CNC Wood Carving Machine Question

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davidyat

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A woodworking friend of mine is getting an X-Carve CNC Machine. I asked him if it can do metal. He looked it up and said the manufacturer has indicated that the machine will do non-ferrous metal. Here is the items' website:
Now my question is, has anyone ever adapted a wood CNC machine to do metal parts? I'm looking for the pros and cons of such an endeavor or even if it can be done.
Thanks in advance,
Grasshopper
 

vederstein

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When I had my home built CNC router I did some engraving in aluminum with it.

As always, the answer revolves around "It Depends." I'm guessing go with very light cuts. The more rigid the machine the better.

...Ved.
 

Jasonb

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One of the problems will be the 10,000rpm minimum speed which will mean you are really limited to small diameter carbide cutters if you are going to stay within the usual surface speeds for cutting. Combine that with the fact smaller cutters will not be rigid enough to take large cuts and the whole machine in general not as rigid as a milling machine means that you can only take off a small amount of metal per pass.

This equates to some very long run times and with what is essentially a woodworking palm router/trimmer as the spindle you are going to have a lot of noise for along time.

So if the main use is going to be for metal I would say look elsewhere, if it will mainly be for wood with the occasional bit of aluminium then you may be able to put up with the issues.
 

dnalot

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I recently upgraded my 20 plus year old CNC router table with a spindle from a Siag x2. My old setup had a tool speed of 10,000 to 30,000 RPM. The much slower (2,500 or less) spindle works great cutting both wood and aluminum. The mess when cutting wood was greatly reduced and I no longer have problems with burning the wood. For metal I use small diameter cutters and take shallow cuts to avoid problems from the machines lack of rigidity. All & all I would say it does a very good job cutting aluminum and brass.

You can see my conversion here

New spindle for CNC router table

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vederstein

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do you know how to program it?
I'm guessing it uses bog-standard CNC G-code. It's a dedicated language that;s old, cryptic, and very simple. It's possible to program with a text editor, but soft CAM software is the way to go.

...Ved.
 

aarggh

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I'm running a fairly beefy 6090 which weighs around 300kgs, and with that mass, and the fact that it's rigid enough it will cut aluminium quite well, as long as the cutter is kept lubed so it doesn't gum up. Without lube the cutter gums up almost instantly and breaks depending on the particular alloy used.

I've seen the X carve and similar machines up close and in action, and while they're a more or less affordable machine, I'd really consider them a very lightweight machine, and somewhat flimsy. I don't think they're particularly good for serious wood hogging let alone metals. Engraving S/S, aluminium, brass, etc is a different story though, generally almost any machine is good enough for that.

Actually machining metal requires mass, the more the better, to dampen the vibrations, lest the machines vibrates itself to pieces, and rigidity to not break cutters and cause massive chattering as opposed to cutting to the metal being machined.
 

Bazzer

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A woodworking friend of mine is getting an X-Carve CNC Machine. I asked him if it can do metal. He looked it up and said the manufacturer has indicated that the machine will do non-ferrous metal. Here is the items' website:
Now my question is, has anyone ever adapted a wood CNC machine to do metal parts? I'm looking for the pros and cons of such an endeavor or even if it can be done.
Thanks in advance,
Grasshopper
I have looked at the website you linked and there are two machines, the cheaper one looks too light for metal, the more expensive machine looks a lot more ridged.

As others have said the use of router motors from the wood work sector has limitations. Rig it up with a brushless spindle and it will be a lot better.

I thought the heavier machine was a little over priced.
 

nealeb

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My CNC router is home-built but from welded steel tube, Hiwin profile rails, and ballscrews. It uses a water-cooled 3HP spindle. It can cut steel - but slowly, with shallow cuts, and as already mentioned the minimum spindle speed (according to the manufacturer 6K RPM but in practice due to lack of torque 7K) means small (3-4mm) carbide cutters. Aluminium is a better target for lighter machines but, again as mentioned, it can be horrible stuff to cut on any machine as it gums up the cutters which then break due to clogged flutes. I now cut steel with a "proper" CNC milling machine and it's a different world! I have no personal experience of the Xcarve but I would tend to stick to wood and plastics, and possibly engraving harder materials or accepting light cuts and slow cutting times. Carbide cutters are your friend in that case.
 

aarggh

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Even though some of the gruntier cnc spindles can cut steel to some degree, it's usually not worth it as I have seen a lot of the bearings destroyed in them. They just aren't built for the kind of side load machining steel puts on them. Especially when it's more like hacking away at the steel as opposed to cutting it depending on the power, mass and rigidity. Whereas on the mill it's almost like you're cutting wood as it does it with such ease.
 

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