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Basil

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I am contemplating a small CNC setup for my hobby shop in the UK. I think seeing as its only going to be for my model engine building a machining area of about 250mm would be large enough. I used to own and run a Fadal 40-20 for many years in America. I found a Fadal 15 a month ago here but was put off by the requirement for 3 phase. Also these larger machines I found very expensive when things go wrong. Its been 10 years and I see a lot of PC based CNC's and conversions out there. I currently have a Bridgeport that definitely has some wear on it so I am not sure if this would be a candidate anyway. I've been using Fusion 360 for a few years so that is my CAD of choice at the moment. Looking at a budget of about 3 to 4 K. Please help! 👍
 
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I am contemplating a small CNC setup for my hobby shop in the UK. I think seeing as its only going to be for my model engine building a machining area of about 250mm would be large enough. I used to own and run a Fadal 40-20 for many years in America. I found a Fadal 15 a month ago here but was put off by the requirement for 3 phase. Also these larger machines I found very expensive when things go wrong. Its been 10 years and I see a lot of PC based CNC's and conversions out there. I currently have a Bridgeport that definitely has some wear on it so I am not sure if this would be a candidate anyway. I've been using Fusion 360 for a few years so that is my CAD of choice at the moment. Looking at a budget of about 3 to 4 K. Please help! 👍
Have you found out any good solution to this? I am amazed how hard it seems to be to find a nice entry level cnc-machine. I’ve been looking around for a long time and it seems there are not many good options around.
 
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Olli
Are you looking for a CNC lathe or a mill?
I am looking for a mill in first place. Looking forward to learn cnc and absolute beginner in that department. I have saved upmsome funds but seems tough to find a good place to start in to the cnc world. I am currently using manual machines Emco Compact 8 and Maximat Super 11 and an Optimum Bf-20 mill.
 

Bazzer

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I thought Optimium had CNC options? I guess you are machining metals rather than wood or composites?

I have a Wabeco CNC mill and that is pretty capable and has all of the control's setup from the factory. I have recently started out with an EMCO PC Turn 50 CNC lathe and that is nice but you need to be sure that these are fully working, not because they are unreliable, far from it in fact but that there is a bespoke card and the software takes a bit of installing.

Don't underestimate the work involved in getting a Mach 3 type conversion up and running to a good standard, you have to decide if you are a machine convertor or a maker/machinist, or maybe both in which case you need time more than anything!!




The EMCO lathe is nowhere near as noisy as in the video, I spend money on machines not good phones!!

Any questions then just ask.

B.
 

Basil

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Hi Olli, The one I finally settled on was the Onefinity out of Canada. I don't really have the room for a bigger machine in my shop. Very happy with the results and it has allowed me to complete some parts that would have been a major issue for me otherwise. 👍
 

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Thank you for the answers and suggestions guys. I appreciate them very much. I think Bazzer is right on to my problem. I have been also thinking if I am a parts maker or machine convertor and definately the simple answer is that I want to use the machine and not spend that much time building and tuning it. I love my machines and it is fun to take care of them and upgrade and look for parts etc but really in the cnc business I would love to focus my energy towards learning the process itself.

Then again I love the Emco machines and got a lead of a VMC-100 mill just today. It would be in original condition supposedly working and goes for around 1500e. The price point is ofcourse one motivator that could drive me to try the conversion business but then again I am really not that excited about that. I think the wabeco machine would be a perfect candidate for me as I've liked the bf-20 mill very much for what I do and that is model engines and everything related to model airplanes. Basically only for the hobby purposes and in general tiny stuff.

Since you said that anything to ask go ahead so I would like to get some more clarification on the wabeco models. There is a cheaper 2-1/2 interpolation model and then more expensive 3D interpolation model, what would one need and what are the most significant differences? All in all the wabeco starts out at 5k (without anything extra or shipping etc) and it seems that that would be at the very top of my liking for the price range so this drives me towards for looking at the used market again and that brings me back to the pretty slim pickings.

