Machines

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cnc woodworking machine

Welcome to our ultimate guide on cnc woodworking. Cnc machines are typically used for cutting/ routing/ engraving three different types of materials – foam, wood and metal. This guide will focus on the wood part, which software you need, which type of machines are best, and what to look out for if you are looking to jump into the process of buying a woodworking cnc machine. The good news is is that there is a pretty large spectrum from the small diy kits all the way up to massive industrial machines.

cnc woodworking

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Hurco cnc lathe

Welcome to our top cnc lathe products/ brands. We’ve gone through various brands as well as different products to scout out which ones you should be taking a look at so you get the best value for your money. Check’em out below:

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Zen Toolworks cnc machine

With the desktop 3d printing market heating up with some great options, there are still some very solid options for mini cnc machines that don’t require a lot of footprint or space. We’ll take a look at what the different options are out there including what you should be looking out for.

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While 3d printers have exploded in popularity recently, desktop cnc routers still have their place. You can pick up a pretty capable desktop cnc machine for under $1000 that has the major file support and software for your gcode. We think cnc routers, especially desktop ones are here to stay for the time being.

Heads up on the guide, in general cnc routers/ machines aren’t made for kids. They typically have an open bed (so parts are exposed) – would be dangerous to have a child near one of these machines.

Also due to the openness nature of these machines, noise can sometimes be a small issue. Best to test out in person to see if this is okay, you’ll laso get a feel for how much debris comes off the machine while cutting, so you may want to put up some sort of guard or place this in an area where noone would be close during the gcode to cnc cutting process.

We wrote a guide here a while back, but now we’ve reviewed and below are some of our current top picks:

Sanvn CNC router

Sanvn cnc router

Available in 3 or 4 axis the Sanvn cnc machine starts at $555.99 and runs all the way up to $1,685.99. The entry machine for $564 has a pretty good table size of 200 x 300 mm, and a relatively decent height of 50 mm. With a spindle speed of 300 to 8000 rpm, you’ll easily be able to carve out the soft materials like wood and foam, as well as working with metal and steel parts comfortably.

One downside is the older 6040 controller and software. Upgrading to a UX100 and an updated version of Mach3 will get you up to speed.

Zen ToolworksTM cnc diy kit

Zen Toolworks cnc machine diy kit

At a cost of $430 with free shipping on Amazon, the Zen ToolworksTM CNC carving machine diy kit (7×7 F8) is one of our faves and has been a solid performer and seller for a while. We mentioned this machine a while ago, and it is great to see that it still gets rave reviews on Amazon.

Featuring a 7 x 7 x 2 inch travel capacity, this machine has a bed size larger than most desktop cnc machine designs. To save on cost you are getting a pvc frame, but you get steel guide rods to ensure precision in travel.

Be aware you will have to pay for a copy of Mach 3 on top of this if that is the software you want to go with. The diy kit does take a little time to set up and calibrate (downside compared to say a fully enclosed 3d printer).

X-Carve

X-Carve cnc machine

The X-Carve really deserves some praise. For a pretty good price of $937.90 for the basic kit  or $1,399.90 for the fully loaded kit, you get a truly versatile cnc desktop router.  With the larger 1000mm railes, you can get a large working area of 800 x 800 x 65 mm, or even with the smaller 500 mm railes, you are still getting a sizable 300  300 x 65 mm in working area.

Packing a DeWalt 611 spindle, you’ll get between 16-27,000 rpm our of the spindle at no load. If you can afford something in the $1000 mark and want great flexibility and resolution (0.075-0.13 mm) this engraving machine is a great buy.

Nomad 883 Pro

Nomad 883 Pro

Coming in at $2,599 this is a fully enclosed cnc mill. With a cutting area of 8 x 8 x 3 inches and a weight of 65 lbs, spindle speed between 2,000 to 10,000 rpm. Support for Windows and MacOS with their own 2d/cam software.

