66 views and no responses? Please help me guys.
This is my first real thread here, so please forgive me if I'm a naive.
I'm an anime (Japanese cartoons) fan, and I started going to conventions in costume the summer I got out of high school. The characters I go in costume as often times carry very fanciful objects. As a result, I had to make many of these objects, and I found that it's a great deal of fun for me. As I'd show my works to others at these events, many were astounded by my work, and it made me wonder if this would be something that I could somehow make a career out of.
Fast forward about 4 years, and I've made many more, and significantly more intricate props. I'm currently in college for psychology, but I still love doing this kind of stuff. After tying to get commissions and get some semblance of a start, I realized that what I'd need to make this sort of thing successful is a number of small objects that I could sell at a low cost and have people purchasing on a frequent basis.
The problem is that in order to make many of these sorts of things, I'd need to be able to put them out in larger numbers than 5 at a time, and I'd need to be able to do it in a way that allows me to duplicate my works in a cost effective fashion. As of right now, I really only have typical power tools (disc sander, band saw, drill press, table saw, etc.), and all the details get done by hand tools (carving chisels, dremel tool, etc). I recently saw a carvewright machine in a woodcraft catalog, and since I primarily work with wood, plastics, foam, & aluminum, it seemed like a tool that I could get for a reasonable price that would allow me to start doing this sort of stuff in a more cost effective way.
For those of you who know what one is, the carve wright can only handle materials that are 14.5" wide and 5" tall, but it can supposedly work with materials of any length. I started reading some reviews, and I found out that it's a good idea that's just too riddled with quality control issues to justify even a used price tag. That brings me to the idea I'd entertained for years of a CNC mill. But they're just so expensive that I'd probably have to take out a loan to purchase one.
Then, I don't have any experience at all with CAD or CAM software, and all sources indicated that the carvewright software was extraordinarily simple to use, making it appeal to me for that reason as well. I don't mind taking classes, working hard to learn the programs, or even the $500 price tag for some of the suites, but the price of the CNC mill itself concerns me.
I figure I'd need a 4'x6' machine at the largest. I'd like to have the ability to cut fairly deep on the Z axis too. It would NEED to be able to cut wood, foam, plastics, and aluminum. If I could get one that can cut ferrous metals as well, that'd be great, but it's not a necessity for what I do.
I contacted torchmate, and they gave me a price quote of $15,500 shipped for a machine from them, but I've seen shopbots and other machines similar in capabilities for about $8,000-$10,000.
I guess what I'm asking is this:
If I really want to get serious about making stuff like what's in the pictures below, what do I NEED in terms of training, software, and a machine?
66 views and no responses? Please help me guys.
Realistically you need a real mill to handle machining aluminum in any meaningful way. Yes you can use a homemade CNC router on aluminum, but it's several steps below simply automating what has been for you until now a manual process. I have not been impressed with what I've seen boasted as "machined aluminum" from a router...the DOC (depth of cut), feed-rate, cycle times, accuracy and surface finish were laughable at best. I guess if it only needs to be "good enough" or "passable" then it's an acceptable compromise machine, and allows to you produce your props faster than by hand.
You have a STEEP road ahead of you...many of your props are 3 dimensional and would require a decent CAD system, which runs from $500 to $100,000 depending on your needs...along with the learning curve that goes with it.
From there if you don't have the know-how to program your shapes by hand via G-code & M-code, then you also require a CAM system, which again runs anywhere from $500 to $100,000 depending on your needs.
You can use a ShopBot, MechMate, TorchMate etc router for all of your materials. Aluminum would be better machined on a mill, but if chatter-marks and inaccurate dimensions are acceptable to you, a router will suffice. A router is the only machine at a reasonable price-point available to you with the operating envelope you are looking for. Any mill that would be able to machine the 3' plus length you would need is going to be 6-figures, easy. There are work-arounds for smaller machines, but with your lack of experience, that is just another few trudges on your road ahead.
