Buy a ShopBOT with a 5HP spindle for $16K. It'll probably cost you more to do it yourself.
Basically the story is this:
I work in our family-owned sign shop, pretty traditional cabinets neon pole signs channel letters etc etc. We're small but feisty and have cultivated a great reputation locally over the three years we've been in business for ourselves.
But we're still small-time, and we want to fix that. Last year I talked the owners into purchasing a professional router to help achieve this end. I tried to push the DIY option, but with our limited experience in the CNC area, it was decided that we would buy professional so we would have access to such things as training and warranty and standardized product.
Of course Murphy's Rule came into effect the instant the check cleared for the nearly 60K the machine cost. Our salesman had to take an extended leave to take care of some personal affairs, leaving the other three of us to bumble about learning about sales from a hands-on perspective. We had little idea of how sales worked, and less about selling or even pricing router work.
The full on-site software training never came through, only a few minutes' introduction. We ended up having to settle for over the phone and email input, and all the way through it we barely made it work enough to cut out some letters and such after ruining an embarrasingly expensive amount of product. But word was getting around that we had a router and we got more and more calls for work, slowly but steadily.
But then, several important large sales fell through with no full-time salesman to maintain them, and we were forced to sell the machine for half of what we'd bought it for just over three months earlier, with less than ten hours total running time on it. More jobs over a long period of time couldn't defray the investment cost in time to save it, sadly.
Now, months later, I still bring up the CNC as a tool to empower our company, but the experience has left a bad taste in the mouth of the folks that write my checks. Not that I blame them. Losing so much money is a painful lesson, but I don't think we should let it stop us from taking advantage of what could propel us into financial security (I should also mention here that aside from financial security, I would love nothing more than to have unrestricted access to a powerful routing device for my own nefarious hobby purposes) in much less time than the standard way of doing things.
I have, however, convinced them to give me a chance to put together a theoretical machine to show them plans and such of. It has been made known to me that cost will be the biggest factor in the debate.
We were entirely pleased with the table itself. Multicam makes a gorgeous and sturdy machine, and the 3000 Series is proof of that. And it's the benchmark for which we'll be holding this new machine to.
The software, however, left something to be desired. From what we could gather, many of the problems we were having could have been attributed to the software being the last version before a full total upgrade to a new version and that there were bugs still being worked out. We're not sure.
Having the on-site software training would have likely helped.
I'm sure that given more time, we would have been able to work out the software issue altogether, as Multicam did make effort to send us an upgrade and provide us with tech suppourt over the phone and email.
But for all intensive purposes, the software for the new machine is entirely open.
Now, to the meat of this thread (yes, I type a lot, and I've probably lost most of you out of boredom by now but please bear with me.).
I need to acquire, design, or purchase plans for a robust CNC router that meets or exceeds these design specifications:
5X10' Available Working space.
3-Axis movement with Z-motion of at least 8" tool plunge (the more plunge, the better, but I know that once you reach a certain point, your bit will be wobbling too much to make it worth your while so I'll settle for what I can get)
Upgradeability of future additional axises(sp?) to true 3-D sculpting capability achieved through modular design.
Pod-style vaccum hold-down system which can be easily disengaged and covered with a porous sacrificial board for use with projects such as sheet metal routing.
Vaccum pumps or motors to handle the workspace of the full 5X10 if needs be. I'm thinking of using multiple vaccuum motors salvaged from vaccuum cleaners rather than one main pump, the idea being that these motors are cheaper and more replaceable, and I won't have to worry about dust getting into them.
Chip evacuation boot and system. We're designing a DIY system like the Tempest we had with the old router because it worked very well. We're going to use PVC piping as much as we can, however, since our old system was almost totally the ribbed flex-piping and cut our vaccuum pressure and made it easier for chips and dust to build up in the ribs. We'd keep the ribbed piping around the spindle head and at least partway to the ceiling in order to enable full range of motion.
Oil-lube sprayer for metalworking projects.
