Recommendations for small simple CNC machine

Recommendations for small simple CNC machine

Postby Tailmaker » Sat Jun 08, 2019 2:28 am

I have been using my home-made mid-size CNC router for 7 years now and I am still happy with it.

Now retired, I am planning to go on 2-3 months trips with our motorhome and obviously I can not take a 600 pound machine with me, not to mention materials and other tools. But I really would like to be able to work on smaller projects and not get bored while in the boondocks. Not looking for top-of-the-line performance but also not cheap junk.

So, I am looking for recommendations or links to small desktop machines (I guess 12"x12" work space is about all I can take with me). Likely, that takes me into engraving machine territory.
- should be reasonably accurate (maybe <0.003"?)
- should be rigid enough to run 1/8" bits with speed up to 80 ipm
- max speed 120 ipm is sufficient.
- lightweight enough to lug around
- moderate effort to assemble (I don't want to make this a build project in itself)
- no controller required, I would hook up a controller of my choice. But O.K. if it has a modern controller.
- quiet small spindle (if it comes with one). No need to upset the campground neighbors.
- sure enough, I don't want to spend more than $1000-1500 depending on features.

Thanks for any recommendations...
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Something different perhaps

Postby Martin Reid » Sat Jun 08, 2019 10:53 am

Dear Tailmaker

I hear you about wanting to keep using the old grey matter; and I am on the side of you camping neighbours when it comes to keeping the noise down.

Have you considered something quieter like vinyl cutting or 3D printing? They are quiet and portable. You are spoilt for choice on your side of the pond.

My vinyl cutter, printer of choice – Check out the mark directly on to spheres and or on to cylinders - The KNK Zing Orbit
https://knkusa.com/zing-orbit/ref/whatsondigital/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VN_mPhc9Ajs

My 3D printer of choice - SeeMeCNC Orion Delta
https://www.seemecnc.com/products/orion ... 3d-printer

Anyway that’s my two penn'orth
Sincerely and in good faith
Martin

PS enjoy your travels
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Re: Recommendations for small simple CNC machine

Postby Leo » Sat Jun 08, 2019 12:40 pm

I like the way you think.

EBAY will be your friend.

Search cnc router on EBAY and there is a myriad of choices - exactly what you describe.

I have a small MAX 10 cnc router than can run from a laptop for sale, maybe $350 or so.
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Re: Recommendations for small simple CNC machine

Postby scottp55 » Sat Jun 08, 2019 12:50 pm

Tailmaker,
Is your wife still into jewelry making?
When I did my 18 month/128K mile cross country roadtrip in my Roadtrek 210, I picked up ALL kinds of local gem/mineral rough, and a Diamond Pacific "Pixie";
https://www.johnsonbrotherslapidary.com/media/DP/PDF/Diamonnd_Pacific_Complete_2018_catalog.pdf
kept me busy a lot of nights both in the van, and fit a LOT of motel bathroom counters. Local specimens carved into cabachons or freeform STILL bring memories of the areas :)
Small "TRIM SAWS" are VERY lightweight and quiet(but can be messy so use outside).

Of course with your thinking, maybe you'd prefer the mathematical precision of faceting :D

ALL are quiet enough so I never had 1 motel complaint:)
DID have a manager come in once, as maid complained she could NOT clean the bathroom counter and I had a "Strange" machine hooked up:)
Manager stayed an hour and carved his first stone....AND called a friend with a small copper specimen mine so I could visit :D

YOU might have fun just in identifying finds, finding the fakes in retailer stores, and finding real steals in misidentified specimens in small rock shops:)
https://www.yourgemologist.com/gemequipment.html


Just a thought as price/size/noise fit criteria....Just thinking..which can set off smoke detectors with me :D
Just a caution..It IS addictive:)
scott
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Re: Recommendations for small simple CNC machine

Postby ezurick » Sat Jun 08, 2019 1:31 pm

You didn't provide any ideas for price range... because that is a bit critical. shopbot small desktop would be one that is perhaps everything you might desire in a small platform... BUT! it cost nearly $8k. I researched for many months before I purchased my Chinese 6040 from ebay.. but I wouldn't recommend that route to anyone since a majority of Chinese sellers on ebay are just that.. sellers. They know nothing about the machine and refuse to support your purchase logically after they get your money. Broken English, lack of documentation, long delays since many reside in mainland China, etc etc. Just a sheer nightmare.

