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Thread: looking for advice in purchasing CNC router

  1. #1

    looking for advice in purchasing CNC router

    Been looking through the forums for something on home hobbyist advice for purchasing a cnc router, all the one I came across are very large machines.
    I am looking for a 2' x 3' or so, also 4th axis option. I want to cut 2d and 3d in wood and possible cut some aluminum. Also was wondering if using a router if the spindle speed can be change with the cnc software. I have 110v and 220v in my garage, the purchase price around 5k.
    I appreciate everyone's time and advice.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Marquette, MI USA
    Posts
    402
    Kathleen...
    I can partially answer your questions, but will not recommend a brand as I have not purchased one in that price range. The internet has enough expert opinions without matching experience. You should be able to find one in that range, but will be a bit of a stretch at that price point finding one that will do a good job on aluminum, especially if it has to have a rotary included in the budget.

    For the most part a spindle with VFD is required for software speed control. Hand held routers will require manually moving a speed dial.
    Gary Campbell
    CNC Technology & Training

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
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    SE PA - Central Bucks County
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    48,036
    Kathleen, your stated size is very doable. Your requirements for 4th axis and cutting aluminum narrow the field a bit and honestly, will be tight on your stated budget from what I've seen out there. If you can fund a little more, it gets you what you want. Sometimes good used machines come up, too, and they are worthy of your consideration. In addition to here at SMC, join forums like Camheads dot org (Camaster community) and similar from various CNC vendors and watch the classifieds while you learn more about capabilities. One thing that can help you get started is getting a machine with the spindle for the variable speed (and better results with both wood and metal) and have it "forth axis ready" so you can add the rotary later pretty much plug and play. That "ready" option is pretty inexpensive, at least with the vendor I know.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
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    Marquette, MI USA
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    402
    Kathleen...
    Do you have a viable project in mind that can only be accomplished on a rotary axis? The reason I ask is most users that "think they want one" seldom put the time required into the rotary axis unless driven by a "rotary-centric" project. or, in other words, if you dont have one now, you most likely never will. A rotary axis is the most desired, least implemented CNC accessory
    Gary Campbell
    CNC Technology & Training

  5. #5
    There is a speed control for a router that can be controlled through software, and it works very well. (I use one)
    http://www.vhipe.com/product-private/SuperPID-home.htm

    However, there are a couple caveats.
    1) It''s not cheap.
    2) It requires modifying your router to mount a sensor

    For the price of the Super PID and router, you can get a 2.2Kw chines spindle and VFD.
    Gerry

    JointCAM

  6. #6
    You really have to research your choices because there are so many variables. You need to also look at every option on the machines that you are looking at. Do they come with design software like vcarve pro? That would be an additional $650. Do they come with a computer? What kind of material are they made from and how rigid are they. I'd be looking at Craigslist and forums to see what used machines are out there. Anything that you find in that price range is going to have it's own pros and cons and you will have to decide which you can live with and not. Do you know what you are going to be using it for primarily?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Iowa USA
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    3,260
    You might look at the Chinese options in machines that Automation Technologies in Chicago sells. A rotary... that works I do not know. But some of his smaller machines have water cooled spindles. I owned one of his units and it did a decent job. Are you tekkie enough to handle the software and setup of a not user friendly machine, in other words its not plug in, turn on and go?
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , LightObject 40w CO2 Laser and Chiller, MakerGear M2 3D Printer. Qe60+ Vinyl cutter. Fine Line Automation 4x4 CNC Router- Mach3

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
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    SE PA - Central Bucks County
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    Gary makes a very good point about the rotary. (4th axis) If you don't have a specific need, it might be best to leave that off your list or buy something "4th axis/rotary ready" without the initial cost of the rotary up front like I mentioned previously. These things are not like a traditional lathe other than they can move material around an axis so that the spindle/router can make a next pass and they are not a substitution for a regular lathe. You will see lots of discussion about this kind of thing in the CNC focused forums for sure where folks bought the capability thinking that it was a replacement for a lathe and then hundreds or thousands of dollars later finding out that was not the case.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  9. #9
    I had similar needs and budget. One warning though, the base price of the machine is just the beginning! After you buy software, bits, tools, clamps, a base, dust collection, etc., it adds up. I bought a CNCRouterParts Standard 24x48. Let me qualify - I am a home hobbyist. I cut mostly wood, but have milled aluminum, brass, plastic, circuit boards, slate, etc. I have also used a drag knife to cut vinyl, foam, cardboard, cork, wood veneer, etc. I use a Bosch 1617 router with an upgraded collet. Dust collection is a must with wood especially. Not sure about speed adjustment on a router. I'm thinking no, but don't quote me. I adjust the speed of the Bosch manually for the job (it is usually going full blast!). The 4th axis option can be added to most machines. I would like one someday, but I just don't have the time to commit to the learning curve and putting it all together right now. There are some "kits" out there that look interesting. So, I still spin the round things on my lathe by hand. Oh, don't forget a pc to control the machine. I use an older laptop, but I'd like to upgrade it - I did add more memory.

    Oh, all my stuff is 110. The whole thing only pulls around 7 amps or so when it is running/cutting full blast.

    Something else to consider - cutting '3D models' takes forever! It is a very slow process. So, that's a consideration in your machine capabilities. I don't do 3D stuff (not my thing), but I have played with it and it is slow!

    Anyway, there's one reference for whatever that's worth! I started out looking at a smaller machine (~$1500 range), but decided the CNCRP was a better investment. I have a 24x48 model and I have almost never used more than 24x24. And probably 90% of my stuff is smaller than that. So, it just depends on what you wanna make! Add a little capacity to what you think you'll need. Honestly, I wish I had gone smaller because of space. My shop is 16 x 20 and this thing takes up a LOT of space. It is a lot of fun though. Its one of those things that, once you have it, you'll think up all sorts of things to use it for.

    Good luck and enjoy!

    Tony

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Huntington, Vermont
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    845
    I won't make a specific recommendation other than I bought a used Camaster and have received good service from their techs, and tech support is free for life with the machine.

    Support is really important especially when you are getting started. Camaster and Shopbot have active forums with helpful participants as does Vectrics ( CAD/CAM programs). The ability to get timely advice from folks using the same hard and software is a big deal. Parts availability as well.

    Seek out users with similar requirements. A good vendor will be able to point you to someone in your area who is willing to share their experience.

    Tony's advice on costs is right on. The machine purchase price is just the cost of entry.

    I can't link to it here, but Gary Campbell offered some sage advice on buying a cnc router that is worth reading. Google "Gary Campbell buying cnc homework".

    Best of luck.

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