Thread: Help me choose a mill.
I have been Googling for a few weeks, I'm a member of some (not so friendly) forums, and I've called a few companies. So please note that I'm not being lazy, I've done the homework but people either don't respond or try to sell me a £10k machine!
I'm looking to step up from my Roland iModela. I want (ideally) a 4 axis CNC but understand for my budget this isn't going to happen (£1,500) and so I'm happy to add that axis later. Knowing this I want advice on what machine to buy for medium sized milling of material up to aluminium. By Medium size parts I mean approx 8" wide by 4" deep by 2"+ thick.
I'm happy to buy a manual mill that's easy to convert. The mill will live in a partially heated garage, and I'll be building a basic PC to run it. I'm looking to do this as soon as possible.
I use Fusion 360 to work in, I'd be looking for advise on the best software to run the mill (Mach 3 for example).
And hey, if anyone in Kent in the UK has done this or is looking to do it I'd be happy to let you use the machine for any assistance!
I'll be producing small detailed parts for models (I have a rich back log of models from various games and films I'd like to mill) alongside larger more basic parts for my other hobby (building motorcycles).
I have already ordered a load of aluminium billet, it was a last minute ebay and too cheap to not buy. :) I need tools of course.
All advice very welcome.
If you're just wanting to machine aluminium, then a small well built router style machine may be a better option, in which case I'll defer to those on here who know far more about them.
However, if you want to do tougher materials, then retrofitting a desktop mill may be a better option. In which case, given the working area you've quoted, I'd look into something X2 sized. There are quite a few options, but if you have a search over on the desktop mill/(S)X2 board on cnczone, then you'll find plenty guides. Also, Hoss over there sells conversion plans, which would remove the need for a lot of head scratching.
Another option may be something like a Denford Novamill, but for that working depth you'd most likely have to add a column raising block (there are plans over on the denford forums)Avoiding the rubbish customer service from AluminiumWarehouse since July '13.
Hello. Thanks for the reply. I was told the router style machines were not up to par for aluminium. I don't know if this is true or not. They are certainly cheaper. I found a Chinese import 4 axis for £1100 but I don't trust it!
How about one of these: Hobby milling machines now in stock Perfect for conversions for £1100 ?, may not be the £1500 your looking for after conversion but I think if you box clever you wouldn't be that far off and the value for money would make it all worth it, plus you would get to enjoy the reward of doing the conversion yourself.
Note: A well designed (and built) gantry style machine can be perfectly capable of machining most metals, harder metals take longer on a "softer" machine. However there is also a definitive line that distinguishes "cutting" metal and something else..Me
That's a nice machine, I'll ask them when the CNC conversion is likely to be ready. I know that if I can be accurate enough with flipping the material a three axis will suffice for a while, so I don't mind spending the money on a better machine. But I do need CNC from the offset, I've decided that now :-)
On a scale of 1-5 how terrible will this be if 5 is entirely awful?
I've had no replies from any suppliers in the UK, so I'm still hunting. My aluminium arrives tomorrow though :)
Go for the mill, i can explain all day long why. You will learn the business the proper way and will avoid disappointment from the beginning. When if you decide you need a bigger machine you could find easily new home for that one. Plus you will start loving and knowing your machine when you do yourself the upgrade to CNC. Later you can save some cash and add 4rth axis.
Go for the Chinese router and you will have to change electronics sooner than later, find that machining aluminum is not like they show on videos and that is impossible to produce nice finish and accurate parts.
And main thing to remember is you need support, especially having in mind you are not and experienced user. So carefully choose what you are saving and from whom are you buying!
With a bit effort, it could maybe just about reach a 3, but would still be rubbish for Aluminium.
I've got a 3040, and build quality wasn't too bad, but some of the components are really rubbish. I only bought it to create a digitiser, so the original electronics got binned, and I had to put a bit effort into getting the mechanics up to a suitable standard, however they really aren't up to any sort of real machining.Avoiding the rubbish customer service from AluminiumWarehouse since July '13.
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