honesttjohn

CNC build for us "Normal People"

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On 6/30/2017 at 1:18 PM, beltramidave said:

John, you have no sense of adventure!  Here is my baby...

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You can also get the plug and play version of the Saturn and be cutting sooner.  That's what I would have to do because I can't tell my regular customers they will have to wait until I build a new CNC and I don't have room in my shop to have all the machines at one time. Out with the old in with the new! 

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I've done it three ways.... bought two pre-assembled CNCs, built one from scratch, and assembled one from a kit. 

 

I started out by buying a CNC Shark when they first came out. It came mostly assembled (had to mount the gantry to the bed), and was fairly plug and play. It taught me quickly what was involved to make a CNC as the stepper motors, cables, controller and power supply were all exposed and easy to see. The body/structure of the machine was mostly plastic.  

 

That got me interested in searching Google for what was new in the hobby CNC world.  It amazed me that stepper motors, linear rails with bearings, controllers, etc.,were all readily available, even at Amazon.com.   

 

My Probotix meteor came next.  Bought initially just for the increased bed size over the Shark.  It used larger steppers, a closed controller box with internal power supply, a Linux PC with LinuxCNC as the control software, and even had a game controller that could be used to jog the router around.  Much more solid aluminum frame.  I added t-track to the MDF bed.  

 

My scratch CNC was inspired by the TinyG controller which was then available.  This single board could drive 4 steppers, and used free software to program and control it over USB.  The steppers and guide rails all were salvaged parts from several dead printers I disassembled to throw away one summer.  I made frame and bed parts from 1/2" BB plywood.  I have 12 inches travel in the Y direction, 6" in the X direction, and 3" of Z travel.  This little CNC was programmed to cut any file I had cut on my 24 x 48 Probotix Meteor, except 1/4 of full scale.  

 

My most recent (but probably not my last) CNC was an X-carve kit.  I borrowed the TinyG controller and power supply from my home-made project to run the X-carve. I've configure this CNC for limited joinery cutting in a "box" that overhangs the edge of my work bench where I have a vise to hold wood in place.    I don't have it done yet, although the X-carve is alive and moving. 

 

CNCs are NOT complicated once you see how one actually works.  I have 3 decades of woodworking, an engineering aptitude, drafting and CAD experience, and a shop full of other tools though.  Having a CNC made it easier to make parts for another CNC. Seeing a CNC's hardware made it easier to understand how to make a CNC.  Having a CNC to play with led me to an understanding of what could and should be made on one. 

 

4D      

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4D,

 

It's that engineering aptitude and CAD experience that's the catch.  Some of us common folk don't have that but still want to use one in our endeavors.  Our learning curve is a bit slower and probably won't ever be as thorough as yours.

 

Hence, plug and play and friends with experience ..... and a little (lot) patience allow us to participate.  For me, the only way I was ever able to do this and keep what hair I have left or cut something before I died of old age was to buy a ready made machine.  The frame and bed wasn't so much a problem, but meshing the computer and the computer settings scared the hell out of me.  Even the head designer at my wife's work place built a small machine, and he said to buy a ready made one if I could afford it ---- unless I would rather tinker than cut.  Not me!!!

 

I'm jealous of those of you that do the builds, but I know my likes, dislikes, and limitations ------- along with my wife's tolerance level on some of the things I have done, or attempted to do.

 

And.......... if I knew what I was getting myself into, I may not have even done it.  It is not what I expected it to be, as in some type of phrase that has "easy" in it.  It's the computer part ... and I admit it.  Cutting, assembling, and even finishing is fun!

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I'll accept credit for having a useful set of experiences that helps me understand most of what there is to know about CNCs.  The biggest advantage I have, though, is experience using a CNC which began several years ago with that original CNC Shark.  I was at one time a naive and ignorant rookie.  

