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Which CNC Machine to get?

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Hi all!


I'm looking into CNC machines and am having a hard time figuring out what to get.


Preferably something that can handle up to 24 inch pieces, or I'm going to have to shrink the scale of my 1:25 Oseberg.


I don't think I need more than a 3 axis machine because all parts can be milled in two dimensions plus depth.


What brands are good?




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Of the generally considered afford about ones for hobby use Sainsmart seems to have one of the best reputations. They have the 3018 Prover (made with aluminum frame)(don't get the cheaper of their models, or the off brands which are made with bakelite parts in the frame) with a 300X180mm table (slightly smaller cutting area, of course, about 6"x10"). They also have the 4030, 400X300mm. Both have extension kits available to increase the cutting area.  The 3018 can be enlarged to 300X400 with about 10"x12" cutting area, and the 4030 to 600x600. There are many really cheep versions of these out there, but they are also cheaply constructed, with no customer support.I found this company after watching videos by one YouTuber who had initially purchased one of those cheap units, and had many problems with broken/nonfunctional parts, and no replies by that manufacturer.


There are also other quality makers of the 4030 size cnc carvers, but price goes up acourdingly.


Get on YouTube and search for the SainSmart machines, lots of good tutorials.


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When i was thinking about cnc (finally decided to make laser instead) i was looking far Stepcraft. Ofcourse much more expensive as 3018 etc but seemed to be high quality German made. https://www.stepcraft.us

You can also buy additional head for laser engraving but it really wont work for cutting.



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Thank you everyone for the replies. I had looked at some of these before but am having a really hard time telling the difference between the real ones and the knock-offs online.


 I’m looking to stay in the $400 to $1100 range so that limits my options a bit. So far the largest one even close to that price range seems to be the Bob’s CNC machines. Has anyone tried these before or have any idea how they compare to the competition?

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I’ve looked up the Sainsmart 4030 with 6060 extension, and the 6060 table which is sold separately. It's a bit out of my price range at the moment, coming to a total of $1477.


I wonder if I could get by with just the 4030 for now and do half of my keel at a time. I think I'd just have to be very careful about aligning the work piece. Hmm.....

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...or I could just do my model at a smaller scale...


Edit: ok I did some more research and the 4030 without the extension will be plenty for now.


First, my rounding was wrong before. I was covering from metric to inches and back again and made rounding errors each time.


The longest part of the model is the fore segment of the keel which is exactly 15m at 1:1 or 600mm at my current 1:25 scale.


Even with the extension this would mean using the entire length of the workspace or going diagonal.


However, I looked up how to carve pieces longer than the workspace and it turns out to be relatively simple. It's just a matter of breaking the drawing into multiple sections, and including locator holes for the mounting screws with each cut. After the first cut, slide the workpiece to the next set of holes and run the next drawing which includes the locator holes for the following cut. Each overlaps a little.


I think this will work!

Edited by KrisWood
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2 hours ago, mtaylor said:

Have you considered getting one with the larger table but not the CNC?  Many places will sell the CNC as an upgrade to a non CNC machine.


I hadn't considered it but really I'm not that handy. I'm a software guy, not hardware. The assembly of the premade CNC will be challenging enough as it is. 🙂

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I have the 3018 Pro and I find/found it was OK as a learning tool. I was not impressed with its front end software. It is more or less a CAM facility with limited capability. Supposedly you can import other file types but my experience wasn't too successful. Also I had startup problems as one of my axis directions was incorrect and it would not run the test programs until the "NVM" was corrected. Take a look an INVENTABLES CAM like front end since they help with bit sizes, tabs, material cutting and depth parameters.


Also my unit did not have overlimit travel and I had to add it. And yet another comment hold downs/clamping can eat up real estate. So consider that in your decisioning.



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It appears to be a subscription type plan..


I really couldn't justify that unless I were doing CNC as a business..


Have you tried Meshcam ?  It is a little pricey up front, but looks pretty robust, and worth it in the long haul.


I'm looking to move into CNC from my lasering, but haven't pulled the trigger yet, and have been exploring what's out there from a hobbyist's perspective.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Today, "I pulled the trigger" on the new SainSmart 3020 CNC machine. It is a pre-order item, so I'll likely get it next month. I'll post a review when it arrives.


Still need to get more bits, and a z-axis probe.


I figured that this was about the same price as a 3018 prover with the aluminum motor z-axis conversion. This is setup with a sturdier frame, though I don't know if they will offer an extension kit in the future. I bought it now to take advantage of the free one year software subscription. I'll try that software out, but look for a non-subscrption software when that runs out.



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