Without a realistic budget and operating demands, it's impossible to give you any reasonable advice. Any idiot can voice their opinion, but then that's merely the opinion of an idiot...not exactly what I would be steering my hard-earned money in the direction of.
I'm well aware of the fact that the objects in my original post are very detailed and three dimensional, and I knew this wasn't going to be something I could learn to do in the span of a weekend or even a month.
A friend of mine pointed me to TurboCNC, and I was blown away when I saw the page of stuff that was made using that software. For a program that sells for about $100, I thought the level of precision and detail was perfectly, if not more than adequate for what I want to do. The page can be found here:DAK Engineering - TurboCNC Gallery
I have been told that there are a number of different plans available for mills that have a high end of $600 for a price tag, and the same gentleman that pointed me to turboCNC also told me that I could get away with building a home-made mill/router to the dimensions I specified earlier for under $2k and that it would be capable of cutting titanium and steel if necessary.
I apologize if I'm coming across as indignant, but I did a decent amount of research after making my initial post, and I'm just not sure that a 6 figure price tag is necessary. I'm nowhere close to dismissing the process of learning this skill as anything even remotely close to easy, and I know I'm not going to be building this sort of thing for a few hundred dollars. I just don't believe that I'm going to have to spend $100k to get what I need.
If I did have to give a definitive budget for what I'd be looking to spend on the entire package, I'd probably have to say $3,500 total. Maybe that's a foolish price tag to stick on this, but from what I've seen and been told thus far by people who have more knowledge in this arena than myself, I'm not so sure that it is.
From my research on the "Zone" it could be possible to build a CNC ROUTER that would meet your needs for around $3500.00, this does not include the computer & software to design parts and run the CNC. The price tag for a DIY machine is based upon three main points:
1) Design parameters, to include cutting envelope, feed rates, cycle times, accuracy and repeatability. Materials to be machined. This determines the mechanicals, electronics and so forth.
2) What is the machine constucted of:
MDF(which may or may not machine aluminium), 80/20 aluminium extrusion, welded steel or a combination of materials and construction methods
Ballscrews, Acme, R&P or belt drive.
Stepper motors, Servo motors or a hamster in a cage wheel.
3) How much of the machine can you personally construct:
Stepper drivers, breakout board, PSU.
Drill & tap aluminium, weld steel, chew MDF.
307startup is right when he talks about cutting forces and surface finishes. As far as tolerances and accuracy, he may be a little off base. You are not trying to make parts for the space shuttle just some props to play with. There WILL be some hand work involved if you want a perfect fit and a mirror finish on aluminium. However, you will have the TIME to do this because the router did the bulk of the fabrication.
Do some more research in the DIY forum and ask alot of questions. MOST people here on the "Zone" are ready & willing to HELP. Learn what's involved in building a machine that would work for YOU. You may decide to purchase a "Plug & Play" machine or choose to build your own design.
Good luck, whatever road you choose to go down. But DO go down the road, as it can be done for way less that $100,000! Many have built quality machines ranging from $3,000.00 and up.
I may not be good....
But I am S L O W!!
I don't think a router or mill is going to allow you to make those parts fast enough to make money at it. But it depends on the level of detail you're looking for.
Mach3 2010 Screenset
(Note: The opinions expressed in this post are my own and are not necessarily those of CNCzone and its management)
the kind of detail that's on the assault rifle in the 2nd and 3rd picture, that'll be perfect for what I'm looking to do. Why do you say that I may not be able to make them fast enough though?
You could try a different approach and make your props like the special effects industry does. This magazine sometimes has great articles about companies that make props for the TV and movie industry, Cinefex :: Visual Effects Magazine :: Special Effects :: Computer Graphics . The magazine also has lots of advertisers listed that sell the supplies. Basically the most cost effective way for you to sell those items at a reasonable price, in my opinion, would be to make a mold and vaccum form them out of polystyrene sheets and then glue them together, add some paint and then you are done.