AU$ 6,859
pledged of AU$ 15,000pledged of AU$ 15,000 goal
22
backers
17days to go

All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Thu, December 6 2018 1:00 PM UTC +00:00.

AU$ 6,859
pledged of AU$ 15,000pledged of AU$ 15,000 goal
22
backers
17days to go

All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Thu, December 6 2018 1:00 PM UTC +00:00.

What is a prototype?

A prototype is a preliminary model of something. Projects that offer physical products need to show backers documentation of a working prototype. This gallery features photos, videos, and other visual documentation that will give backers a sense of what’s been accomplished so far and what’s left to do. Though the development process can vary for each project, these are the stages we typically see:

Proof of Concept

Explorations that test ideas and functionality.

Functional Prototype

Demonstrates the functionality of the final product, but looks different.

Appearance Prototype

Looks like the final product, but is not functional.

Design Prototype

Appearance and function match the final product, but is made with different manufacturing methods.

Production Prototype

Appearance, function, and manufacturing methods match the final product.

Ec79dee1a24501bdf6d9b2a11200c247 original.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

Prototype Gallery

These photos and videos provide a detailed look at this project’s development.

About

Background

A couple of years back I found a great second-hand laser cutter going cheap online. So I rigged up an arduino based controller and, with 168 Kickstarter backers, launched the ‘Gerbil’, an affordable 2 axis controller for laser cutters.  

Since then, more and more people have been asking for Z-axis control, and interest in home-built CNC’s has exploded.  Based on the various feedback and working with our community we've developed the Super Gerbil.

So, why do I need the Super Gerbil ?

Super Gerbil
Super Gerbil

The Super Gerbil allows you to automate your tools, and control your own machinery / robots. It’s simultaneous five axis, so it can handle complex automation like CNC mills. And they in turn allow you to turn your awesome custom designs into reality…

The Super Gerbil particularly suits those who want to:

  • Upgrade the brains of your existing machine. The Super Gerbil provides easy set up for up to five high performance simultaneous axes, or
  • DIY your own at a fraction of the cost - the Super Gerbil as a single unit probably ends up cheaper than a long list of cheap and nasty individual circuits from eBay that you have to work out how to integrate.  And it features readily available user-replaceable stepper drivers, so you've got plenty of flexibility going forward.
Super Gerbil prototype
Super Gerbil prototype
Bluetooth app
Bluetooth app

We've developed Open Source software that helps ‘joins the dots’ for CNC/G-Code beginners, with a lot of useful features like variable Spindle (freq/composite), Coolant mist/flood ports, and Automatic Tool Changer ports already set up. But don’t worry, our design doesn’t lock users into specific use-cases.

 project video thumbnail
Replay with sound
Play with
sound

There are some very dated CNC controller designs on the market (PC with parallel port, anybody ?), so the time is right for the Super Gerbil to innovate with features like:

  • Bluetooth connection to allow easy control through smartphone/tablet
  • Everything integrated on the one board. All Opto coupler Inputs, Step drivers, DC motor drivers, MOSFET Output ports are ready. Just hook up your motors, features and limit switches and go
  • Open source G-Code sender based on UGS (Universal G-Code Sender)
  • Dedicated embedded controller (not a PC Operating System that gets locked up)
  • Access to future G-Code features via firmware upgrades... we even supply the STLink dongle so upgrading is easy

Talking about the elephant in the room (cloud)

Some equipment suppliers seem to think that forcing users to subscribe and upload data to their cloud solution is a great idea... we don't !  You'll be glad to know there's:

  • no mandatory cloud connection.  The user can, 100% optionally, choose to share their Super Gerbil's status with us electronically to fast-track issue resolution
  • No licence fees or technology lock in.  You own your Super Gerbil controller and software outright

But is the Super Gerbil a real solution ?

Yes. In fact, it’s a lot cleaner and simpler than competing products. Every aspect of the Super Gerbil is geared towards supporting the Kickstarter community in going to the next level in their CNC/Robot and Maker projects… for example:

  • Drivers are integrated into the board, but are modular and user replaceable or up-gradable. This is the best of both worlds, as competitors typically sell controllers and drivers separately, with the total bill rising rapidly plus the complexity of wiring it all up and debugging those modules.
  • Opto-isolators ensure piece of mind – there is no electrical connection between the Super Gerbils microcontroller and your equipment.
  • New G-Code features: M6/Tn (build a tool changer..., configurable PWM and M3/M4 soft spindle start)
  • High level of user customisation possible (even firmware with lots of room to add G-Code functions like G76, canned cycles G80..99)

The Super Gerbil competes feature wise with top-end controllers, but comes in at under half the cost. It doesn’t compete with the unsupported and experimental circuit boards you might find on eBay and Indie – it simply has too many features and too much support to be meaningfully compared. 

