Anyone have a tabletop CNC? What are the skills required?

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Prizen

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Hi All

Thinking of getting a CNC, tabletop version budget around 4-6K Euro ( up to c.5K GBP).

I wonder what are the skills required for using it successfully? I have a good IT background, and am reasonably proficient at 3d modelling such as Sketchup.

Secondly, any recommendations for a high quality brand?

Regards
P
 

SkinnyB

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I use Autodesk Fusion 360 for modelling and creating all the tool paths. There is a free version for 'non business' use which has all the features you need. What are you intending to make? If sign making then you should look at V carve too.
 

Westy619

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So I built my own cnc router over lockdown, its a 1500mm x 1000mm machice, aluminium extrusion construction, ballscrews, linear rails, servo motors etc.

The overall process took about 2 years (also had a child during this time which slowed things down!). While I'm not suggesting you do this as well, the mechanical and electrical knowledge I've built up as a result has been really helpful.

The machine and budget really depends on what you are going to use it for. If its just cuts and signage on flat stock material such as ply etc, you could go for a relatively cheap machine and be happy ( Rat Rig KillerBee CNC [Estimated lead time: 8 weeks] - Machine Kits - CNC Machine Kits - 3D Printing & CNC ).

A step up but still in kit form would be something like this from sorotec ( Sorotec Alu-Line ). This will allow you to do more heavy work as well as some light machining with metal should you wish.

I would also check out Jazz CNC, a respected uk based builder. His machines would fall in at the top end of your budget but look very solid and well made. Home | JazzCNC

For software, have a look at fusion 360 (free hobby license but with some limitations on what you can do) and the vectric line of software such as Aspire. I work in IT as well but it was still a big learning curve, anyone can do it though if they put in the time.
 

martin.pearson

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It’ll be for business. Mdf and some hardwoods. Use it for Cabinet doors hopefully

OK in that case you would really be looking at an 8x4 machine so you can fit a full size sheet on which requires quite a bit of space. Yes you can do it on a smaller machine but from what I have read on other forums if this is something that is going to be a regular thing then those that did soon got fed up with the extra work or waste & wished they had bought a bigger machine straight away. You will also probably going to need dedicated cabinet software to produce parts. If it's only for occasional cabinet parts then a smaller machine & some other software might be OK. I probably wouldn't go much below a 4 x 4 foot machine (cutting area) to be able to maximise your sheet goods.
 

Torx

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Have a word with Exel in Burnley, they’re importing some really good machines at decent prices, Mark knows what he’s talking about. Vectric VCarve is a good all round software package to drive them.
 

Ollie78

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I advise you go to MYCNCUK and read some threads on there. There is much focus on building your own machine, which is a good option for saving money, but not for everyone.
However there is a lot of very experienced people who have great advice, they helped me a lot with my machine.

You definitely want ballscrews and profiled linear guides on every axis, as opposed to belt drive and wheels running on aluminium extrusion which is in my opinion madness in a dusty environment. Also a VFD controlled water cooled spindle (probably 2.2kw ) is very superior to any router.
Don`t forget dust extraction, workholding and tooling.

I use UCCNC and a CNCDrive Uc300 eth for machine control, Vcarve Pro for some work (great for v carving and other artistic stuff) and Fusion 360 (for more complex assemlies and sculptural shapes etc.)

As for the discussion of 4x4 vs 8x4 machines. If the mashine has 4ft capacity in width (under the gantry) then longer material can be machined by feeding it through and splitting your cut into parts. I have put 3m stuff in my machine to work on despite it only being 1200 long.

Do your research before putting your hand in your pocket.

Ollie

Ps, for cabinet doors I prefer a spindle moulder or router table, and doing it as a proper frame and panel. I personally dislike the method of cnc routing the face to give the "impression" of a moulded panel construction (the corners look wrong). not sure this is what you were planning but just thought I would mention it. You can do proper joints on a CNC as well but tooling soon gets pricey.
 
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Phuture

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We bult our Ooznest Ox CNC in 2017 and there’s a ton of information I wish I’d known before starting.

I agree with Ollie about ballscrews and linear rails. We went with the cheaper belt and wheel drive and while the belts are arguably accurate enough for most hobbiest work, I’m definitely pushing them to their limits now and am finding that their accuracy is drifting over longer and larger jobs.

I also wish we’d gone for a slightly beefier frame. Our machine uses an aluminium extrusion all round which was fine initially but since we modified the gantry to take thicker stock, the rigidity is only borderline acceptable now.

We also went with a Makita router instead of a proper spindle setup. Again, this was fine initially but a dedicated spindle could have provided more power and would also have been fully controlled by the control board and software rather than relying on being manually turned on/off and setting the speed. The other huge benefit to a proper spindle is that water cooled spindles are a lot quieter than a router (when the CNC has been running for a few hours a quitter spindle is worth its weight in gold).

Dust extraction was another area where we went wrong. Having chosen a Makita router rather than a spindle, there were no off the shelf extraction shoes available (at the time) that would fit and while I’ve 3D printed a ton of things for the CNC, I still haven’t got around to designing and printing a proper dust shoe (nearly 5 years later).

For software, I design everything with SketchUp but only because I’ve been using it for ages. If I was starting again now, I think I’d probably go with Fusion 360. Once I’ve got my design sorted in SketchUp, I then export the files as DXF to Estlcam which creates all of the tool paths and generates the GCode. From what I’ve seen of VCarve, it looks like the best software to go with but as I was very budget constrained, I went with Estlcam (Estlcam: 2D / 3D CAM und CNC Steuerung... I think I paid about £60 for a lifetime license)

We then use a Raspberry Pi running BCNC (free software) to feed the GCode to the CNC and control it. I’m sure there’s probably more feature rich software out there for this but the price tag of free was hard to ignore.

In terms of physical space, our machine is approx. 1000 x 1000mm with a working area of around 750 x 800mm. The length has never been a real constraint as material can be fed under the gantry and out of the other side so I’ve tackled projects that have been just over 2000mm long in the past. To save space in the workshop/garage, the CNC is mounted on a hinged platform so that it takes up as little space as possible when not in use. (pic attached)

Hopefully some of this helps but if you want any other info just let me know.
Dan
 

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Prizen

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Thanks so much. I went to Stoney CNC in Dublin today. Saw their I2R with a water cooled spindle. Looks quite sturdy although it would want to be for over 8k euro. I’d have no doubt that if I went for it, I’d be well supported by Stoney after sales, but I am not sure if it’s good value for money.

A lot appear to be shipped to the UK - anyone have one?
 

Ollie78

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It is probably a decent machine but "value for money" I suspect not the best.
Second hand or build your own is the value for money way.
Many machines are identical. The itech ones Scott and Sargent sell are badged Laguna elsewhere for example, the same as many other woodworking machines made in China and painted different colours.

What matters is not the brand name but the specification, resolution, repeatable accuracy, stiffness, etc .
There are many machines sold as cnc routers that are little more than engraving machines.

Ollie
 

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