Tool-Sensing and Calibration system. I adored the quick and easy tool-changing system the Multicam came with. I put in the new bit, drop it until it makes an electrical contact with a sensor block, and the machine knows not only where the bit ends, but where the table and/or work blank begins.
Sturdy enough stepper motors (200 movements per revolution seems to be a standard, am I wrong?) and tool spindle to suppourt high cutting speeds. After seeing people posting here about working with lower speeds, I realized that the 1000 ipm cutting speed I was used to may have to be compromised, but I'd still like to be able to cut product as fast as possible, since the table's main purpose will be to generate money for the business, and as my hobby-toy only secondary.
Pendant system. I'd hate to have to calibrate and make small movement changes by having to type into a keyboard five feet away from the unit itself. I like being able to basically push my face up to the thing and see exactly where I'm going with it. Also, the LED readout on the pendant is great for knowing where my tool is sitting, or for measuring and such.
Variable-speed spindle and spindle lockout. Variable-speed because we found need to cut between 16k and 30k rpm's, lockout so we can put a pen or knife into the collet and make patterns or cut paper when the plotter is busy.
Spindle will also need to accept varying-size collets to hold bits from very small to very large.
Dependable controllers with standard GCODE capability.
Right now we need software to import from other programs and send it to the machine via GCODE. The software we have available right now are Corel Draw 12, Adobe 10, and GSP Omega for our plotter, which I'm told can make simple toolpaths for such things as cutting letters from plex. The software we'll need could be just a simple program that converts .eps or .ai or .plt files into GCODE and sends it to the router, but we're hoping for really dependable software with 2.5-D and 3-D toolpathing capability, the option to run more than 3 axises, wireframe capabilities, high-resolution vector-to-toolpath importing, spindle speed control, etc.
I basically want to be able to import or create the artwork, tell the software what tool I'm using and product I'm cutting, change out the tool and calibrate it, send the head to zero position, send the router a toolpath, and start my project.
And I'm sure I'll remember other things that should be put into consideration. I'll post them when I recall them.
Basically, I have time to get my act together and present to the folks in charge a device that is easier on the pocketbook than the last one, but with roughly the same capabilities. These are people who, given the circumstances, will want to have available to them every iota of information I can get.
This is going to be a work in progress and I'll be posting how far along I'm getting from start to finish. Any input of any kind is welcome, enthusiastically requested, and appreciated.
Oh, and by the way, I'm Crushmonkey and I'm new to posting here. This being my first thread and post I'd like to say this is a great forum and I'm glad to be here. Hello all!
Buy a ShopBOT with a 5HP spindle for $16K. It'll probably cost you more to do it yourself.
Mach3 2010 Screenset
(Note: The opinions expressed in this post are my own and are not necessarily those of CNCzone and its management)
That's an option I'm considering... But if I bought a retail unit, once I started monkeying around with upgrading and accessorizing it, wouldn't I void any warranties? And it's likely there'd be issues with the warranty if I chose to go with third-party software as well. But it is still an option. If it turns out to be the option I go with, I guess I'll have to shamefacedly ask a moderator to move this thread to a more suitable forum *blush*
I just want to check all my options and DIY seems a good place to start, not yet having $20k to invest in a machine and software. The funding will come, in time. Much of it directly from my own pocket. I'm just comparing DIY to retail on every possible level for my needs before I make a decision. All else failing, I buy a retail unit, learn everything I can about using it while the warranty holds, then frankenstein it to fit my needs.
*browses forums* Information overload! It's so exciting I'm trying not to pee myself lol
(a) "I work in OUR family-owned sign shop" "over the three years WE'VE been in business for ourselves" "Last year I talked THE OWNERS into..." I assume you mean "a" family business? i.e. you're not one of the owners? You'll see further on why I ask.
(B) Mastercam have hundreds, if not thousands of machines under their belts AND many years manufacturing experience in this field so I do find this one strange. (I'm not challenging you and no, I have no link to Mastercam).
