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  1. #11
    Hi everyone. New here. I'm IanB, designer of SheetCNC.

    There are lots of good points in the posts above. Here's my tuppence-worth, to add to them.

    SheetCNC is one possible answer to the (long) question "I have a business idea that needs a 2.5D 8x4 CNC, but I haven't got a local makerspace, I've tried having my stuff cut at a CNC shed but the QC was terrible, none of my mates has a CNC, and I also know that nine out of ten new business ideas fail so I don't want to spend too much... so how cheaply can I start CNC'ing sheets of plywood/MDF in my own shed?"

    Much depends on how many compromises you're willing to make.

    We do get a lot of inquiries from novices (because of the price). We always ask inquirers what they want to cut with their CNC, and we turn away 75% of them right off the bat because they're wanting to work beyond the limits of the machine. And we always ask potential buyers to bring a sample of their work and try it on a demo SheetCNC. If there's one thing we don't want, it's disappointed buyers.

    Some of the things we like to ask:
    Do you want a CNC for an established business that's already doing well? Then we suggest you spend bigger money on something better. SheetCNC might do you for a year or two, but in time you'll grow your business, you'll hit SheetCNC's limitations, and you'll have to buy another machine anyway. So don't go through the grief of setting up two machines with all the downtime that entails.
    Do you want to cut metal? Sorry, won't work.
    Do you want to cut lots of plastic? SheetCNC can cut plastic, but only slowly because there's no coolant and you need to avoid melting the workpiece. So productivity when cutting plastic is pretty poor.
    Do you need cutters bigger than 6mm (excepting for surfacing and reaming)? Not a great idea, because deflections are likely to be excessive. (Chains being stretchier than racks/screws.)
    Is intricate 3D work your main objective? Probably better to find something capable of very high accelerations.
    Do you want better than, say, quarter-millimetre accuracy when cutting 8-foot plywood sheets? Wow, what are you making?! But sorry, you need a better machine.
    Do you need a turn-key installation, that's all set up for you, ready to go? SheetCNC is mechanicals (and motors) only. You'll need to set up a controller, and a vac system, and your own cable runs. So considerable previous DIY experience is essential.

    Some of the things we get asked:
    Does the MDF warp and sag? No. The small parts are too small to sag. The big parts are bolted tight to lumps of steel, and they don't sag.
    Does it need adjusting after initial set-up? In a minor way, yes. You'll need to check chain tensions occasionally, and keep an eye on V-bearing tensions. But it takes seconds to check these things. So it's not fit-and-forget. But it's not a complete PITA, either.
    Is the Z-axis a threaded rod? Kind of. It's a 8mm-pitch leadscrew on two brass leadnuts with a basic anti-backlash adjustment.
    Does the chain clog? Do the V-bearings clog? We use a SheetCNC for our PhieldBug business. It runs for an hour or two at a time cutting hundreds of complex parts from a single sheet. That's a huge amount of cutting, usually unattended (ahem, insert whistling-emoji here :-) ) and the resulting pile of chips and dust fills a barrel. But it's never come close to clogging and there's never been a need to clear chips from the mechanicals during an operation. Maybe that's a side-effect of being limited to small cutters: they only produce small chips so there's nothing substantial enough to bung anything up.

    I hesitate to tell anyone what they "should" do... but I'd suggest that anyone completely new who's looking for a flat-bed CNC might consider seeking out a maker-space - even if that means a substantial journey - and getting some tuition and some experience on their flat-bed CNC. You'll learn so much about CNC, and you'll start to get a feel for the compromises that go into a machine's construction. That'll help you make an informed choice of which of the many machines out there will be up to the jobs that you want to do. Because, when you consider how much money (and time too) you'll be putting into buying and setting up your first machine, the investment of a couple of days working a CNC machine will pay back many-fold.

    Best of luck with your search.

    Cheers,
    IanB.

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