Building or buying?


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    Default Building or buying?

    Interested in potentially making my own CNC router for woodworking, with a capacity around a full sheet of 4x8' plywood. I currently use a friend's dual-spindle custom-made CNC with vacuum hold down table, and would like to build something similar or perhaps a router plus plasma cutter design. I enjoy doing SolidWorks modeling and have done quite a bit of work with 80/20 extrusions (though no motion, yet) and figured it would be a fun project to take on and I would certainly learn a lot about motion. I've got a good amount of 80/20 extrusions and fasteners sitting around from a little part-out project I recently did as well.

    Is there any savings to be had from building my own versus purchasing a DIY kit from, let's say, cncrouterparts.com? Assuming roughly equivalent part quality, etc?

    What are some of the most "tried and tested" open designs out there? Where would be a good place to start?

    Thanks and sorry for the somewhat n00berific post here.

    Ryan

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    Community Moderator ger21's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building or buying?

    You can save a lot of money, at the expense of spending a LOT of time.
    Also consider that if you buy a CNCRP kit, you have access to excellent support from them if you run into problems, vs being on your own if you build your self.

    Gerry

    UCCNC 2017 Screenset
    http://www.thecncwoodworker.com/2017.html

    Mach3 2010 Screenset
    http://www.thecncwoodworker.com/2010.html

    JointCAM - CNC Dovetails & Box Joints
    http://www.g-forcecnc.com/jointcam.html

    (Note: The opinions expressed in this post are my own and are not necessarily those of CNCzone and its management)


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    Default Re: Building or buying?

    Well considering you already have parts, building your own makes sense. That is if the extrusions are suitably sized for this project.

    One nice thing about CNC routers is that you can easily build your own and equal commercial quality machines. If you are parting out machinery with lots 80/20 it is fair to assume you have some mechsnical skills. This should put you ahead of someone just getting wet with tool building.

    What you need to do now is to inventory that 80/20 to see if you have enough of the right sizes to start this project. If you end up short id suggest buying a steel beam for the gantry.



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    Registered TTalma's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building or buying?

    Also consider used machines. I see commercial machines regularly sell for under 5k. I have even seen machines where the PC was missing/dead sell for under $1000k. Some of these larger machine have higher power requirements, and normally large space requirements.

    I purchased an AXYZ millennium recently. 40x40 work area, all heavy commercial components. Designed to do wood/plastic/ and non-ferrous metals. 600ipm rapids, rack and pinion, perske spindle etc. etc. for $2k. No front end PC. Pickup, SmoothStepper, C41 VFD board, new PC and Mach 4 License was about another $500. So for the material cost of a similar sized machine with less capabilities I got great machine, and had it up and running with about 20 hr's time.

    You have to decide what's important to you. I can totally understand the joy and fun of building your own, and then you'll have a real good knowledge of how it works if there is a problem in the future.



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    Default Re: Building or buying?

    Quote Originally Posted by TTalma View Post
    Also consider used machines. I see commercial machines regularly sell for under 5k. I have even seen machines where the PC was missing/dead sell for under $1000k. Some of these larger machine have higher power requirements, and normally large space requirements.

    I purchased an AXYZ millennium recently. 40x40 work area, all heavy commercial components. Designed to do wood/plastic/ and non-ferrous metals. 600ipm rapids, rack and pinion, perske spindle etc. etc. for $2k. No front end PC. Pickup, SmoothStepper, C41 VFD board, new PC and Mach 4 License was about another $500. So for the material cost of a similar sized machine with less capabilities I got great machine, and had it up and running with about 20 hr's time.

    You have to decide what's important to you. I can totally understand the joy and fun of building your own, and then you'll have a real good knowledge of how it works if there is a problem in the future.
    That's a great deal. Where/how did you find it?



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    Default Re: Building or buying?

    I would just buy the machine, or find a used one with solid frame and retrofit if this is business venture. The most DIY I would ever consider doing is something like CNC router parts. If that machine is going to fit your needs, I would just buy it. If this is for hobby and building the machine is part of the hobby then build it.



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    Registered TTalma's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building or buying?

    I find the machines all over, eBay, HGR, IRS, Craigslist. Patience is key though. To get the amazing deals you have to wait about once a year, great deals show up about once a week.

    There was a 10'x12' Biesse on eBay a few weeks ago, real high hours, but sold for $300. I'm in NY and the machine was in VA. I considered driving down to strip some parts off of it. That was probably the best deal I've ever seen.

    Small used routers 2' x 4' sized used machines seem to sell the best and highest. I don't have room for a full sheet machine, I barely have room for my machine (48" x 60" foot print) so I think the smaller ones sell better because of the smaller space demands.

    Here's a great deal on ebay, no front end: https://www.ebay.com/itm/Thermwood-C...QAAOSwgCtaz4MS

    Another ready to go: https://www.ebay.com/itm/BIESSE-ROVE...gAAOSwCkZZSV0i

    Another no controller: https://www.ebay.com/itm/Thermwood-C...cAAOSwDsZaz4cU

    The deals are not to hard to find, space (for me is)



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    Default Re: Building or buying?

