PDA

View Full Version : I'm lost! Please help me choose a machine!



samualt
08-07-2003, 01:59 AM
About me:
I program in C, Perl, VB. I am A+ certified for computers, and have been using computers since before the DOS days. I'm pretty computer savvy. I also can use Paintshop pretty well.
However, I have no experience at all with CNC. I don't know anything about G-code or CNC software. But I learn fast! I also don't mind building kits. I can solder and do whatever is needed to build a kit. But it would have to come with all parts needed.

Wish I had:
1. The Pinnacle M-Series 100 Watt CO2 Laser engraver. $33,000 US.
2. Roland EGX-600. $25,000 US.
These looked like they would do everything I wanted right out of the box. But I don't have that much money. (I can dream can't I.)

What I want it for:
I would like to try my hand at making wood products and selling them them on ebay and at stores. I would like to make tangible products. Everything from ouija boards to pistol grips. It is important for me to be able to do 3d relief as well as burn images on wood. The artist in me is dying to get out! LOL. I would be doing this for a try at a real business, not just a hobby.

Money is the problem:
I don't have allot of money. A few K at most. CNC looks prohibitively expensive. I did find the CheapCNC.com site and it looked interesting. There are also other pretty cheap CNC router machines. Lasers look out of the question. I found one laser kit that costs around $5,000 US. But it didn't look like what I really wanted.


My dumb newbie questions:
1. What exactly is the difference between a router and a mill? They look kind of simular. What would I gain, if anything by getting a mill? The routers look like they will do everything I want them too. Routers look less expensive also.
2. I understand the 3-axis system. (length,width,depth). But what is a 4th and even 5th axis? What does that mean?
3. Are all the cheap CNC machines slow compared to the brand name machines? I would need something that could turn out hundreds of an item. It's not much good if it takes 3 hours to produce a single pair of pistol grips. I'm kind of scared that the cheap CNC machines are just not rugged enough or fast enough to use in a business.
4. I'm supposing there is no way for a router to engrave images (like gray scale or black-n-white). Is this correct? If there is, how does it work? I thought routers could only remove wood.
5. On that last note, is there any way to have a router cut the Z-axis (depth) using a bitmap where light or dark determines depth? Just wondering.
6. Can anyone recommend some very user friendly CNC software? I figure I want to spend more time being artistic than to worry about nitty gritty g-code programming and the like.
7. Can any of you recommend a good inexpensive CNC Router or CNC Laser?

Thanks for any information. I guess I'm less than a newbie because I don't even have a machine yet. Any comments, suggestions, or advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

Klox
08-07-2003, 03:32 AM
Samualt,
All I can say is that a mill would be more rigid than a router (especially when you consider machining metal). On the other stuff i'm not going to make statements of things i don't know much about. You can consider BobCad however as programming software, but there are other software also to consider..... Guys like Rekd, Huflungdung, CadCAM, Woodknack,WMS, CAMmando etc knows alot more than me on this specific topic and would be glad to answer all your queries.

Klox

abasir
08-07-2003, 07:41 AM
On item 5 & 6, checkout ArtCam Pro. It can do what you wanted. Just design the relief or import your image and artcam will process it to G-Code. Don't have the URL but just search it at goggle.

HuFlungDung
08-07-2003, 12:23 PM
Hi Samualt,

Yes you can dream all right, but cnc is going to cost you money. The amount you spend is roughly proportional to what you can earn, if you can keep the work rolling through, and sales right up there with production.

Everyone of us wanted to do everything as cheap as possible at one point. But, cheap usually ends up costing you in downtime, and slow production.

If most of your parts will be 2d or shallow 3d, then I think you would be best to buy or build one of the small routers like the other guys on here and dabble with your projects first. You will learn a lot even with a basic slow machine to know what you need to buy or build if your plans really take off, and if you like running everything

Welcome to real life. :)

chuckknigh
08-08-2003, 01:08 AM
The basic difference between a router and a mill is the level of precision. A mill is a machine on which you can cut metal with thousandth of an inch precision...at least in theory. ;-) A router is something a bit rougher, not quite as well built. It's like the difference between a drill press for wood, and a commercial machine tool. They both drill holes -- one holds its tolerances to a lot closer level. (If you want to adapt a small mill, I've heard good things about Harbor Freight's mini and micro mills, but be warned, their working area is relatively small)

The extra axes have to do with other types of cutting than basic X-Y-Z stuff. Let me try to explain.