Personally, if I was to look again, I think I would spend a little more for a decent solid machine that can do multiple things such as 3D print and maybe even laser engrave. An example is this Snapmaker. https://www.amazon.com/Snapmaker-Engraving-All-Metal-Entry-Level-Fabrication/dp/B07H92MPRS/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=snapmaker&qid=1559996858&s=gateway&sr=8-3 It has good reviews on amazon (which is better than ebay dumb reviews). It does all those things, it is small and it is under a grand! Check out the link!
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Re: Recommendations for small simple CNC machine

Postby rtibbs2018 » Sat Jun 08, 2019 3:28 pm

I believe he stated $1000-$1500 as a price range.
We traveled six years around the country in a motor coach and at that time I was into leatherwork. I occasionally had a few complaints from neighboring ‘campers’ regarding the constant tap-tap-tap of my mallet. I would suggest that whatever you choose be sure that it has a spindle rather than brushed router.

Just my two cents so enjoy your travels.

Oh yes, those same folks never payed any mind to their rug rats running around yelling and screaming around the campground :mrgreen:

Nice thing about being on wheels, you can move if you don’t like your neighbors. Don’t get me wrong.....we thoroughly enjoyed or years on the road
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Re: Recommendations for small simple CNC machine

Postby Tailmaker » Sat Jun 08, 2019 6:32 pm

Thanks for the ideas! Shopbot Desktop would be nice but way too big and unfortunately way too expensive for such occasional use. OTOH the Snapmaker is a bit smallish.
Scott, got to think about that stonecutting suggestion.

So far I am leaning towards a cheap 3040 machine. Some on eBay with a little rotary 4th axis for ridiculous $585. With a 24"x19"x16" footprint and about 50 lbs it should fit into a storage bin of the coach on a sliding drawer.
Comes with one of these 300w DC motor "spindles" but if too noisy maybe I just do some drag bit or knife work.
That is surely not for serious jobs but hopefully good enough for proof of concept, prototypes and software output testing.
I would toss the control box and and add my own control system. Well, let's see if the seller goes down to my $520 offer...
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Re: Recommendations for small simple CNC machine

Postby FixitMike » Sat Jun 08, 2019 6:59 pm

Here's a site with ratings on a number of small CNC routers: https://drillly.com/best-cnc-routers/
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Experience comes from bad judgement.
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Re: Recommendations for small simple CNC machine

Postby jfederer » Sun Jun 09, 2019 1:31 am

MillOne.jpg

This was my first machine: https://sienci.com/product/sienci-mill-one-kit-v3/

It was surprisingly accurate, and a great learning platform. I created a plexiglas cover for it with a vacuum take-off which also reduced the noise level of the Ridgid router. It runs standard GCode generated by VCarve. You just need an open-source GCode Sender.

I also participated in the Beta program for this one: https://sienci.com/longmill/ In fact I had the very first one, a 1x1m version. It also was great, but messy because I just had open it on my assembly table. They are currently fulfilling their Kickstarter pre-orders, and should have volume production in a few months. I ended up donating mine to a Makerspace in Kitchener when I got my current Chinese 2x3' machine.

The motors were of good quality, pretty much everything else is made locally in the Kitchener-Waterloo area or in-house.

The attached photo shows the very first cut I ever did on a CNC.

Recommended.
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www.federer.ca
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Re: Recommendations for small simple CNC machine

Postby ezurick » Sun Jun 09, 2019 2:47 pm

Tailmaker wrote:Thanks for the ideas! Shopbot Desktop would be nice but way too big and unfortunately way too expensive for such occasional use. OTOH the Snapmaker is a bit smallish.
Scott, got to think about that stonecutting suggestion.

So far I am leaning towards a cheap 3040 machine. Some on eBay with a little rotary 4th axis for ridiculous $585. With a 24"x19"x16" footprint and about 50 lbs it should fit into a storage bin of the coach on a sliding drawer.
Comes with one of these 300w DC motor "spindles" but if too noisy maybe I just do some drag bit or knife work.
That is surely not for serious jobs but hopefully good enough for proof of concept, prototypes and software output testing.
I would toss the control box and and add my own control system. Well, let's see if the seller goes down to my $520 offer...