Talking of support, here’s some feedback from our original Gerbil customers:

Testimonial Ken
Testimonial Ken
Testimonial Dwayne Meyers (USA)
Testimonial Dwayne Meyers (USA)
Testimonial Christian Korb (Germany)
Testimonial Christian Korb (Germany)

Feature list

  • Free, user-friendly open source tool-chain (we recommend FreeCAD/Inkscape, UGS G-Code sender and although non-open: Fusion360) 
  •  M modal controls: M0 to 9 and basic ATC based on M6/Tn G-Codes(2 outputs)  * See our G-Code list at the end of this page
  • G motion controls: G0..4,10,17,20,21,28,28.1,30,30.1,33,38.1..5, 40,43,49,53..59,61,90..94 *See our G-Code list
  • 5 simultaneous stepper motor axis control, to control your most exotic equipment or machine 
  • 5 stepper sockets for your choice of stepper (TMC2100, DRV8880, DRV8825, A4988 etc and DIR/EN/STEP/GND breakout pins for external high-power step drivers (>2.5A) 
  • 16 Bits PWM (with composite outputs, opto-isolated, 5 or 10V) to drive your laser or VFD spindle control 
  • PWM Soft start motor feature to rev up your spindle to its desired revolutions (user configurable)
  • Socket for DC brushed spindle motor drivers of choice (with direction control) 
  • DC brushed spindle motor driver fault monitoring to increase safety
  • 1 Additional opto-isolated direction port (i.e. drive a relay) to drive your spindle/lathe motor's direction 
  • 4 Additional opto-isolated ports (Tn/M6/7/8/9 i.e. to automate ATC, flood, mist, conveyor belt etc.) 
  • Limit switches on all 5 axis and a probe switch (all opto-isolated, all real-time monitored and can be inverted via user configuration) 
  • Door/Pause/Resume/Abort control switches (all opto-isolated) 
  • Firmware Watchdog to increase safety (e.g. unsupervised operation)
  • High performance 72MHz 32 bits STM32 ARM Cortex controller to provide smooth and responsive control 
  • Opto-isolators for reliability and piece-of-mind (5kV, emc noise elimination, for example: plasma cutter application) 
  • All I/O ports have led indicators to ease the installation and operation 
  • Bluetooth and USB connectivity to phone/tablet/PC for convenience of monitoring and management (uses a HC-06 BT module)
  • Extendable G-Code features like canned cycles G76, threading and tapping G81..99 are on our future firmware additions list (64k STM32 chip has lots of room for additions) 
  • More of the awesome support provided for the Original Gerbil

Technical specifications

  • Stepper frequency up to 100 kHz  
  • Stepper motor current up to 2.5 A and 45 VDC  
  • PWM frequency configurable 60 Hz up to 80 kHz 
  • PWM Output voltage levels: 5 and 10 Volt (inclusive of inverted PWM e.g. good for lasers that use negative logic) 
  • PWM resolution – 16 bits
  • 5 kV isolation via ISP814SX opto couplers 
  • Power to processor via USB or external via screw terminals (jumper bridge select)
  • All screw terminal blocks rated 16A (5mm pitch size to easy with wiring)
  • Power supply input to processor, stepper motors, limit/control switches, DC spindle motor and PWM opto interface are all separated and have independent power supply terminal blocks
  • 2 device socket for DC brushed motor driver of choice: MAX14870 driver rated 1.7 A / 6.5-36 VDC - OR - G2 18v25 driver rated 25 A / 6.5-30 VDC both with real time fault detection. Current is rated continuous and power supply input is separated from steppers and limit/control switches
  • TMC2100, DRV8880, DRV8825, A4988 step sticks supported 
  • Step stick micro steps configurable via jumper bridges within the header stack foot print
  • STM32F103C8T6 processor 72 MHz, 64 k flash and 20 k RAM. Max. 500 mW consumption
  • ICSP socket for updating firmware via ST-LinkV2 dongle/software 
  • USB and Bluetooth capable of communicating @ 115.2 k baud 

The terminology is:

CNC - Computer Numeric Control

MOSFET - Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor, known for its low internal power consumption hence less bulky cooling requirements

Opto Isolated - The electronics (brains of Gerbil) are electrically isolated from the peripherals through the mains of light coupling (diode/transistor)

PWM - Pulse Width Modulation or a technique for getting analog results with digital means. Digital control is used to create a square wave, a signal switched between on and off at various time frames.

