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CNC machine for hobby use?

Old 10-25-2011, 05:47 PM
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KC10Chief
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Default CNC machine for hobby use?

I'm interested in a CNC machine. I did a little reading on here and the rest of the interbuttz. I'd like one for cutting out ribs and formers. I don't need to cut any kind of 3D parts. I have no experience with any kind of CAD program or anything but I can learn. I've seen CNC machines on the internet. You can buy them ready made or build it yourself. I'd kind of like to build it myself. If I could have a 2'x4' cutting area, that would be great! What are you guys using? Any recommendations? I'd like to spend less than $2,500 all together.
Old 10-26-2011, 09:44 AM
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Default RE: CNC machine for hobby use?

You'll have to look into costs of the parts a lot. Does the design use belts with drawer slides or rod slides to move the cutter, or ballscrews? I'm not talking about regular threaded rod, that's not very good. For a 2'x4' size, you are looking at a pretty penny if it uses ball screws on a 4' length. We don't need a lot of precision for this hobby, so belt drive on a sliding rod system could work, but there needs to be a method of backlash control, and how do you support the long rods to prevent sagging on the long lengths?
How much will it cost to build the controller? does it include everything if it's a kit? the steppers (motors)?
Is there a clear path from programming the part to posting the cutting program in a way that the controller will understand without any hand coding? In other words, how do you get the .DXF file translated to a toolpath that will run on your controllers? This is a software issue for the most part.

This is something you are going to have to research in detail. I once had a kit that should have run a 12x24 dremel router setup, but I never finished it cause I was getting burned out on the hobby, and the ballscrews he recommended were hard to find and expensive.
Old 10-26-2011, 02:01 PM
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Default RE: CNC machine for hobby use?

Just finished the BlackToe 2x4 from http://buildyourcnc.com/default.aspx . Maybe a little beyond you price range, but the smaller Blue Chick might fit the bill. Made out of MDO, but goes together like a charm and all the vids on his site do real well to explain every step. Might do you good just to watch the videos for informational purposes.
Old 10-26-2011, 02:37 PM
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Default RE: CNC machine for hobby use?

I picked up a CNC Shark from Rockler. It comes with VCarve Pro which is a nice little application for simple designs and generating the output g-code for the machine. You will probably still want a cad program. While not a cad program, I've been using Corel Draw for many years. I just export dxf or dwg files and open them in Vcarve and define the cut types and order.
Here's a link to it at Rockler:
http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?p...er=cnc%20shark

Here's a video of my first parts cut from it:
http://youtu.be/02uDnE0aH78


Here's a photo of it in the enclosure I made for it.

Scott
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Old 10-26-2011, 03:52 PM
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Default RE: CNC machine for hobby use?

Here's some pics of the BlackToe. I use Mach3 to drive the machine and am experimenting with BobCad V24.
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Old 10-26-2011, 09:50 PM
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Default RE: CNC machine for hobby use?

Thanks for the replies! Those machines are definitely cool! I like the Black Toe. I think that the Blue Chick might work out better for me. I doubt I'd really need four feet of cutting area. I design and build my own planes. Usually 40 to 60 size birds though. Cutting longer fuselage pieces could still be done by hand I suppose. It's cutting out the ribs and stuff that I really hate. I'm kind of space limited in my garage. I already have a ton of stuff in there. Are you satisfied with your Black Toe? Thanks!
Old 10-26-2011, 10:28 PM
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Default RE: CNC machine for hobby use?

One of the things that I like about the Shark is that it is a complete package except for the router. The Bosch Colt adds another $100. But once that is done, the only other investment you will need to really get going are router bits or mill ends. The controller is complete and the software to control and also to do basic design and toolpath creation is bundled with it. VCarve Pro is a very easy and fairly intuitive piece of software and separately sells for $600. One item that I purchased that made a big difference is a third party collet set for the Bosch. It made significant improvements in runnout which not only will improve accuracy of the cuts, but also reduce the risk of breaking smaller bits such as 1/16" or 1/32" mill ends. In the video, I used a 1/16" mill end. The collet replacements also give you greater flexibility to the bits you can use as they have not only a 1/4" replacement, but also a 1/8" collet. This allows the use of smaller bits and all the bits that are made for rotary tools like the Dremel. It also fits almost perfectly with your price range.