    I wrestled with the build vs buy question for a while (who am I kidding, I still think about it daily!).

    I think it's an individual decision based on what you need, what you expect, how soon you need it, your skills as a fabricator and how much money you have. For me, there were no machines available at the quality I wanted for the price I wanted to pay... so.... there was no decision to make.

    I spent a long time researching my options and there are a lot of companies who are charging an awful lot for what is essentially a few hundred bucks worth of aluminum extrusions and corner brackets. Convenience is worth something but I will never see good value in a $3000 to $4000 benchtop machine made of 80/20 t-slots. Some charge $10,000-$20,000 for a t-slot kit.... it's madness.

    The simple fact is that any design made from t-slot extrusions can be easily copied if you source your own extrusions, screws and connecting parts. In most cases that I saw, the potential savings from not buying parts as a kit were huge (well over 50%). T-slot extrusions are very easy to work with (as you already know).

    With that said, there is a middle ground - i.e. You can buy your own t-slots and screws direct, then buy the gantry plates and risers as a kit from one of the many eBay sellers. Some of the savings can then be put towards better quality rails and ball screws.

    I am certainly no expert. I'm still on my first and second build. My views are based on what I experienced from my own shopping experience.

    I was not in a hurry with my builds. If I was, I would have bought a ready made one and sacrificed my quality expectations. A first diy project won't be quick.



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    Default Re: Building or buying?

    I also went back and forth between build and buy. In the end it came down to the fact that I like the challenge of doing it myself. My machine is completely my own design and it actually works!!



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    Default Re: Building or buying?

    Buying used can be smart and very cost effective. However it can also be a massive hassle. I spent months looking for a small lathe before eventually buying one. A lot of time and effort went down the drain looking for a deal. Just something to consider.

    The one good thing about a DIY build is that you control the scedule and materials.



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    Default Re: Building or buying?

    I wouldn't recommend building your own cnc router to try and save money. As ger21 said, you are only trading your time for money. I just finished building my own machine and I am very happy I did it, but I don't think I saved much cash.

    This is why I think building to save money doesn't make sense:

    • If I valued my time at even a couple dollars an hour then I 'spent' much more than if I had bought a machine.
    • I spent a year researching, designing, sourcing parts and fabricating my cnc router.
    • In that year I easily could have completed a couple of paid projects which would offset the extra cost of the router. (once you have a cnc router people will ask you to make stuff)


    I do, however, recommend building your own cnc router for the following reasons:
    • To learning new skills. I can't believe how much I learned about electronics and programming while building my machine.
    • Pride! The first time you get the motors or the axis to move is a pretty awesome feeling! (priceless)
    • You are not planning on getting paid to use your cnc router. If you have no desire to do work for other people and get paid, then it makes sense to spend as little cash as possible.
    • You have no choice because you cannot find what you are looking for.


    Good luck Ryan with whatever way you choose to go!

    Fraser

    www.urbancnc.com


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    Default Re: Building or buying?

    Quote Originally Posted by fraser80 View Post
    I wouldn't recommend building your own cnc router to try and save money. As ger21 said, you are only trading your time for money. I just finished building my own machine and I am very happy I did it, but I don't think I saved much cash.

    This is why I think building to save money doesn't make sense:

    • If I valued my time at even a couple dollars an hour then I 'spent' much more than if I had bought a machine.
    • I spent a year researching, designing, sourcing parts and fabricating my cnc router.
    • In that year I easily could have completed a couple of paid projects which would offset the extra cost of the router. (once you have a cnc router people will ask you to make stuff)


    I do, however, recommend building your own cnc router for the following reasons:
    • To learning new skills. I can't believe how much I learned about electronics and programming while building my machine.
    • Pride! The first time you get the motors or the axis to move is a pretty awesome feeling! (priceless)
    • You are not planning on getting paid to use your cnc router. If you have no desire to do work for other people and get paid, then it makes sense to spend as little cash as possible.
    • You have no choice because you cannot find what you are looking for.


    Good luck Ryan with whatever way you choose to go!

    Fraser
    It's never that simple. Obviously, part of the cash saving for any diy project is in using your time instead of your money. But, whether there is a saving or not will depend on the individual, the quality of the build, how much their time is worth (which varies massively) and how well they source parts.

    If you choose to buy, to compare properly, you need to factor in how long it would take you to earn the money you are putting into it. If it is for a business, you also have to factor in how much you lose from lost business in the time you spend on a diy build.

    More important than any of that (IMO) for this decision is a persons current financial situation. For a business start-up, there is a lot to be said for not starting out with a mountain of machine debt. A lot of people are over-valuing their time or overestimating their financial health or the qaulity of their business opportunity because there is a huge number of relatively new CNC machines for sale. The liquidators never seem to have any shortage of stock so clearly, investing big upfront is not always the way to go.

    If you want a quality small hobby machine, the key benefit of the diy route (aside from the learning experience) is that you can source superior components from the used market. Very few (if any) of the affordable benchtop machines or diy kits come with 25mm THK rails, ground ball screws or brand name motors etc. Plus, many of the cheaper off the shelf machines require assembly....



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