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Tony Bilello
05-25-2009, 1:56 PM
I have a Mill-Route Carving System about 15 years old in excellent condition. It is a manual system for router duplicating and sign making with templates. It has 3 axis - left to right, front to back and up and down, if that is what 3 axis means.
It moves failly easily with no slop in the bearings. The vertical axis is only about 3 inches or so which would be fine with me.
Can this be reasonably and readily converted to a CNC machine and what kind of performance could I expect? or.....should I just buy the CNC Shark for slightly over $3K? It's always nice to save money, but that is not my prime motive. I think I would be happy with the CNC Shark that is why I chose it for the comparison.
I am completely ignorant of CNC machines and that is why I am asking a very basic question...is a conversion practical or even possible?

Thanks in advance

James Jaragosky
05-25-2009, 3:39 PM
I have a Mill-Route Carving System about 15 years old in excellent condition. It is a manual system for router duplicating and sign making with templates. It has 3 axis - left to right, front to back and up and down, if that is what 3 axis means.
It moves failly easily with no slop in the bearings. The vertical axis is only about 3 inches or so which would be fine with me.
Can this be reasonably and readily converted to a CNC machine and what kind of performance could I expect? or.....should I just buy the CNC Shark for slightly over $3K? It's always nice to save money, but that is not my prime motive. I think I would be happy with the CNC Shark that is why I chose it for the comparison.
I am completely ignorant of CNC machines and that is why I am asking a very basic question...is a conversion practical or even possible?

Thanks in advance

Tony Unless you have access to the machining equipment and the technical know how OR you just want a challenge, building a CNC machine may not be the best use of your talents.
At one time I was intrigued by the thought of building my own machine; but I also realized that what I was really interested in is carving wood.
The question you should ask yourself is do you want to build a machine or make things with one.
If you want to build one due to financial constraints, I certainly understand and I would suggest that you find your way over to the CNC Zone. It is a forum for all things cnc and is very active with all skill levels.
If you can afford a CnC machine like a shark, then I would suggest you do so.
Just learning operate the machine is a task worthy of all your focus, do you really want to have to second guess yourself every time something does not turn out like you planned; always asking yourself if it is your build or something else.
You will need to learn at least two new software programs to operate the machine properly. you will also need to learn feed speeds and chip loads for the different materials you will be using, how to choose the proper cutting tool for the job and material you have selected. and then there is the whole field of finishing.
My point is there will be a lot to learn; why not make it easier on yourself and get the support that comes with a machine that you can purchase.

As far as what machine to buy opinions will very widely, many people are fiercely loyal to their brand of choice.
If you are new to cnc I strongly suggest that you get a machine with strong support. I do not believe that the shark has that level of support yet.
You should check out the shopbot and camaster forums to get a Idea of the support you can expect, I mention these two brands because both have a quality product at affordable pricing.
ultimately only you can determine what type of machine you will need based upon what you intend to do with it.
I started with my cnc experience for the first time 8 month ago, and I amaze and frustrate myself on a daily basis.


Can you turn that piece of equipment into a cnc machine? Yes; but is it worth it. if you like a challenge the answer is probably yes.
Good luck
Jim J.

Gary Hair
05-26-2009, 10:58 AM
Tony,
Jim probably gave you some good advice. I don't know that machine you have so I can't really say whether it would be a good candidate for conversion or not. If it has any slop in the bearings then I would say absolutely not. The biggest single obstacle in building a cnc router is getting as close to zero backlash as possible. Wood is a very forgiving medium to route, but if you have backlash you can't get any accuracy at all.

I built my router last year and it was a lot of work. I enjoyed building it and will build another. My next router will be a huge improvement on the current one, not because the current one isn't working well, it's just that I have learned a lot while building it. There are lots of people who will help you with a design and the building process. There are plenty of parts that will reduce the build time and help to get you to that "backlash free" place that you need to be.

I don't have any info on ready-made routers, they weren't in my budget so I didn't even consider them. One design that I have seen that is very solid looking, and reasonably priced, is at http://www.blurrycustoms.com/. I have no connection with them, I haven't bought one of their machines, I just think they have a good looking machine that looks to be built very well. My next machine will be designed a lot like theirs.

Good luck!

