I would like to start doing some small milling of Aluminum in my home shop. I was interested in a CNC milling machine capable of making parts 8" x 8" or less in size.
I have never used a CNC before but I am very good with computers and I have had a metal cutting lathe for some time now.
Can anyone steer me in the right direction and recommend a machine, software and some good places to start learning about CNC milling? I am assuming CAD/CAM program will be necessary to create the parts I want to machine.
Not sure what and entry level system would cost at all. Used is ok, as long as it isnt over kill for a beginner
Thanks in advance for your help.
Your experience with the lathe will put you ahead of many new starters, as you'll understand the importance of rigidity, good cutters, correct speeds etc.
I've been taking the same path as you - I bought a second hand Emco PCMill and refurbished it. A friend of mine bough a new Taig mill and is very happy with it. But we'd both struggle to cut 8" x 8" - not such a problem side-to-side (X axis) but the front to back (Y-axis) movement is less. Read other threads for people who've used X2, X3 and other machines, which may be bigger (I've no experience of these). Many of these threads will describe the purchase of a manual mill and its conversion to CNC either using chinese kits.
See other threads for people who are cutting aluminium with gantry router-based machines. These aren't as rigid as a proper mill meant for metal, but if you're engraving or carving into a flat surface, rather than mighty hunks, then you might find this a suitable approach. I cut brass, cast iron and steel, so these are not for me.
Friend and I are both using Mach3 to control our machines. This program seems to have a huge following - it takes the g-code (up a bit, left a bit, right a bit etc.) and instructs the machine to follow the chosen path. You can download the program onto a PC and play with it for free (simulating the cutting process), then buy a licence (which is good value) when you get going for real.
Friend with Taig uses V-carve to design his parts and prepare the gcode. This looks like a nice program. Since I'm cutting quite straightforward shapes, I just write it by hand, using Excel for calculating radius measurements for curves. Since the Mach3 shows a preview picture of the result, I've managed to avoid too many mistakes.