Roland 4-Axis CNC

From Idea Shop Wiki
Roland MDX-540 in the Maker Space

About Roland

The Roland MDX-540 is a 4-Axis CNC Router and is the machine of choice for cutting small intricate parts quickly and accurately. Jobs can also be cut in 3-Axis mode.

You must make a reservation to use the Roland 4-Axis CNC. To make a reservation, your file must be tool pathed and checked by a qualified Idea Shop staff member. See the below calendar for toolpathing help availability.

General Stats:
Material : MDF, Plywood, OSB, Wood, Foam, Plastics.
Maximum Part Size : 1219.2mm x 2438.4mm x 152.4mm (12in x 12in x 6in)


Main Article : Processing Rhino Files
Good STL in Netfabb

RhinoCam is the software used to create toolpaths for the ShopSabre, and is available on every computer in the IdeaShop. If you do not have much experience using Rhinoceros or RhinoCam, have a staff member help walk you through the process, since it can be tedious. Before creating a toolpath, feel free to use AutoCad to create the 2D geometry you wish to cut out since DWG files from AutoCad can be opened and used to create toolpaths in Rhinoceros. After creating and opening a file in Rhinoceros, double check the geometry and delete any duplicate lines or points. Join the remaining lines to create one solid geometry. Once you have your final geometry, you can begin creating your toolpath. If you are familiar with this process, go ahead and create the toolpath. If you are new to this process, have a staff member come and assist you. If you create the toolpath without a staff member, before you generate the G-Code, have a staff member double check all the settings and parameters you set for your toolpath.

Prepping the Roland

Main Article : Before Starting a Job

A staff member will assist you with the setup process. Please keep in mind this process may take over an hour depending on the complexity of the part.

Correct Axis is Set Up

The setup for 3-axis and 4-axis jobs use different equipment and if the previous job was for a different axis job than the one about to be cut, the equipment must change.

3-Axis uses a flat bed with threaded holes while the 4-Axis uses a rotating grip and a pointed support.

Spoil Board and Part are Properly Fastened

There are a variety of ways to fasten the part to the machine for the 3-Axis; a spoil board is always required beneath your part. The most common method is to drill holes through the spoil board and the stock that match up with the holes on the machine bed and screw them down with nylon screws

For the 4-Axis, the stock must be placed directly in the middle of the rotating grip. Calipers may be helpful during this process. A drill tip is then placed on the pointed support side and the stock is rotated as the drill carves a hole into the stock on the right. Once this is done, the pointed support is replaced and tightened into the stock.


Tools assigned to the job must be placed in the magazine in the designated tool number slots as the toolpath. Once all the bits are correctly changed for the job the tool height must be measured for each new tool. A staff member will go over the correct process for measuring tool heights.

Work Zero

Pick a tool that was already measured (This is most easily done with the most pointed bit). The point you have designated as the Work Zero in the toolpath will be the point you zero out on the stock. A staff member will help you through this process to get the most accurate point.

Double Check Before Cutting

Be sure all tools are in the correctly designated tool number.

The Work Zero is in the correct place.

The clearance plane is well above all screws for 3-axis and diagonal length for 4-axis.

Feeds and speeds are appropriate for the material being cut.

The post is for the Roland 4-Axis and not the ShopSabre.

The code was copied onto the Roland desktop and is not reading it through the Z-Drive.

Running a Job

Once a staff member has confirmed the Roland is ready to run, you may begin the job by running the supplied G-Code. You must be present while the job is running to ensure the machine does not do anything unexpected. Some things to watch out for are making sure the spindle does not hit any screws while running a job, or making sure that it changes tools correctly if your job has tool changes. Once your job is done, you may remove your material and parts.

Strengths and Weaknesses

"Main Article : Strengths and Weaknesses"

The Roland excels in making small or intricate parts with the advantage of its 4th axis. Rounded geometry, organic shapes and 360 degree patterns can easily be cut with the 4th axis. It is also commonly used to make custom circuit boards with ____. Student will make their own pattern for the circuit board and the CNC will cut away the copper layer where it is not needed. Though more prep time is needed for the CNC as opposed to a 3D printer or laser cutter, it can cut a wide variety of materials in complex 3D shapes whereas the 3D printers will only extrude in certain plastics or resins.

Machine Proficiency

In order for an individual to advance in machine proficiency they must demonstrate ability to perform certain actions or tasks. All levels include abilities and concepts from lower levels.

This section is primarily for student workers.

Level 0

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Turning on the appropriate switch and valves to be able to move the machine
  • Properly fixing material to spoil boards.
  • Warming up the machine
  • Manually attaching and releasing the tool from the spindle

Individual understands the concepts:

  • Awareness of limit switches, work area and movement limitations of the machine
  • Recognition of collets, different types of bits and the awareness of the tool numbers on the machine
  • Ability to move the machine using the software and the handheld remote.
  • The magazine system for tools.
  • Basic understanding of CNC / milling pros and cons

Level 1

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Setting the XYZ0 for a job
  • Setting up the tool for the job with the appropriate tool length
  • Loading up a posted G-code file on the software
  • Measuring the tool length using the sensor cable.
  • Checking the G-code before running a file
  • Attaching and removing the plate for 3 axis jobs.
  • Attaching and removing the 4th axis attachment.

Individual understands the *Differences between Climb and Conventional milling.

  • What tool to use and when to use it.
  • Understanding how different materials react when cut
  • Basics of G-Code.
  • Stepover RhinoCAM
  • Stepdown RhinoCAM
  • Tabs and tab placement (Rectangular vs Triangular) RhinoCAM
  • Basic Rhinoceros knowledge.
  • Material recommendation and stock dimension selection
  • XYZ0 point selection RhinoCAM

Level 2

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • RhinoCAM level 2
  • Be able to center the stock for a 4th axis machining job
  • Creating a 2-½ axis toolpath for profiling, pocketing, slotting, or drilling RhinoCAM
  • Selecting XYZ0 point based on stock and geometry RhinoCAM
  • Picking the appropriate tool using toolpath and geometry RhinoCAM
  • Selecting appropriate stepdown, stepover and clearance plane based on tool and geometry. RhinoCAM
  • Picking appropriate feeds and speeds based on tool and material RhinoCAM

Individual understands the concepts:

  • Understand the math behind determining feed rates and speeds. RhinoCAM
  • Balance between Speed vs Surface
  • Finish, and when to apply them.
  • Roughing and Finishing toolpaths
  • Machining 3D geometry
  • 2-sided machining jobs
  • Dust skirt
  • Automatic tool change

Level 3

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • RhinoCAM level 3
  • Successfully starting a 4-axis job with the posted toolpath

Individual understands the concepts: