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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi All,

I am completely brand new to CNC routers, but I am looking for a quality machine that is able to be used in a woodshop as a production machine. It needs to be reliable and from a company that is easy to work with and good customer support.

I have seen several videos online and saw a few in person, but nothing in person that was running.

Any help from you would be great. I'm not too concerned about a budget at the moment, but the size would be the 3' x 4' size, maybe smaller, maybe larger...I'll take any and all advice.

Thanks!

Brian
 

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David - Machinist in wood
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Welcome to the forum, Brian! When you get a minute go ahead and complete your profile with first name and location.

What sort of items will you make on this CNC? How much space do you have allotted for the machine? I assume power won't be a problem but for production work you're going to want a spindle, either air cooled or water cooled (I went with water). What software do you plan on using for your CAD design work and toolpath generation (CAM)?

David
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you, I'll check out that link.

For what I will be making, it will all be out of wood. Not really carving, but that could be something in the future. It would mainly be cutting wooden shapes that I am currently cutting by hand. It would also be used for removing wood for nesting items.

How much space: I am building a 3rd stall to our garage, so a portion of that would be used or my current space that I have in the two car garage would be used. I guess it depends on the size of the table and clearance needed.

Power: I hope power wouldn't be a problem. I am assuming that I would just need 110v and not 220v for most machines.

Air cooled or water: I guess whatever is the easiest and lowest maintenance. Im not sure how water cooled works. Is it all internal, does water need to be added? The space will be heated in the winter, but it heating fails, I wouldnt want it to freeze. I'm in Minnesota, so winters get cold.

Software: I have no idea. I am currently designing my patterns in coreldraw, I know that it cant translate into g code or whatever the router reads, so that is up in the air right now.


Being that I am completely new, I hope that I can ask silly questions and help me as much as possible. I want the router to be able to cut/carve, whatever terminology is used faster than I would be able to cut it on my scroll saw. My saw leaves a very smooth edge. Would the router bit leave a similar smooth edge or will I need to spend extra time sanding the edge to make it smooth?
 

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Rick
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Welcome to the forum Brian. I don’t own one yet ,but after all my research I’m considering the Pro version from cncrouterparts.com

As I’m saying there’s better advice here with members who actually own them . I have a cnc laser but no experience with routers yet .
I prefer to do what David did, and purchace a cabinet and assemble the electronics myself .
My plans were to go with a water cooled spindle also , as I want to keep noise to a minimum.
Obviously the router bit cutting makes a lot of noise, but I am mostly interested in 3D carvings
 

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....

As I’m saying there’s better advice here with members who actually own them . I have a cnc laser but no experience with routers yet .
I prefer to do what David did, and purchace a cabinet and assemble the electronics myself .
My plans were to go with a water cooled spindle also , as I want to keep noise to a minimum.
Obviously the router bit cutting makes a lot of noise, but I am mostly interested in 3D carvings
Check out David's build here. There's others but you'd have to search.
 

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Mike
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Brian welcome To the Router Forums.

I recommend staying away from the cheaper hobby machines if you are looking for a machine for light production work. For a few more dollars you can get a lot more machine. Sounds like you should be looking for a 2x4 or 4x4 machine, something in that range.

You can get a VFD and spindle that runs on 110v. Air cooled might be the right way to go for your conditions up there.

Definitely check out the link UglySign posted about David's build. Fineline Automation ( http://finelineautomation.com/ ) makes that machine and he is making changes to the machines when he gets feedback from customers so that shows me he wants to please the people that are buying his machines. Nate has always answered all of my questions quickly and I know David has had a lot of personal dealings with him.

As far as software for gcode output Fusion 360 can be used for free but does have a learning curve. It is a powerful program and will probably do anything you would design. Vectric VCarve Pro is a lot more user-friendly and you can download free trial software to try out before you buy. If you want to make 3D models then Vectric Aspire would be an easy program to use. Both VCarve and Aspire can be used to design your project and also output gcode files. You can upgrade from VCarve to Aspire for just the difference in cost betweeen the two. There are other programs both free and for a fee or price that can be used and it would be best to download trials if the are available and see what you think.
 

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For what I will be making, it will all be out of wood. . . . It would mainly be cutting wooden shapes that I am currently cutting by hand. It would also be used for removing wood for nesting items.
. . . I want the router to be able to cut/carve, whatever terminology is used faster than I would be able to cut it on my scroll saw. My saw leaves a very smooth edge. Would the router bit leave a similar smooth edge or will I need to spend extra time sanding the edge to make it smooth?
You should be able to adapt your coreldraw files, save as svg or AI and open with Inkscape (free). There is an Inkscape plug-in that can generate g-code. If you are planning to do production cutting, definitely worth investing in a more robust package such as VCarve.

