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IndustryArena Forum > WoodWorking Machines > Commercial CNC Wood Routers > Optimizing a benchtop CNC for low noise in an apartment
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  1. #1
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    Optimizing a benchtop CNC for low noise in an apartment

    I'm looking at buying a small benchtop CNC milling machine to primarily do 3D carving of custom generative art, similar to this example. I would have no problem sticking mainly to softer materials like foams, plastics, and soft woods, but it would be fun once in a great while to do some hardwoods or even aluminum (rarely).

    Trouble is, I live in apartment with neighbors above, below, and on one side of me, so I want to make sure I've done my homework on noise reduction before I make the purchase. In my experience, I never hear vacuums running in my neighbors' units, though the wheels running along the floor I do hear once in a while. So using that as a sort of benchmark, if I can get the machine running at about the volume of a household vacuum (or less, for my own benefit) I should be OK!

    Originally I was looking at Inventables' Carvey (now discontinued) and Carbide3D's Nomad 883, but now I'm strongly considering the CNC Piranha FX, though I'm wary of its closed-source control module (a topic for another thread maybe). The vendor (Next Wave Automation) also sells this nice (albeit a bit overpriced, IMO) see-through enclosure that I'm very interested in for dust containment and slight noise reduction. I'd LOVE to use this enclosure, but I'm not sure that it would provide the level of sound dampening I need on its own (or would it?).

    The obvious solution here is to build a custom wood enclosure with sound-dampening acoustic foam or DIY alternatives, and maybe even inner walls with an air-gap. However, I'd love to be able to look at and film the machine from multiple angles, so the idea of locking it away in a wooden box with tiny windows and LED lighting wouldn't be ideal.

    Here are some ideas I have for reducing noise. Do you think the combination of some or all of these would be enough to let me get away with using the plexiglass enclosure I linked to? Do you have any other ideas for reducing noise, even in small ways?

    • Mechanically isolating the table from the floor using rubber mats to reduce vibrations transmitted to the apartment below.
    • Using a 500W, or even 300W, air-cooled spindle instead of a trim or palm router. Specifically I'm looking at this one.
    • Always using less aggressive milling strategies like small step down and low feed rates. Basically "optimizing" toolpaths for low-noise, not production speed.
    • Running the dust collection vacuum only intermittently. Building a wood enclosure with acoustic foam for this would be OK too, if needed.
    • Sticking primarily to soft materials and 3D carving, so the noisest operations (like first-pass stock clearance) would only last for the first few minutes or hours.

  2. #2
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    Re: Optimizing a benchtop CNC for low noise in an apartment

    Quote Originally Posted by jasonwebb View Post
    I'm looking at buying a small benchtop CNC milling machine to primarily do 3D carving of custom generative art, similar to this example. I would have no problem sticking mainly to softer materials like foams, plastics, and soft woods, but it would be fun once in a great while to do some hardwoods or even aluminum (rarely).

    Trouble is, I live in apartment with neighbors above, below, and on one side of me, so I want to make sure I've done my homework on noise reduction before I make the purchase. In my experience, I never hear vacuums running in my neighbors' units, though the wheels running along the floor I do hear once in a while. So using that as a sort of benchmark, if I can get the machine running at about the volume of a household vacuum (or less, for my own benefit) I should be OK!

    [If you use a vacuum cleaner as a dust collector, that will give you the vacuum noise right there, unless you put it in some kind of enclosure of its own. Additionally, there's the noise of the spindle and the noise generated by the tool working on the material.]

    Originally I was looking at Inventables' Carvey (now discontinued) and Carbide3D's Nomad 883, but now I'm strongly considering the CNC Piranha FX, though I'm wary of its closed-source control module (a topic for another thread maybe). The vendor (Next Wave Automation) also sells this nice (albeit a bit overpriced, IMO) see-through enclosure that I'm very interested in for dust containment and slight noise reduction. I'd LOVE to use this enclosure, but I'm not sure that it would provide the level of sound dampening I need on its own (or would it?).

    [It would help, but it won't stop all the sound.]

