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  1. #1
    Hello to ALL on the forum...

    I'm totally new to the world of CNC machines... spent the best part of 3 weeks watching and listening to various you tube clips on the subject and visiting various sites for cnc resellers... Set myself a budget of under £1000 for the purchase of a machine, but wanted something bigger than the 400mm x 180mm that seemed to be in the basic or hobbyist range.... I settled on an x carve... aware of its advantages and shortcomings... I then set about finding a machine for the price range I had set myself... I came to the conclusion either a 1000mm x carve or custom build a machine through buying parts... Online I found an x carve clone... all well sourced parts and after making an offer bought it for £775... it is now on its way...

    Am prepared for setbacks, problems, a steep learning curve and at some stage some upgrades or modifications. One common upgrade seems to be stiffening of the x axis and both y axis...

    I'm constructing my own worktable to mount it on.... got some good local steel suppliers and I have a drop saw that will cut light steel and a drill press... A track saw will help me cut the work surfaces to suitable sizes.

    Hoping to learn lots on these pages.

  2. Welcome to the forum Mike. You'll certainly find plenty of advice here!

    It is a steep learning curve, but an interetsting journey. Have you decided on software for your design work yet? Plenty of options out there to choose from, Fusion 360, Vectric and CamBam to name a few.

    Kit
    Engineering is the art of doing for ten shillings what any fool can do for a pound.
    Wellington.

  3. #3
    Hello Kit, Thanks for the friendly welcome... I've not made any decision on software yet.
    I'd like to create my own designs... or use downloadable files if it is something I want to do.
    As I understand it there is a two part process .... creating the design and then determining the cutting paths/depths/speed of cut etc

    I thought I might use the free trial option a lot of software offers before buying... or use open source software.

    Always open to suggestions.... Someone told me I needed a 'gaming standard' laptop to run suitable software.... So one of the first things I need to do is find a suitable laptop... probably s/h.... My 17" HP is ancient and runs as slow as a no.4 bus on a wet week when there is a ton of roadworks... It may not, most likely isn't, even be upto the task.... I have a Lenovo Thinkpad... but that is supplied by County and I don't have admin rights to install software etc.

  4. #4
    Yeah... just tried to download CamBam on my Lenovo.... 'The administrator won't let you install this software.'

  5. #5
    When it comes to a suitable computer for diy cnc, then my recommendation is to use a computer from a cash register. If you are looking for an ebay, a used one can be bought for about ~ 200 euros with a licensed WIN7. (Switching from 64-bit to 32-bit license remains)
    They have a touch screen IN ONE HOUSING with a PC and better durability than home computers Click image for larger version. 

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  7. #7
    Doddy's Avatar
    Lives in Preston, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 12 Hours Ago Has been a member for 7-8 years. Has a total post count of 1,247. Received thanks 172 times, giving thanks to others 57 times. Referred 1 members to the community.
    Quote Originally Posted by MikeS View Post
    Someone told me I needed a 'gaming standard' laptop to run suitable software.... So one of the first things I need to do is find a suitable laptop... probably s/h....
    Why a laptop and not a desktop?, laptops tend to be configured to run low-powered, throttling performance and periodic health/battery management activities which make then a little less ideal than a more conventional desktop for CNC (where, if you're using the machine as the CNC motion controller you need more deterministic behaviour).

    Also, what's the interface between the PC and the CNC?, if a parallel-port BoB then you need to make sure the laptop has a parallel port - few modern ones do. And there could still be problems with 3v3 operation (though I think that's not as much of a problem as has been made in the past).

    I'd urge caution with the PoS units - again, make sure that they have the parallel port (if needed); their touch screens are generally robust but they can be very low performance, or thin-clients. The latter I've had some experience of and rejected for use in a CNC machine.

    Your first job whilst waiting for delivery is to understand the interface between machine and PC, and that then helps to define the back-end of the tool-chain. Is there any indication of bundled software such as "mach3" ?

  8. #8
    Ignore whoever told you that a gaming standard computer is necessary.Just about anything will do the job.In the distant past I was using a 450Mhz Pentium 2 with a mighty 64Mb RAM to generate 5 axis toolpaths with Windows NT.You would find it almost impossible to buy a computer that isn't light years ahead of that.Clearly a super high spec machine will do in hundredths of a second the things that a more humble computer would take tenths of a second to accomplish.Which in the overall timespan of completing a hobby project is of very little significance.

