for a while now and began shortly before the delivery of my Shapeoko 3 Desktop CNC machine. With my previous CNC, the Shapeoko 2, I cobbled together a wooden enclosure with polycarbonate sides and a removable front panel. It was effective at containing dust and isolating some noise but it wasn’t much to look at.

This time I wanted to do things right.

As I began to plan this build, two options of construction technique were in my mind as the most efficient and aesthetically pleasing methods. The first would be to use lengths of aluminium extrusion to construct the frame and fill in the gaps with insulated panels which could then be cladded with plywood or mdf. Alternatively I could buy a unit that the machine could fit inside and mod it appropriately, adding sound insulation as needed.

I went with the latter:

_DSC4878 (2015_12_13 22_36_25 UTC)

Steel frame shelving units can be bought relatively cheaply and require very little assembly to produce a rigid structure and only two 18mm mdf panels to act as the top and the main shelf. The 3mm steel provides a sturdy structure and allows ease of mounting parts to it by drilling and tapping.

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The two main goals I hoped to achieve with this enclosure were to contain all dust and debris within the unit and to provide noise isolation as the Dewalt spindle on max speed is quite an irritating sound profile and when the machine is running on longer jobs it would be nice to be able to remain in the same room without having to wear hearing protection.

To achieve this I decided to line the walls and the back of the enclosure with noise dampening poly-urethane foam sandwiched between two sheets of 6mm mdf. I used about 60mm of foam in the wall cavities and held the layers together with spray on contact adhesive.

_DSC4895 (2015_12_18 20_25_21 UTC)

After the insulation foam was mounted the wall cavity could be closed off with a 6mm mdf panel either side held in place with more spray adhesive and a friction fit against the top and bottom. The rear of panel as assembled in much the same way but was mounted completely to the outside of the steel frame to maximise space inside the enclosure.

DSC05268 (2016_01_25 18_14_13 UTC)

The aluminium frame on the front of the unit is definitely the most aesthetically and functionally prominent feature to this build and it is needed for a few reasons. It will provide a smooth and perfectly square surface to mount the polycarbonate doors to the enclosure but more importantly it allows for the spindle mount of the Shapeoko to stick out further than the base of the cnc machine itself. The dimensions of the aluminium I used were 50mm x 100mm x 3mm. The extra 100mm sticking out the front of the enclosure allowed for the clearance for the spindle mount that you can see in the picture below.

Installing a Homing and Limit Switch Kit – Shapeoko Project #48 by Winston Moy

As you can see in the picture above, when the X-axis gantry is in its fully forward position, the spindle hangs over the edge of frame of the machine quite considerably. Having the aluminium tube extension frame bolted to the front of the enclosure allows the Shapeoko to maximise its work area without having to keep the doors to the enclosure open so that the spindle mount does not hit them. Furthermore, you can also see in the picture the bit itself hangs over the edge of the Shapeoko’s work area so the aluminium tube frame would also allow for an extended work holding table to be constructed so the Shapeoko can absolutely maximise its cutting capacity. I will be building and extended work table in the near future.

Shapeoko 3 Limit Switch Unbagging and Hello Carbide3D??? by pXn Emerica

This mod I found demonstrates how extending your work area can greatly improve the cutting capacity of your machine. I know there are larger Shapeoko’s being developed at the moment but I suspect and upgrade kit will be fairly costly. This simple mod allows you to achieve the full range of cutting that the Shapeoko is capable of.

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Attaching the aluminium frame the steel frame required me to drill access holes through the front of the aluminium so that I could push the bolts through the aluminium and then add a nut to create a secure and rigid fixture to the steel shelving unit. I could have simply drilled and tapped the back of the aluminium tube and bolted through from the inside of the steel frame. The problem with this is that because the aluminium is only 3mm so the threads wouldn’t be particularly strong and I was worried that if I tried to tighten the bolts down I would strip the threads. In the end with the 3D printed plastic caps I designed it gave the overall frame a more industrial aesthetic.

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The next key feature I was keen to include in this build was some way of keeping all the airbourne dust in the machine. Even with doors shut some dust can still escape dues to the air being flung around inside the enclosure due to the fan in the Dewalt spindle. So to achieve negative pressure inside the machine which would stop dust escaping through gaps, I added this inlet which receives the hose of my vacuum cleaner with a smooth but tight fit.

