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Thread: Desktop CNC anyone?

  1. #1
    I should be working! furyphoto's Avatar
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    Desktop CNC anyone?

    Does anyone have any experience with small desktop CNC routers?

    After getting some quotes on having my motor mount and some other parts milled, I could easily buy a complete mini CNC hobby router for the same cost or less.

    Like this 30x40 cm Ebay Chinese CNC Router which gets surprisingly good reviews, save for a few minor issues like replacing the motor cabling with higher quality wire.

    or this X-Carve from Inventables.com

    From all accounts it is possible to cut 10mm 6061 Aluminum with one of these small router/zip saw powered CNC's, you just have to take shallower slower passes than on a big machine shop CNC. I'm not that concerned if it takes 4 hours to mill a motor mount (or 10), I'll only be doing it once (in aluminum, I'll make test mock up's in mdf or particle board for a faster cut).

    I'm on the verge of buying one. I'm excited about all of the other little parts I could cut with it, gauge mounts, accessory tabs, component enclosures, terminal covers, etc. Not to mention parts and engraving for other projects.

    I am leaning towards the X-Carve for the possibility of using their Easel web based software for simple parts. You can also send code from standard CAD/CAM workflow to the machine, but the Easel software is super simple, and I can run it from my laptop via USB instead of having to find & buy a dedicated tower with a 2 decade old parallel port.
    (Sidebar Rant: I have always though CAD/CAM/ Parser/Code sender was a ridiculously over complicated workflow. It's 2015 cant we mill parts with one piece of software instead of 4? Also, it's not the 90's anymore what's with the parallell ports and the Windows XP or worse, the Fu$&ing Linux for all the home hobby stuff)

    If anyone has any experience with these mini mills, I would love to hear about it before I pull the trigger on one.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    May 2013
    Kildare, Ireland
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    We have a Stepcraft 300 in work here - decent bit of kit, very capable.
    We've only got the Dremel head for it though - and stepper would be a better job.

    The hardest part is getting accustomed to using Mach3 and your chosen g-code generator - oh, and don't discount the cost of milling bits, they ain't that cheap and they don't last that long. ;-)

  3. #3
    Senior Member Podbuilder's Avatar
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    Sep 2013
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    yep. I made parts for my larger CNC on my small CNC. Works fines.

  4. #4
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    Nov 2013
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    I've used one of the little Roland CNCs before, but mostly for plastic. Seemed like it could handle 6061 if you keep the speed low make keep the chips down.

  5. #5
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    Apr 2015
    Victoria, BC CANADA
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    That X-carve looks pretty sweet. Definitely not very rigid though, but if you've got the time it could work with shallow passes.
    The Chinese one actually looks more rigid. It can be upgraded to work with your laptop using a breakout board called smoothstepper. It has usb or ethernet option. I think it's about $150 for the board.

    If you end up getting one I can give you some tips on cutting aluminum with a router. Use a single flute bit, coolant, etc..

    It's definitely possible, but you'll be there for a while. I'd suggest getting extra bits as well. Like a lot extra.


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