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· Official Greeter
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was talking with the President of our "Mens shed" yesterday about this years activities in the shed.
He said he was thinking about getting rid of 2 laser machines (not being used) and buying a small CNC machine.
Did not want to go down that rabbit hole, myself, but might have a look at what we buy (not very expensive, from what he said ($400-$500) ).
I can see the benefit for making some simple jigs/templates in MDF or BB ply.
What is the learning curve on these machines?
Is software, programming easy/hard?
 

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Learning curve depends on experience you have before getting A CNC. I personally felt no confusion or frustration using the first CNC I bought as I already had CAD software experience, years of using routers both handheld and mounted in tables, and an engineering/architecture aptitude/education. I've know some woodworkers who were so completely flustered trying to figure out how to use a CNC they bought that they sold it off quickly. Simple profile and pocketing you'll need for making jigs/templates is basic stuff, and shouldn't be hard to manage. You'll need CAD software to draw the vectors, CAM to turn those vectors into toolpaths, and controller software to feed the toolpaths to the CNC. Vectric.com's Cut2D should have enough cad/cam features for what you described. There are many other options out there.
 

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David - Machinist in wood
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I don't think the software is hard to use, James. Does that budget include software? A CNC machine in that price range is not going to be very robust or rigid.
 

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If men's shed could get a MACH3 system, there will be a lot of things that can be done without having to buy expensive software.
1. The free MACH3 Wizards or low-priced Newfangled Solution Wizards are very handy to do a lot of stuffs.
You can even use the "COPYCAT" wizard on the machine itself to vectorize live objects or a photograph like what expensive "Logic trace 2022" is doing.
2. Try FREEWARE from Scorch Works
F-Engrave: Dmap2Gcode: G-Code Ripper: used together can do things that even expensive software cannot do.
3. Freeware INKSCAPE is very powerful and it can also generate g-code directly.
4. Learn G-code programming directly instead of being sucked/deceived into dependence on EXPENSIVE Vectric or Autodesk or other CAD/CAM software. Download or buy Peter Smid's "CNC Programming Handbook" and use free VISUALISER g-code editor called "NC Corrector".
 

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Expectation management is key.

You are losing bed size, speed, some accuracy repeatability, and potentially power based on the size of router or spindle the the machine will accept but on the other hand it would still open up a lot of capability in a smaller form factor.

These type of machines are NOT built for production but for hobby they may be adequate based on expectations.

CAD basics doesn't take a ton of time to pick up but there are a bunch of options out there so it will take different times based on what is picked.

I have limited experience with CAM (I've only played with VCarve a little) so others can talk to the learning curve there.

So if expectations are appropriate on what these machines are capable, I personally, don't see why not.

I had friends that used these types of machines to make and sell custom cutting boards.
 

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@jw2170

Go for 6040 with Water-cooled spindle like this (brand new USD800 so for USD500 you can get a used one)
Output device Font Gadget Home appliance Gas


I can donate a fully activated I5 Windows XP/Win7 PC & a Xbox360 games controller for you to run MACH3 (sorry won't ship any monitor).
You will need to pay for a legal MACH3 license.

I will help you to change the X-axis and Y axis around so that X-axis is the longer axis (X=600, Y=390 Z=120 instead)..
With F-engrave+ G-Code Ripper software YOU will be able make huge & heavy Wooden/plastic/Aluminum Signs up to1.5 feet wide of ANY LENGTH by shifting the workpiece and engraving about 2 feet at a time. Just need in-feed and outfeed support plus an fixed index hole drilled on the machine.
Can't do that when people are deceived by those expensive CAD/CAM software that ALWAYS limit your workpiece size.
 

· Official Greeter
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for the replys.

I agree, and understand, that a machine of that entry level may be lacking.

It will be used for hobby woodworking only.

If I use it, at this stage, it would only to be to make router templates.

I will advise the President about the software requirements, if he decides to go ahead.

At this point, I doubt it will be used often enough to make a valid purchase....

There are very few router users in the shed. Mainly edge trimming.
 

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Regarding many of the replies above, what is the reason the lasers were not getting used? Is it possible it's because of things mentioned - the complexity of operating the system?

The complexity of learning to use one aside, I think lasers are worth their weight in gold. One of the first things I'd be doing is, making heavy Mylar templates, for example. The other first thing I'd be doing is, etching things I'd made.
 

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Regarding many of the replies above, what is the reason the lasers were not getting used? Is it possible it's because of things mentioned - the complexity of operating the system?