    The obvious solution here is to build a custom wood enclosure with sound-dampening acoustic foam or DIY alternatives, and maybe even inner walls with an air-gap. However, I'd love to be able to look at and film the machine from multiple angles, so the idea of locking it away in a wooden box with tiny windows and LED lighting wouldn't be ideal.

    Here are some ideas I have for reducing noise. Do you think the combination of some or all of these would be enough to let me get away with using the plexiglass enclosure I linked to? Do you have any other ideas for reducing noise, even in small ways?

    [You could build a box like that one but better. If it had double walls instead of single ones, that would cut down on noise transmission.]

    • Mechanically isolating the table from the floor using rubber mats to reduce vibrations transmitted to the apartment below.

      [That would help, as well as isolating the machine with rubber stand-offs within the box.]
    • Using a 500W, or even 300W, air-cooled spindle instead of a trim or palm router. Specifically I'm looking at this one.

      [That spindle is a bit wimpy, but it would be quieter than a hand router, which makes a lot of noise on its own.]
    • Always using less aggressive milling strategies like small step down and low feed rates. Basically "optimizing" toolpaths for low-noise, not production speed.

      [Taking off less material at a time makes things a little quieter, but on the other hand the noise would have to go on for a longer time.]

      *]Running the dust collection vacuum only intermittently. Building a wood enclosure with acoustic foam for this would be OK too, if needed.
    • Sticking primarily to soft materials and 3D carving, so the noisest operations (like first-pass stock clearance) would only last for the first few minutes or hours.
    [Softer materials like foam generate less noise as they're cut than harder ones like wood, but they make more dust - if you keep turning off the dust collector, you'll fall behind in collecting it and it will interfere with the cutting. 3D carving makes about as much noise as 2D, but it lasts for a much longer time. You might be better off figuring out when your neighbors are absent, and doing your cutting as fast as possible at those times. Or finding another place to keep your machine where it won't bother them at all.]
    Andrew Werby
    Website

  3. #3
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    Re: Optimizing a benchtop CNC for low noise in an apartment

    Make an enclosure box from sandwiched 3/4" acoustic panel on all sides. (usually a green board at home depot)
    This will take a big compressor down from unbearable to be in the same room to where you could stand next to it and talk normally.
    Put a big soft gasket on the door.
    If you need a hole - like for cooling fans, run them through baffled panels. If you want a window, use 2 or 3 6mm panels of plexiglass with air in between each, and keep it small. you are trying to restrict any direct air flow inside to outside.

    The machine will not be silent for you in the same room, but all the vibrations that can travel through a building to the neighbours should be stopped.

    What i did with a small machine before was put in in an ikea cabinet (not insulated on its own) and put in one 5 or 6 carpet underlay layers. Again, machine was still loud, but it did not transmit vibrations through the floor to the people below me. the acoustic panels on the outside of the ikea cabinet would be the next level.
    wotzBotz

  4. #4
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    Re: Optimizing a benchtop CNC for low noise in an apartment

    I have no problem building a more heavy-duty sound dampening enclosure for the dust collection vacuum, but I'm trying to figure out how (or if) I can keep noise levels of the CNC machine within a reasonable volume while using a see-through enclosure like what I linked to.

    I'm OK with not achieving a completely silent setup - something that is no louder than a household vacuum is what I'm hoping for. I can certainly add a second layer of plexiglass with an air-gap. It means more work for me, but if it makes a significant improvement I'm up for it.

    Rubber standoffs and gaskets are great ideas, I'll definitely include those.

    What I'm hoping to find out is whether the cumulative effect of all of these small strategies is plausible enough for me to move forward or not.

    Heck, if worse comes to worse, rather than a building a permanent enclosure of wood and acoustic foam, I could just leave the bottom and back open and slap some handles on it to make a big removable sound-dampening "hood". That way I can remove the hood during operation to film and do maintenance and whatnot, but keep it on during the majority of the job time. I would probably still spring for the plexi enclosure for dust containment, which would probably help some with noise too when combined with a removable hood.

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