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  1. #1
    Member
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    Oct 2019
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    1

    Looking for a direction to proceed

    Im a hobbyist woodworker/DIYer and I've been wanting to get into CNC for a few years now. However, at this point, I can't see me spending thousands on a full shop setup due to space and an extreme lack of experience and knowledge with the technology.

    So, for now, I think one of the smaller desktop size machines would be more suitable for my situation. At this point, I just want to learn and get comfortable with the process.

    That brings me here. I'd like to hear your advice on budget minded desktop machines. As well as advice on software (Linux based) to go along with it. I have a degree in drafting and design as well as experience with AutoCAD. So, a steep learning curve won't be quite so steep for me in the CAD department. I'm also somewhat mechanically inclined. So, having to tweak a cheaper machine isn't a huge deal breaker.

    Thanks for any and all input!

    Robert.

    PS
    I hope this is the right forum for this type of post. If not, I hope a moderator can move it.

  2. #2
    Registered
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    427

    Re: Looking for a direction to proceed

    LinuxCNC works very well and can be configured for several variations of machine type.There aren't as many people using it,it seems,as there are using Mach of some variety because they are used to the Windows environment.You can download an iso and try it as a live install.

    As far as desktop machines are concerned,you need to be aware that unsupported round rails won't be rigid enough to allow you to cut accurately in all materials.In fact they only really work with foam and the like.In addition they often come with spindles more suited to powering a pencil sharpener.

  3. #3
    Community Moderator ger21's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Posts
    34611

    Re: Looking for a direction to proceed

    You won't be able to get a "good" machine with a low budget, but for learning purposes, a cheap chinese machine from Ebay will work.

    LinuxCNC is the only Linux control software available. You may need to swap some electronics to use LinuxCNC, as most chinese machines are setup to run Mach3.

    I'm not familiar with any CAD or CAM software that runs on Linux, as I'm not a Linux user.

    You can do a lot of learning without even having a machine.

    You can learn CAD and CAM without a machine, and run control software in demo mode to see your code running.

    I actually think it's better to learn as much as possible before getting a machine.
    Gerry

    UCCNC 2017 Screenset
    http://www.thecncwoodworker.com/2017.html

    Mach3 2010 Screenset
    http://www.thecncwoodworker.com/2010.html

    JointCAM - CNC Dovetails & Box Joints
    http://www.g-forcecnc.com/jointcam.html

    (Note: The opinions expressed in this post are my own and are not necessarily those of CNCzone and its management)

  4. #4
    Registered
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Posts
    92

    Re: Looking for a direction to proceed

    A couple of years ago, I was where you are. Wanted a CNC machine for mostly woodworking and other non-metal projects. I chose a small CBeam machine for the reasons you listed above. It has about a 12"x 12" work space. It cost about $700 to build and works ok. It's got a fair amount of flex so I need to use a shallow DOC and very shallow ramping but it does surprisingly well within those constraints. But, it is slow going. It can even cut aluminum though with such a shallow DOC, I have to REALLY need the part.

    So, what did I learn from this? Numbers 1, 2 and 3 - 12x12 is too small. I could live with the flex given what I use it for but there are so many times I want to cut something bigger. For example, I have a project where I want to cut a 10x3 sized decorative design in a board that is 22" long. No-Go. I can make a template for a simplified design and hand route that so all is not lost but it would be so much easier to route it directly. And I'd be able to do something much more compelling. The other lessons of import - get as rigid a machine as you can afford for faster cutting time and get good drivers. My machine uses GRBL and that is, frankly, quite adequate - I've yet to find anything that I want that it can't do. Price is right.

    I don't regret the direction I went but perhaps I wouldn't be thinking of upgrading quite so soon - will probably spend $6K or so on a much larger and more rigid router.

    With your background, I'd expect you to have no problems at all getting up to speed.

  5. #5
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    Dec 2003
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    427

    Re: Looking for a direction to proceed

    Quote Originally Posted by ger21 View Post
    You won't be able to get a "good" machine with a low budget, but for learning purposes, a cheap chinese machine from Ebay will work.

    LinuxCNC is the only Linux control software available. You may need to swap some electronics to use LinuxCNC, as most chinese machines are setup to run Mach3.

    I'm not familiar with any CAD or CAM software that runs on Linux, as I'm not a Linux user.

    You can do a lot of learning without even having a machine.

    You can learn CAD and CAM without a machine, and run control software in demo mode to see your code running.

    I actually think it's better to learn as much as possible before getting a machine.
    I agree that learning in advance of getting hold of a machine is a good thing. I didn't mention it in my earlier post but if you go with Linux the Freecad package has an inbuilt post processor for LinuxCNC as well as GRBL and a couple of others.Freecad is parametric-not to mention free- and the Path workbench is useful and gaining capabilities all the time.If you need to use 3D surfacing,you need to enable experimental features.For a good grounding you can usefully go to youtube and see several videos-those by sliptonic are very good.

  6. #6
    Gold Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Posts
    6373

    Re: Looking for a direction to proceed

    Too much wishing and thinking.....do some acting and buy a 6040....learn to use Mach 3 with a cheap desktop computer running Win XP and you won't look back.

    BTW what is your top budget?.....if it's below a grand, go back to bed and dream on......or, just build one out of wood.....many have done good work that way.
    Ian.

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