Right now orders take 10-12 weeks, but the option for a bamboo vs white HDPE for the enclosure is a nice touch. You can get additional add-ons like a vise or extra cutters on your desktop cnc routers from Carbide 3D. Another great machine worth a look by Carbide 3D is the Shapeoko 3 – which is definitely worth a look as a good alternative.

ShopBot desktop

ShopBot desktop cnc router

XYZ movement od 24 x 18 x 5.5″ witha  cutting volume with a 2″ long cutter: 24 x 18 x 3.5″. This is one of the larger cnc router machines, but is still small enough to fit on a desktop, yet large enough to provide for meaningful project sizes.

For packages, you’re looking at $5,89,.95 for the regular desktop package with router ot $7,315 for the desktop package with an industrial spindle (both including a $350 shipping cost as the unit is over 100 pounds). The great thing about the ShopBot is that it has been around for a while and has a good community behind it.

PCNC 440

PCNC 440

One of Tormach’s newest desktop cnc machines, this thing is a beast – a fully enclosed desktop cnc router that produces huge results – with easily enough power to cnc carve or slice through metal.

Coming in at $6,995 for the basic package (no enclosure) or $7,495 for the basic package with a stand, as well as  deluxe packages around the $10k mark that include the enclosure – we recommend getting an enclosure for safety. For this price you ger a 10,000 rpm spindle with a  fairly sizable 10 x 6.25 x 10″ work envelope.

So there you have it, some solid options in terms of desktop cnc machines. While not cheap, if you’re willing to drop upwards of $5,000 to $10,000, you’re going to get a pretty amazing machine that will be able to cnc route through foam, wood, and metal fairly easily. However even at the sub $1000 level there are some good starter options.

Which desktop cnc router are you most interest in purchasing? Let us know in the comments below!

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cnc router machine

With the abundance of 3d printers and cnc routers now out on the market, from sub $500 options to more expensive options in the thousands of dollars price range, the question now becomes, when or if you should purchase.

We’ve recently put up some guides on different 3d printers here and here, and have talked at length on the different kinds of cnc machines you can get e.g. 3 axis vs 5 axis. Today we’ll take a closer look into whether or not it is worth buying or just outsourcing your work to a local cnc/ 3d printer or overseas to cheaper companies in China for example.

3D Printer

3d printers are pretty damn good these days. The M3D and the Form 1+ both do down to a very fine resolution (around the 50 microns mark). And pricing isn’t too bad.

The resin required for spooling and the nozzle maintenance costs are in the hundreds if not cheaper. This means you can definitely have a hobby 3d printer for under $1000 with materials needed for occasional printing during the year.

Eventually we will see 3d printers come down even more in cost. much like regular inkjet and laserjet printers have. We do think this will take a while though, so theres not point in really waiting a year or two. If this is the case, you might as well just buy now as there are some good options out already that have a minimum of 100 x 100 x 100mm work area and a good micron level in terms of print resolution for a tabletop 3d printer.

CNC Machine

While many 3d printers now come with their own screen for you to be able to plug and print, a cnc machine typically requires a computer/ tablet to run You can get tablets that run full versions of Windows, that will be able to plug into your cnc machine for cutting – many Chinese based tablets allow dual boot into either Android or Windows, including Xiaomi, Chuwi, and Onda.

Many cnc machines come open, as in there isn’t an enclosed space, allowing you to tinker a little more in terms of a tabletop cnc router (different table-tops).

At the end of the day, buying a small tabletop cnc machine doesn’t seem worth it anymore with all the different 3d printer filaments you can buy nowadays at a fairly affordable price – however if you’re looking into engraving/ cutting harder materials like wood or metal (which can sometimes be cheaper than 3d printer resin filaments), then the choice would be a classic cnc router machine with a potential homemade platform.

Other stuff to think about

Other stuff to remember when getting a cnc or 3d printer would be the following:

Application – which material will you be using?  If mainly plastic, then a resin 3d printer is the way to go. If pre-existing wood or metal then cnc machine

Warranty – Some of the new 3d printers out are still very young. They just haven’t been around for 5 years or more, so we really don’t know which will stand the test of time when it comes down to workmanship, quality of the parts and customer service.