STM32 - SGS-Thompson Microelectronics 32 bit processor family

Confirmed and tested machines

 Equipment:

  • Lasers: K40, Trotec Speedy (converted to stepper motors)
  • CNC mills: Seig X2 Minimill, 3d Carbide - Nomad, Shapeoko
  • Lathes: Optimum 2004

Non tested machines which we believe are easy to convert

  • Vinyl cutters with stepper motors
  • Plotters
  • Any other brand lathe or CNC mill operated by or converted to stepper motors
  • Laser cutters based on the K40 design but with higher power

Reward contents and structure

Reward summary
Reward summary

Supporter - Super Gerbil Acrylic Key ring

This reward is for those who want to see us succeed in funding but don't have a direct need for the controller.

Supporter - Super Gerbil T-Shirt. 

This reward is for those who want to see us succeed in funding but don't have a direct need for the controller.

Starter - Bronze

This reward is for those who have a simple application e.g. laser cutter or just want to get started with CNC. Just wire up two or three axis and the PWM opto coupler output and start learning and making. 

  • 3 axis control (you can add a 4th and 5th stepper) 
  • up to 1.5A @ 35V per axis
  • max PWM frequency 80kHz (Positive and Negative PWM outputs)

You need to get a case, power supply and some wire to complete the setup.

Maker - Silver

This reward is for those who like to get their machine highly productive and don't have yet a need for 5 axis which is likely their next logical step. 

  • 4 axis control (you can add a 5th stepper) 
  • up to 1.5A @ 35V per axis 
  • Spindle motor MAX14870 driver up to 1.7A continuous, 36VDC  
  • max PWM frequency 80kHz
  • flat pack case (self assembly)
  • You need to assemble the acrylic case, get a power supply and wire to wire up the motors and limit switches to complete the setup. The kit includes a flat pack case, 4 motor drivers and a 150W spindle DC brushed motor driver.

Innovator - Gold

This reward is for those who like to get their machine highly productive and want to most out of the Controller like a fifth axis and automating their entire production robot so they can concentrate on their next innovative designs. The kit includes an assembled case, wires, 5 motor drivers and a powerful 750W spindle DC brushed motor driver and Bluetooth connectivity to your mobile phone to free up your busy laptop. 

  • 5 axis control, up to 2.5A @ 35V per axis  
  • 5 stepper motor wire assembly kit, with total of 10m of 4 conductors, with crimp connections  
  • Spindle G2 18v25 DC motor driver up to 25A continuous, 24VDC recommended (30VDC max), 
  • max PWM frequency 80kHz
  • Assembled case
  • Wiring kit

You need to mount the included assembled acrylic case, get a power supply and wire up the motors with the supplied wire and limit switches to complete the setup.

Included in all three tiers Bronze, Silver and Gold are: The super gerbil controller itself and a set of appropriate motor drivers for the axis. These stepper drivers can be swapped for other drivers, similar for the DC brushed motor driver which can be added or swapped for another one. If you still need more power then you can even hook up external motor drivers or a VFD via the pin headers and PWM outputs.  We have included a ST-Linkv2 USB programmer for future upgrades, additional axis, limit switches, ports or for special use cases (you name it !),  so you can flash at any time an updated or specialised ARM-Grbl firmware version to your Super Gerbil's brain. 

How does support work ?  

Bronze tier - we'll monitor our Super Gerbil forum, and add comments to posts that we see as useful to the community.  

Silver tier - we'll take a look at your questions, right after we've dealt with any gold support questions. Expect 2-4 days turnaround. Support for 6 months.  

Gold tier - highest support level. We'll work with you to understand your needs and respond with detailed instructions. Expect us to get back to you in under 48 hours. Support for 12 months.

Delivery time line

Our delivery time fame is depicted below 

The project time line
The project time line
Our test rig: 'The Beast', a 3d printed model mill
Our test rig: 'The Beast', a 3d printed model mill

Supported G-Code list

The following  G-Codes are supported:

Supported gcodes
Supported gcodes

What Super Gerbil does not do...