(C) I really don't want to offend anyone but, to tell you the truth, it sounds like a management problem rather than a machine problem (management of the company not the machine that is) I don't doubt that there was a problem or problems with the machine but: (C1) Why wasn't the sales thing sorted out earlier? (C2) Three months hardly sounds like a solid committment to new technology (C3) Sounds like the machine was bought without money (loan or overdraught) hoping that it would immediately start paying for itself and when it didn't, panic struck.
(D) You can accuse me of being a wet blanket if you like but unless you are one of the owners I wouldn't go diy route because if you do and there are problems, it will be you who gets the blame.
EDIT I just read Gerry's post and that's the route I would take.
EDIT2 "Much of it directly from my own pocket" So you are one of the owners.
As I said above, I don't want to offend anyone but I do try to look at these things from an overall business point of view, not just a technical point of view. This is just my opinion and as someone said here today in cnczone, opinions are like........
OUR family business. I refer to myself as an employee because while I am a shareholder, my parents are the partners in charge. I'm just the monkey with the computerOriginally Posted by skippy
It's Multicam, actually. And they have a great table and awesome staff, there were just some issues with the software. If I had the money to drop on it, I'd buy another exact same table with third-party software.Originally Posted by skippy
The sales thing caught us off-guard because our star salesman was our ONLY salesman. Three months was all the time we had because the problems of sales compounded with dropping all the investment CASH we had into the machine made our issues spiral out of control. The machine would have paid for itself had the two big sales on the board not fallen through due to the salesman being incommunicado.Originally Posted by skippy
Sales is still our biggest issue right now, our salesman having had to retire from the company following the router loss debacle. Which puts sales directly on the out-of-work router person. *grimaces* That would be me.
Which is why most of the cost of the new unit will be coming from my pocket because after the unfortunate happenings before, the management is leery of throwing cash at me again. My plan is to build maybe a small benchtop unit out of my own pocket (and contracting out to them under my own company), and using the funds from that to finance the big router.
Not an owner yet. But I'm bucking for management of a planned branch office. I'd like to prove myself with this router thing firstOriginally Posted by skippy
Skippy you are right on the money, again not to offend but no one is doing any favours to *****foot around it. With the demand and capacity you saw how tough it was to make the business work - now you are considering layering on more risk (in a DIY project) that will also divert resources away from the core biz. Go with Gerry's idea and put the energy you would put into DIY into a sales and marketing plan/program.
Consider: no matter how experienced and skilled a machine designer or engineer you are, you are not going to be more efficient than a commercial solution. Spend a few extra hours a day making & selling signs - focusing on your core competency and buy the machine with the proceeds.
If you are not able to make more $$$ focused on your core competency than you'd save by building it yourself, consider ripping down the Crushmonkey Signs, and put up a Crushmonkey CNC Routers sign.
Crushmonkey: Sorry, I did understand Multicam but wrote Mastercam.
Mcgyver: I couldn't agree more.
You could always look here. Used routers :http://www.routercenter.com/
If you do get one tell'im I sent yah Don't worry I get nothing and they will probably ask who your talking about too
Mcguyver: You're right. Any time I'd be building a machine could be spent selling signs or soliciting loans to actually buy one. I didn't think of the time involved taking me away from making money, I was only looking at the DIY in the sense of saving as much money as possible... which would be losing money in the long run in time spent NOT selling product.
Tauscnc: I checked out that link and I was shocked to see how cheap used routers were. Thankies!
Gerry (or another mod), could I get you to move my thread into a more suitable area so I can rename it something like Finding The Right Router System or something? Or should we just delete it and start fresh?
I think I would go with Gerry's ideal. I always value his opinion and he's never been wrong on the ideals he's gave me.
Thanks for the move, Gerry!
And yes, a ShopBot or ShopSabre are the two main retail units I'm looking at right now.
I saw a large table on Ebay yesterday that made me wish I had the 8k for it. It was the right size, and only needed a hard drive and spindle :frown:
I don't know what make it was, other than it had a lot of Porter components.
So now it's just a matter of narrowing down the model I want for my purposes.
Has anyone here had experience with used routers?
Does anyone have a list or table that shows router models and brands in a cross-reference like pricing, durability, capability etc?