Or you can leave the bed intact and cut or carve the same sort of things 99% of the rest of the CNC owners out there cut. Add your own router or a true spindle.
You'll only need some software to generate the g-code for the CNC. Fusion 360 is free for hobbyists (at least for now). I prefer VCarve Pro or the more expensive Aspire from vectric.com You might be able to get away with just Cut2D from them if all you want to do is cut out simple shapes.
As 4d points out it would help to know what type of projects you want to work on.
Will this be just a hobby machine or will you be using it for production work later? Is this just a big boy's toy or do you want to make money with it?
How much room do you have in your shop? Remember a CNC will not replace the tools you already have it is just one more tool to use when it is the correct tool for the job.
Do you have 220v power available? You might need it if you want to use a spindle instead of a router. Some systems require it for the entire system.
What kind of materials do you want to cut?
It is really hard to say which one would be a good fit without questions like this answered. We can make all kinds of recommendations without your answers but they would be based on the machine we would want in our shop to cut the projects we want to make from materials we would use, in the space we have available and if we have required power available.
Thanks MEBCWD for your post.
Although I mostly do woodworking as a hobby I do make a few bucks here and there. I recently retired and have more time to spend in my shop. I think a cnc would expand my capabilities as woodworker for hobby and making money. Although making money with it is not a priority. My shop is a decent size so room isn't too much of an issue. I have 220 power if needed but Im not leaning that way. I would like to make what ever the cnc will let me once I get a handle on it. ( plaques,signs,inlays etc,,,) As for materials it would be mostly wood but wouldn't mind trying other material like plastic and soft metals. As I said in my original post I am new to cnc routing and figured I should ask those of you who know about cnc machines so I can hopefully get it right when I do buy one. Right now Im looking at the X-Carve and the Shepeoko brands although its not set in stone on those. MEBCWD and 4D I appreciate your input. MEBCWD I liked your quote at the end of your post. Maybe that will be my first cnc plaque project..lol
A CNC router, is just a tool, or I should say, part of a tool. It needs software to become a complete tool. A big part of using a CNC effectively is learning how to design the projects you wish to carve. Fortunately, this is something you can experiment with for free, without buying a machine. Vectric has free demos you can download of its software that you can use to design projects to see how you like that portion of using a CNC. They also have lots of tutorials available. From the manufacturers of the x-carve and the shapeoko are other software choices, Easel and Carbide Create. These are a little more basic, but are sufficient for many, and I believe they are free.
Finally, there is Fusion 360 from Autodesk. It is a full 3D solid modeling program. Not as easy to use for the “artistic” type designs (but you can get there), but really nice if you want to design a full piece of furniture made up of lots of pieces, or a jig, a wood gear clock (and be able to animate it!) or even layout your shop. Then it allows you to CAM, or create the g-code file you need to run on your CNC. Luckily, it is free for hobbyists, startups or students.
To get the most out of a CNC you need to be able to create your own designs. I see people on some of the Facebook groups asking for someone to give them things like “can anyone send me g-code for a 4 inch square” or “who has the file for this” and showing a very unique one of a kind antique carving. Designing and creating your own artwork and creating the g-code is a big part of using a CNC. Make sure you enjoy this before you spend on the hardware.
Be very careful about buying a Xcarve or Shapeoko. They are both drastically underpowered and not very rigid. Rigidity is one of the most important factors in a CNC. If it's not rigid, you cannot get repeatability in your carve. I gave away my Xcarve 1000 after a lot of frustration. The gantry flexed so much, cuts were not reproducible. It only worked when I made lots of minute passes.
The best words: Buy your second machine first. I bought a Axiom AR8 Pro+, and couldn't be more pleased. Probotix and CNC Router parts are worth looking at. Plan on something with a spindle, routers aren't made for CNC.
I agree fully with gkas, buy a good machine first or you will buy twice. I got my Laguna IQ setup back in April and absolutely love this machine. However, the price was 6k plus the extra collets and bits I got were around $500. Plus building the heavy duty cabinet to set it on. One thing for sure, this machine is heavy weighing in at over 400lbs. so you need a way to lift it to a table or in my case I dismantled the machine to the frame and carted it to my basement. Yes, dismantled a 6k machine that was shipped assembled. Take lots of pictures. I like the solid machine and have the water cooled spindle which is very quiet.
I have a woodworking shop in my basement and also program CNC machines for a living so decided it was time to get one for myself. I didn't have any trouble but software and programming to newbies can be intimidating but there's plenty of youtube videos and forums to help with projects and getting things going. Good luck in your decision.
Sorry I haven't got back earlier but have been away from my computer yesterday trying to solve problems on a customer's machine, then important play time with the great-granddaughters.
I completely agree that it would be best to stay away for the cheap cnc machines just to save money. In the long run you are wasting your money because you will have to design your project and toolpaths based on the looseness of the CNC and that makes it take longer for projects to be cut with less accuracy and repeatability. That might be so frustrating that you will give up entirely and want to sell the machine. These cheap CNCs have little resale value and end up taking space in your shop or you just give it away.
You might also realize that you like CNC and want a better machine. Don't count on selling the cheap machine to help fund the new one.
I am looking for a new machine right now because I have pushed the cheap hobby machines I have to their limits and know a good machine would make a world of difference in my projects as far as quality and time savings. So I have done the research for you into the cheap machines and am here to save you some frustration to start with.
Get a good machine first so you are not fighting a poorly designed and built CNC, you will have enough on your plate learning the software and how to run your system. Get good design software and take time to learn how to use it. You said space is no problem so don't talk yourself into a desktop size machine. If you feel comfortable putting a kit together then you can save money and have a better machine that might be expandable later like the CNC RouterParts kits.
Big thing is take your time and look around for a good machine. You will be much happier in the end.
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