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Going to buy a CNC Router - I Need to know what I need to know!

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Forum topic by Marleywoodie posted 05-07-2019 06:19 PM 1369 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Marleywoodie

26 posts in 818 days


05-07-2019 06:19 PM

We’ve got a small “Mom & Pop” commercial wood shop. Mostly we build raised bed garden kits, which is obviously pretty seasonal (depending on where you live :-) )

We’re considering getting a CNC Router table to take on some new types of projects we have in mind, including sign making and table top inlay and such.

We have several purpose built custom fixed table routers in the shop, and we’d like some versatility.

The Axiom Pro+ AR8 looks like good machine from what I’ve read so far.

I know something like this should start a lively debate from which I hope to learn much.

What do I need to know and what do I need to look out for?

Thanks!

-- - Not all who wander are lost -


23 replies so far

View DS's profile

DS

3164 posts in 2809 days


#1 posted 05-08-2019 01:26 PM

Where to begin?

Let’s start with the work you want to do and will the machine accomplish that.
This machine has 3 sizes 24×24, 24×36 and 24×48.
The 3hp (2.2KW) spindle has a basic ER20 collet and no ATC – meaning manual tool changes.

So, while this can make your signs okay, it is not suited very well for any kind of volume production, as the operator involvement is relatively high and maximum sizes are limited. (For an example, we run a 4’ x 12’ table with a 25hp ATC spindle to produce custom cabinetry, processing about 10 to 12 sheets of plywood an hour – really no comparison)

Next is this little gem I found on the website for this router;

Software sold separately

While the prices for this machine that I saw ranged around $7k, the software can run $1200 for Aspire and even more for others.
I run a program called Cabinetvision, which, for a full advanced CAD/CAM setup can range around $35k.

Which software you go with will make an immense difference in the ultimate functionality of your machine.

CNC machines run g-code (or some variant of g-code). These are simple X, Y, Z coordinates that tell the machine how to move. It is very much like plotting graphs like you did in high school algebra class.
The machine is basically dumb. If you have bad g-code, you get bad tool movements.

So, the job becomes about generating good g-code the most efficient method possible.

Generating g-code can be done in a multitude of ways with a multitude of different software. There are even some folks using Excel spreed sheets generating g-code.

The nice thing about more advanced software is that the design and the manufacturing steps (CAD, CAM) are closely integrated making the process quick and painless.

Ultimately, you have to decide if the better machine and the better software makes you more productive and more able to accomplish your goals.

If your goal is high volume signage, a more expensive initial investment, will actually cost many times less in the long run than if you bought a lesser machine and lesser software.

This is just a beginning of a fairly intense journey.
Best of luck to you.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

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JohnMcClure

624 posts in 1029 days


#2 posted 05-08-2019 01:48 PM

I use Vectric V-carve software (great for signmaking, gets the job done for lots of other tasks). It is below $1000, and in my experience has been very straightforward to use.
I first bought a Shapeoko 3 and had great results for very low startup cost; bear in mind the working area is smaller than the expensive machines. I recently upgraded to an Axiom machine and am very impressed, worth it for me, but I spent 7x as much money to get it; there’s no way that would have been my first machine, as I didn’t know what I was getting into!
It wouldn’t hurt to get a small, cheap, used CNC router to play around with; like DS said, it’s all in the Gcode, so if you get good results with a small cheap CNC, you’ll know what features you need in a bigger, more powerful, more precise machine, and then you can shop in earnest.
If you’re in the Houston area you can come by and see what the Axiom can do (Or the Shapeoko, until it sells).

-- I'd rather be a hammer than a nail

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ArtMann

1381 posts in 1205 days


#3 posted 05-09-2019 12:17 AM

I have a Camaster Stinger with a 24 X 36 work surface. I have turned down sign work many times because the maximum working width of the machine is only 24 inches. I can overcome the 36 inch limitation by using precision indexing but I can do nothing about the 24 inches. If I had it to do over, I would buy at least a 4 by 4 foot machine.

I use Vectric Vcarve Pro to do some of my design work and all the G-Code generation. I found the software to be fairly easy to learn and quite versatile.

View Marleywoodie's profile

Marleywoodie

26 posts in 818 days


#4 posted 05-09-2019 11:19 AM

This is all great information and food for thought. I did wonder about whether the 24”x48” was sufficient (especially for signs). The software is another item all together. I guess I assumed it would come with the machine, so, clearly another layer to explore. Keep it coming boys & girls, this in great stuff!

The thought(s) about starting smaller are well founded, however we are in a situation (a good one) where we kind of have to make the decision soon.

-- - Not all who wander are lost -

View Ger21's profile

Ger21

1086 posts in 3520 days


#5 posted 05-11-2019 03:51 AM

If you are buying it for a business, don’t go smaller than 4×4.