Gary

Tony Bilello
05-26-2009, 2:13 PM
James: "....OR you just want a challenge" I am past the age of 'challenges" and I certainly appreciate your input and concern. I want to create and carve, not build and service machines. My hobby is woodworking, not CNC Maintenance and construction. I usually give the same exact schpiel to people buying a used boat when someone tries to convince them to buy a fixer-upper. Their hobby changes from sailing to boat repair.
..."If you want to build one due to financial constraints, I certainly understand" Price is always there as a major factor. I know zip about CNC that is why I asked these particular questions. I was thinking that since I have the main guts of this thing, maybe all I would need is a few servo motors and software. As a matter of fact, I would be willing to pay someone to help me learn the software. I just need you guys to move to Texas.
".....My point is there will be a lot to learn; why not make it easier on yourself and get the support that comes with a machine that you can purchase." That my friend, is a MAJOR point and difficult to put a price tag on.
"....As far as what machine to buy opinions will very as widely..." Sometimes on these forums, the opinions ar so strong and varied that you leave the forum with not much more in the decision making process than you started with.
"Can you turn that piece of equipment into a cnc machine? Yes; but is it worth it....." I wont be sure until I get some dollar figures. If I can spend $1K and end up with a $5K machine I'll probably do it. If I can spend $1K and end up with a $3K machine - definitely not.

Gary:

"...I don't know that machine you have so I can't really say whether it would be a good candidate for conversion or not. If it has any slop in the bearings then I would say absolutely not....." I will try to get to my shop and either take a photo or just scan the brochure. There is absolutely no slop anywhere in the system. I have zero backlash.
...."My next machine will be designed a lot like theirs." I wish I had the time and the confidence.

Thanks again for the input. It is really helpful.

Tony B

Joseph B. Chritz
05-26-2009, 5:28 PM
Tony,

Bob Campbell has started a CNC users group in North Texas.
They will be hosting a CNC workshop the last week of July.
I think the details are still being worked out, so I don't have much info.
This would be a good opportunity for you to get some basic CNC information and maybe find someone you can spend some time with on their CNC machine.
It may also be a good place to sell your machine if you decide not to retrofit.

Check out their web site for updated information, and check out the links while you are there.

www dot ntcncug dot com

Tony Bilello
05-27-2009, 11:04 PM
Here is what I learned so far. I can buy a complete CNC kit for around $1K. It includes everything except the software - another $500 bucks. The kit contains the 3 stepper motors, control panel and all cables. So now I will be thinking if this whole thing will be worth the $1500 upgrade. I think it might be but I am also running this past another forum or two. The only thing stopping me from my usual impulse buying is the scarey economy. Looks like by late fall, I will buy the kit or possibly the CNC Shark Pro.
I have attached the brochure that came with my Mill-Route.

james mcgrew
05-28-2009, 8:30 AM
i have been watching this thread and was waiting for the pictures, i would probably pass on trying to convert the millright, with my limited knowledge and how fast my desires grew after i got into cnc, i believe the result verses the next step up in cost, time and expectations would justify going on up one notch, build as big a cnc as you have space and money for, joe's cnc has a great reputation and following for this.
i have seen the shark and while it is doable nothing will be the greater teacher when compared to building your own.


my third cnc will be here next week
jim

Tony Bilello
05-28-2009, 11:33 AM
I understand what you are saying about the conversion. My thougts are that I dont want to be spending a whole lot of time building a CNC machine, I want to spend time using it. If I went ahead with this crazyness and converted, then decided I wanted something better, could I still use the same components, stepper motors and control box and move them over to a bigger unit if I decided to build?
I am not trying to build aircraft parts. I just want to make signs and carvings on cabinet doors and am looking for an inexpensive way to do it. Since you are going into your 3rd machine, I will take a lot of your advice very seriously. Obviously, I know nothing about CNC and am depending on people like you for advice.

Thanks again

james mcgrew
05-28-2009, 11:56 AM
in june of o7 i purchased a carvewrite and made some signs for my farm, one night i asked myself if that thing could make shelf pin holes for wall cabinets (25 years in cabinetmaking and no cnc,) i then wanted one that would do 24 inch wide base cabs and the fire was lit!! i have now purchased new and retrofited the two others, learned a lot more about cnc that i intended too!! i have seen people make these things with slides and parts from printing machines (where all this technology came from) so i do know all is possible and when i get it in my head to build i do!! when i first got started i could not afford a real panel saw so i found a bearing distributor and built my first, one would be foolish not to encourage you to try! it is the z truck that will probably be your biggest challenge can you get us some photos of the actual machine?

jim mcgrew

Tony Bilello
05-28-2009, 11:09 PM
Some Photos of my Mill-Route.

Five more photos to follow.

Tony Bilello
05-28-2009, 11:11 PM
Here are some mo pics

james mcgrew
05-29-2009, 6:39 AM
my next suggestion would be to go see cnc in operation!!

jim

Paul Fleming
07-14-2009, 5:29 PM
Just saw this post. I built my first CNC doing just what you propose - using the Mill Route as a base. It works good but is slow - 20 ips is max speed. The advise to buy or build a kit that is designed for CNC is appropriate. I am now building Joe's Hybird and cutting the parts with the Mill Route CNC. Once I am near completion I will take the steppers and controllers off the Mill Route and retire it.

