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  • CNC for beginners

    I am in the market for a 4x4 or a 2x8 cnc machine.

    I have NO CLUE what I am getting myself into I would want to know the known pitfalls and what I should be looking for when looking for a CNC machine.

    I am not afraid of building the thing myself and I have never been afraid of electronic work in general. I am NOT a programmer so something that accepts user friendly programs would be nice and what are those user friendly programs named.

    Where can I find open source G-code and the like.


    Feel free to add your own questions if you have some. The more questions and answers on this subject the better.
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  • #2

    Re: CNC for beginners

    https://forum.canadianwoodworking.co...affordable-cnc

    Here is a thread in the CNC forum (under the Power Tools Forum on here) from last fall in regards to somebody else looking for a CNC. There might be some older threads in there as well with the same type of discussion. Some good information in there and maybe not a lot has changed. I still support the Workbee as it is the one I use and am happy with it although it sounds like the current situation with Covid has driven shipping prices way up if you buy through Bulkman 3D which is what I did. That may make other options from Canada and US more attractive price wise. A lot also depends on the size you want.

    In regards to software I have Vetric and really like it and I had no experience prior to buying my Workbee. The bigger question is what are you planning to do with it which will dictate size you need as well as software you need and in turn budget you need.
    Jamie www.turneddesignsbyjamie.etsy.com

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    • #3

      Re: CNC for beginners

      I think that the first question to ask is how much is your budget. Then fit the CNC into your budget.
      Are you planning to put out some signs, one off parts or small production pieces; or are you planning on doing full cabinets from sheets of plywood.
      G-Code based or Mach3? GCode is more hobbies based while Mach3 leads toward more industrial.

      This is a fairly new home-hobbiest (G-Code) machine, based out of Ontario.
      30”x30” Gcode based Sienci
      From there, your budget can shoot to $5000 easy.

      Remember also, that like all woodworking tools, a big chunk of the cost is in the add-ons and bits

      Darrin

      Timber Elegance
      My Etsy Store

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      • #4

        Re: CNC for beginners

        Budget is pretty important as well as making a list of things you want to do on it. Is it for hobby or for business?

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        • #5

          Re: CNC for beginners

          Step 1, budget. 2x8 would be a custom build. 2x3, and 4x4 tables are made by Cammaster, Shop Sabre, and Shopbot (I own a shop sabre). If those are too expensive, you will be looking at a home built machine. There are many other entry level brands, but I am not too familiar with them. Keep in mind, all CNC's are not created equal.

          Most machines come with Vectric or another cheap program that looks after gcode. I would not stress about that much. So long as you can read and understand a manual you will figure that out along the way.

          Here is a recent survey of machine ownership by CNC Cookbook: https://www.cnccookbook.com/cnccookb...NCRouterSurvey

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          • #6

            Re: CNC for beginners

            Originally posted by Brad805 View Post
            Step 1, budget. 2x8 would be a custom build. 2x3, and 4x4 tables are made by Cammaster, Shop Sabre, and Shopbot (I own a shop sabre). If those are too expensive, you will be looking at a home built machine. There are many other entry level brands, but I am not too familiar with them. Keep in mind, all CNC's are not created equal.

            Most machines come with Vectric or another cheap program that looks after gcode. I would not stress about that much. So long as you can read and understand a manual you will figure that out along the way.

            Here is a recent survey of machine ownership by CNC Cookbook: https://www.cnccookbook.com/cnccookb...NCRouterSurvey
            Cammaster, shop sabre and shopbot are all industrious machines. They are workhorses. ABSOLUTELY NO COMPARISON to hobby machines like the xcarve, shapeoko, Sienci and others. The pricing reflects this. The cheapest Cammaster for example is almost $7,000 USD.

            How do you like your shop sabre Brad? I'm considering upgrading mine (a cncrouterparts machine). What size table do you have?