What programs is one supposed to use with Wabeco cnc mill? Is it so that you download and learn to use like Fusion 360 or Mach3 and can then export those directly to the machine nccad ?

rgds
Olli
 

Jasonb

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You also need to think about the type of parts you are going to make and from what. The gantry type machine that Basil shows has a good X & Y range but is limited in Z so more suited to sheet, plate and smaller parts. It also will be more at home machining aluminium and other non ferrous metals but could just cope with steels and iron.

The Wabeco and my KX3 are more mill based designs so have good Z and X movement but less in Y which can limit some things, such as flywheels where their diameter is governed by the smaller Y axis movement unless you do multiple setups. They tend to be more rigid so can cope better with steels and iron. My X3 was very much plug and play with everything setup from the factory as I'm not one for fiddling with machines and would rather be making models.

The other thing is spindle speed. Converting an existing mill will probably give you a maximum spindle speed of 2000 to 2500rpm which when translated to feed rate can mean machining times can get quite long. I have a 5000rpm spindle but would easily find a use for 10,000rpm particularly when doing fine stepovers for 3D surfaces. The Gantry machines with spindle motors tend to have a higher spindle speed but can be a bit noisy

2.5D will do quite a lot of what you would have been doing manually with the mill and rotary table. I do quite a lot with more flowing compound curves, fillets, etc so make use of 3D quite alot of the time where all three axis are moving simultaniously rather than 2.5D which may just lower the cutter and then do a contour using X&Y movement before lowering to the next contour and cutting around the shape again.
 

Bazzer

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As Jason says you need to have some idea of what size parts you intend to make. I also have a gantry CNC router and make lots of larger flatter parts on that, but it is highly capable in 3D machining as well.

I would advise against any machine or system that can only handle 2.5D. My machines are all full 3D.

The Wabeco I have is a work area of 500x150 and 280 in the Z, RPM is limited to 3000, they do an 8000 RPM machine, but it is expensive, a much better option is to use an adaptor that they make which will hold a high RPM router. I have a 50,000 RPM Jager spindle sitting here waiting for the right job but I seem to be able to get away with the standard spindle speed.

Here is the workflow going from the beginning to the end. This applies to pretty well all CNC machines
  1. Concept/idea
  2. Design in CAD, Fusion 360 or Alibre are good starting points but many others are good as well.
  3. Import the CAD model into a CAM package (Fusion 360 and Alibre can do this within so no need to go to a CAM) and run tool paths.
  4. Post process the toolpaths into G code that the machine of whatever type will understand. Post processors are usually easy to tweak to whatever the machine control requires.
  5. Import G code to machine control and manufacture the part.
Mach 3 is a machine control like NCCAD. NCCAD has as it implies a CAD element to it, but I never use that. I prefer the workflow above although I use BobCAD instead of Fusion 360 as I worry about Autodesk pulling the plug on Fusion 360 at some stage, having lost many of £1000's to Autodesk in the past I have reason to be cynical and suspicious.

I think the above answers your questions but ask away if you think of anything else, below are some parts that I made on the Wabeco mill and used the workflow described.

B.

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Thank you for the answers and suggestions guys. I appreciate them very much. I think Bazzer is right on to my problem. I have been also thinking if I am a parts maker or machine convertor and definately the simple answer is that I want to use the machine and not spend that much time building and tuning it. I love my machines and it is fun to take care of them and upgrade and look for parts etc but really in the cnc business I would love to focus my energy towards learning the process itself.

Then again I love the Emco machines and got a lead of a VMC-100 mill just today. It would be in original condition supposedly working and goes for around 1500e. The price point is ofcourse one motivator that could drive me to try the conversion business but then again I am really not that excited about that. I think the wabeco machine would be a perfect candidate for me as I've liked the bf-20 mill very much for what I do and that is model engines and everything related to model airplanes. Basically only for the hobby purposes and in general tiny stuff.