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The doors for the enclosure was definitely the most challenging aspect of this build to get right. Because the doors would be set inside the frame to a clean and flush finish, they would have to be cut exactly… I did have some leeway as I intended to leave a gap at the top to allow inflow of air to aid the vacuum in creating the negative pressure inside the enclosure that I wanted. I used 10mm polycarbonate as a local workshop had a sheet that the didn’t need. This stuff is an amazing plastic, it’s extremely shatter-proof and is used in bulletproof glass. It will certainly protect me from any tool breaks or whatever may happen inside the enclosure. As a fun little test I took an off-cut of the polycarbonate and shot it with one of my pre-charged air rifles and it stopped the pellet so I think it will stop a broken tool from the router!

Anyway, I cut it down to size using a circular saw and a track, I didn’t cut it perfectly but it is good enough for his application. The only dodgy cut was the one that split one panel into two doors, this left a slightly bigger gap in the middle at the top than the bottom but I can cover this up if needs be.

The final step of the front of the enclosure was to attach the handles. These are very chunky ABS machine shop handles, specifically designed to be used on doors in industrial environments. These simply attached with two large bolts through the polycarbonate. After this I wired up some LED strips to the top of the enclosure and set them for a blue tinted white. I like the cool (as in temperature) effect it gives for video and photos.

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The very last step was to wire the machine and all other electrical systems of the machine into one control box. I again used industrial components (switches and buttons) housed in a tough and sealed box to keep any dust out.

Finished Enclosure:

(NB: The LEDs provide an interesting effect when the doors are open, the edges of the polycarbonate are illuminated!)

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  1. Nice! Very professional looking build, but I can’t imagine parking it on the floor. I think you’ll quickly tire of doing set-ups on your knees.

    • Nick Nick

      Yes I agree with you, unfortunately my workshop is above a garage and it has a roof that tapers o a point, so I don’t have much vertical space close to the walls in my workshop as you may be able to see in one of the photos at the end of this build log. When I move to a new workshop I will definitely increase the height so it is at waste level! for now I use a small stool 🙂

      • bl3nd3r bl3nd3r

        Great looking enclosure. Definitely a nice way to keep the space clean.

        One option to bring the cnc up would be to install a set of shelf lifts into the cabinet. It would allow you to bring the Shapeoko out and up for setting it up, and drop it back in for cutting.

        Here is an example of the mechanism you can get:

        • Nick Nick

          This is a really interesting idea! Some kind of mechanical raising mechanism could be a big help, Thanks!

  2. Alertme Alertme

    Your enclosure project looks very cool and gives a professional look and makes me say “Wanna have this” . BTW, a working video of your CNC is highly appreciated.

    Moreover, Could you please let me know the exact model of Dewalt machine used for this CNC project.

    • Nick Nick

      Thanks, it means a lot to me! I am about to start a new project today and upload some footage of my cnc in action 🙂

      So the Machine is the Shapeoko 3 and the spindle is the DW26200 (UK) or DW660 (US)

      • Nick – I commented on the hackaday article, now I have more questions for you!

        I noticed you didn’t go overboard with soundproofing measures (some people have really complex enclosures with foam, gaskets, etc.). How noisy is your setup with the door closed? I want one of these, but my workshop is just below my kids’ bedrooms, just trying to figure out how crazy an enclosure I will need.

        • Nick Nick

          Hi there! Yeh you are going to want to seal it up pretty well and add way more foam (don’t cover the inside like I did with mdf so the foam can absorb sound better). I’m going to upload a short clip of the sound test shortly 🙂

  3. Stu Stu

    Great build! I have a nearly completed eShapeoko, just because the official Shapeoko appears to be ridiculously expensive in the uk, mostly in shopping and import duties/fees.

    Can u please let me know the name and brand of the shelving you started with to build this enclosure? It may be a great base for my eShapeoko. Where did u get it? I presume UK?


    • Nick Nick

      Thanks! It was just ageneric one of ebay, make sure you get one of fairl decent quality to ensure you get the 3mm steel frame as this makes it incredibly rigid!

  4. Stu Stu

    I Forgot to tick the email notify button. Have done now.
    Reply to this post please! 🙂

    • Nick Nick

      Replied to the other comment 🙂

  5. Chris Chris

    Is that the stand Rockler makes? I’ve got one for my router table and like it. I’m planning on buying an SO3 shortly and like the look of this. My plan, since seeing this, is to initially build that and eventually get the parts for a 24×60 table and stack them. Could probably fit a drawer underneath for bits and it will be up off the ground. Ill have to figure out how to connect the stack though. Maybe drill it out and use the leg bolt holes?

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