The complexity of learning to use one aside, I think lasers are worth their weight in gold. One of the first things I'd be doing is, making heavy Mylar templates, for example. The other first thing I'd be doing is, etching things I'd made.
IMHO
Low powered lasers can only do engraving or cut very thin materials. Can't cut thick materials.
Scroll saws can cut 2" thick. Same with manual routers or CNC routers. Table saws 3"-4" per pass.
Band Saws even thicker.
 

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James,

Hopefully you guys do get one. They can be a ton of fun and don't think a hobby machine can't do some really cool stuff. Signs, plaques, toys, embellishments, appliques, lithophanes, and of course templates.

O
 

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Hi James, Got the S3018($200.00 A) a few weeks ago to fool around with came with candle, I haven,t used candle as i tried out Easel and played around with the trial version for free.
I busted a small screw box, one of the cheap plastic type so thought i would have a crack at making one so i could use the draws again.
This is what the front turned out like using easel after the trial period ran out and they closed off a few of the things the program can do. I used 4mm perspex ,not perfect but it will do the job.
It has 300x,180y,z40 mm so i had to move the job back on the table to be able to finish routing the whole of the pattern. If I was to replace this machine I would definitely go for a larger table and a
more powerful motor.
Rectangle Grey Wood Gas Composite material
Rectangle Grey Wood Gas Composite material
 
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I wouldn't recommend men's shed buy the 3018 (30cmx18cm) GBRL based CNC "engraver cutting" machine (price only AUD200-300).
Those are not even called "CNC routers".
Spindle is 200W-500W DC motor with 5mm shaft.

I do play with GRBL 1.0 and GRBL1.1 with Candle and UGS. The main problem is that the Arduino Chip ( ATmega328 with 32 KB of Flash and 2 KB of RAM, running at 16 MHz) used by GBRL has so little RAM and is so slow that capability is limited.
The ARM CPU version of GBRL is NOT used in the 3018 "engraver cutting" machine.

(MACH3 license once bought can be used to run more than 1 machine if owner is the same.)
 

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What are the specs on the lasers? I may be able to help if you want to get rid of them.
In my past life as a cad designer, I've created 1,000's files to be used with lasers and cnc's, so I may be able to help with programming tips as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks for the offer @jdykstr11_3214 , but the machines are in Sydney Australia...

I would need to look further into the brand/model of the laser cutters.
 

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James, One point in relation to low end CNC 'routers' that I have seen quite often is people mentioning the actual cut time for jobs, often as a consequence of a failure somewhere part way through.
I'm in Aus also, and a lot of Mens Sheds operate for five or six hours one or two days a week. I figure it's one thing to do a 30 hour cut at home where you can monitor regularly, but it might vary from impractical to virtually impossible if people only have short term access to the shed a couple of days a week, I can't see a shed being happy to leave a machine running in the background if the shed is inaccessible for a couple of days. Your shed may be much more active than the ones I have lived near over the years, which would partially negate the issue.

As a general rule with CNC machinery, performance costs money, and the truly base level ebay special models seem to have issues just running reliably, let alone doing intricate work that takes some time. I was spoiled, as my CNC router experience was 4 years operating an industrial machine that had a 14 tool tool changer, 8ft+ x 6ft+ vacuum bed, a 10 HP spindle and 1HP AC servo motors for the transport mechanism. That machine could process an 8x6 board into 20 cabinet parts that were ready for edge banding and assembly in under 10 minutes, providing every feature that was required for the finished cabinets, such as all hardware holes, screw pilot holes for assembly, two pass cutting cycles etc. That's a long way beyond machines with 40w stepper motors with limited torque and speed and spindles or DC motors pretending to be spindles that are well under 1HP and often speed limited also.
 

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Take the plunge and give it a go. You will enjoy it. Don't go cheapo and be sorry. Spend some cash and get something that is going to take you on a fun voyage. You can research this by watching Vectric movies on youtube on how to design CNC stuff by using their free trial software. The software is key. Buying a CNC is just like buying a table saw you get what you pay for.
 

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I'm also in favor of taking the plunge. You can't imagine what experiences you'll have when you get a CNC to use. I was a competent woodworker and teacher of furniture design who one day on a whim ordered an early CNC Shark from rockler,com. This was before we had CNCs at work. 25 years later I retired with the distinction of having been the CNC wizard in the fab lab where classes were taught. That creative environment led to me finding creative solutions to fabrication challenges with creative clamping of parts within the cutting area of small CNCs.
4D
 

· Official Greeter
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Good point, @malb
I will mention this to the committee...
 
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