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Thread: Considering CNC Router

  1. #1

    Considering CNC Router

    I know I can get a great Shapeoko XXL for about $2,500. Are there any good ones substantially cheaper? What limitations do they have?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    "Any good" and "substantially cheaper" are very vague and makes recommendations almost impossible. This will almost certainly be moved to the CNC section. But we mainly need to know the use, capacity, and budget range to recommend anything at all. I just bought a Shaper Origin as I mainly want to make toys and inlays. It only needs simple SVG files and no code. So a simple free program like Inkscape works perfectly to make vector files. I also have little space in my shop, so the Shaper Origin goes back into the sustainer when I'm not using it. Just some space on a shelf gets used for it.

  3. #3
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    I don't think you will get a cnc router for less than $2k and be happy with the results. Even $2500 is only going to get you a hobby machine. Then there's the upgrades. It's as bad as a new car. Some of which are upgrades you can do to what you've bought. Others will get you looking at the next level machine.

  4. #4
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    If you don't have a specific purpose for a CNC machine that would preclude using the Shapeoko XXL, it's not a bad option as either a hobby machine or as a stepping stone drug to something more substantial. There are upgrades that can make it a better machine, too. The CarbideCreate software that comes with it is a nice introduction to CAD/CAM and you can upgrade to more capable software from other sources as your needs/wants evolve. If you have a business aspiration for CNC, then you may want to follow the oft-said rule of thumb to "buy your second machine first".

    I started out looking at this class of CNC setup but suddenly decided to start using my shop as a business which led me to buying a much larger and heavier setup. (and I still should have gone bigger, but isn't that always the case? ) As I shopping, the target creeped up in capability, heft and, well...cost. But that was the best for my particular situation which may be different than yours.
    --

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

  5. #5
    Here's more information about me and what I intend to do:

    Mostly I build speakers. I do also do some furniture repair and refinishing. This isn't my profession, but at the same time, I believe in getting good tools even if it's necessary to spend more, otherwise you waste your money. But that doesn't always mean you're better off spending more. 4 foot wide work area seems ideal but not necessary if it's too expensive. I really can't go higher than $2,500 and really shouldn't spend that much. Keeping the total cost below $2,000 would be more comfortable, but not if it means I end up with useless junk.

    I've worked on the ShopBot at FabLab Tulsa, and I'm very experienced at 3D printing, down to the level of editing GCode. I'm a programmer by trade. I've built a Railcore 3D printer. That makes it possible for me to handle more of a piecemeal kind of capability rather than being limited to "plug and play" machines; but I don't want the router to _become_ a hobby either.

    Having never used a CNC router one of the things I'm wondering is whether some machines have more flexibility in work height or if they generally just have a bottom surface with a limited height above that. It's not that I want to route really tall things, though! Just for example, what if you wanted to do some routing on a surface of a piece of furniture but you didn't want to disassemble it? Perhaps that's impractical, but I really don't know what these machines can do and what variations exist. The ShopBot milling machine is my only experience (but of course, that's way out of my league).

    Thanks for your comments. And I didn't realize there was a CNC forum. Sorry. I'm new to Sawmill Creek.
    Last edited by Don Stauffer; 01-20-2021 at 3:35 PM.

  6. #6
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    Don, it's good you have the skills and knowledge you have as it will make it easier to integrate CNC into your own shop. Your budget is going to be your limiting factor, honestly. That will get you into something like a Shapeoko XXL (1000mm x 1000mm, if I'm not mistaken) but even seriously used, larger, heftier machines hold their value in the market, so you'd be at least double or more of your budget to get up in size for used or a larger kit build from AVID CNC, etc.
    --

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

  7. #7
    The Shapeoko XXL is one I'm looking at. LowRider2 is a neat concept and extremely cheap but I'd be concerned about the wheels slipping, and the design seems optimized for just sheets of material. But I do have a couple 3D printers, so that would help. But also, it's really a ground-up build and I'm not sure I want to go there rather than something more "pro-sumer" like Shapeoko, which I'd say is the leading contender I've looked at. But if you add the HDZ option, with tax and shipping it really pushes my budget a bit.

    I haven't looked at any others yet. Just started.

  8. #8
    Onefinity actually looks a little better than Shapeoko, except it's back ordered 3 months, and the company is only about a year old.

    The machine has sealed linear bearings and ball screws, instead of wheels and belts. I think I could get more precision and have to do less periodic adjustment. It's also cheaper than the Shapeoko with HDZ.