If you wanted a ring like in _Lord of the Rings_, where it was engraved *around* the ring, this would be pretty hard to do with an X-Y-Z machine. To do this, successfully, you'd have to *rotate* the ring while doing the engraving.

This is a rotational axis, and is often referred to as a 4th axis.

A 5th axis opens up even more possibilities, like tilting the head. You've seen hand carved wooden tabletops, and that kind of thing, where it's actually *undercut* beneath the leaves? That's the 5th axis...moving the cutter so it's no longer vertical.

You can do all sorts of things with these machines.

I recommend that you design and build your own, if you're even remotely mechanically inclined. A 3 axis machine is pretty simple to design and build. I have built my own (but my electronics aren't finished -- I went the cheap route, and am having troubles) and it's a great learning process. You *understand* what happens with each axis. You will also get all kinds of ideas for your second revision...it's human nature to improve things as they progress!

BTW: The parts for mine have cost around $25 so far, for all the mechanical parts.

If you are the kind who needs plans, I've heard good things about plans from a guy named J.C.Kleinbauer. www.crankorgan.com He builds machines from hardware store components, that are "good enough" for a lot of uses. They cost $30 per plan set, and more than a few people on this forum have machines that are, at least, "inspired" by his designs, including me.

-- Chuck Knight

samualt
08-08-2003, 06:29 AM
Anyone know of any other plans? Most of the plans I see don't look like they have step by step instructions. Blueprints are fine for people who work with them allot, but I need something more.
I also wanted to use something a little more powerful then a Dremal. I think a minumum would be a "Porta-Cable 7310 Laminate Trimmer." Thats what the cheapcnc.com machines use and it looks a bit more stout.

I'm searching all over the web but am finding no free plans and only a few pay-plans. I find lots of pictures of self built machines, but that doesn't help me much really. Guess I'll keep looking.

ger21
08-08-2003, 07:26 AM
Try these:
http://www.shopbottools.com/
http://www.shopsabre.com/

Gerry

ninewgt
08-08-2003, 09:15 AM
Ib ought plans from DATACUT, and MTC...... both good plans - but I ended up making my own design and plans .......

For 3K... Im not sure what to tell you..... I spent about 9 for everything....

andybuch
08-08-2003, 10:15 AM
Originally posted by samualt
Anyone know of any other plans? Most of the plans I see don't look like they have step by step instructions. Blueprints are fine for people who work with them allot, but I need something more.
I also wanted to use something a little more powerful then a Dremal. I think a minumum would be a "Porta-Cable 7310 Laminate Trimmer." Thats what the cheapcnc.com machines use and it looks a bit more stout.

I'm searching all over the web but am finding no free plans and only a few pay-plans. I find lots of pictures of self built machines, but that doesn't help me much really. Guess I'll keep looking.

I built the 4'x4' router table. Great step by step plans. Very easy to build

http://www.machinetoolcamp.com/Configurations.htm

Andy

brucejclarke
06-05-2006, 05:39 AM
hi, I'm a cnc milling programmer, proper mills are solid industrial machines with very sturdy spindle .. we use 120mm tungstan tipped tool and take 10mm cut through cast iron .. heavy, mills are good for cutting metal and can often store many tools. So cnc routers are alot weaker than mills, but good for machining wood, plastic and maybe lighter metalwork. I'm in the UK and want to build a 4x8 machine tool camp kit router.. which I think will be perfect for what you need. I'm having trouble getting their suppliers to ship to the uk!!? so might have to source all the parts:-(.
A 4th axis is an indexing head with a chuck (like on a lathe) but the chuck moves to positions in degrees.. so it could do eg. 6 holes on the outside of a cylinder. 5th axis is when this chuck moves from the horizontal position to 0 - 180 degrees too. (don't think you'll need it). MTC also provide software that will turn a scanned images into lines and arcs (dxf files) which then can be used to create machine tool paths .. so yes you can machine images... it's all on the website. The software is very user friendly. g-codes are simple.. but don't bother with the (good to know tho) the software writes the codeing for you.. all you do is click on the lines/profiles you want machined or areas cleared .. the 'post processor' then creates a 'NC' (numeric control) code that the cnc machine recognizes. There is 3d programming software, but they mostly are compatible with 3d engineering packages... and alot more tricky. I use edgecam, mastercam (very expensive). MTC's deskart seems good for artwork ? I want to give it a try myself.
The only cheap router is the one you build yourself!
http://www.machinetoolcamp.com/Prices.htm .. I have plans, but they seem busy and haven't replied to my e-mails.
Just saw the date you posted 3 years ago .. wow .. oh well

