I should note that I'm fairly new to machining and any advice is helpful. I'm looking for an easy to use machine that doesn't take much tweaking out of the box. The rf-45 has a speed quite a bit lower than the super x3, is that an issue or will most work be done using lower speeds anyway? I also noticed that the super x3 has a variable speed motor, while you need to change belts on the lathe master.
the rf-45 clone does have more power, something I don't need right now but may in the future. I will be considering converting to CNC a few years down the road.
My budget is about 2000 for mill and tooling, I'm looking for the best machine I can get or that price.
1. What type of metal Aluminum or Steel?
" Speed is a huge issue for most of us using small machines. Most like to work in aluminum and you need quite a bit of spindle speed to get smaller endmills to work properly cutting aluminum."
well, aluminum would be a primary candidate. the machine will be used for prototyping and primarily small (less than 4"x4"x4") pieces. You bring up a good point that I hadn't considered, A lot of what I plan to do will be small detailed parts, this definitely points more towards a higher RPM machine for working with smaller tools.
Currently I'm leaning toward the super x3 because I don't anticipate needing the added power of the lathemaster and the added weight could be an issue. I also like the vast amount of resources online for the popular x3. That will help since I'm beginner.
just barely i learned that there are still some 20% coupons for harbor freight. that means I could get the X3, not the super X3 for 800, thats almost 600 less than the grizzly super x3. I don't think I would utilize the tilting head or the tapping feature. Any thoughts on what to do? if I went HF I could get the mill and tooling for what the mill would cost at grizzly. the only think I think I will miss is the digital readout for RPM and z axis. Please let me know your thoughts. I'm sure there is a lot i haven't considered.
Yes, you can get the HF coupon on page 104 of December Popular Mechanics. Sometimes the HF manager won't allow the coupon for ordered items because it says "in stock" only--You may have to insist and fight to use it. They NEVER have X3 in stock, so it must ALWAYS be ordered.
The main difference between the X3 and SX3 is the BLDC 1 1/3 HP motor. This motor is probably 3 times more powerful than the stock X3 because it electronically adds torque as needed for load and is well worth the extra money. The SX3 has a direct belt drive which is superior to the geared drive of the X3. Simply changing the drive pulley can up speed to 3500 RPM and the motor still has plenty of torque. Also, the head weighs 27 LBs less than stock X3, which helps later for CNC use. The tapping feature is useless, but the SX3 IS easy to use for conventional machining. In general, the grizzly quality and warranty are usually worth more also.
However, the HF X3 is capable of some serious work and is the most-bang-for-buck small mill.
Either mill has a large number of CNC conversions on record, and conversion kits are available.
Neither one can match the travels of the RF-45 clone though.
I would think that going with the X3 would be what you should do. FYI: You will probably find the need to CNC your machine far sooner than you think.
Here's a recent X3 conversion that might interest you:
No. The Super X3 has a completely different head, which contains the BLDC inside. BLDC motors also require expensive electronics to run them, so it's a matched pair. Actually, almost the entire price differential between these two mills is the cost of the better motor/electronics.
ah, good to know. I suppose i'm still on the fence. If it hadn't been for the 200 dollar savings through HF I wouldn't have even considered the X3. but ultimately I'm a beginner and probably will not push the machine to its capacity. Plastics will be my primary medium for machining. I really just want to maximize my dollar when I make this purchase. unfortunately I lack the knowledge and experience to make an educated decision. thanks for your continued input. what other things do I need to consider?