If you are accustomed to cutting with a scroll saw, 2 things to be aware of: you cannot cut sharp (square) inside corners, and your “kerf” width will be whatever size bit you use. Pretty small bits are available (I have used 1mm/.04 inches, smaller are available), but that’s huge compared to many scroll saw blades.

When using tiny bits, they also usually have limited cut depth, so if you are accustomed to 1” material with intricate designs you may have issues. You will have to experiment with feeds and speeds, but you should be able to get smooth edges.

As far as cut speed, I can cut through 1/4” material with a 1/8” bit at 200 inches per minute. How fast are you?
 

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You can also find 1/16" bits long enough to cut through 1/4" or 6mm plywood (or hardwood) for 1/32" radius inside corners. I have two neighbors, both retired educators that got into scroll saw art that they sell at local craft show. The generally use 1/8" or 1/4" BB plywood and after I showed them how close I could get to their scroll saw designs using my CNC with a 1/16" bit they both eventually bought small CNCs.
 

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David - Machinist in wood
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Thank you, I'll check out that link.

For what I will be making, it will all be out of wood. Not really carving, but that could be something in the future. It would mainly be cutting wooden shapes that I am currently cutting by hand. It would also be used for removing wood for nesting items.

How much space: I am building a 3rd stall to our garage, so a portion of that would be used or my current space that I have in the two car garage would be used. I guess it depends on the size of the table and clearance needed.

Power: I hope power wouldn't be a problem. I am assuming that I would just need 110v and not 220v for most machines.

Air cooled or water: I guess whatever is the easiest and lowest maintenance. Im not sure how water cooled works. Is it all internal, does water need to be added? The space will be heated in the winter, but it heating fails, I wouldnt want it to freeze. I'm in Minnesota, so winters get cold.

Software: I have no idea. I am currently designing my patterns in coreldraw, I know that it cant translate into g code or whatever the router reads, so that is up in the air right now.

Being that I am completely new, I hope that I can ask silly questions and help me as much as possible. I want the router to be able to cut/carve, whatever terminology is used faster than I would be able to cut it on my scroll saw. My saw leaves a very smooth edge. Would the router bit leave a similar smooth edge or will I need to spend extra time sanding the edge to make it smooth?
Thanks for updating your profile, Brian!

If you plan on using a spindle then you're going to want/need 220V. Somewhere I read how large you can go with a spindle on 110V but it's not much better than having a router, as far as power goes. It would definitely be quieter, both air and water cooled, but to get a 2.2 kW (3HP) spindle you'll need 220V.

I picked a 3 kW (4HP) water cooled spindle and my coolant system is enclosed with RV antifreeze even though I doubt we would get cold enough for long enough for the lines to freeze. I was more interested in keeping bacteria growth to a minimum, hence the antifreeze.

CorelDraw is great software. I started with version 3 and am on X18 now. I often draw in CorelDraw and export svg to bring into Fusion 360 where I can give the 2D drawing the 3D treatment and also generate the toolpath. Fusion 360 is free, btw.

My CNC work is much smoother now after 18 months of use than when I first started. I've learned a lot about speeds/feeds, chip load, etc. and on most things I do - I work mostly in Walnut - the finished CNC cut edge gets lightly sanded. When I first started I was sanding the fire out of the edges but now I can just take a light pass and be done with it.

Hope this helps!
David
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thank you for all of the information.

For speeds, I understand that 1/4" or 1/8" would go a lot faster than I could ever cut on the scroll saw. I primarily use maple, walnut, and cherry all 3/4" thick. Would the speeds of a CNC be faster than someone at a saw or bandsaw? I understand that they would be identical and can reproduced easily, but would it be a time saver?

Thank you for the information on bit size and kerf. I also make puzzles, so those would all be on the scroll saw, but other items could benefit on a CNC if it would save time overall.

I guess a primary concern is how much sanding would need to be done after the CNC job is done. Dave mentioned that it can get pretty good with light sanding, which I'm fine with.

For CNC builds, thank you for the link by the way, are there reliable production machines that are already built that I can start using right away? Set on a bench and start using it or are they going to be kits where I need to take time to build it, test it, and troubleshoot it?

If there are machines that are ready to go after delivered, what brands, specs (I honestly dont know what to look for), features should it have?
 

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For fully assembled machines, in the size range you are looking at, consider machines by Axiom, Probotix, Legacy, Shopbot and Camaster. These will probably range from roughly $4k - $15k, but, depending on options you choose could even go much higher. Software like VCarve is $700, Aspire is $2000, Fusion 360 is free for hobbyists, students and commercial use if you make less than $100k.

If you could post photos or drawings of the type of things you cut we could give you a better idea if it would be faster, but remember, once you hit “start” you are free to do something else, so it’s like adding a second person, whether or not it’s as fast as you are. You can also set it up to cut multiple parts out of one board (of one design or more) without stopping. Like your scroll saw, it can do piercing cuts, which you cannot do on a bandsaw. It will also be able to drill holes, machine pockets, 3D carvings and if you choose the right machine, cut joinery, or do rotary parts.
 