wizard
06-05-2006, 12:14 PM
About me:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>snipped

My dumb newbie questions:
1. What exactly is the difference between a router and a mill? They look kind of simular. What would I gain, if anything by getting a mill? The routers look like they will do everything I want them too. Routers look less expensive also.

Fundamentally a router is just a variant of a vertical mill. It is sometimes a cheaper less stiff machine but that is not always the case. A Planer Mill or Gantry Mill function exactly like a home built router. Yeah the industrial Planer Mill is is heavier and can be used to machine steels, just as often though they are used in the aircraft industry to machine Aluminum and lighter materials.

In the context of this forum a router is usually light duty gantry mill or planner mill with a high speed router spindle. The big difference is in the machinig capabilities.


2. I understand the 3-axis system. (length,width,depth). But what is a 4th and even 5th axis? What does that mean?

It means that you have another axis operating in a different coordinate space. Sometimes the 4th axis is a rotary table sometimes it is a rotary indexer. It could also be in some case another linear axis.

In the end the limitation is often the software. The software needs to know how to handle the axis in question.


3. Are all the cheap CNC machines slow compared to the brand name machines?

It all depends on how much you pay for all of your machine. If you buy everything new it will not be cheap at all.


I would need something that could turn out hundreds of an item. It's not much good if it takes 3 hours to produce a single pair of pistol grips. I'm kind of scared that the cheap CNC machines are just not rugged enough or fast enough to use in a business.

Again it all depends on what you want to do. If a specific item to be machined is such that its machining time is bounded by feedrate, then a cheap mill that can achieve the same feed rate as an expensive mill will pump out parts nearly as fast.

As far as a business goes there are realities that have to be addressed, one off which is afforadability. Lets face it you don't need a lot of machine to do grips for 1911's. What you do need is a fast spindle, reasonable accuracy amd some fixturing. A mill built specifically for this would be affordable and potentially small.


4. I'm supposing there is no way for a router to engrave images (like gray scale or black-n-white). Is this correct?

Not correct at all. You should look around a bit on this site and the net in general. This can be accomplished with a router type machine and a bit fo time.


If there is, how does it work? I thought routers could only remove wood.

Right - so how does one engrave but by removing material. If you are thinking engraving like the scratching done with a vibratory tool that can be done under CNC control also.


5. On that last note, is there any way to have a router cut the Z-axis (depth) using a bitmap where light or dark determines depth? Just wondering.

Yes; see the above response and look around this forum and then the net.


6. Can anyone recommend some very user friendly CNC software? I figure I want to spend more time being artistic than to worry about nitty gritty g-code programming and the like.

It is understandable that you want to get to work producing stuff but that will not eliminate the need to understand G-Code. You certainly don't want to manually program a bit map conversion but you do need to understand G-code - especially if this is a one man endeavor.

As to the term CNC software, I sense a misunderstanding here. The actual machine is run with a program that interpets G-code. One example here is EMC.

The process of generating G-code is done either manually or via other software tools. When software tools are used ot generate G-code it is oftne referred to as CAD/CAM. CAD being used to generate the drawings, CAM taking these drawings and generating G-code files.

Allied with this you have programs that take pictures and produces G-code files for routing. Similarly you may also have software that generates G-code files based on preengineerd parameters often set up to teak a part due to metrology measurements.