Detail and size – Many cnc machines have diy bases – that means you can build a larger or smaller base to fit your needs. A closed 3d printer just won’t allow that sort of flexibility.

So what kind of machine will you or won’t you be buying?

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used cnc router for saleAt CNC Establishment we LOVE our cnc machines, however finding great resources to buy used machines can be tough. A lot of the time we recommend to buy new as that way you are guaranteed some sort of software that matches the machine, machine-specific training as well as a warranty in case something breaks down during a crucial job.

For those of you looking for used cnc machines for sale there is some respite. Below is our list of go-to’s when looking for a good used machine:

CNC lathes

Used cnc lathe machines are hard to come by. Check out MachineTools.com, eBay, manta-machinery.net, premierequipment.com or emachinetool.com. These are all great places to start and actually do stock lathes. Note that many of these places are in the US.

Machine Tools bills themselves as THE largest resource and listing marketplace with over 220,000 new and used listings. This is our top go-to choice for used machines (second goes to ExFactory under the CNC routers section).

MachineTools.com has a powerful buy/sell/research module that will help you sort out the type of machine/tooling, category, tool and country that you need. This site is also worth a look for recently posted wanted ads as well as current auctions for machines (where you may be able to pick up a machine for a very reasonable price). Brands such as Nissei, Daewoo, Kato, Doosan, Mazak, and Bridgeport have made appearances.

emachinetool and premierequipment are also worth checking out. These two sites both have been around for a while and both are updated regularly. (We hate it when listings are defunct!).

CNC Routers – Woodworking, Metalwork, Plastic, Stone, Glass

used cnc milling machine for saleOnce again eBay really is your friend here. However there are many retailers that also sell used cnc woodworking machines.Check out cncrouterstore.com, exfactory.com, and usedcncrouters.com.

Cnc Router Store offers free desktop appraisals, cash offers and machine brokerage services (so attracts many sellers).

ExFactory has a handy categorization list that allows you to sort the used cnc router machines by manufacturer, machine type, region, brand, or price. ExFactory is a big one-stop shop for woodworking. plastic, glass, metal and stone work.

UsedCNCRouters.com has a much smaller selection compared to ExFactory but are still worth a look.

CNC Milling – Vertical and Horizontal

Quality used cnc vertical or horizontal milling machines are plentiful. We’ve seen many used Swiss screw machines, Fadal, Mazak and Bridgeport cnc milling machines for sale. For swiss screw machines we recommend ismscnc.com, MachineTools and Automatics. As mentioned above MachineTools just rocks in terms of range. You’ll definitely find something here.

If you want to stray out to see what else you may pick up, Automatics and ISMS CNC are worth a look, however the later doesn’t have the most friendly user-interface; but it is well worth digging through, especially for their Swiss CNC machines (Citizen, Star, Tornos, Emco etc.)

CNC Grinding Machines

Used cnc grinding machines are hard to find. We know it sounds generic, but you will have to look more towards eBay or Alibaba to fill your needs here. You could also check out Industrial Resources, Inc. or try MachineTools to try your luck. All-in-all you’re going to have to go further ‘underground’ within this category as finding one resource here that has tons of cnc grinding machines is tough.

Conclusion

In conclusion there are tons of options out ther for used cnc machines. A little bit of digging will go a long way. Your hidden gem may easily be found on our top pick MachineTools.com, or it may be hidden at eBay or Alibaba. Wherever it is we highly recommend you ask tons of questions to make sure the machine is the right fit for you and that there are no surprises when it finally arrives on your shop floor.

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hot wire foam cnc product

There’s no doubt that cnc foam cutters are cool. I remember back in my university days having to fashion our own diy foam wire cutters (non-cnc of course) to cut through large blocks of foam for our boating projects. These were typically constructed with cheap wooden frames (a lot of time using custom wood/ mdf) with butterfly screws to tighten a hot wire across attached to a transformer.