 

It takes what you've got, HJ. You very quickly mastered getting your CNC to make what you want it to.   No small ability.   I frequently see CNCs for sale by those who bought one but never figured out what to do with it.  I know of a few sitting abandoned in high school shops because no one there has the imagination or desire to see their potential. 

 

4D

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Posted (edited)

4D,

 

I had no choice in the matter.  Do you know how miserable SWMBO would have made my life if I just put it in the corner and did nothing after spending upwards of $8K on a whim???

 

It is a learning experience and a big thank you to people like yourself, MEBCWD, Beltramidave, Skelly, Difalkner, and the others who have shared their ideas and "wise"  (cough cough) advice.  It has saved a lot of time in not having to go through some of the trial and error stages.

Edited by honesttjohn (see edit history)
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I have seen several CNC Sharks for sale that were never put together.  The people got them and had no one to help them over the learning hump. I talked to one guy that said he did not realize that it was a kit and he had to build it himself.  The Sharks shipped with the base in one package and the gantry in a separate box.  All you had to do was mount the gantry and this to him was building one from a kit and he had no idea how to do it. Sat in a corner and never touched for 3 years, then his wife told him to get rid of it.

 

I have seen several others that were put together but never actually cut anything and some that were used less than 8 hours, they gave up on trying to use them.

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3 hours ago, honesttjohn said:

4D,

 

I had no choice in the matter.  Do you know how miserable SWMBO would have made my life if I just put it in the corner and did nothing after spending upwards of $8K on a whim???

 

It is a learning experience and a big thank you to people like yourself, MEBCWD, Beltramidave, Skelly, Difalkner, and the others who have shared their ideas and "wise"  (cough cough) advice.  It has saved a lot of time in not having to go through some of the trial and error stages.

 

56 minutes ago, MEBCWD said:

I have seen several CNC Sharks for sale that were never put together.  The people got them and had no one to help them over the learning hump. I talked to one guy that said he did not realize that it was a kit and he had to build it himself.  The Sharks shipped with the base in one package and the gantry in a separate box.  All you had to do was mount the gantry and this to him was building one from a kit and he had no idea how to do it. Sat in a corner and never touched for 3 years, then his wife told him to get rid of it.

 

I have seen several others that were put together but never actually cut anything and some that were used less than 8 hours, they gave up on trying to use them.

 

I must say, that I have been intimidated by the complexity of CNC work, but it looks like something really fun to do. After reading what you guys have said to the various questions and comments above, I do not think it is as hard as I once thought. I have played around on the Vectric trial software a little bit and watch several of the tutorials and, unless I am missing something, it does not appear to be to difficult. Yes there is a learning curve, but what new process does not have one. I am definitely doing with a plug and play machine - I do not have the time or aptitude to build one. I think it would be a fun addition to my shop.

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Kelly as you say

45 minutes ago, Chips N Dust said:

Yes there is a learning curve, but what new process does not have one.

This is so true and I think some people talk themselves into believing it is way past their abilities before they even try using the free trial of the software.

It is true that some of the people will not be able to master design software but would be able to run a CNC machine if it was in their shop.  They might find someone that will do the design portion of the projects for them for a small fee so they can just work in the shop and make things to sell.

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Or gifts, especially personal ones.  You can pretty much stay as busy as you want to be.  It doesn't take long for the word to get out.

 

Kelly and Fred,

Sometime this week (hopefully) I'll post a step by step project from a free file that was offered on the Vectric site.  It is basically a load, put the material on the bed, hit go, and put the pieces together - - and they all fit.  Sand and then finish.

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48 minutes ago, honesttjohn said:

Or gifts, especially personal ones.  You can pretty much stay as busy as you want to be.  It doesn't take long for the word to get out.

 

Kelly and Fred,

Sometime this week (hopefully) I'll post a step by step project from a free file that was offered on the Vectric site.  It is basically a load, put the material on the bed, hit go, and put the pieces together - - and they all fit.  Sand and then finish.

 

That is what I am doing my research around and hoping for.

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