7. Can any of you recommend a good inexpensive CNC Router or CNC Laser?

Inexpensive no. If there was such a beast I'd have one my self. You can become very economical building a machine yourself, but this assumes you have the tools and knowledge to do so. This forum and others can help you develop an understanditng of what to is required to go the DIY route.



Thanks for any information. I guess I'm less than a newbie because I don't even have a machine yet. Any comments, suggestions, or advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

You are a newbe because you are just starting to become familiar with the technology. Some of us have spent lifetimes around machine tools and still don't have a CNC machine at home. It is a balancing act to say the least, but not having a machine really doesn't mean much.

The big issue for me and likely you is controlling costs. I've achieved some good results by recovering components from used and junked machines. So I'm getting there. If you are in a hurry unforutunately this technique won't work and you costs then sky rocket. If you are serious about making this a business thuogh you wil need to get into something quick.

For some of those parts you have mentioned a very small machine might be an excellent strting platform. This could be built from the ground up or could be a radical conversion of a small import mill.

What would make a conversion radical is the need for spindle speed when working with wood. There are some options here to give you that speed, all of course add to the price. If you are to maek the grip panels out of various materials you sould end up with the need for a very wide range of speeds at the spindle. A pure router based spindle could end up being to fast.

If you do get your business established you probably should think about a more capable mill such as a HAAS. It all depends on production rates and your wilingness to keep the home built machine going. I did spend a bit of time talkign to someone at CABIN FEVER and he pretty much started his busness this way. That is he started out with a conversion Mill and then expanded into a HAAS. Actually a couple and he now farms some work out. Different industry but the potential is there.

Thanks
Dave

diarmaid
06-05-2006, 12:33 PM
I ordered a set of plans the other day from http://www.solsylva.com/ but I won't comment until I receive them.

Im also a complete cnc newbie so I need instructions aswell as blueprints. Only discovered this site about two or three months ago and I've been harassing everyone with noobie questions ever since :D . Everyones very helpful and as you see above your at the right place for advice. When the plans arrive I'll let u know if they are any good.

Im going to build a small router first for the experience and to gain the required knowledge for a bigger machine. Im going to use as many parts as possible (e.g: Larger motors than necessary for the small machine) that I can strip at a future date to build my bigger machine. Im also looking at production on a limited startup budget.]

L8rs.

:)

chuckknigh
06-05-2006, 02:57 PM
There are a number of plansets online, depending on what you want to do.

Free -- JGRO plans, on this site. They build a nicely sized router that is well thought out.

PAID -- SOLSYLVA plans, designer frequents this site. The fully supported side rails are a nice touch, but I know of noone who has actually built this machine and posted it. They look really good, though.

PAID -- KLEINBAUER plans, designer isn't on this site. John Kleinbauer has a number of easy to build designs, most of which are designed to be built (mechanicals only) for under $100. His designs inspired most of the machines you see here.

Hope this gives you a starting point.

-- Chuck Knight

Bruggles
06-05-2006, 09:42 PM
One thing to keep in mind, a mill is not better than a router! They are different machines for different purposes. A good router can cut wood way faster than a mill, because the rapids are close to the same, but the spindle can spin between 20 and 30 thousand rpm, so the actual feeds used will be much higher than what you could do with a mill (very nice mills spindles spin at around 15000 max) If you are carving with a tiny v bit you will probably want to go even faster than 30000 rpm. The point is, there is a correct tool for every job, a mill can do the work of a router, but not as well, not to mention the fact that a mill that cuts 4x8 sheet of plywood is going to cost a ton, (I don't know if you are interested in such things or not). Mills just aren't made for wood/foams and certain other materials. However, a router can't even come close to the performance of a mill with steels and other ferrous materials, and generally mills are much more accurate. If you really got going with your buisness you could look into something like a thermwood, their capabilities are amazing in wood.