Nowadays things have gotten extremely fancy with the new wave of cnc hot wire foam cutters that now make our diy back-in-the-day efforts pretty old-school. I wanted to set out to find and put together a cnc hotwire foam cutter myself to see just how much more awesome a cnc equivalent is and what the costs are associated with this. So here is what I ended up doing for this little diy project:

Step 1: Parts

The primary sources I used were Amazon and Home Depot. I found a few good instructions online and narrowed it down to the following:

  •  9v-12v switching adapter, at least 1.3 / 1.25 amps as an output
  • Something for a frame – I went with custom wood/ mdf, screwed together to make a frame.
  • Guitar wire .10 to .16 size works well
  • Butterfly screws

Step 2: The build

Building a foam cutter isn’t too hard. The biggest thing to think about is the size at which your EPS, XPS or EPP foam is going to be. Once you have this one of the biggest things people tend to forget about is the flex in the frame. The wooden frame I made did flex a few times causing the wire to move smooth in some areas and not so smooth in other areas. Adding some extra plastic reinforcement to reduce flex really helped out here.

Once you have the manual cutter itself it is time to hook this up to a cnc machine. You’re going to have to do your research depending on the type of cnc foam cutter software you use, as the baseline set-up would be different for ever machine. I managed to mount mine on a 3 axis cnc machine and programmed the software to account for the space between the drill part and the hot wire.

With the above set-up I was able to cut some basic shapes, shapes that have wooden templates as a guide as well as some wing shapes for hydrofoil testing. This was a bit of a hap-hazard build so I thought for my next build I would look into some sort of cnc foam cutter kit set, or some plans to give me better direction and save the headache of mounting anything too diy onto an actual pre-existing cnc machine.

The best resource I found was RCFoamCuter.com (for the diy spirited hobbyist). They have a few kit-sets that would really help someone who has zero prior experience get started.

However after going through the hassle of diy, sometimes just buying a machine outright makes a lot of sense. I am reminded of one of my co-workers who went back to his iPhone after constantly installing custom roms on his Android – sometimes it’s just easier to pay the money and move on knowing everything will just work without constant tinkering required.

So where are the best hot wire cnc foam cutters for sale?

hot wire cnc machine

It depends on usage. For smaller cutters, the RCUniverse forum is great. For larger machines the CNC Zone classified page is a good place to start for used machines. For brand new machines CNC-Multitool.com has some solid 4 axes cnc foam cutting and milling machines.

Alibaba is also a great place to look as many hot-wire foam cutters are generally brands that are lesser known – so it is best to go straight to the manufacturer in this case. At a quick glance many sellers/ manufacturers on Alibaba do allow you to order just one of their machines.

As always I always recommend you do your own due diligence and research as buying and operating a machine that is not fit for your project needs or skill level could be a disaster. Also the feeling of getting a diy wire cutter up and running or seeing a new cnc machine run its first test run is always great. Good luck!

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4 axis cnc machine in action

3 axis and 5 axis cnc machines get all the attention these days. I’m well versed in both 3 and 5 axis machines, but thought I would dig into the land of 4 axis cnc machining.

Without further ado, here is all you need to know about 4 axis cnc machines, where to buy them and what makes these machines stand out from just a regular 3 axis cnc machine.

4 axis cnc vs. 3 axis machines – What are the differences?

A 3 axis machine gives you the x,y and z straight axis. The fourth axis is a rotary mechanism that is oriented parralel to the x axis of the cnc machine.

This allows the workblock to be machined using different orientations in a single go (as opposed to having to unclamp a  workpiece and reposition). The fourth axis is also great for milling and sculpting complex surfaces.

You can see the fourth axis in the video below:

Controllers for 4 axis machines

The SainSmart CNC TB6560 is a good bet. This 4 axis stepper controller supports Mach3. There is a blue board variant, but the red board is what you should get (it is newer and supposedly gets rid of the vibration when not stepping). This controller comes with the right config files on a CD, so should be pretty straight forward to set-up. We highly recommend following the config and set-up in the CD for the 4 axis stepper motor driver.

