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Thread: The CNC Plunge?

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    Question The CNC Plunge?

    A buddy of mine and I are considering a joint-dive into a CNC machine for a hobby shop. We've watched too many videos from the XCarve to the Shapeoko, to something more finished such as a CNC Shark, or even real dollars with a small Shop Bot. Unfortunately the answer is NOT clear.

    Curious to know who here is doing the CNC thing, and what you are using & how you like it? Any feedback or advice is appreciated.

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    Re: The CNC Plunge?

    I've been asking the same questions, and seeing the same videos, and still have more questions. Most people say I need to start with a machine that costs in the area of $5,000 and go up from there. I'm really interested in the x-carve, but would like to see one in action. What I found out so far is it really depends on what you want to do, and if you're like me, you're thinking simple until you open up the possibilities, and then find that what you got was not enough. So far, I'm settling on the x-carve, it fits my bill every way I can think of.

    I did see a demo at the Klingspor extravaganza on a Digital Woodcarver that is about twice the price of the x-carve, it was impressive and likely would do what I want to do. I didn't see a whole lot of difference between the two machines. The biggest thing I found out in all my research has been the lack of rigid construction on cheaper machines, and lack of software.
    Today a pile of wood, tomorrow a pile of sawdust......

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    Re: The CNC Plunge?

    Quote Originally Posted by WoodWrangler View Post
    A buddy of mine and I are considering a joint-dive into a CNC machine for a hobby shop. We've watched too many videos from the XCarve to the Shapeoko, to something more finished such as a CNC Shark, or even real dollars with a small Shop Bot. Unfortunately the answer is NOT clear.

    Curious to know who here is doing the CNC thing, and what you are using & how you like it? Any feedback or advice is appreciated.
    I run a ShopBot 4x8 full size machine. When I was looking for mine, I looked at a lot of the different ones out there, and debated the size I wanted / needed. I quickly realized that while 90% of what I cut on it is 24x24, it's real nice to have the full size machine for the other 10% of the time. I buy my material in 4x8 sheets and can cut multiple 24x24 items at the same time without swapping out source sheets and without having to cut them down to size first. I know if I had just gotten the 24x18 ShopBot I originally was going to get I'd have sold it and upgraded within a year. My advise is get as big as you can.

    Quote Originally Posted by pcooper View Post
    The biggest thing I found out in all my research has been the lack of rigid construction on cheaper machines, and lack of software.
    Same thing I learned when I researched mine. A new ShopBot comes with all the software you need (VCarve Pro which costs $700) so be sure to figure that in when you are shopping. Some of the lower priced products come with none or limited software, so you have to factor in the cost of buying software. Also look at what they use to cut with, is a it a spindle, a higher end router, or a trim router or dremel (yes, I saw some that used a dremel tool to cut). You want a good spindle or router system, that helps with the speed and depth of cut you can accomplish.

    One thing I have learned is it's not that hard to make money with a CNC machine. I use mine as a hobbyist, not that often (really need to use it more) and pretty much every project I've taken on to sell I've made money off of. I've paid for a 1/3 of my machine without even trying.

    And consider the used market, I picked my ShopBot up used (drive from Raleigh, NC to Atlanta, GA to pick it up). ShopBot's hold their value well, not sure about other brands, but that's a good way to judge a product. If there are a lot of used ones on the market, especially if they aren't that old, then ask yourself why are so many people trying to get rid of them?

    And don't forget the value of back end support from the company, as well as from the CNC community.

    Let me know if you have any questions, and good luck with your CNC hunt.

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    Re: The CNC Plunge?

    i've been considering the plunge for quite awhile. but dont' have the space or funds right now. if i buy i'd get a desk top model just due to space constraints more than anything else.

    the best bang for your buck out there right now would be the http://www.freedomcnc.com/, imho. These are an entry level machine made by DMS one of the premiere CNC manufacturers in the country if not world.

    shopbot is great for what it is and you generally can't go wrong with their product, but generally are a really nice 'kit' machine.

    as others said consider the software for sure, but you are a whiz on software you'll do just fine with whatever you wind up with and write your own gui if you need to.

    one caveat to watch for with entry level products is you really want a non-pc based controller. you want a true controller that will improve performance and repeatability in your work. plus it'll save a lot of headaches. with windows often their updates interfere with your routine interface with the machine. little settings can get changed easily and you'll spend hours troubleshooting something stupid. granted in your case i doubt you'll have an issue with an operator multitasking on the pc and hogging ram that should be driving your machine, but it can happen eaiser that you can imagine. if you do go with a pc based controller don't leave it connected to the internet and only do updates if absolutely mission critical.

    for a true hobby experience none of the ones you've listed above will take much time for you to be up to speed on and should serve you well. if you're wanting to do a bit more especially down the road i'd look at the extra investment.

    something else you might be interested in is Machine Tool Camp (http://machinetoolcamp.com/)
    with Scott Kauphusman up in WI. You can pick up an older machine and update the controllers. It's a great option if you have the footprint in your shop.

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    Re: The CNC Plunge?

    Jeremy, what do you guys plan to do with the CNC? A lot of that will determine what route you might want to look at. Me, personally I wanted something extremely rigid, I did not want a router but rather a spindle for numerous reasons. I would go around to peoples shops and look at what they have and see if they will spend some time with you to show you what they do with the machines, how they operate. A few important things to look at.....software! tech support, user/forum support. You'll have a thousand questions once the machine arrives and continuation of support both in the how to's and the technical part.