CanSir
06-06-2006, 12:22 AM
If you have some bucks and are in a hurry, buy:

Joe2000che's pre-cut parts ($700 + shipping) http://www.cnczone.com/forums/showthread.php?t=15139
Hitachi 12VS router ($110)
hobbycnc 3-axis 200oz kit ($231)
pipes, nuts, bolts, transformer, router bits, etc. ($200)
Mach3 ($150)
VCarve Wizard ($500)
Old version of CorelDraw off eBay ($20)

$2000 should just about cover it all and then it's just a matter of spending a weekend or two assembling it. You'll still need an old 1.5Ghz PC as well, but maybe you have one kicking around already?

Two grand isn't cheap in my books, but if you're in a hurry and want something that's pretty much a bolt together then this is the best route I can suggest. This machine is not going to stand up to commercial use, but it should give you a lot of good service as you develop prototypes and test the waters for marketing your products. You may eventually decide to just develop prototypes using this machine and then farm out the tediuos task of actual production of your products to a comercial outfit.

Good luck!

CanSir
06-06-2006, 12:34 AM
Oops - I forgot the ShopVac. Dust control is crucial as these things turn a 400 cubic inch piece of MDF into a 1600 cubic inch mountain of superfine dust!

diarmaid
06-09-2006, 03:06 PM
Hi samualt,
Im not sure if the previously mentioned plans are any use to you as I re-read your first post and see you want a kit with all parts included, but heres my contribution anyhow.

I received David Steel's router plans this week. If you take out the public holiday they took 4 days to arrive to Ireland from the USA in perfect condition. That was very quick.

They consist of a wire bound 100pg manual, divided into one section each for the larger machine, and the smaller machines. I haven't read through it all in detail yet but from what I did read it is extreamly easy to understand and follow. There are copious amounts of diagrams and photos of each stage of the building process. The components are all listed and described at the beginning of each section, and are easily accessible and can be bought online or in most hardware stores. I think I could actually build the table in about three weeks part time if I get all the required parts up front. Obviously thats not including training myself in its efficient operation once built, but that will undoubtedly come with use.

One concern I have is that the table uses either a dremel or trim router in the plans, so Im not sure how it would handle my intended 2 1/4 Hp DeWalt. But I'll cross that bridge when it comes, this is a proof of concept build for me to learn cnc basics, not a permanent model. The plans only cost $25, and I can say without a doubt that it is an absolute bargain. They are so clear and concise, and any other plans online I've seen are from $100 upwards. If nothing else, it was worth paying the $25 simply for the construction information to clear up the process and components in my mind. I was worried that because they were so cheap they may have been pretty crap, but they are really excellent. I'd reccommend them to any newbies, even if the designs are not a suitable size for your intended first build, just for the basics before paying more money for other plans. Consider them a valuable addition to your workshop library. They are great.

Im going to read through in detail, and then I may alter the plans and go straight to building my bigger machine, but I'll wait and see. I certainly feel more confident about the project now.

( Usual disclaimer: I have no affilliation to Sosylva or David Steel. I only found a link to these plans two weeks ago on this site. )

Halfnutz
06-09-2006, 08:07 PM
I think the best example of a CNC router that can be built by the above average DIY is the K2CNC site. They are straight forward proven systems that can be copied or modified fairly easily. I built my router just by copying from the pictures on their site.

"Lots of", "CNC" ,"fast", and "inexpensive" can not be used in the same sentance logically. The terms do not work together. The only thing you can effectively do with a CNC machine that didnt cost some money to make would be engraving or slow wood and foam or plastic carving.

Dont get me wrong, if you want to engrave or cut wood, foam and plastic slowly, then there are some great plans, like the ones that have been mentioned, that can be used to build a "relatively" inexpensive machine that is fine for the guy that wants to make a sign a day or a pistol grip or two a day. Your still talking hundreds of dollars and they will not produce anything fast, and/or all day long. I would encourage you to learn what your getting into by this route as a matter of fact, before you take out a second mortgage.

If you want to make hundreds of 3D pistol grips daily, I think a minimum of ten grand is a good ballpark to start at.

Today I spent allmost 200.00 on the wire and connectors for PART of a machine I'm working on. CNC is expensive if you want to go fast and produce lots of parts. But its a great hobby and /or livelyhood. Go ahead and set a reasonable budget, like 500 or 1000 dollars and get started, build a little hobby machine and go from there.

Good luck and have fun!