Jerre Griffin
07-15-2009, 12:15 PM
Tony

I had a MillRoute for 15 years. I thought about trying to convert it. It is way too flimsy to be of any use. The forces induced by the motors/router will flex the whole system and you will have no accuracy. By the time you beef up all the supports and figure out how to do the z axis, you could have built a kit that has great accuracy and been using it for months.

Jerre

Rob Slaughterbeck
07-19-2009, 1:31 PM
Like Jim I purchased a Sears CompuCarve (CarveWright rebadged). After coupons and tax it came to ~$1700. It has working dimensions of 14.5" wide x 144" long x 1"cutting depth/0.8" carving depth per side and accepts upto 5" stock. It is an all servo design with 0.007" accuracy and repeatability. That price includes their design software (mostly 2D, but can import 2.5D greyscale images and now has a 3D stl import addon for $300). One of the biggest improvements has come from a fellow user that is now making a replacement chuck called the ROCK (cw-parts.com). Secondly, building a dust hood to remove dust/chips w/o stopping the machine is a must in my opinion.

The machine does have its limitations and weaknesses/quirks. The software team can be a bit slow to fix/update versions. Each new version tends to have its flaws, but can usually be worked around. The feed/speed is locked to the software, but there are ways to design projects to account for harder woods/acrylic by doing multiple shallow passes. The workpiece moves in the X (length) direction and uses a brass roller to track/measure the movement so you need on flat straight edge (and some masking tape to ensure good contact with the roller) for the machine to reference movement in the X (length).

Its not the perfect CNC by any means, but you will be hard pressed to build a CNC and purchase software that will compare (what is your time really worth). As somewhat plug and play CNC, I'd give it a 4/5, and 5/5 on bang for your buck. Its a good system to get your feet wet in CNC routers. For one-off work, the CarveWright/CompuCarve is a good tool. I also find it great for cutting jigs and templates for repetitive work to use on the router table or with a hand held router.

By converting your existing frame into a CNC, you are free to use whatever components you like (based on price and/or quality). You also know HOW it all goes together and LEARN (through experience/trail and error) how each piece effects the whole system (things like backlash and runout come to mind). I would guess it will take 40+ hrs of design and redesign to convert your existing frame. Through this, you will find its weaknesses and be free to improve upon it to suit your needs.

I had looked at building my own CNC for several years. I somewhat fell for the marketing of the CarveWright system. There has been a bit of a learning curve, but there is a great community of users that support each other. I would like to step up to a larger machine in the future. I will consider building my own from what I've learned that suits my needs/wants in a machine. I think there is more of a cost savings to be had when you are looking at larger machines that run faster and/or do larger pieces.

The real question comes down to what type of products do you want to make/build with a CNC router? It is one of many tools in my shop. It alone will not make a business, though many are trying with 2-4 machines. What are you mechanical, electrical and computer skills? Do you have friends that can help design/build and advise on components?

Rob

James Leonard
07-23-2009, 7:52 PM
The CNCZone has MANY people that can answer your questions and steer you towards what you want / need. You can buy a complete kit to make a bolt together 2" x 3" router right now. With recent advances in Geckodrive components (G540) even the electronics is not hard anymore.

-James

Bill Griggs
08-01-2009, 11:53 AM
I am building my second CNC router, a Joe's CNC 4x4 hybrid http://www.joescnc.com.

I will have about $2300 invested in the machine when it is built to completion. That includes electronics , motors etc. The software is an additional cost. I will be able to machine a piece 4'x4' at speeds approaching 200 Inches per minute.

You mention a CNC package costing $1500 for motors and controller. There are many much less expensive alternatives. Check out Hobbycnc. http://hobbycnc.com they have several inexpensive packages.

Problem I see with converting the Mill-Route:
1. Lack of rigidity.
2. You will have to discard most of the router mount to make a functioning Z axis.
3. Cost versus function.
4. Long building process with questionable result in the end.
5. Slow speed.

Advantages of converting the Mill-Route:
1. You already have one.
2. You will learn a lot about CNC.
3. You are already thinking about doing it.
4. We would get to see the results/process as you built it.

Bill

James Jaragosky
08-01-2009, 7:10 PM
Is it just me or does this look crooked?

Michael Kowalczyk
08-02-2009, 8:27 PM
Hey James,
Don't worry it's just a small bend in the Space-Time Continuum.:D It should return to normal any second now.
If you look at the big picture, you will see lots of planes that tried to make it to Bermuda but ended up in Bill's garage.