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Forum topic by IHRedRules posted 05-24-2017 01:53 AM 899 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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IHRedRules

112 posts in 1311 days


05-24-2017 01:53 AM

Lately I have been contemplating getting a CNC machine. I am a hobbyist, so I’m not looking for an industrial machine. I’m thinking something that is probably atleast 24” x 24”, or just a little bigger. I don’t see myself needing a 4’x4’ or larger unit. One feature that has really caught my eye and imagination is the laser. I think I would use that feature as much, if not more than the router.

In my research, I have come across two brands that really have caught my eye. The first would be the Stepcraft-2 840 and the second being the Garageworx 36”x24”. Does anyone have any experience with either company or their products? Both would be kits that I would assemble, that shouldn’t be an issue.

Where I really get confused (I just don’t have any experience in this area) is on the software/electronics side. I understand that the unit needs a controller/drive box to run it, but where I get lost is, can you buy anyone’s CNC unit and buy another brands controller and easily make them work together? I also understand that you need CAD/CAM software, will any available CAD/CAM software interface with the programs on the control unit? It appears that Stepcraft’s control unit uses UCCNC, it appears that the recommended unit (Xylotex) for the Garageworx is Mach 3. Will something like vector desktop/pro interface with either UCCNC or Mach 3 seamlesslly?

Anything else I should be looking out for while on the hunt?


9 replies so far

View Desert_Woodworker's profile

Desert_Woodworker

1281 posts in 1049 days


#1 posted 05-24-2017 02:51 AM

Slow down! CNC 1st, then laser. The machines that you mentioned are at the starting end. Now it is natural for a person to go mid grade-$3-5k range (i.e. Rockler) then I would upgrade to Laguna, CamMaster, Shopbot- $5-9k range.
Laser…. Q: How longs (years) to starting to actually start making “stuff”?

-- Desert_Woodworker

View bonesbr549's profile

bonesbr549

1445 posts in 2902 days


#2 posted 05-24-2017 01:15 PM

Ok before I can answer your quesiton, need a little more information:

1) what will you be making with your machine

2) materials you wish to cut i.e. just wood or metal, engraving cutting with a draw knife etc.

3) what is your budget $$$$$

4) How familiar are you with cad (the drawing piece) assuming like me no cam piece (machine control software)

I have a cncrouterparts.com 4×8 pro system with plugnplay electronics. Great company and they spent hours with me helping a newbie understand. To start with I had a good basis with cad as I used sketchup for a good while to design my pieces so at least I had that.

Second, it takes a while to understand some concepts of feeds and speeds. That is the most difficult piece (IMO), and how to understand the process and doing it right .vs. how you think it should be done.

I purchased vcarve Pro at their recommendation and its a good package not cheap for sure. Another one that is free is fusion 360. Both work and will generate your G-Code (will give to your cam software to control your cuts) The more commone one is Mach-3 and it works great and not too expensive. There are others but that one seems to be pretty common.

I will also recommend (as others did to me), get cnc cookbook

http://www.cnccookbook.com/Calculators/CNC-Feed-Rate-Calculator.html

Its worth every penny. You could by trial and error (broke bits) figure it out, but that software will allow you to put all the parameters in and it will tell you pretty good the rates of feed and speed.

Finally I would recommend a spindle not a router. Spindles are designed to run for long periods of time, where routers are not and are much louder. Think of your big router running for a few hours

Water cooled are cheaper but I went Air cooled and paid a bit more for an industrial version.

PC, don’t cheap out and use a dedicated machine for your cam software. Don’t put anything else on it. I have mine on the network, but learned that only use the network to copy gcode files to the local hard drive and run it from there. Latency will mess with your project.

Finally youtube is your friend to a point, but you will have to just ruin some material to figure it out. Took me about 9 months to get up to speed to be a decent user now.

Get good bits made for cnc. I like amana bits, and whiteside has some good ones.

DC is critical as you will throw some dust…a lot…

Thats about all I can think of at the moment. Answer the above questions or shoot me a pm and we can have a longer what I learned along the way.

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

View Desert_Woodworker's profile

Desert_Woodworker

1281 posts in 1049 days


#3 posted 05-24-2017 03:30 PM

Bones- excellent post. I have a water cooled spindle. I made a 22 hour machine cut without stopping it. Q: What is the longest time that your spindle run- thanks, just curious.

-- Desert_Woodworker

View bonesbr549's profile

bonesbr549

1445 posts in 2902 days


#4 posted 05-24-2017 05:01 PM

Ok before I can answer your quesiton, need a little more information:

1) what will you be making with your machine

2) materials you wish to cut i.e. just wood or metal, engraving cutting with a draw knife etc.

3) what is your budget $$$$$

4) How familiar are you with cad (the drawing piece) assuming like me no cam piece (machine control software)

I have a cncrouterparts.com 4×8 pro system with plugnplay electronics. Great company and they spent hours with me helping a newbie understand. To start with I had a good basis with cad as I used sketchup for a good while to design my pieces so at least I had that.

Second, it takes a while to understand some concepts of feeds and speeds. That is the most difficult piece (IMO), and how to understand the process and doing it right .vs. how you think it should be done.

I purchased vcarve Pro at their recommendation and its a good package not cheap for sure. Another one that is free is fusion 360. Both work and will generate your G-Code (will give to your cam software to control your cuts) The more commone one is Mach-3 and it works great and not too expensive. There are others but that one seems to be pretty common.