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            • #7

              Re: CNC for beginners

              It's funny that people say don't stress about software. Software is what runs the machine. It's important and user friendliness is important for me.

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              • #8

                Re: CNC for beginners

                Depending on the route you go, mach3/4 control software will be $200 USD. Vectric Aspire design Software (some of the best in the industry) is $2000 USD.

                Comment


                • #9

                  Re: CNC for beginners

                  Message me any questions you want. I purchased a Shapoko xxl in October, never saw a cnc before. Put it together and learned the software and producing quality signs,plaques and games.
                  sigpic

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                  • #10

                    Re: CNC for beginners

                    Originally posted by bogmer View Post
                    It's funny that people say don't stress about software. Software is what runs the machine. It's important and user friendliness is important for me.
                    Its not that its not important, but more that it is a separate discussion. The X-Carve that I own, is "run" by their program Easel. But in reality, easel is simply a design program that will then convert the design into G-Code. It then sends the G-Code to the controller.
                    There are a lot of programs that can take the place of the design side. Vectric VCarve is one. I purchased VCarve Pro, which will do almost all the designing I need. It can't do true #d design, but it can work with true 3D files. The main difference with Aspire, is that it can do true 3D design and costs 3 times as much.
                    V-Carve also converts the design into the G-Code required for the X-Carve to understand. It uses a driver for this, kind of like printer drivers in the old days. As far as I understand, it can output for any GCode based machine out there. I am not sure about Mach3/4.
                    Finally it also includes a sender that can talk directly to the machine.

                    There is other software out there, that will also work to varying degrees, and cost from free to thousands. Basicly, you are not necessarily stuck with the software that comes with the machine. This is why people say that the software is not as important, because it is relatively easy to change. Kind of like the blade that comes with a tablesaw.


                    Peter in Maple Ridge likes this.
                    Darrin

                    Timber Elegance
                    My Etsy Store

                    Comment


                    • #11

                      Re: CNC for beginners

                      Peter, the brands I mentioned are starting to be in the industrial range, but not quite there. I would not play around with some of the other brands, but I am fussy. I would like a CR Onsrud or Biesse next, but it will be a few years and new shop space. My shop sabre is a 4x8 machine. I bought an RC8. I am a bit too concerned about accuracy, so I regret not going with the Pro408 they just started making at the time I bought. I would like the accuracy of servos and smaller steps. All in all my machine it is well built. I had some teething problems, but that is fairly common with any of these machines.

                      You can see all the different homebuilt machines on the CNC forum. How well they work will depend on how good you are with electronics and how careful you are with making sure things are square. Each little 0.025" error in square or level adds up, and eventually your machine will not cut very well. If you are looking for around 0.025" part cut accuracy, fairly basic metal work skills will suffice. If you are looking for better, and you want a larger machine, it becomes much trickier to build. If I were building my own I would go with Centroid's Acorn controller. It is very cost effective and offers some notable improvements over Mach3.

                      Another option for the frugal is to import a machine from China. I have been told by those doing that one may end up replacing some of the electronics. Alibaba has endless suppliers.

                      I mentioned not too stress about the software because you will not have many options. Good software costs more than any of the machines you are considering. The affordable options are Fusion 360, Vectric or ArtCam. For hobbyist type stuff (small boxes, inlays, carvings..) all these will work as you will find out. There is a learning curve, but most figure it out fine with some basic computer knowledge. Beyond those software options there are many others, but they all start around $10k and go up. My CAM software was $6k USD and the solid modeling package is another $6k. The more you pay the more automated the software is; however, many of the expensive options focus largely on cabinetry for the pro shop.
                      Last edited by Brad805; 05-14-2020, 11:35 AM.

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                      • #12

                        Re: CNC for beginners

                        This is what I am looking at right now. Let me know what pitfalls I am looking forward to???

                        https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B08...1-a65b129fdd73

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                        • #13

                          Re: CNC for beginners

                          Originally posted by bogmer View Post
                          This is what I am looking at right now. Let me know what pitfalls I am looking forward to???