Probotics also has a good range of 4 axis kits here. The is a good range between the ProbStep and SideStep stepper motor driver kits.

Although cliche, hitting up ebay is a great way to go for stepper controllers. During my research there definitely was a good range, but you are lacking on name brand products that also come with less community support.

Best 4 axis cnc machines

After doing a good hunt around, these are our picks to start as the best cnc machines out there with 4 axes.

MDX540 by Roland – This benchtop 4 axis cnc milling machine features SRP (Subtractive Rapid Prototyping) technology which allows greater precision and a better surface finish.The machine comes with a Handy Panel and Virtual Control Panel  so you can control the machine while away from your computer, as well as an automatic tool changer so you can walk away while the full job gets taken care of. Starting at just over $20,000 and with CAM software included (SRP Player CAM) this machine is a solid starting point.

4 axis cnc machine

Microkinetics has a low cost cnc machine available here. This is a basic, smaller machine, but comes in much cheaper than other machines. The price for this is just shy of $4000.This is the one you want for making custom jewellery, gears, and rings. Comes with G-code control and graphical software.

The HS-3R by Haas. Haas cnc machines are all pretty solid. Their HS-3R Horizontal Machining Center has a built in 4th axis as well as a 60-tool side-mount tool changer. This is a big machine with a flat-bed of 150″ x 50″ x 60″ (3810 x 1270 x 1524 mm), however this machine does come with an anchoring system. This beast does come with a high price-tag at just over half a million dollars.

The Makino 4 axis horizontal machining centers are definitely worth a look. Makino touts their 1-Series cnc machines as the top selling 4 axis horizontal cnc machines in North America. There is a solid range here, starting with a 15.7″ x 15.7″ pallet to a mondter 118.1″ x 63″ MCD-Series pallet size.

Another solid machine worth a look is the FCNC 400 P 4 Axis Cnc Machining Center from Kutez. This machine comes with a Siemens 802d sl pro controller, has a crazy fast tool change time of 1.7 seconds and comes with 20 tools. Much like the Microkinetics, this machine is perfct for crafting smaller items that have complex shapes such as jewellery or smaller parts for toys.

What Software Should You Use?

4 axis cnc vertical machine

Most of the big names are compatible with 4 axis. MasterCAM, BobCAD-CAM and CamWorks supports 4 axes. Other alternatives include MeshCAM, DeskCNC, and Dolphin CAD CAM. Aside from the aforementioned, you want to get simultaneous machining programming software that allows the user to create toolpaths for complex surfaces and shapes.

CNC use cases for a 4 axis machine

While a 3 axis and 5 axis machine may make sense, a 4 axis machine does have some significant advantages over a 3 axes due to the ability to work with complex shapes. But due to the machine not being a full fledged 5 axis machine, the cost can be a lot lower.

All in all it really depends on the type of project that you will be working on the most. I’ve seen many people with 3 axis machines manually move items around to create shapes similar to a 4 or 5 axis machine. But when it comes to speed and the need for that extra axis, then the 4 axis cnc machine is a great way to go.

For further info on 4 axes systems, check out our previous guide here. Please let us know what your experiences are with a 4 axis cnc machine in the comments below.

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cnc laser cutter

Welcome to CNC Establishment if you are one of our first time readers. If you’ve been here before, then I’m excited to have you back as I cover the topic of cnc laser cutters.

Cnc laser cutters are cool. I’ve seen some fantastic machines come out over the last decade and it is an exciting time for cnc laser cutters – both pre-made machines and the diy cnc laser cutter scene.

I’m going to go over some top brands that you should be keeping an eye out for as well as some machines that I think are definitely worth a look at.

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cnc machining

There are a ton of types of cnc machines out there. The cnc industry has been extremely exciting over the past decade with the advent of better waterjet cutters, laser cutters and plasma cutters. It seems cnc operators are popping up everywhere as the cost of machines are coming down.

Below I’ll go over some of the different types of cnc machines and what training you made to operate each.