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Discussion Starter #1
Hello, everybody.

I'm a hobbyist with a particular taste for DIY projects, customisation and general tinkering. About a year ago I bought a 3D printer and have loved it ever since - I can produce little items that I can't buy anywhere, it's cheap and pretty much imagination is the limit. I have had my taste of 3D printing and as awesome as it is it has its own limitations, mainly in the materials the process uses. I want to upgrade to a CNC router and to be able to machine items out of materials like wood and aluminium and maybe steel, but I realise that this is a whole new level.

I'm searching for a unit that will be able to machine items that I design in three dimensions. I'm willing to buy a kit but I would prefer to assemble one myself (I'm assuming it won't be too challenging for me as I have built couple of 3D printers from scratch). I did a bit of a research and found out what 3-axis routers are capable of (pretty much 2D items and quite simple 3D ones) and I don't think this will be enough for my needs. I also looked into 4-axes and 5-axes routers and I believe that this will cover what I want to do. I, however, have doubts that 4-axes will be sufficient and that 5-axes will be too elaborate of a project. I realise that a small amount of after processing will be required but this won't be a problem.

I'd appreciate if someone more knowledgeable was to clarify things a bit for me.

Best
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you, for the warm welcoming, David!

I'm willing to spend no more than $10 000. I haven't thought about space restrictions but maybe 2m*1m*1m.
 

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David
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Does that include space to walk around the machine or is that just for the machine itself? Our machine is a Saturn 2x4 but the footprint is about 54" x 70", so you can add at least 15" or so to that for walking around the machine.

David
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
I do remember saying 2m*1m*1m but I don't think I had a clear understanding what that means until I googled it.
Thanks for mentioning the Saturn 2x4 - looks utterly beautiful!

I think it's fair to say that for my first project usable area of 0.5m*0.3m*0.3m to 1m*0.5m*0.5m will suffice.
 

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Your hobbyist oriented machines (under $10k) are typically going to be 3 or 4 axis, or the 4th axis is for turnings. For CNCs where they have a axis that pivot and turn the spindle, this adds considerable complexity and cost, typically seen in more industrial applications. For what you are looking for, you probably are going to need look at the bigger industrial machines.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
@MikeMa
If I were to hop into the industrial machines segment what price and footprint am I looking at?
@difalkner
I noticed that the Saturn is a 3-axis machine. I'm worried that a 3-axis router won't be able to machine fairly complex 3D items. I could rotate the piece of material so the spindle can access a different part but I'm worried that if I did that by hand I would mess up the orientation of the item. If another (4th) axis was to make that movement for me I would feel better but wouldn't that be more complicated in terms of software?
 

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David
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@MikeMa
If I were to hop into the industrial machines segment what price and footprint am I looking at?
@difalkner
I noticed that the Saturn is a 3-axis machine. I'm worried that a 3-axis router won't be able to machine fairly complex 3D items. I could rotate the piece of material so the spindle can access a different part but I'm worried that if I did that by hand I would mess up the orientation of the item. If another (4th) axis was to make that movement for me I would feel better but wouldn't that be more complicated in terms of software?
The 4th axis is generally used for turning but it can also be used for indexing. So you can mount a piece on the 4th axis, cut what you can get to with XYZ movement, then index the piece and cut some more. That movement is generated by your CAM module of whatever software you use and then the controller software, Mach3/4 for instance, interpolates that toolpath into machine movement.

So the quick answer is 'yes', it does make it more complicated but not impossible. It sounds like what you're cutting requires that sort of movement so it isn't really that complicated, just another step you learn in the process. And you won't be reinventing the wheel - this has been done thousands of times and there are probably many tutorials and videos that will show you what you want.

I intend to add a 4th axis one day soon for this very purpose - indexing, rotating 3D pieces, and turning. Don't wait on me for a video, though; I'm not in a hurry. LOL!

David
 

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Discussion Starter #10
@RainMan 2.0
Thanks for linking that. I did see while I was researching and is quite spot on what I need BUT it's too small for my applications. That's why I started looking towards 3/4-axis "conventional"(?) routers.
@difalkner

So the quick answer is 'yes', it does make it more complicated but not impossible. It sounds like what you're cutting requires that sort of movement so it isn't really that complicated, just another step you learn in the process. And you won't be reinventing the wheel - this has been done thousands of times and there are probably many tutorials and videos that will show you what you want.
This is exactly what I'm in the market for...or at least to the best of my knowledge at the moment, haha.
Could you tell me more about such setup? Given I'm new to this I'm not sure what questions to ask but if I had a starting point I could word a smart question.
 

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I used a small desktop (precision) CNC, 4 axis for the jewelry industry. I carve master waxes, flat, flip, the rotary. Then I cast the master waxes and it was so precise I only have to lightly buff the casting, and cut seats for the diamonds, and push prongs. The accuracy was defines by the cutter, toolpath, and software to convert stl files to machine code for that particular setup.
 