Since you said that anything to ask go ahead so I would like to get some more clarification on the wabeco models. There is a cheaper 2-1/2 interpolation model and then more expensive 3D interpolation model, what would one need and what are the most significant differences? All in all the wabeco starts out at 5k (without anything extra or shipping etc) and it seems that that would be at the very top of my liking for the price range so this drives me towards for looking at the used market again and that brings me back to the pretty slim pickings.

What programs is one supposed to use with Wabeco cnc mill? Is it so that you download and learn to use like Fusion 360 or Mach3 and can then export those directly to the machine nccad ?

rgds
Olli
Greetings,

While Vectric products tend to be router-centric, they do have a very good but somewhat dated intro sort of document that isn't vapid or stupidly simplistic.


For 2.5D work, I used Vectric VCarve for much of my drawing and CAM needs for quite some time. Still use it with my routers, still like it.

Basic quickie flow is:

1) Make a drawing you will convert to G-Code with some form of CAM. These days 3D CAD (Fusion360, FreeCAD, Alibre, Solidwork) tends to dominate the market, but for many folks 2D CAD such as LibreCAD, QCAD, and like are sufficient. You can't run a DXF or STEP file on a machine, you need to feed it through a CAM program. Some packages integrate drawing and CAM functions in a single package, or have add on packages for CAM.

2) Using the CAM application, generate G-Code for your controller - This is where you worry about feeds and speeds, chip loads, all that stuff. Some like MeshCAM will make reasonable assumption for a lot of these details, others will make you specify everything. It's also where you need a post processor for your machine, a file with the rules of how G-Code is generated by the CAM package to work with a specific dialect of GCode and the subtle or horrific details of how some vendors make a mess of things. Some CAM packages have hundreds of post processors available, some claim to do "standard g code", some have a few post processors for very generic or popular hardware. If you really, really have to, some post processors are script files, so you can build you own. My impression is this is the sort of stuff you would rather avoid. Me too.

3) Get the G-Code into your controller and run it. Your controller may be a dedicated hardware device such as FADAL, a software application such as Mach3/4 or linuxcnc, or a combination hardware / software solution such as the Centroid Acorn offerings. Whatever controller you have, it's not a bad idea to set the Z zero point a few inches (or a hundred or more mm) above the table and cut air the first time, better to find a problem cutting air than metal. It's a lot nicer to load the G Code over a network of from a thumb drive than it is to dribble it in over a serial port, assuming you have a serial port on your CAD/CAM computer. The first thing to test on a CNC machine you are firing up for the first time is the E-Stop. Odds are you'll need it at some point.

Quite a few folks are running VMC100 machines with fairly straightforward retrofits, might be a nice middle ground between a full manual to CNC conversion and fighting the somewhat unique Emco syntax and G Code variations (yup, I'm being nice and I have used Emco CNC stuff. Tore out the original electronics / controllers and plopped in nice modern electronics that speak "reasonably normal" G Code!)

For my clock shop needs, I tossed together a 4 axis Sherline mill with a PMDX 4 Axis driver box. Ran it with LinuxCNC. Did most stuff in Vectric, oddball gears were generated as DXF using Gearotic, the DXF was fed through Vectric for CAM, and it just worked. I've build CNC machines from scratch and via conversions. It is sometimes nice to just assemble from clean new standard components, turn it on, and have it work. 15 years later I still have the machine in my shop, it still works. Best part was I think the entire build of hardware and installation/configuration of software was a two day effort. Always more to learn, but very quickly I had predictable motion in all axes and was cutting parts.

Best of luck deciding how to proceed,
Stan
 
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Thanks for the comments guys! I have been searching for the possible machines again lately a lot. I've seen nice bf20 conversions (I have a manual bf-20 mill at the moment) so that would be a good candidate for conversion. I have no idea but I guess that it is easily 2-3000 buying the parts needed plus the work (which might be pretty extensive for a newbie like me), but people seem to start those projects and some even finish them. Well, anyways a lot of work and also some money needed.

