molekel - If I had a spare 15 or 20 grand in my pocket to spend on a hobby, then I would be looking at Haas and the like. Sadly, my budget is much more limited so I have to look at more modest options. It's pretty obvious that I won't be hogging 1/4" DOC on 12" titanium cubes on these small machines, but that is not my goal. Fortunately for me (and I suspect most other hobby machinists), I believe I can still learn useful CNC machining skills on a smaller machine, and also make some useful and/or interesting stuff.
Meanwhile, I am continuing my research, and making more additions to my spreadsheet here :
While I understand your desire to make a good choice, your approach may lead you into some inconsistent places. You have three router style machines in the mix, at least two of which are gRbl based controllers. The genmitsu is the cheapest make believe play with thin plywood, clap hands, giggle, call yourself a maker level machine. I run bigger motors on small model airplanes than their spindle. It is dirt cheap, and you will learn a lot if your have never played with any motion control at all. It's gRbl, so all sorts of motion control and cam options are available. I like gRbl on my routers and lasers. If I didn't already have other stuff, odds are I could run my other 2 or 3 axis machines on gRble too. It's really gotten to the point of being a very good product. gRbl is also what's installed in the Nomad you seem somewhat infatuated with. Actually the latest gRbl support a fourth axis, but I haven't played with it.
The Bantam and the Nomad just have too little Z axis to deal with just about anything. An inch of clamping / vise / packing, and inch of material, and an inch of endmill sticking out of the collet. Oops, ran out of room. You're paying real machine prices for for too little machine, better to drop down to one of the real low cost options like the Genmitsu stuff if you just want to dip in your toes and see if you really want to do this stuff.
The Taig and Sherline are both of a more conventional build. The Nextgen Sherline is based on their 8 axis mill, which many have found is great for special set ups and weird requirements, but for any heavier cutting just has too much aluminum beam waving in the breeze.
If you want to stay with Windows the off the shelf Sherline solution isn't for you. You seem capable of juggling a fair amount of detail and inter-relationships of components, so buying Mach4 and a step generator, a Gecko 540 or PMDX 340 sort of driver setup, and three steppers and bolting them one doesn't seem to be anything that would push your limits.
In your specified price range I'd get either the Sherline CNC 5400 mill or as I said earlier, the Taig cnc ready mill. Either way you end up with something you can actually use without having to waste hours on machines that can only take minuscule cuts in anything harder than thin birch ply.
For the Sherline, I'd recommend the 12" cnc ready deluxe mill package A with the way covers, 15 inch column, and the 18 inch table. You might never use all the room, but it's much less expensive to get it that way out of the gate than to buy the parts and upgrade later. This gets you set up with cutters, vise, drill chuck, enough to get something done. $1743.30 plus another $600 to $700 for driver, power supply if using Gecko, Mach4 license and step generator.
The longer table has a secret bonus. If you flip the headstock and column around so the spindle is aligned with the X axis of the base, you set load up gang tooling on the table and have a short bed gang tooled CNC lathe. Takes a little finagling, but it works. You can do something similar with the Taig, but it's a bit more effort to set up. EDIT on 11/14/2022 at 1903 EST Duh... make that the Y axis for a short bed lathe. /EDIT
For fairness sake when comparing to Taig, the base cnc ready machine without any accessories is $1097.20, in the package A base config it's $1392.56
For the Taig there are two options. To keep the comparison fair by comparing lead screw to lead screw machines your base machine would be $1211 for a CNC ready 2019. All that's included is the machine and a sort of usable vise like object. Where Taig shines though is the larger lead screws, ER16 spindle, and heavier construction. There is the option of going to ball screws with a base config price of $1850.
Sherline will provide an ER16 headstock on machines at some added cost. Sherline does have a 10,000 RPM pullet set if you intend to engrave or do other things where a fast spindle is nice. My Sherline CNC mill has an ER16 spindle and the 10K pulleys. Not much to do about the lighter construction, but Sherline does have other pluses. I'm not selling my Sherline stuff to get a Taig mill, but I might if I could only have one mill. Sherline's prettier though.