I've only had mine for a few months, and have not done anything more complex than the items in the videos I've posted on youtube, but with a package like solidworks and 3dcut, you can then start cutting out 3d parts that can be directly used, or used as a plug for a fiberglass molds or vaccum forming. Of course, you can do the same with the home built madhines, 3dCAD software and Mach software. Mach also does give you more options for toolpath control than VCarve. But VCarve allows for design within the program itself or the import from other CAD apps which lets you get going pretty much right out of the box.

One think that I did find is that when cutting thicker material, there is enough flex in the basic Shark to affect the results. Also, what seems at first to be an ample cutting area starts to feel a bit small over time. Also, the documentation for the machine and controller is not the best, but there's a Shark forum where one can find pleanty of help and the support for the VCarve sofware is good. If you want, you can download a trial version of VCarve to try.

I do think that in the future I'll be looking into building a larger machine. This will have to meet space and financial considerations. More pressing to me is saving up for purchasing Solidworks. As I said before, I do use Corel Draw and have Alibre as well, but none of the lower cost 3d CAD programs will allow me to import 2d dxf or dwg files to be used as the basis of a 3d objects. Alibre will, but only for geometric objects and not splines used to confine lofts. I have a lot of time and research invested in some 2d drawings I would like to use as a starting point rather than trying to reproduce them accurately in 3d space.

Old 10-27-2011, 07:17 PM
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Default RE: CNC machine for hobby use?

Awesome! Thanks for all of that info! I would like the challenge of building a machine. It would give me a slightly better understanding of how it works. The Shark is definitely a cool machine. I don't know how much carving I'd do though. I really just want a 2D cutter. I'm thinking that smaller might be the way to go. I like the Blue Chick. I have to move to the lower 48 in less than 2 years. I already have 12,000 pounds of stuff to move. If I like it and use it a lot, I could get something bigger.
Old 10-27-2011, 10:50 PM
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Default RE: CNC machine for hobby use?

I have around $3500 invested in the Black Toe (you have to build a table and Torsion Box to set the gantry on as well as the router itself). Only reason I didn't go 4x8 is that I don't have the physical space in my garage. I do have a much better understanding of how the tool works given that I built it from a kit. I am hoping to make some plugs for some projects I am working on, so I would recommend get the biggest you can fit/afford. As far as building the machine, it really isn't that much of a challenge. The resolution is excellent. On my initial calibration of the X axis i was off 1/64" over 44 inches. Haven't really started using it, just some test cuts and learning how to use the software that drives the steppers...Mach 3 (that will run you another $2-300). Things start adding up pretty fast so make sure you read up on what you will need overall. Good Luck. I would venture over to CNCZONE and read some posts there.
Old 10-31-2011, 06:07 PM
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Default RE: CNC machine for hobby use?

Getting a 2'X4' in that budget is going to be tough unless as mentioned you kit build one yourself. If your not into a home built, I suggest the probotix Fireball comet with a 25" x 25" cutting area. It's a ready to cut setup. I use probotix components in my PhlatPrinter and they are rock solid. I have heard several kit builders make the comment that by the time they finished there kits, they figure they could have bought a machine that was already complete. Don't know how true that is but it doesn't surprise me.

2'X4' is overkill for cutting formers and spars. You may even be able to cut it down to 12" X 18" and get the Probotix V90 for Under $1400.

http://probotix.com/FireBall_Comet_cnc_router/

Old 11-04-2011, 05:20 PM
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Default RE: CNC machine for hobby use?

Why are steppers so prevalent in these small CNC machines? Aren't servos better? I have heard that steppers can get "lost" or lose count for want of a better way to put it.

Ken

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