Wabeco would be lovely, but I take it is like 7k minimum unless I have not understood correct. There was one with upgraded components on local marketplace couple of years ago for 5k and it seemed expensive for me then but now I would be all over it.

Then it occured to me that as I would really like to start learning the process and do some engraving and small parts like control horns, servo brackets, control line handles etc the little Onefinity style machine could fit the bill and get me started. Please do not judge but I have looked at these about 6 months ago a lot when I first got the cnc bug but at then they seemed pricey. Now I have researched more and gathered some funds they dont seem that overpriced anymore; the rabbitsource Rabbit Mill 3030: Mini CNC Router - Rabbit Mill 3030

That machine is the same price category with the Onefinity and would propably get me started nicely and if I outgrow that it could fetch some little money back when selling I guess.

Also the AMB spindle motor could double out nicely as a lathe toolpost grinder with the nice multifix toolholder attachement that is available from pewetools 🤔

But remember I am not yet putting anything in the cart and heading for the checkout but I am trying to get a good understanding of the options availble and what could suit me well.
 

Bazzer

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Your idea of self-education using a smaller machine is good, I done this nearly 30 years ago with an Austrian CNC system called Step Four, I don't regret a penny spent or a minute invested in my education in these matters.

I would further add that by careful choices of equipment bought that I rarely loose money on the equipment, I look after the equipment, and I get nice results and can often sell the equipment when I upgrade.

Those Multifix tool holders from PeeWee tools are nice, I have the AAA version on a Compact 5 and it is a really nice addition to the machine.
 

kquiggle

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Hope it's not too late to chip in on this thread. I have been window shopping recently for a bench-top CNC. I'm looking for a reasonably capable machine in the $3K price range. I'd love to find something that could mill steel, but I'm guessing that aluminum and brass are more likely options in this price range. I also understand that I am going to have to spend additional money on tooling, so that is included in my budget over and above the $3K.

For me, this purchase would be my introduction to CNC machining, so I am looking at it as a self-teaching tool, but also with the capability to make some actual parts.

I am seriously considering the Carbide Nomad 3 ( Nomad Desktop CNC ), but I am not finding much information from actual owners. I do like that the company has been around for a while, and provides support for their machines. I'm less happy about their freemium software model. If you are a Nomad owner, I would love to hear from you.

I have pretty much ruled out the cheap CNC models found on ebay, aliexpress, etc. as just too limited for what I want to do, but if anyone wants to make an argument for them, I'm willing to listen
 

Scott_M

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Don't under estimate "Z" height !!

I realize that this is an old thread, but I have to add , don't forget about "Z" Height. I hear a lot of folks say I will be fine with a "6x6x6" envelope or a 250mm sq.
But consider this, let's say you want to drill a 1/2" hole 3" deep in a work piece. Let's add up the "Z" required to do that.
For absolute minimum Z let's assume the work piece is on the table. And assume the hole is through so the work piece is no more than 3" And you have a stubby drill in a collet with only 3" of protrusion. With all of these "minimums" you still need at least 6"+ to drill the hole.
Now let's say you are holding the work in a vise. How far off the table is the work ? Add that. Maybe1.5- 2 " and let's say you are using a drill chuck, add another 3"
Now that 3" hole requires about 11" of "Z" and that is still using a stubby drill! How about reaming that hole ?

My machine has 18" in "Z" and I have had several issues with it not being enough. Most reamers are pretty long !


Add it up, X and Y are one thing Z is another.

Scott
 

awerby

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I second the recommendation for the Taig CNC mills. You'd be better off with one of them if metals are what you're mainly wanting to cut. They've got plenty of room in Z (Scott's points are well-taken), and have recently introduced an extended Y option that makes the working space wider. (See: Taig CNC Micro Mills ) If your parts are small enough to fit its part envelope, it will do a much better job than any of those little routers, which were designed to cut wood and plastics, not metals. And you can get one for pretty much what you want to pay.
 
