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  1. #1
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    Aug 2011
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    973

    Small Portable Machine

    I have been using my home-made mid-size CNC router for 7 years now and I am still happy with it (see LONG thread here: https://www.cnczone.com/forums/cnc-w...rum-posts.html.

    Now retired, I am planning to go on 2-3 months trips with our motorhome and obviously I can not take a 600 pound machine with me, not to mention materials and other tools. But I really would like to be able to work on smaller projects and also verify some of the specialty CAM software I am working on.

    So, I am looking for recommendations or links to small desktop machines (I guess 12"x12" work space is about all I can take with me). Likely, that takes me into engraving machine territory.
    - should be reasonably accurate (maybe <0.003"?)
    - should be rigid enough to run 1/8" bits with speed up to 80 ipm
    - max speed 120 ipm is o.k.
    - lightweight to lug around
    - moderate effort to assemble (I don't want to make this a build project in itself)
    - no controller required, I would hook up a controller of my choice. But O.K. if it has a modern controller.
    - quiet small spindle (if it comes with one). No need to upset the campground neighbors.
    - sure enough, I don't want to spend more than $1000-1500 depending on features.

    Thanks for any recommendations...
    Box Joint and Dovetail CAM software here: WWW.TAILMAKER.NET

  2. #2
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    Apr 2005
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    248
    I'll get it finished sometime after I start it.....

  3. #3
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    May 2005
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    3871

    Re: Small Portable Machine

    Hi Jerry


    First congratulations on making it to retirement. I’m not sure if that is something I can achieve.

    However that doesn’t mean I don’t dream about retirement and like you would love to spend some time traveling. As for a small machine it is interesting that you brought that up because yesterday I was at my local Woodcraft store and they had a small machine set up of abut the size you mention. Honestly I walked right past the machine and didn’t stop (this is how I manage my budget) but it looked solid. This is the only small machine I’ve seen in person that is worth considering as most of the small
    Machines on the market are not well Engineered or too light weight. That is you will likely want a machine that gives you results that matches your expectations. I’m not even sure of the manufacture of this machine but it is the only thing I’ve seen that I could even suggest in a small machine.

    I’m wondering if you have considered other options such as pulling a small trailer. I’ve seen a number of guys with big RV’s pulling trailers they call their garages. I’m assuming they tow cars, golf carts, bikes or similar things in them (this is a bit above my pay scale) but you could just as easily set one up as a micro workshop. This would allow for a slightly larger machine (let’s face it space is still an issue), room for support tools and equipment and if done right some sound proofing to avoid disturbing the neighbors. By the way one support bit of tooling May very well be a generator as suitable power could be a real issue. The idea here is to have enough of your shop along to avoid the frustrations of trying to do stuff in the RV. I’m not talking a big trailer here, a 4x6 might surprise you if the interior is customized.

    In my case I’ve been flirting with a different approach. That is a towed RV and a pickup with a commercial truck bed. The truck bead would provide storage and room to mount small tools. The other idea is a truck with a cap that is a bit higher than normal. None of these ideas really cut it though so I’m still flirting with ideas. There simply isn’t a good way to pull around an entire shops worth of tools and machines so you really need to work on what is minimally required. In the case of a CNC router the minimal equipment really depends upon your interests. However it would seem tome to be more than just a router and cutters.

    Finally while I understand that you don’t want to do a build per say, but you might want to consider a custom build or a modification to a commercial machine. Let’s face it these machines are heavy even in the smaller sizes. A machine that can be broken down has advantages over one that can’t be broken down. It will be lighter then handle in parts but maybe more importantly less bulky to store. In an RV being compact is a huge win. This storage issue is a big deal to me as cramped conditions can lead to frustration and conflict. A machine with a 12 inch work area can easily take up the space of a cube 18” on a side. So while I understand your desires not to build something, at the same time I can see where a bit of innovation might make the hauling around of a router a lot easier on everybody.

  4. #4
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    Re: Small Portable Machine

    Thanks for the ideas but both X-Carve and Shapeoko are too big to fit the 37"x22"x22" compartment

    I am doing some research and right now I am leaning towards getting a Chinese 3040 machine and just replace the control box with my own stuff. There are some on eBay including rotary 4th axis for under $600.
    Probably not the greatest machine but enough for simple things. They come with a 300 W DC motor and adapted ER11 collet (what they call a spindle). Probably way too loud for a campground but I can still do some work with a diamond drag bit, or drag knife or a laser.
    Maybe I can even mount the machine on a drawer to slide it out of the RV storage bin. With about 50 lbs not too heavy. If I ever get this pulled off I will post some pics.
    Box Joint and Dovetail CAM software here: WWW.TAILMAKER.NET

  5. #5
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    May 2015
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    1418

    Re: Small Portable Machine

    I was looking into this years ago for the purpose of being able to move my life onto a boat yet still have a small workshop.

    It's all compromises.

    Maybe a PocketNC machine would foot the bill (other than the price tag). Otherwise I was looking at a SCARA style robot with some kind of Z axis on the toolhead. The advantage of this was that it could have swung out over the workbench when required, and then be folded back into a cupboard when idle.

  6. #6
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    Jun 2013
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    Re: Small Portable Machine

    Chinese may be a good choice for you. I have one, granted a large table but it is a pretty solid machine. I replaced the bootlegged Mach 3 with centroid acorn and it has been a pretty solid machine so far. Very rigid.