I will also recommend (as others did to me), get cnc cookbook

http://www.cnccookbook.com/Calculators/CNC-Feed-Rate-Calculator.html

Its worth every penny. You could by trial and error (broke bits) figure it out, but that software will allow you to put all the parameters in and it will tell you pretty good the rates of feed and speed.

Finally I would recommend a spindle not a router. Spindles are designed to run for long periods of time, where routers are not and are much louder. Think of your big router running for a few hours

Water cooled are cheaper but I went Air cooled and paid a bit more for an industrial version.

PC, don’t cheap out and use a dedicated machine for your cam software. Don’t put anything else on it. I have mine on the network, but learned that only use the network to copy gcode files to the local hard drive and run it from there. Latency will mess with your project.

Finally youtube is your friend to a point, but you will have to just ruin some material to figure it out. Took me about 9 months to get up to speed to be a decent user now.

Get good bits made for cnc. I like amana bits, and whiteside has some good ones.

DC is critical as you will throw some dust…a lot…

Thats about all I can think of at the moment. Answer the above questions or shoot me a pm and we can have a longer what I learned along the way.


Bones- excellent post. I have a water cooled spindle. I made a 22 hour machine cut without stopping it. Q: What is the longest time that your spindle run- thanks, just curious.

- Desert_Woodworker

Longest to this point is about 18hrs. I have no hesitation to starting a job and letting it go all night. Its a heavy little bugger. Glad I decided to spend the extra to get the spindle and it was a big jump to a spindle (good one)

Did not mean imply water cooled bad, but there are a lot of cheap chinese ones out there that if the water pump dies, she’s toast in a hurry. And in some cases, water cooled can allow for cheaper bearings. But also not all spindles are equal as well. I found out why they vary greatly in price. So while mines not the most expensive, its not a cheap one either so I’m happy.

Heck a router will do the job you will just burn them up faster thats all (and the whole speed control).

:) Cheers.

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

View Desert_Woodworker's profile

Desert_Woodworker

1281 posts in 1049 days


#5 posted 05-24-2017 06:12 PM

No offense taken re: water cooler. Most importantly, I hope people will upgrade to a spindle. A CNC using a router- i.e. 3hp Porter Cable. may give you around 300 hours, on the brushes. Run time is “limited”. Also, as you stated- Amana tool bits- I personally use them and concur with you.

-- Desert_Woodworker

View bonesbr549's profile

bonesbr549

1445 posts in 2902 days


#6 posted 05-24-2017 08:30 PM

Hey what do you use for spoil board flattening? I bought the Amana with carbide blades but had some issues with mdf, and ow just use 3/4 strait flatbottom bit. Gets a better finish.

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

View Desert_Woodworker's profile

Desert_Woodworker

1281 posts in 1049 days


#7 posted 05-25-2017 01:07 AM

I cut a lot of MDF (Medex and Medite) Amana bits are my choice. To flycut a MDF spoilboard, I use
https://www.toolstoday.com/p-6160-mini-insert-spoilboard-surfacing-rabbeting-flycutter-leveler-surface-planer-and-bed-skimming-router-bit-with-scorers-2-2-design.aspx

-- Desert_Woodworker

View IHRedRules's profile

IHRedRules

112 posts in 1311 days


#8 posted 05-25-2017 01:38 AM

Guys, great input. Bones, to answer your questions:

1) what will you be making with your machine:

Right now, I see it mostly for doing engraving work and creating more detailed cutting boards. My sister is a graphic designer, so there may opportunities to do some vinyl cutting for some of her creations that she sells on the side.

2) materials you wish to cut i.e. just wood or metal, engraving cutting with a draw knife etc.

I’m thinking at this point, just wood and maybe some vinyl. I don’t think i’ll be trying to machine an engine block from a huge billet.

3) what is your budget $$$$$

I would like to keep around the 3-4K range, including all software and computer. I would be running a dedicated desktop. My computer is a Mac, so I would need to purchase a new desktop for the CNC, which would also allow me to keep it a dedicated unit.

4) How familiar are you with cad (the drawing piece) assuming like me no cam piece (machine control software)

I pretty much have zero experience with cad. I’m still fairly young and computer savvy, but I’ve never had to deal with cad before.

I have a co-worker that spent several decades as a CNC operator/programmer, so I could certainly look to him for some help, but he comes from a commercial setting and I’m not sure how much similarity there is between commercial cnc programming/software and the hobbyist type.

View ErikF's profile

ErikF

574 posts in 2078 days


#9 posted 05-25-2017 01:51 AM

I picked up a CNC a couple weeks ago. I had no CAD or CNC experience prior to getting the machine and am now pretty comfortable cutting out parts. Here is what I use:

CAD/CAM- Fusion 360…ton’s of youtube videos and a good forum to answer any questions. It’s CAM also asks which controller you’re “talking” to to ensure you’re getting good tool paths.
Controller- Mach3
Spindle- I don’t know a lot about them but the 10hp spindle on my machine is air cooled and runs much quieter than my trim router. I also like that there are more collet options. Mine runs er-32s.

I found it helpful to research g-code. It’s what the CAM sends to the controller as your program (your design).

-- Power to the people.

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