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doc7347,
The CNC Equipment you are talking about and amount of money you are willing to spend, you need to step away from the hobby type CNC and look right into the industrial models. The size is going to be an issue you will have to consider. I do not know of any kits on the market of the nature you are wanting to build that will meet your needs. Building your own will work if you have the knowledge and talent.

The next item you need to consider when wanting to use as many axis as you have mentioned is going to be pretty expensive and will be very in depth. If I were you, I would go into some shops that already use the type of machines you are looking at and get advice from those who are professional at what they do. Nothing against hobbies-ts, but we do not have the know how and do not work with the software or spend the time trying to make a living with the CNC. I am sure if you look into this a little more you will havea much clearer idea of what it is exactly you need and want. Good Luck, Tagwatts
 

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No one has ask what kind of projects you actually want to make. That might make it easier to determine what you actually need.

If you are using Vectric Aspire or VCarve Pro you can design projects to be cut on a 4th Axis machine by wrapping the design around a cylinder then the output toolpath rotates the blank as it is cut.

I don't think you will find a 5th Axis machine for the money you have to spend and a 4th axis might be all you need.
 

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He sure seems to want to take a pretty big bite as a beginner. Got to have more smarts than I'll ever have doing this.

You guys are right - he's going to have to step up to the "pro" stuff and get a bigger checkbook. Or.......he could just kidnap David, get a parts list, and not release him til it's up and running.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
@difalkner
Thanks, I will go at it from there.
@mark greenbaum
What you have described is not too far from what I will be dealing with as complexity. I will only need slightly bigger work envelope than you do, based on your post.
@Tagwatts
Thanks for being blunt, I'm not sure what I need/want myself. Based on some new info I found, I believe 3-axis machine will be enough for what I want to do, but I'm still researching. I'm still hesitant to lean towards full scale industrial level machine - I'm just not sure I will be utilising its full potential. Maybe I'm so confused, I'm confusing even you guys, eh.
When I stated my budget that was the absolute highest I can go. I did the same thing when I bought my 3D printer. I allocated 2 000 for it and ended up paying 800. That's me, I guess. I shiver in horror with the thought of not spending another 200-500 bucks and not getting the actually good machine that I want and can afford. Hope that makes sense.
@MEBCWD
Initially, I wanted to go for a 4-axis machine because I was worried I wouldn't be able to rotate the model properly and machine all sides in the right planes. After some research I found out that I can do that with a 3-axis router and vices. You, quite mindfully, asked what projects I want to machine. The answer is that I don't know but I want a fair bit of versatility. I want to be able to make something out of aluminium for my car, something out of wood for home comfort etc. Hope this gives you a clue.
@honesttjohn
Don't give me ideas, mate, I might just listen to you, lol.
 

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If you look at 5 axis machines the size you are talking about you will probably find that they start at about 3 times your budget and that is just for the machine, most require you to buy the design and cam software and 5 axis software is not cheap.

I think you may be underestimating the abilities of a 3 axis machine. Adding a 4th axis is not too costly just make sure you start with a control unit that can be upgraded to the 4th axis. You will be limited in the size of a 4th axis project but it all depends on the machine you buy.

Like I said before Vectric Aspire and VCarve Pro (included with some machines) will allow you to design wrapped projects for the 4th axis and output toolpaths. There are other design softwares that allow you to design for a 4th axis project, that will just depend on the projects you want to do.
 

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@MikeMa
If I were to hop into the industrial machines segment what price and footprint am I looking at?
Honestly, I do not know. I have been researching and started collect parts for building my own 3 axis CNC. I just know that once you get beyond the standard 3, each new axis adds a degree of complexity both for hardward and software. If I recall you budget was $10k. I can see an industrial machine very quickly surpassing that budget. I suspect most companies that order a CNC have it spec'd and custom made to their needs. They aren't boxed units like you would get at Woodcraft or Rockler. Not to mention there will be some degree of education (not necessarily free) required to learn how to use those machines.

Using a 3 axis CNC, there are some techniques to get accomplish, with precision, to do 3D carvings. There are tutorials out there on how to do that. Since you are just getting started my recommendation is look at one of the higher end (with fully supported rails) CNC machines with the standard 3 axis, with maybe a 4th turning axis on it. Learn to use that, and figure out ways to use it for what you need.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
look at one of the higher end (with fully supported rails) CNC machines with the standard 3 axis
I think I know what a 3-axis router looks like but I'd appreciate if you were to link a picture or a machine that has these "fully supported rails"

Also, I do get the strong feeling that my first machine will be something in the hobbyist segment. I was looking at the Openbuilds OX and such design looks like a promising start to me.
 
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