I built one a couple of years ago and in the process of collecting parts to build a larger one (48 x 96). What is your favorite software to use? Been looking at the vcarve software. Just wondering if it is worth the price?
I wish I had learned CNC...I got out of high school in '79, and was enrolled in vo tech the last 3 years of HS, taking machine shop tech...NC was the dominate technology then, and now CNC. I am amazed at what you can do, and keep looking at the CNC router set ups and dreaming....so is it hard to learn?
I own a CNC lathe and write my own programs. It's really just a matter of telling it were to go and how fast to get there. It is a little more complicated then that but really once you learn to set X,Y and Z locations and understand feed rates, it's not to hard. Mine also has a screen that shows you what the program is going to do. Now this is a great feature that has saved me thousands in crashes. I don't know how the CNC routers work as I have never seen one, but I'm betting there not that hard to learn.
As far as which program to buy, I don't know them. But when I bought my machine I was advised to pick something that is going to be around for awhile. You might not think you will buy another machine down the road. But if you do you don't want to have machines that run on different codes.
I built mine off of some plans I found on cnczone.com that a member posted. You can find the plans in the forum under one of the sections that they post free plans. I think I had about $300 in materials (mdf, black pipe, all thread, bolts and screws, roller blade bearings, a block of delrin, and aluminum), motors, and the controller. If you do build one from the JGRO design, I'd recommend at least a 200 oz/in motor or larger and acme screws. There are several parallel port based controllers to choose from on the market. Some are kits that you need to solder, but most will do it for you for a small fee.
Learning Gcode wasn't extremely hard and really isn't all that necessary, but is helpful when troubleshooting. Most of the software will convert a dxf (autocad) type file into gcode for you. I also found a freeware program for generating text from any windows font for doing signs and some other software for converting pictures into drawings.
My current machine is slow 11 ipm (inchs per minute) which is why I want to build a larger better quality machine, but it is accurate. It will do just about anything a larger machine does with the same near accuracy, just may take all day.
My latest use for it is laying out degree marks on a new miter guage for my table saw (took about an hour to etch 45 degrees of marks). Found a autocad drawing of a protractor and resized it for the project. With a carbide bit it will etch aluminum plate easily and mark drill marks and make pilot holes where needed accurately.
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