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The Carbide Nomad is rated as a 70W spindle, which is under 1/10 HP. It is basically a fairly beefy well built VERY small router in a box. Carbide makes good stuff, but the combination of only a 3" Z height and the very low power would make me give it a pass for model engineering. It would likely be wonderful for a miniature maker, or perhaps for wax carving for jewelry makers if three axis were sufficient.

The Taig CNC was mentioned, and is a heavier machine than the Sherline mill in a CNC flavor, I own some Sherline and Taig stuff. If my only CNC mill had to be a smaller benchtop machine, I would go with the Taig, if possible in the ball screw version. I say this while having a 4 axis Sherline CNC mill sitting on a bench in the shop and having used it for at at least 10 years, so this isn't a fanboy recommendation :).

The Hi Torque import mills from Little Machine Shop have been converted to CNC by many folks with very good results, off the shelf conversion kits are still available I think - double check.

The Sherline is available bundled with a Masso controller, but the cost of their turn key solution is quite high. Not a rip off, but you WILL pay for the convenience. I've played with the Masso stuff a few times, it seems good but ask around on that, I can babble on about LinuxCNC and Mach4 from experience but not many others.

The Taig or HiTorque path route will require obtaining steppers, drivers, controller hardware and probably step generation hardware. It can be as simple as linuxcnc and an add in parallel port card in a PC with slots (no USB to Parallel adapters, timing will be hosed) or Mach4 / UCCNC / Centroid and a step generator. There are threads here on HMEM with many options and opinions / experiences posted.

Don't overlook adding at least several hundred dollars to allow for making or buying a small decent but not crazy high dollar vise, clamping gear, end mills, and other stuff that you realize you need.

Happy shopping,
Stan
 

kquiggle

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Thanks for the comments. I'm well aware that in my price range I will have to make some compromises. I perhaps should have noted that I currently own a small lathe and a bench-top mill, as well as a surface grinder and a shaper (in short, a hobbyist level basement machine shop), so in some ways I can work around limitations in any CNC machine I end up with. I did consider the conversion approach, but I would rather invest my time in learning to use CNC than in building one, so I really want a turn-key solution.

Of course I would love to be able to afford something bigger and with more power (although I'm not sure I could get it into my basement!), but that is just not an option for me.

I do agree that Taig is worth considering. I found this article (An Open Letter on Taig CNC) which I thought added some useful perspective. Since my #1 goal in making a purchase is to give myself a platform for learning CNC it looks to me like the Nomad would do that, although it does go against my preference for Open Source software and Linux.

I have posted a similar inquiry to this one on some other hobbyist forums, and the fact that I have yet to hear from a Nomad owner gives me pause. On youtube, I see very little on the Nomad that is not from the company (Carbide CNC) itself. Carbide CNC does support it's own user forums, so that is a plus.
 

kquiggle

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Every approach has its own benefits and problems. I can certainly see the appeal of building your own (or modifying an existing mill), or experimenting with substituting parts - but at this stage of the game for me I am looking for turn-key solution that includes not only the CNC machine itself, but also a well defined set of software to go with it. The way I look at it, I am going to have my hands full just learning the basics of CNC operations, and with getting workable gcode out of a 3D model.

My research on the Nomad 3 is far from complete, although I am learning more as I go along. The limitations/benefits I *think* I am seeing right now (but I need to do more research to confirm) are as follows :
  • Decent support
  • All needed software provided (but Mac/Win only - no Linux, and "freemium" model)
  • 20,000 rpm spindle speed
  • Limited power means long work times (I think; also depends on material being cut)
  • Work envelope 8"x8"x3"
  • Cuts aluminum, wood, plastic, and similar "soft" materials
  • Cuts brass and copper (maybe)
  • Cuts steel and stainless steel (very limited and experimental)
Mostly, the Nomad 3 looks to meet my primary goals of learning CNC and making useful stuff at a price I can afford. I have still not convinced my self that it is the best choice in this regard, however.
 
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