  7. #7
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    Re: Small Portable Machine

    So...I did buy the Chinese 3040 4-axis machine but with with a real spindle and paid (IMO ridiculous) $816 with the knowledge of improvement needs. Took a bit of a risk believing the sellers dimensions (so that it may fit into the RV cargo bay). It arrived today (2-day free shipping from a close-by warehouse in Ontario, California) and overall, I am quite pleasantly surprised for what I got for the money. It was packed up very well in 2 boxes with lots of sturdy foam and plywood reinforcement.
    - 3-axis cnc machine with 1204 ball screws and NEMA23 steppers. Not a monster of rigidity (unsupported round rails but given the small size actually quite reasonable and easy to improve with a few plates and gussets). All cables and the spindle water hoses are guided in cable chains.
    - 800 watt water cooled spindle. There is even a submersible water pump included which I am not going to use and a handful of bits. I will remove the plumbing and add 2 fans to air cool the spindle from the outside. I have been air cooling the 2.2kW water spindle of my bigger machine for the last 7 years without problems.
    - 4th rotary axis with 3-jaw chuck and small tailstock. Has only 2.3:1 reduction but probably good enough for some experimentation or small diameter pieces. I may change the belt gearing at some point to 6:1.
    - Control box with parallel break-out board (with VFD speed control), 4 chunky stepper drives, 24V power supply and 110V VFD for the spindle. So far I tried only the VFD and the spindle turns (actually almost silently, much quieter than my 2.2kW spindle). The box is neatly wired, bundled harnesses and even a simple line filter for the VFD, of course without any schematics and a ridiculous useless manual (the assumption is that the buyer gets a copy of Mach3). But it looked nice enough that I felt bad to rip it all apart.

    My planned changes are:
    - replace the simple steppers with a set of Applied Motion closed loop steppers. I had them sitting in a drawer for a few years from a non-started project and they should allow for up to 300 ipm, even with the 4mm pitch ball screws. That will be more than ample for this size machine.
    - add the cooling fans to the spindle
    - remove the breakout board, power supply and the drives from the control box
    - install a Planet-CNC MK3/4 motion controller (same USB controller that I have on my bigger machine and quite happy with it)
    - install a bigger 48V power supply.

    So, while not a real build project, still a few things to do before I can take this thing on the road. At least the almost silent spindle is promising as long as the bit does not scream too loud.
    Box Joint and Dovetail CAM software here: WWW.TAILMAKER.NET

  8. #8
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    May 2005
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    3871

    Re: Small Portable Machine

    Sounds nice Jerry! If you could get the whole thing to run off 48vDC you could be Solar powered. I’ve flirted with the idea of a soar powered machine but you would need a battery bank and a solution for the spindle. Probably a pipe dream but the idea of being able to run a machine an hour or two a day far from civilization has its appeal.

  9. #9
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    Re: Small Portable Machine

    Quote Originally Posted by wizard View Post
    Sounds nice Jerry! If you could get the whole thing to run off 48vDC you could be Solar powered. I’ve flirted with the idea of a soar powered machine but you would need a battery bank and a solution for the spindle. Probably a pipe dream but the idea of being able to run a machine an hour or two a day far from civilization has its appeal.
    That can be done...Many Full Time RV folks have their roofs plastered with solar cells, serious batteries and with a 2-3 kW inverter you could easily run a cnc machine, at least with such a small 120V/800W spindle. Makes sense for long time boondocking.
    I am not there yet. If I would have to run anything off the grid I would just start the generator. But most campgrounds have ample electric power anyway.
    Box Joint and Dovetail CAM software here: WWW.TAILMAKER.NET

  10. #10
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    Apr 2019
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    1
    Quote Originally Posted by JerryBurks View Post
    I have been using my home-made mid-size CNC router for 7 years now and I am still happy with it (see LONG thread here: https://www.cnczone.com/forums/cnc-w...rum-posts.html.

    Now retired, I am planning to go on 2-3 months trips with our motorhome and obviously I can not take a 600 pound machine with me, not to mention materials and other tools. But I really would like to be able to work on smaller projects and also verify some of the specialty CAM software I am working on.

    So, I am looking for recommendations or links to small desktop machines (I guess 12"x12" work space is about all I can take with me). Likely, that takes me into engraving machine territory.
    - should be reasonably accurate (maybe <0.003"?)
    - should be rigid enough to run 1/8" bits with speed up to 80 ipm
    - max speed 120 ipm is o.k.
    - lightweight to lug around
    - moderate effort to assemble (I don't want to make this a build project in itself)
    - no controller required, I would hook up a controller of my choice. But O.K. if it has a modern controller.
    - quiet small spindle (if it comes with one). No need to upset the campground neighbors.
    - sure enough, I don't want to spend more than $1000-1500 depending on features.

    Thanks for any recommendations...
    Hello Jerry, Visit www.altparts.com, will better help you regarding this.

  11. #11
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    Oct 2004
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    91

    Re: Small Portable Machine

    Jerry, do you have a link to the machine you purchased?

  12. #12
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    Aug 2011
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    973

    Re: Small Portable Machine

    Quote Originally Posted by Arjay View Post
    Jerry, do you have a link to the machine you purchased?
    I got this one: https://www.ebay.com/itm/4-Axis-3040...S/283425348975

    While I am quite happy with what I got since I will modify it anyway, the experience for somebody who want to use it out of the box may be a bit frustrating due to miserable documentation.
    But (unlike some earlier reports I read on this forum for similar Chinese machines) the build quality and finish is kind of excellent.
    Box Joint and Dovetail CAM software here: WWW.TAILMAKER.NET

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