    I dove into it to do a lot of 3D work and architectural moldings. Things that can be done by hand but would take a very long time as well as repeatability. An example of that was a very simple fence bracket that was made 2 sides. Took about an hour a piece by hand and I was able to do 8 an hour. I had hundreds of them to do and that job alone paid for a third of my 18k machine. I then saw the cabinet business as a profitable route and bought a second machine to handle that. So a lot will determine what you want to do with it, how accurate you will need it to be and resale value as you decide you don't use it much or you want to upgrade. That's worth paying for up front.
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    Re: The CNC Plunge?

    Chris' dad showed me the CAMaster last time I was over there. An impressive piece of machinery with automatic tool change. Since I will have to buy the pre-finish plywood for new kitchen and laundry cabinets one day from Chris, I'm strongly considering having him run the carcase panels on the CA Master just to save me a bunch of time.
    "Remember - If the women don't find ya handsome, they should at least find ya handy!" - Red Green
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    Re: The CNC Plunge?

    Thanks for all of the great information. The CAMaster looks awesome, unfortunately at this time is more than I plan on spending. This morning I ended up placing an order for the Axiom AutoRoute 8 Pro (http://www.axiomprecision.com/ar8-pro.html) after far too many hours of research and debate (in my own mind). This will be another interesting journey and what I hope to be a nice mix of technology and woodworking --- both which are right up my alley.

    Why the Axiom AutoRoute 8 Pro? Overall, it just seems to have the features I was looking for & is well made. I like the liquid cooled spindle, the slotted table, and guide systems mostly.

    As for design software, I'll probably go the VCarve Pro route. I've been using the trial edition and it's pretty logical.

    What I don't have yet are the bits. Any suggestions?

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    Re: The CNC Plunge?

    Although not specifically CNC related MLCS Woodworking has a lot of bits and they offer free shipping so purchasing a single bit from them doesn't pose any problems.

    You can probably find bits more specific to CNC milling elsewhere.
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    Re: The CNC Plunge?

    Quote Originally Posted by WoodWrangler View Post
    What I don't have yet are the bits. Any suggestions?

    For straight bits CMT solid carbide give good service for the money. The CMT v-bits also work well. For specialty bits I've used Magnate, also reasonably priced.
    http://www.magnate.net/SearchResults.asp?Cat=24

    I've used some of the form bits to make recesses on plates with good success.
    100_0061.jpg

    Tony
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    Re: The CNC Plunge?

    Quote Originally Posted by WoodWrangler View Post

    What I don't have yet are the bits. Any suggestions?
    I use Whiteside Router bits on my CNC, they perform really well.

    http://www.whitesiderouterbits.com/catalog.html

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    Re: The CNC Plunge?

    onsrud bits are the way to go

    looks like a good machine

    btw you can mill out a vacuum hold down with some mdf and use your shop vac to hold pieces down. there's several plans out on the interwebs if you have any trouble let me know i'll dig up one we used to give folks

    congrats!!! btw you need to move back to clt so i can use your shop

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    Re: The CNC Plunge?

    Phil - BTW that brand you recommended looks awesome too, just way too much $ for my first machine. Also, in many ways I wish I was still up in NC ... I could really use some seasonal weather right about now! And of course, the shop friends from NCWW that often visited would be nice to see.

    Back to bits ... do the bits need to be anything "special" for the CNC ... or just a regular router bit? Sorry for the ignorance, but this is a brand new adventure!

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    Re: The CNC Plunge?

    I have a homebuilt (all aluminum and steel) CNC that I've been running for 2 years now without major problems...I use Vectric V-Carve Pro software, and all my router bits are Whiteside, either solid carbide or have carbide cut surfaces...have fun with your new Axiom.

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    Re: The CNC Plunge?

    Jeremy, you have a wide range of options on bits, worse than picking out a new car. 80% of my bits are Southeast Tools. They have excellent pricing and they do last a long time. I sell them in my business. I don't use them because I sell them, I became a distributor because I like their tooling and prices are lower. I use there compression bits, up and down cut spirals roughing end mills and low helix end mills for finished edges. For 3D work and V carving I think Amana makes a great product. I use Vortex bits on a few trouble child products like Melamine. They are a little more pricey but they last a really long time. I have a couple hundred hours of routing time on the 1/8" tapered ball nose. You'll need to do a lot of reading on chip loads. You can take a $100 bit and toast it on one job if your feeds and speeds are not correct. Learning the chipload of your tool and what your machine can do was more challenging to me than learning the CNC. While cutting plywood, a compression bit wasn't lasting me but 20 sheets of 3/4" ply. I thought I was pushing it right on or just a little to hard. Then I learned the chip load and upped my feeds and speeds and now cut 12" a second and full 3/4" and I'm getting 100 sheets per bit. That's just an example of how learning the feeds and speeds of the bit and of course what your machine can handle. Remember.....if you can't hold it down you can't cut it. Proper hold down technique is going to be a huge key.

    Let me know if you have any questions and I'll try my best to answer them

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    Re: The CNC Plunge?

    Quote Originally Posted by srhardwoods View Post
    Learning the chipload of your tool and what your machine can do was more challenging to me than learning the CNC.
    Can anyone recommend any good tutorials for CNC'ing (from the basics up?). I've been reading a lot online and gone through a few tutorials, but am still hungry for information.

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