need help choosing 3d machine

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Forum topic by 3dsigncarver1 posted 03-23-2017 04:09 PM 989 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 578 days

03-23-2017 04:09 PM

Topic tags/keywords: 3d cnc recommendation cnc 3d sign wood

I would really appreciate ant suggestions on the best value 3d cnc machine currently available. I am going to use it to carve “welcome to the Joneses” outdoor scene signs. I am in need of precision and speed, not so much size. I expect to cut about 10-20 signs week. my budget is a max of $12k but less is better.
If anyone could also give me an idea of how long it takes to cut a 24”x18” scene it would be appreciated.

9 replies so far

View JohnMcClure's profile


254 posts in 789 days

#1 posted 03-23-2017 04:37 PM

Shapeoko 3 ( comes in 3 sizes and fits your budget, production volume, and size requirements.
I have had the smallest Shapeoko 3 (only one offered at the time) for well over a year, carved dozens of things, mostly signs. The XL and XXL sizes are pretty big and can definitely meet your needs.

I invested an extra couple hundred $ on Vectric V-carve Desktop software, but it seems that’s no longer needed – I think the Shapeoko now comes with a license for pretty decent software.

I’ve also had good customer service experiences with them.
I do recommend getting the limit switch kit, if it’s not a standard option now. It’s necessary for complex (multiple-tool) carves.

I’m in no way affiliated with them, just a satisfied customer.

-- I'd rather be a hammer than a nail

View Ger21's profile


1075 posts in 3279 days

#2 posted 03-25-2017 10:25 PM

The best value is probably the XZero Raptor. Not sure how big of a machine you’re looking for, though.

If anyone could also give me an idea of how long it takes to cut a 24”x18” scene it would be appreciated.

Anywhere from 1-12 hours, depending on how much detail you want, and how complex it is.

-- Gerry,

View ArtMann's profile


1081 posts in 964 days

#3 posted 03-26-2017 03:05 AM

If you are cutting 10 or 20 signs a week then you need to be looking at commercial grade machines rather than hobby grade ones. I don’t mean to offend but the shapeco machines are not commercial grade. I don’t know about the XZero machines but they are DIY kits. If you are looking at building a machine, then I would also look at “CNC Router Parts” which sells heavy duty kit machines. With a budget of $12,000 or less and no need for a big machine, I would look at the Stinger I and Stinger II machines from Camaster with upgraded spindles and steppers. I have used a Stinger I now for over two years with no service other than routine maintenance. I use it to make money part time and have run it hard at times. I have also been to the factory and seen the care and quality of materials that goes into making these machines. My only regret is not buying a bigger machine or at least a commercial spindle upgrade. A commercial spindle will last longer, maintain higher precision and supply more power at lower RPMs than the best router you can buy.

A 24 X 18 sign with true 3-D carving could take 2 hours or 8+ hours, depending on the detail and complexity of the design. It is hard to estimate without a specific example. If you could post a sample picture, that would get you more accurate guesstimates.

View 3dsigncarver1's profile


3 posts in 578 days

#4 posted 03-26-2017 08:18 PM

Thanks for the replys . Does anyone have experience with Stepcraft? Its German made and designed. It has a 500watt spindle and auto changing bit feature for under $5k. It also comes with a 2 year warranty.

View bonesbr549's profile


1576 posts in 3215 days

#5 posted 03-26-2017 08:26 PM

Well 10 – 20 signs a week, rules out the intro ones. Also I’d recommend a spindle not a router set up. I researched and anlyized for a couple years before pulling the plug.

In the 6k range you can get a small 2×4 unit commerical. I looked at the laguna and the Stinger. A used 4×4 stinger (great company) will run you 8-10k but they are great units.

I wanted to do my kitchen cabinets for my house and cut inside parts for wine cabinets i make. I went with a 4×8 ket fro CRC router parts with spindle software and some tooling was 10k. I had my own PC. Great unit and support is there too.

I love mine. Would love to have a big 4×8 cobra unit (maker of the stinger), but now you into 20k +

Good luck

-- Sooner or later Liberals run out of other people's money.

View 3dsigncarver1's profile


3 posts in 578 days

#6 posted 03-26-2017 09:10 PM

Thanks, Artman. I just looked at the stinger 1 and its looks impressive and its in my price range. Has the company been around for awhile? I ask because of support and replacement parts that I will eventually need

View Ger21's profile


1075 posts in 3279 days

#7 posted 03-26-2017 09:25 PM

Stepcraft is a hobby machine, probably 1/10 the machine that the Camaster is.
The XZero is a solid machine, for 1/3 the price of a Camaster. A friend of mine has two making guitar necks full time for the last 3 years.
Camaster will definitely provide better support and spare parts, but your paying for it.

-- Gerry,

View Dabcan's profile


255 posts in 2819 days

#8 posted 04-05-2017 12:02 PM

I have an XZero predator, it’s a 36×50” table, I think they go new for about $10k USD. I bought mine used for about half that but there aren’t too many on the used market. I can run the machine at 100 ipm no problem, used as big as a 3/8” down cutter without any hesitation. Have cut wood and plastic, planning on some aluminum later this year.

The nice thing with the XZero machines is they’ve taken the components from a full sized machine and put them on a smaller table, so you don’t have any problems with flex as the parts are overbuilt (gantry is 1” thick aluminum, 1” ballscrew).

As for the scene question, it really depends what the scene is. Letters can be quick although v-carving takes a little longer. 3D scenes can take a while although once you’re comfortable running the machine you can set it going and leave it to run.

You can download a free copy of Vectrix Aspire and put in a sample drawing and get it to estimate the time for you. Or if you have a sample I could enter it in the software and give you an estimate.

Hope this helps, remember there is so much more than signs you can do with a CNC. I’m currently making a batch of three legged stools, all cut on the CNC!


-- @craftcollectif ,,

View finns's profile


167 posts in 3265 days

#9 posted 04-05-2017 12:59 PM

I was in the same situation a few years back and narrowed my search down to Stinger and Axiom and ended up purchasing the Axiom because of the support. I also chose there 2×4 model as I wanted the biggest bed I could afford and am real happy that I did. I use this thing daily and sometimes continuously three to four hours at a time. Not a big deal since it uses a water cooled spindle instead of a router. Vcarve Pro came with the unit and is simple to learn.

I purchased this to speed up production of furniture parts but am amazed at the additional business opportunities it is bringing in. The world of CNC is a very different kind of wood working and isn’t as simple as slapping a piece of wood on the machine and hitting the go button. But then it’s nice to realize that you can teach old dogs new tricks.

To answer your question about time isn’t so simple. It depends on the size of the sign and how much 3d vs. 2d you plan to cut. A 2×2 sign could take 15mn up to a couple of hours with 3d depending on the detail. But like Dabcan wrote you can walk away from the machine while its cutting. You might want to hit the vcarve forum and post your question there as well.

Best of luck to you in your search.


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