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Where I work we have a "production" level Multicam CNC, 5' x 10' bed, $90k when new. We also have 3 small CNCs. Each was less than $5k, and 2 of those are from Probotix. The Multicam is limited to flat work, and it excels at that... until something breaks on it. When it goes down it goes down for a week minimum awaiting new parts and/or a technician vi$it.

The simpler machines from Probotix are quickly re-configurable for unique needs. They do occasionally break down, but the fix is typically a $10 limit switch or a new mouse for the linux PC that runs them. 85% of the CNC jobs done in our fabrication lab are done on the small machines. The Multicam does stay busy, but it is a somewhat boring busy.

So if you can fit your work on a smallish machine, then consider two or maybe three of the $5k-$10k machines. They will be easier to work on, and 3 times more productive as all 3 could be running at the same time. Each could be jigged up for one or more specific parts. Load a blank, hit "R" on the keyboard.

4D
 

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Don't forget ShopSabre.com

Where I work we have a "production" level Multicam CNC, 5' x 10' bed, $90k when new. ... The Multicam is limited to flat work, and it excels at that... until something breaks on it. ... 4D
4D ... did you ever put a 1/16" bit on the Multicam? That's like Lou Ferigno (Hulk) w/ a pin. I tried it once....
when they say snap... its snap. Settings weren't planned for that bit, especially back then when we were new
to the Multi.

Which MC you have 1000/3000/5000 ? We're on a 3000 5x10
 

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I don't run the Multicam 3000 (I believe). I do run all the jobs on our Probotix CNCs though. I've used a 1/16" bit several times doing small details when our students have a need. You just have to slow down the feed speed and set the depth of cut to 1/32" or so to be sure you don't break those small bits.

4D
 

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Thanks for this link. What a wealth of info.

I too am looking for a small CNC mainly for prototyping my cuckoo clock designs, and perhaps for short runs of say 10 clocks at a time. I've been using a scroll saw and table saw to make my first goes at designs, then having the pieces cut either via laser or CNC. Ive spent a lot of money and time tweaking, having pieces remade, and retesting. I realized that since I am already designing them in Corel Draw (and have used Fusion 360 to create a platform for an owl to pop in and out of the clock which I 3D printed) a CNC would make my work flow, well, flow.

For my foray into the unknown of 3D printing I was lucky to borrow a Makerbot from a friend of a friend. It shed a blazing light in the dark of my knowledge. I was printing within hours, bought a 3D scanner, and was printing out an owl I sculpted in no time. Diving into CNC land is a little more complicated because there's more of a learning curve. My first thought was to buy a Shark or some such to get my feet wet. But looking into that, they aren't that much cheaper comparatively than an Aziom or Camaster and I expect I'd outgrow it real fast. I've read the advice "Buy your next machine first" many times already in my research.

My first question is size. A 2x2 will fit in my limited space best. But I haven't a handle on really using such a machine. My bet is going short in size is a major regret?
 

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Sounds like a Probotix Astroid would be about right for you. A Meteor would be better for the future.
 

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David - Machinist in wood
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Welcome to the forum, Jodie! When you get a minute go ahead and complete your profile with first name and location. That way your name won't show as N/a in the left panel.

I also use CorelDraw and Fusion 360 - good products. And like John said, if you can squeeze in a bit larger machine you'll thank yourself later.

David
 

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Mike
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Jodie welcome to the Router Forums.

Size is a concern when buying a CNC. Some people buy a small desktop machine just to see if they will be able to learn how to use one and they can be harder to use than a larger machine. This can be very frustrating and it may make the person give up on trying to learn how to use it. If they have the patience to learn on a small machine they may find that it is too limiting for the projects they wish to make. Then when they try to sell it to buy a larger CNC they find that no one wants to buy it.

I think it is best to consider what projects you want to make and size the machine accordingly. If you are limited in shop space then get the biggest machine that will cut your designs that you have room for in the shop. If you don't have room for a CNC that will cut your entire design then make sure the one you get will cut the largest parts of your design. You can tile larger parts that won't fit the machine if needed but you don't want to have to tile all the time. It would be better to find the extra room for a slightly larger machine.

If you really intend using the CNC for medium to heavy production work then stay away for the hobby level machines and look for heavier built faster machines. You can do light procuction work on one of the hobby machines but you will be limited in how fast you can run the machine, not only by the smaller stepper motors but by how loosely the machine is built. On a loose machine, you will have to limit your feed rates to compensate for the quality of the machine. On a quality well build machine you can use the proper feed rates for all your bits and projects.

Are there other larger projects besides your clocks that you have in mind or are all of your projects goning to be of similar size?
 
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