Good luck with your adventure... but remember, most ebay Chinese sellers are just sellers and know very little about the machine, or can they properly support it. You might want to read the reviews before bidding. There are some Chinese sellers that will sell you the machine and when you get it, it has no documentation... and the seller refuses to support it. I've read that many times. I lucked out and had my seller (who resides in China) forward me the broken English docs and videos to get me setup and started. It was a nightmare and alot of trial and error to get the Controller and Mach 3 setup properly. Plus, it took days just to get email replies. I hope you have better luck and a smooth setup...
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Re: Recommendations for small simple CNC machine

Postby Tailmaker » Thu Jun 13, 2019 5:01 am

So...I did buy the Chinese 3040 4-axis machine with a real spindle and paid (IMO ridiculous) $816 with the knowledge of improvement needs. Took a bit of a risk believing the sellers dimensions (so that it may fit into the RV cargo bay). It arrived today (2-day free shipping from a close-by warehouse in Ontario, California) and overall, I am quite pleasantly surprised for what I got for the money. It was packed up very well in 2 boxes with lots of sturdy foam and plywood reinforcement.
- 3-axis cnc machine with 1204 ball screws and NEMA23 steppers. Not a monster of rigidity (unsupported round rails but given the small size actually quite reasonable and easy to improve with a few plates and gussets). All cables and the spindle water hoses are guided in cable chains.
- 800 watt water cooled spindle. There is even a submersible water pump included which I am not going to use and a handful of bits. I will remove the plumbing and add 2 fans to air cool the spindle from the outside. I have been air cooling the 2.2kW water spindle of my bigger machine for the last 7 years without problems.
- 4th rotary axis with 3-jaw chuck and small tailstock. Has only 2.3:1 reduction but probably good enough for some experimentation or small diameter pieces. I may change the belt gearing at some point to 6:1.
- Control box with parallel break-out board, 4 chunky stepper drives, 24V power supply and 110V VFD for the spindle. So far I tried only the VFD and the spindle turns (actually almost silently, much quieter than my 2.2kW spindle). The box is neatly wired, of course without any schematics and a ridiculous useless manual (the assumption is that the buyer gets a copy of Mach3). But it was nice enough that I felt bad to rip it all apart.

My planned changes are:
- replace the simple steppers with a set of Applied Motion closed loop steppers. I had them sitting in a drawer for a few years from a non-started project and they should allow for up to 300 ipm, even with the 4mm pitch ball screws. That will be more than ample for this size machine.
- add the cooling fans to the spindle
- remove the breakout board, power supply and the drives from the control box
- install a Planet-CNC MK3/4 motion controller (same USB controller that I have on my bigger machine and quite happy with it)
- install a bigger 48V power supply

So, while not a real build project, still a few things to do before I can take this thing on the road. At least the almost silent spindle is promising as long as the bit does not scream too loud.
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Re: Recommendations for small simple CNC machine

Postby ger21 » Thu Jun 13, 2019 12:02 pm

What about dust collection. Seems like that would be the noisiest issue.
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Re: Recommendations for small simple CNC machine

Postby Tailmaker » Thu Jun 13, 2019 9:19 pm

ger21 wrote:What about dust collection. Seems like that would be the noisiest issue.


Good question! Unfortunately I do not have the space for that anyway and guess I have to go without. Since it will be operated outside I believe there are no serious health issues (as long as I am standing windward of the machine...) and I will not be able to run larger jobs anyway except off the campground. For some vcarve or small 3d-jobs I will just blow the machine clean and if there is more dust/chips a handheld vacuum has to do. And, as mentioned before I can always fall back to playing with diamond drag bits or drag knife.
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Re: Recommendations for small simple CNC machine

Postby Leo » Fri Jun 14, 2019 12:19 pm

Glad you posted such a great unboxing review.

Do you have a youtube channel?

What you are doing is definitely inspiring to anyone that is interested in RVing and making a few bucks along the way.
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Re: Recommendations for small simple CNC machine

Postby WNC_Ed » Fri Jun 14, 2019 2:15 pm

Great thread - very interesting.
Like Leo said - great review.
Hoping you continue posting updates on the refit and really hoping you post some "CNC in the wild" pictures or videos from the campsites on your journey.

One thing you said has peeked my curiosity:
I will remove the plumbing and add 2 fans to air cool the spindle from the outside. I have been air cooling the 2.2kW water spindle of my bigger machine for the last 7 years without problems.


While I understand and appreciate why you wouldn't want to mess with the H2O on the road, is there an advantage to air cooling your "daily driver" spindle vs H2O?
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