    If it weren't back ordered I think I'd have already ordered the Onefinity, but under the circumstances I'm undecided.

  9. #9
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    The weak point of the Onefinity is the controller. It's not a bad controller but it's also not as good as it could be. Since 1F doesn't make it their support isn't as great as it could be. Like almost every CNC router each piece can be upgraded if you decide that it doesn't work well enough for you.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Don Stauffer View Post
    Onefinity actually looks a little better than Shapeoko, except it's back ordered 3 months, and the company is only about a year old.

    The machine has sealed linear bearings and ball screws, instead of wheels and belts. I think I could get more precision and have to do less periodic adjustment. It's also cheaper than the Shapeoko with HDZ.

    If it weren't back ordered I think I'd have already ordered the Onefinity, but under the circumstances I'm undecided.
    Shapeoko Pro gets you linear rails, although they are still using the belts for positioning. HDZ Z axis upgrade gets you a ball screw there where it will have the most benefit. But by the time you add all the extras, you're getting closer to one of the more robust machines in their smaller sizes. You kinda have to make your decision balancing the features you desire with the cost you're willing to pay. I started looking that these smaller, more hobby focused machines, but as I got more and more familiar with things and adjusted what I wanted to do with it. my budget had to change with that.
    --

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

  11. #11
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    Doing speaker enclosures your going to want a machine that will take either 4x4 or 4x8 sheets of 1/2-3/4 inch plywood. Belts are not heavy duty that is for sure. Screws are better but slow. Smaller hobby like machines will take multiple passes to cut. You might check the Classifieds here or Craigslist sometimes machines come up for sale that are not all worn out. I had mine here for months and finally sold locally for 1/2 what I had invested.
    Last edited by Bill George; 01-27-2021 at 9:35 AM.
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , LightObject 40w CO2 Laser and Chiller , WorkBee 1000x750 CNC Router - Mach4 - Windows 10

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill George View Post
    Doing speaker enclosures your going to want a machine that will take either 4x4 or 4x8 sheets of 1/2-3/4 inch plywood. Belts are not heavy duty that is for sure. Screws are better but slow. Smaller hobby like machines will take multiple passes to cut.
    I respectfully disagree about the belts not being strong. For example motorcycles using a belt rather than a chain to the rear wheel. Timing belts as another example. We use timing belts to drive a variety of specialty pieces of equipment on the railroad. CAMaster uses belts and servo motors until you get up to the upper range machines. I don't know what the other comparable US manufacturers use. CAMaster's are well made rigid machines and the belts doesn't keep them from performing well.
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 01-27-2021 at 8:21 PM. Reason: fixed quote tagging

  13. #13
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    Just so things are fair, the belts on my Camaster Stinger II (and other Stinger models) are short and heavy and are merely driving a pinion gear from the steppers. The actual movement is rack and pinion for X and Y axis and direct drive ball screw for the Z axis. The hobby machines like Shapeoko and Invincibles use long belts as the entire movement mechanism. I'm not suggesting that the small machines are bad because of that since it's a very economic way to provide the movement from the small steppers on these machines. there just has to be realistic expectations placed on them. They are accurate when properly installed and adjusted, but certainly not as resiliant as bigger heavier machines that use heavier gear to move that hungry tooling around.
    --

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

  14. #14
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    Yes that is what the machine I owned used belts for the stepper motor to the pinon gear. Never to drive the gantry. It had rack and pinion for X & Y and like Jim also it had a screw for the Z. Those long skinny belts on those hobby grade machines need adjustment and are not heavy duty. I am familiar with both timing belts and drive belts on motorcycles as I had one. Totally different than those 3 or 4 foot drive belts on a small CNC.
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , LightObject 40w CO2 Laser and Chiller , WorkBee 1000x750 CNC Router - Mach4 - Windows 10

  15. #15
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    A lot of the equipment I work on use belts. But they are mainly used for gear reduction. Timing belts stretch, it's just a fact of life. The longer the belt the more it will stretch. The best way to deal with it is to properly tension the belt. In car engines they usually do it with a spring. With a CNC like the shapeoko you just do it manually. Loosen a screw, adjust a tension wheel, and then tighten it down. I don't think Shapeoko has a number. At work we measure the deflection when putting a preset amount of force on the belt in both directions. Once you've done a couple you can usually do it by feel. I would expect that as long as you paid attention and checked it on a regular basis a belt shouldn't give you too many problems. That being said it seems like the use of belts in hobbyist grade CNC routers are diminishing. I would expect Shapeoko to come out with an all new router in the near future to keep up with the competition.

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