Micro Mill with BallScrews on each axis and converted to CNC ready with Nema 23 motor mounts, and upgraded 1/4 horse power motor . Does not include stepper motors or control system.
2019 converted to CNC ready with Nema 23 motor mounts, adjustable bronze leadscrew nuts, and upgraded 1/4 horse power motor . Does not include stepper motors or control system.
Taig or Sherline would be far superior to the other three you have listed in your spreadsheet. I would not buy either of the makers machines in a turnkey package in any event. Taig is still selling a mach3 parallel port solution, which is crap. Their super deluxe secret sauce DLS is just a single pulse per revolution spindle sensor. Other than being usable for a spindle tach this is pretty useless on a mill without a fast reversing motor as semi rigid or rigid tapping operations are out of the picture. Sherline is selling a silly overpriced driver and when last heard from hasn't updated their Linuxcnc distribution in quite some time. You already said you prefer to stay within a windows environment, so that rules out linuxcnc anyway.
I will say the Sherline motor and integrated KBIC controller is a thing a beauty, and is easily modified to allow software control of spindle speed, while you will spend over a hundred dollars getting a similar set up for the Taig such as the DC motor/controller from Penn State Industried, which I have on a Taig lathe here.
Some Taig dealers offer discounts or free shipping, Sherline on rare occasions puts some machines on sale during a monthly special.
An interesting option, purists will puke and curse me for such heresy: Get you steppers and base machine. Buy an openbuilds BlackBox controller for $220, and a 36 volt 10 amp or so power supply for maybe $50 and get out of analysis and into making chips. If you need more features down the road you're not out thousands or locked into one package.
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Yup, it's a three axis gRbl solution. 3.5 amp drivers and motion control in a cute little box that works well. Easy support for PWM, limit switches, estop, everything you need for basic 3 axis work. I have one on my C Beam router, it's been utterly reliable and rock solid for almost three years. Bought one on the initial offering deal and never regretted it. Lots of options for user interface in the gRbl world, most work very nicely. Suddenly we're looking at a nicely sub $2000 solution set, machines that can actually get some real work done, and pretty easy build out. There are probably 100 people running gRbl for each person running Mach or linuxcnc these days. It's the default for most of the small diode lasers and desktop sub $3000 routers out there, and there are many thousands out in the world. Including in the Nomad machines you are looking at. It's not hard to find answers to your questions with this set up.
If you like the gRbl aproach, but not the Blackbox have a look at the Sparkfun CNCPro V5. I have one on my larger router. It's estop set up is brain dead and can't be resolved readily without disabling other functions, but I get around that by having my estop in the AC power feed to the entire machine. Killing the juice always works.
The plug and play xPRO V5 brings you the advanced stepping and power of Trianamic drivers along with Wifi and USB interfaces, all powered by a 32 bit processor and wrapped in a beautiful ABS case (…
You want low cost 2.5D drawing and CAM but still commercial? Get Vectric Cut2D. The drawing tools aren't high end cad, but they work well for a wide variety of tasks if you don't need 3D, and their CAM generates decent code for many machines including gRbl, Mach3, Mach4, and linuxcnc. It's around $175. I use VCarve Pro these days, have been using their stuff for probably 8+ years. Simple tools make simple work go easily, just because I have 3D CAD doesn't mean I have only 3D
Have a bunch of different screwdrivers too! Vectric is very good about applying cost of products you own to upgrades too, so you aren't ending up with dead expensive software licenses when you decide you want more features. You also OWN the software, no subscriptions, updates within a major release are free, and you install it on your machine. There is a license key, but you can install it on more than one machine in your shop. It works with WINE well, but is Windows native. No calling home to the overlords for permission to use what you already paid for with Vectric, very nice.
However you go, be sure you have a real e stop switch that works. Too many small machine builders think clicking the stop icon is adequate. Not if the software freezes and your machine is trying to eat itself or you...