-- Gerry, http://www.thecncwoodworker.com/index.html http://www.jointcam.com

View Desert_Woodworker's profile

Desert_Woodworker

1805 posts in 1603 days


#6 posted 05-11-2019 04:14 AM



I have a Camaster Stinger with a 24 X 36 work surface. I have turned down sign work many times because the maximum working width of the machine is only 24 inches. I can overcome the 36 inch limitation by using precision indexing but I can do nothing about the 24 inches. If I had it to do over, I would buy at least a 4 by 4 foot machine.

I use Vectric Vcarve Pro to do some of my design work and all the G-Code generation. I found the software to be fairly easy to learn and quite versatile.
- ArtMann


+1

-- Desert_Woodworker

View Marleywoodie's profile

Marleywoodie

26 posts in 818 days


#7 posted 05-17-2019 03:38 PM

Any recommendations for for 4×4(+) machines?

-- - Not all who wander are lost -

View mahdee's profile

mahdee

4290 posts in 2156 days


#8 posted 05-17-2019 04:38 PM

I have been looking at shopBot.

-- earthartandfoods.com

View Desert_Woodworker's profile

Desert_Woodworker

1805 posts in 1603 days


#9 posted 05-18-2019 03:05 AM



Any recommendations for for 4×4(+) machines?

- Marleywoodie

https://lagunatools.com/cnc/swift-series/swift-cnc-router-4-x-4-3hp/

-- Desert_Woodworker

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Marleywoodie

26 posts in 818 days


#10 posted 05-19-2019 11:31 AM



I have been looking at shopBot.

- mahdee

Nice, but YIKES on the prices! I’m sure they’re worth it, but their smallest one is about 3x what I hoped to spend!

-- - Not all who wander are lost -

View Underdog's profile

Underdog

1327 posts in 2424 days


#11 posted 05-19-2019 12:03 PM

The machine is well worth the research and money involved. Consider also that you’ll need a company that gives good support and doesn’t leave you hanging when things inevitably go wrong.

That said, that’s just the start of the expenses. You also must buy:

Software to run it. That includes a post if you buy something like Aspire, Carveco (formerly ArtCAM), Rhino, EnRoute, etc. (Don’t forget you’re gonna need support for this too.)

Tooling to cut material with. If you do any kind of volume, you’ll be spending a bit of money on tooling and resharpening.

Dust collection. Best get something good w/ plenty of volume. Plan it out so you don’t have to do so much work emptying bags, or cleaning up messes when it fills up and backs up into the DC itself.

If your router needs a clean/dry supply of air don’t forget to include a drier AND condensate drain with your air compressor.

Seems like there was something else….

Good luck. It’s a great investment that usually pays off.

-- Jim, Georgia, USA

View Desert_Woodworker's profile

Desert_Woodworker

1805 posts in 1603 days


#12 posted 05-19-2019 12:08 PM


I have been looking at shopBot.

- mahdee

Nice, but YIKES on the prices! I m sure they re worth it, but their smallest one is about 3x what I hoped to spend!

- Marleywoodie

Laguna

-- Desert_Woodworker

View Marleywoodie's profile

Marleywoodie

26 posts in 818 days


#13 posted 05-22-2019 03:14 PM

Thanks for all the great info and food for thought. I’m talking to Laguna about some options. I’ll keep updating this for advice.

-- - Not all who wander are lost -

View Desert_Woodworker's profile

Desert_Woodworker

1805 posts in 1603 days


#14 posted 05-22-2019 04:19 PM

The Laguna model uses a HHC (hand held controller) You will not need to have a PC to operate your machine.
At 1st I was apprehensive but once you understand it – It works great. HHC has been around for years.
2nd it uses a water cooled spindle, which enables it to run for long periods of time. I have made 22 continuous hour cuttings without stopping- and the bit was warm, not hot to the touch.
Fantastic customer service from my experiences with my machine.
Best of luck to you.

-- Desert_Woodworker

View DS's profile

DS

3164 posts in 2809 days


#15 posted 05-22-2019 09:46 PM

+1 All good points to consider


The machine is well worth the research and money involved. Consider also that you ll need a company that gives good support and doesn t leave you hanging when things inevitably go wrong.

That said, that s just the start of the expenses. You also must buy:

Software to run it. That includes a post if you buy something like Aspire, Carveco (formerly ArtCAM), Rhino, EnRoute, etc. (Don t forget you re gonna need support for this too.)

Tooling to cut material with. If you do any kind of volume, you ll be spending a bit of money on tooling and resharpening.

Dust collection. Best get something good w/ plenty of volume. Plan it out so you don t have to do so much work emptying bags, or cleaning up messes when it fills up and backs up into the DC itself.

If your router needs a clean/dry supply of air don t forget to include a drier AND condensate drain with your air compressor.

Seems like there was something else….

Good luck. It s a great investment that usually pays off.

- Underdog

P.S. There will always be something else… count on it.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

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