So I'm interested in getting a dekstop CNC. Primarily, I'll be making small aluminum parts, and maybe very thin steel parts---think camera modification and RC car parts. I also want to have the 4th axis, at least as an option. As a secondary goal, I would also like to make ``free form'' 3D shapes; that is, curvy blob-like shapes of aluminum and plastic/foam.
I'm not really interested in building my own CNC; I'd rather get one ready to go and start using it. I've done enough hand machining to know that I don't like it, and I need to get this up and running quickly for a project.
I saw the thread on the guy who wanted ``all the desktop mills'' (http://cnczone.com/forums/showthread...light=benchtop) but he chose the Grizzly pretty quickly and that became very specific fast.
As an example of price range and size, I have two mills to consider: the X2 CNC kit from SYIL, and the MaxNC 10 CL-EC
both of which have 4th axis capability.
I have not found much information on the MaxNC's, and what I saw in this forum didn't look promising; it doesn't seem people trust them much. The Syil is chinese; I guess in the end every component is made in china but I would feel better if at least some of the heavy stuff was made here.
Aside from moral issues, the MaxNC has only two advantages I can see:
1. It has a closed loop system. Seems to me that this would be really useful in a small mill that may get ``stuck'' somewhere.
2. The built-in computer seems like a better idea than getting an old lump running DOS to run the machine.
The Syil, aside from looking much nicer, has software (in the package) for going straight from CAD to program (ala Gibbs CAM, I suspect). This Bob CAD/CAM seems to cost as much as the machine! I suppose the version included by SYIL is limited somehow, but it's better than nothing. Also, the package seems to be ``ready to go'' with it having the vise, etc.---though LittleMachineShop is here in Pasadena so I could get that stuff pretty quick. The MaxNC is much less clear about the software included, but I suspect if it's CNC from the factory it at least comes with controller software.
So now the series of questions:
1. Is closed loop really worth it? Obviously any stepper big enough will never slip so there's no need for encoding.
2. If you don't get something like Bob CAD/CAM, how do you go from SolidWorks to program? A brief overview-style tutorial would be nice, if someone can provide it.
3. It seems to me that other mills around this size/price look like three traverses tied together with a bracket and a drill chuck on one of them. What other machines are there out there for less than, say, $4k?
4. Is there anything else that I missed? Sometimes feature lists discuss interpolation schemes, simultaneous multi-axis movement, etc., but this all seems to me to be obvious; that is, any CNC should have such capabilities. Should I be more careful?
Any suggestions would be appreciated.