    The challenge thats looming will be to resist trying to use the machine while gaining a level of competence with whatever software is chosen.Good software is essential and often expensive but you absolutely have to have something.A few troglodytes insist that typing Gcode is as good as it gets and like to sit in front of a keyboard with a print of a part and a calculator as they input Gcode for the tool centre path.They tend to have encountered CNC in the eighties when such stuff was common and have never seen how much more can be accomplished if you let the machine that otherwise gets used for posting nonsense on social networks do the same task in a fraction of a second.I know nothing of CamBam but it has ben around for a while,Fusion was extremely popular until the subscription model was introduced and I suspect a good number of people are paying up rather than learning the quirks of another piece of software.Vectric is something I have little knowledge of as a pal has it and it is very quick at generating toolpaths,it does use quirky vocabulary and the CAD side is less than stellar at least at Vcarve level.For my hobby machine,I went with Freecad,in part because I had some prior experience with parametric software and also because it had a post processor for the LinuxCNC that runs my hobby machine.I am very happy with it but for a newbie to 3D modelling it might take some getting used to.

    One way to have a bit of low cost fun is to download F-engrave and Camotics.The first will allow you to create toolpaths for engraving lettering or clip art and the second will allow you to watch the simulation.Its always a good thing to run a simulation just in case a retract height is insufficient or some other woe is lurking to snare the unwary.Have fun.

  9. Quote Originally Posted by MikeS View Post
    Hello Kit, Thanks for the friendly welcome... I've not made any decision on software yet.
    I'd like to create my own designs... or use downloadable files if it is something I want to do.
    As I understand it there is a two part process .... creating the design and then determining the cutting paths/depths/speed of cut etc

    I thought I might use the free trial option a lot of software offers before buying... or use open source software.

    Always open to suggestions.... Someone told me I needed a 'gaming standard' laptop to run suitable software.... So one of the first things I need to do is find a suitable laptop... probably s/h.... My 17" HP is ancient and runs as slow as a no.4 bus on a wet week when there is a ton of roadworks... It may not, most likely isn't, even be upto the task.... I have a Lenovo Thinkpad... but that is supplied by County and I don't have admin rights to install software etc.
    Several others have offered you advice already and you will see there is sometimes more on offer than you want! In order...

    Creating the design is Computer Aided Design (CAD). This involves making a drawing of what you want and can involve any 2D or 3D drawing package.

    Computer Aided Machining (CAM) is the next stage of creating the instructions your machine will follow to cut out the design. CAD and CAM are combined in all the software I mentioned earlier and I don't think many serious players are doing these two stages in separate packages these days. CAM produces what is called 'G code' instructions. These are simple text instructions which originated with manual programming (Numerical Control or NC) of machine moves just after WW2. Now we use computers to generate the code hence Computer Numeric Control (CNC). The individual instructions are for simple moves but if you combine many tens or hundreds of thousands of tiny moves you can cut some very complex shapes. You would not code that by hand!

    The final stage is machine control. A list of G code can be fed into almost any machine but how those instructions are converted into physical movements of the machine itself depends on the specific hardware. How many motor revolutions per mm of movement on eac axis? What's the maximum speed and acceleration YOUR machine can move at? This is completely separate from CAD/CAM and can involve a built-in controller as part of the machine you buy or software that runs on a computer and talks to the machine via an interface such as USB (not generally regarded as reliable), Parallel port (works, is cheap, but not found on laptops or recent PC hardware) or Ethernet (preferred by many on this forum for new equipment).

    Re the computer for CAD/CAM: I use a ten year old HP laptop with an early i7 processor which I've upgraded to Windows 10 and it works fine with CamBam which does not have fancy graphics but works well for me. Upgrading to a solid state HD and adding some more memory (8GB is much better than 4) will liven up an old machine quite well. I also use a similar vintage, not expensive DIY desktop machine which works well and have a lovely 32 inch XHD resolution monitor on it which is great for drawing and the best single upgrade I've ever made. Fusion 360 has some fancy rendering capabilities which will require more graphics power but 'gaming' is way above the level were talking here for anything but highly detailed sculpture work.

    More waffle than I intended, but one last point: What is best for you will depend partly on what kind of things you want to make. Bass relief carvings, signs for houses and businesses or mechanical parts? The best advice for your needs will come from people who are experienced in making the same kind of things you want to make. Which isn't necesarilly me.

    Kit
    Engineering is the art of doing for ten shillings what any fool can do for a pound.
    Wellington.

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  11. #10
    The challenge thats looming will be to resist trying to use the machine while gaining a level of competence with whatever software is chosen...
    ... Heh heh heh heh heh... I expect fully to be creating some interesting pieces of 'scrap,' for the iron burner we have in the garden...
    But... I do see your point concerning the type of interface and suitable computer. I'd prefer a laptop (touch screen would be nice)... reason being whatever I use needs to serve dual or threal purpose... Also portability... I expect to be doing the computer based work in the comfort of indoors rather than my garage.... Not fussed about battery life... my old HP gave up the ghost on its battery several years ago, so when I use it, I keep it plugged into the mains so battery life isn't a problem... but I do think I'll need a newer machine.... I'll contact the seller and find out about the type of interface in the meantime....
    Some amazingly sound advice coming thru on this forum... I joined a couple of FB pages but they seem to be more focussed on 'look at what I made,' rather than any useful advice or discussion.
    Thanks

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