Although Super Gerbil is very versatile and packed with features, it does not do a couple of things which are listed below. Some items can be added via extending the firmware like canned cycles G-Code commands.

  • Servo motors
  • BLTouch probes and auto bed leveling for PCB milling
  • Arc distance adjustment for plasma cutters (need a high voltage probe device and firmware extension)
  • Canned cycles G76, G80..G89 (possible firmware extension that has to be written)
  • Wired Pendant (Alternative: you can use the Android app via BlueTooth)
  • OLED display see note (#)
  • SPI and I2C buses (#)
  • SD cards (#)
  • Encoder feed back for spindle or steppers (#)

(#Note: all GPIO pins are used in Super Gerbil but you can free them up in the firmware for other uses or remap them to alternate functions e.g. pwm/timer.)

Featured at

Geeky Gadgets
Geeky Gadgets
Hackster.io
Hackster.io
 

What else do I need to know ?

At a personal level, I believe strongly in the market for empowering hobbyists and makers to embrace CNC, laser cutting, 3D printing, robotics and many more. That's why I'm bringing this awesome controller to the Kickstarter community. Your support is greatly appreciated and allows me and the team behind Awesome.Tech to develop more and new exciting affordable products !

Keep in mind that even with the user friendly Super Gerbil, setting up CNC requires some technical knowledge, such as familiarity with electronics, computers and CAD/CAM software.  If you're not sure, why not team up with a friend and form a team.

Your safety is important.  CNC has inherent dangers such as lasers and/or cutting surfaces.  Please research and abide by the relevant safety standards for your machine.

The Team behind Super Gerbil

Jo, Dan and Paul
Jo, Dan and Paul

Paul de Groot - Super Gerbil's father and firmware wrangler. Paul has a tree house where he hides his two laser cutters and the 3d printer.

Dan Collins - Planning, promotion and the 101 things needed to bring Paul's great technology to reality.Dan has a robot room where he innovates on his Nomad and particle accelerator project.

Jo Collins - Our in house logo designer, Jo brings science and art to life. 

With special thanks to:

  • Peter for a wealth of CNC knowledge
  • Sacha for Kickstarter knowledge and great support
  • Chloe Tao for her beautiful artwork 'Pencil drawing of Crying Eye' used to demonstrate the laser engraving.  Check out her artworks at http://www.touchtalent.com/artist/151215/chloe-tao

Risks and challenges

Overall we believe the project risk is low, because we've:
- already successfully delivered a similar Kickstarter (Gerbil). It was delivered only a couple of weeks late, and many of the learnings were one-offs that we're now aware of
- built trust in our supply network, as we've worked with suppliers extensively in the original Gerbil project
- many rounds of Super Gerbil prototyping and using their components
- tested our product with various users and various machines, and already incorporated their suggestions and tested thoroughly

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Questions about this project? Check out the FAQ

Support

  1. Make a pledge without a reward

    AU$
    About $7
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  2. Select this reward

    Pledge AU$ 15 or more About $11

    Super Gerbil Key Ring

    An acrylic laser cut key ring with Gerbil's logo to express your support for our Kickstarter

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    0 backers
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    About $11
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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge AU$ 35 or more About $26

    Super Gerbil T-Shirt

    A Super Gerbil t-shirt with our Super Gerbil cartoon logo. Approx. USD 25.00

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    About $26
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge AU$ 199 or more About $146

    Starter - Bronze tier

    This 3 axis bare bones Super Gerbil will get you started. Comes as assembled PCB but no case. See Campaign for full specs. Bronze support membership. April delivery. Approx. USD 140.00

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    3 backers
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    About $146
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge AU$ 315 or more About $231

    Maker - Silver tier

    This classy 4 axis Super Gerbil gets you and your machine moving in style. Simple acrylic un-assembled flat pack case with fitting hardware. Silver support membership. See Campaign for full specs. March delivery. Approx. USD 225.00

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    About $231
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge AU$ 415 or more About $305

    Innovator - Gold tier

    Top of the line Super Gerbil gets you and your machine moving in 5 axis style. Fully assembled acrylic case, high performance specs including Bluetooth. Gold support membership. See Campaign for full specs. March delivery. Approx. USD 295.00

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    11 backers
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    About $305
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