I'd like links and information about some of the more mature hobbyist CNC router setups that exist
August 20, 2011 9:09 AM   Subscribe

I'd like links and information about some of the more mature hobbyist CNC router setups that exist

I've decided to finally bite the bullet and get a CNC router setup of some kind. I have some money set aside, and I have more time than money, but not a looooot more money, so I'm looking for something in kit form, where the research, design and part sourcing has been done. I'm handy enough to assemble a kit and there appears to be considerable cost savings doing so over completed units so that's where I'm at now.

I'm interested in seeing what mature solutions there are. For example there are these that I know of:

Lumen Labs Micro m3
Fireball v90

Both of these run around, say, $1000-1500 depending on options and how complete of a kit you want. This is a pretty reasonable range for me, for a complete kit that is everything except the computer and software.

Are there any other kits (or complete units) for this range, maybe up to 2k? I'd probably mostly be using it on wood, plastic, occaisonally aluminum. Probably nothing particularly larger than the 2 units above.
posted by RustyBrooks to Technology (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Not a direct recommendation, but the other day I was standing around in the magazine section of Borders and there were a number of "special issues" put out by Home Machinist magazine or something like that, specifically on home CNC setups. They were about 50% review articles and 50% ads by vendors of the exact type of systems I think you're looking for. (Well, a fair number were CNC mills as well as routers.) I would drop by a good book or magazine store and see if you could find any of those issues.

Also, you may want to check out the CNC subforum of Router Forums. Although I don't have a CNC router, I've found that place very helpful with regards to other router-related topics. There are a few threads in there where people are asking essentially the same question you are (at least it seems so) and getting a lot of varied responses. N.B. that many of the setups that get talked about (Shark Pro, etc.) are significantly larger than the ones you're considering; you may want to make it clear if you are asking a question that you're specifically looking at micro-CNC setups, and not something with a 1HP router in it.

For more general CNC-related questions you might also want to make an account on CNCZone. Lots of knowledge and experience there as well.

Be very interested to hear what you end up deciding!
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:23 AM on August 20, 2011

Response by poster: Looks like zen toolworks might have a model or 2 that qualifies.
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:39 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm building a CNCRouterParts 4x8 machine right now, I know at one time they offered a smaller one. Great service, well-thought out machines. Send them a message through the contact form -- I've been very happy with them and I'm close to cutting with my machine. Having put one together, I see the serious value-add in having a complete Bill of Materials and the dimensioning issues all worked out.
posted by fake at 9:47 AM on August 20, 2011

Response by poster: the CNCRouterParts website doesn't really... work. I was able to get a few pages but then it started giving me 501s and 404s.
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:47 AM on August 20, 2011

I don't know what's going on - works fine over here. The machines are solid. Here's someone that built one. I don't have any investment in whether or not you buy one.
posted by fake at 11:21 AM on August 20, 2011

Response by poster: I got it to work for me on chrome. There are some nice plans but I think I'm probably looking for something fairly ready to build - I'm thinking 10 hours as opposed to 50.

Also kind of curious about the design constraints on some of these. The fireball v90, for example, has about a 12" max in one direction. It seems like with a longer screw/rails, and modified front/back panels, you could go wider. Cost shouldn't be an issue there I wouldn't think, maybe it's an issue of torque or binding or something? I wouldn't mind buying something smallish if I could, using the machine, fab a few parts I needed to make it larger.

But I do want something which can produce... something... in a few weekends of work.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:03 PM on August 20, 2011

maybe it's an issue of torque or binding or something?

Just guessing from friends' experiences with homemade CNC routers and mills, it's probably rigidity / flex that's the limiting factor. A surprisingly small amount of flex can give you a big repeatability problem.
posted by hattifattener at 8:53 PM on August 20, 2011

Response by poster: Yeah I've been looking at designs and I think I see the problem. The fireball, for example, the whole z-axis assembly is suspended on the x (I think?) axis, the one that goes along the short side. If you make that longer you have unsupported bars with the whole z-axis supported on it and the longer you make it the more it'll flex in the middle. There are systems of support but at that point you're making a pretty substantial modification to how the thing works.

Been looking at k2cnc stuff this evening. The 25x14 looks tempting... buy the frame from them and some parts from probotix, sort of make my own kit (they don't sell kits to assemble I think? Just kind of over-priced assembled machines and bare assembled frames)
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:24 PM on August 20, 2011

Another option to look into is the UNIMAT CNC machine. The company sells CNCs as well as routers and lathes set up for hobbyists - my husband saw their ad in FineScale Modeler.
posted by bookdragoness at 11:04 PM on August 20, 2011

Response by poster: For what it's worth, I bought a k2cnc frame, and some parts from probotix.com, very closely following this guy's list:

posted by RustyBrooks at 11:36 AM on September 21, 2011

« Older Bad doctor + unexplained prescription =...   |   10 days until rent is due! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.