                          https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B08...1-a65b129fdd73
                          I am not an expert. The machine looks solid.
                          It says that it is 4-axis, but there does not appear to be a 4th axis, just 4 motors (1-Z, 1-X, 2-Y). I am assuming this, as you can’t see the 4th motor in the photo.
                          It does not include the spindle.
                          It does not seem to any include any software at all. But make sure to note, it is a GRBL machine, not Mach3.

                          A big question will be, what is the quality of the controller?
                          Darrin

                          Timber Elegance
                          My Etsy Store

                          Comment


                          • #14

                            Re: CNC for beginners

                            I think you are about a month away from landing on any suppliers. You should start by researching the project and making sure you are up to the job. A kit is one thing, but doing all the programming, assembling, mounting switches and wiring is another. Any CNC is quite complicated electrically, and the kit will be just an bunch of parts that roughly do the job. I recommend you do a deep dive into research on the CNC Forum (https://www.cnczone.com/forums/). There are endless options of different home built solutions there where the builders have documented every step. It takes some sifting to find one you like, but it will be worth it. Keep in mind that a poorly built DIY model can end up being worth nothing more than what you might get for the parts. Start with 3 axis.

                            Things I would consider:
                            1. Controller. I would not use Mach3 or 4. Go read about the Centroid Acorn: https://www.centroidcnc.com/centroid...ontroller.html. Gary Campbell has a good video showing a side by side comparison of the difference between the Acorn and a shop bot here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUeE23IrZkk The Acorn controller is not expensive, and is very popular. They have a very active DIY group as well on their site.
                            2. How fast do you want to cut? Little steppers are geared way down so you can cut with them. Doing so, slows them down. I am sure the driving factor behind the 4x4 size is you want to cut plywood sheets, but keep in mind if your machine can only cut at 20-40 ipm, it will could take 10min to traverse a single loop around a 4' square sheet. If you were cutting 3/4" ply the cut depth will likely be less than 1/4", so it could take 30min to cut down a sheet. How useful is that? I cut at 250ipm and that is very slow compared to real machines. I am not sure how useful the 4x4 table will be to cut plywood.
                            3. Ponder what you want to make. I don't see this being overly useful for building boxes if you have a table saw.
                            4. Your budget will mean you are limited to using a router for the spindle. The porter cable router seems the prevalent option. I suppose you could import a water cooled spindle from China, but beware. An HSD spindle is not in your budget.
                            5. Watch some of Gary's videos. He has many examples of machines he has retrofitted. He builds very neat controller boxes and you will be able to see how it all looks inside the case you will need to build.
                            6. Here is some blog information that might be interesting: CNC Basics: http://www.hainesengineering.com/rha...nfo_basics.htm :Plan for Wood CNC: http://www.hainesengineering.com/rha...c/cnc_info.htm
                            7. Consider the different stepper options and drive assemblies. The kit may seem nice, but most are just an assembly of imported parts you can get from any number of suppliers.
                            8. I would draw up a plan of the CNC. There will be lots of decisions along the way, and a decent plan of attack at the start can save some expense.

                            Good luck.
                            Last edited by Brad805; 05-15-2020, 12:00 PM.

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                            • #15

                              Re: CNC for beginners

                              Originally posted by darrin1200 View Post

                              I am not an expert. The machine looks solid.
                              It says that it is 4-axis, but there does not appear to be a 4th axis, just 4 motors (1-Z, 1-X, 2-Y). I am assuming this, as you can’t see the 4th motor in the photo.
                              It does not include the spindle.
                              It does not seem to any include any software at all. But make sure to note, it is a GRBL machine, not Mach3.

                              A big question will be, what is the quality of the controller?
                              I have no clue about CNC machines... I want to get into this part of woodworking. I don't want to end up having a 20 000$ machine that will sit collecting dust and yeah that 4th axis is really confusing me too.

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