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Unread 04-18-2018, 06:32 PM
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CNC router for prototypes

We just completed our second season and reflecting on how to improve for 2019 I think speeding up the prototype iteration will make the biggest difference. I think that being able to cut something out of plywood/lexan quickly and accurately will accomplish this.

I've read a lot of posts about CNC routers for cutting aluminum and I get the impression you need to spend $12000+. I figure we can make the prototype on a lower cost machine and then get a professional to do the final parts in aluminum.

Is an X-Carve the way to go? (Shapeoko's are obsolete?)

I haven't seen anyone discussing CNC router for the sole purpose of prototyping so I'm wondering if this is a wise idea. Any experienced members care to weigh in?
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Unread 04-18-2018, 06:41 PM
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Re: CNC router for prototypes

Here is a link to a useful prototyping router that doesn't really break the bank.

Bobs E3 CNC Router

In my opinion, anything beyond this and you would be better off saving and investing in a high quality router which can cut aluminum as well.
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Last edited by JacobD : 04-18-2018 at 06:45 PM. Reason: Totally misread this at first.
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Unread 04-18-2018, 07:02 PM
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Re: CNC router for prototypes

While dropping $12K+ on a Velox is certainly a great set-up for cutting, there are certainly cheaper router options that are fully capable of cutting competition-quality parts out of aluminum. Especially if you're willing to compromise on your working volume. A lot of the big/expensive routers are really useful if you want to do things like drivetrain rails and bellypans, but if your goal is mostly smaller components and prototypes, you can get away with a router with a much smaller work area.

If your primary work material is going to be plywood (and some plastics), you can also look at getting a laser cutter. A lot of teams have been using these recently for rapid prototyping.
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Unread 04-18-2018, 07:51 PM
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Re: CNC router for prototypes

There are a lot of options between relegating yourself to solely prototyping on your router and a $12,000 investment. It really depends on what you want to do and what you're willing to pay. If you're only willing to put in $1,000-$1,500, then cutting wood/plastics for prototyping and sending to sponsors for final versions might be a good idea. But if you're willing to invest closer to the $3,000 to $5,000 range, you can absolutely produce your own aluminum parts.

Also, why do you say Shapeokos are obsolete?
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Unread 04-18-2018, 08:01 PM
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Re: CNC router for prototypes

We bought our x-carve in our second year for a measly $700, choosing to forgo many of the fancy extras like threaded inserts and a COTS wasteboard. We spent quite a while tuning it, stiffening it up, and getting jigs setup to cut tube and sheet.

It cuts plywood and lexan like nobody's business but still takes a respectable amount of time in aluminum. The key is a really flat wasteboard and a solid way of holding down material.

If you are truly strapped for cash, then the X-Carve isn't a bad option. You'll learn a lot about CNC but it won't be as good as something you drop a few thousand dollars on.
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Unread 04-18-2018, 08:54 PM
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Re: CNC router for prototypes

Our team built a CNC router ourselves, last summer. We have used it a lot to cut polycarb and plywood. It cost about $600, if I remember correctly (I was not directly involved).

It was a variant on the "mostly printed CNC": https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:724999
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Unread 04-18-2018, 08:58 PM
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Re: CNC router for prototypes

I agree with Jon above on work holding and patience. I have an x-carve that I use with my FTC team and we cut prototypes out of thin plywood and cut the final robot out of Aluminum and Durabond (Sign Board). The limiting factor for FRC is the 1 meter x 1 meter size.
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Unread 04-18-2018, 09:01 PM
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Re: CNC router for prototypes

I designed and built my own CNC router for the main purpose of cutting aluminum parts, but it does poly and wood no problem.

Here is the Grabcad: https://grabcad.com/library/custom-cnc-router-v2-1

Here is the build blog (ish): https://docs.google.com/presentation...it?usp=sharing

Im happy to answer any questions!

Its pretty beefy, and I wouldnt say its "for prototyping", because I assume that means wood/plastic. X-Carves can do wood and plastic no problem, in fact they were designed to do so, but dont buy it if you INTEND of cutting aluminum. I wanted to make my own to learn everything about CNCing (I achieved alot of cool learning goals but I havnt reached every, yet ) and I wanted a machine that I could use for any project, and that was super solid in general, it was designed and built to cut metals.
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Unread 04-18-2018, 09:06 PM
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Re: CNC router for prototypes

So this may not be what you wanna hear but we bought a hobby laser cutter instead of a cnc machine and honestly would make that same decision over and over again. With the versa frame being available and the fact that most teams have access to drill presses it makes it very easy to cut stuff from durable plastics and birch plywood. Also plastics and birch plywood are lighter and cheaper than machining aluminum. Just our two cents.
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Unread 04-19-2018, 07:36 AM
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Re: CNC router for prototypes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
I designed and built my own CNC router for the main purpose of cutting aluminum parts, but it does poly and wood no problem.

Here is the Grabcad: https://grabcad.com/library/custom-cnc-router-v2-1

Here is the build blog (ish): https://docs.google.com/presentation...it?usp=sharing

Im happy to answer any questions!
Thanks for sharing your work Brian. It looks indestructible. I'd like to zoom in on those photos. So the reason you built your own was to get a massive gantry with zero deflection and torsion? Because otherwise you can't get accurate bearing holes, and cut at a high speed?
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Unread 04-19-2018, 07:39 AM
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Re: CNC router for prototypes

Quote:
Originally Posted by JacobD View Post
Here is a link to a useful prototyping router that doesn't really break the bank.

Bobs E3 CNC Router

In my opinion, anything beyond this and you would be better off saving and investing in a high quality router which can cut aluminum as well.
Thanks for your suggestion, Jacob. Have you used this personally? How does the rigidity compare to something made out of aluminum?
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Unread 04-19-2018, 07:41 AM
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Re: CNC router for prototypes

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Originally Posted by Rainydaymaker View Post
I agree with Jon above on work holding and patience. I have an x-carve that I use with my FTC team and we cut prototypes out of thin plywood and cut the final robot out of Aluminum and Durabond (Sign Board). The limiting factor for FRC is the 1 meter x 1 meter size.
Is it ever necessary to put a screw down in the middle of the material to hold it firm?

What thicknesses of each material do you cut?
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Unread 04-19-2018, 07:48 AM
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Re: CNC router for prototypes

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Originally Posted by Cothron Theiss View Post
There are a lot of options between relegating yourself to solely prototyping on your router and a $12,000 investment. It really depends on what you want to do and what you're willing to pay. If you're only willing to put in $1,000-$1,500, then cutting wood/plastics for prototyping and sending to sponsors for final versions might be a good idea. But if you're willing to invest closer to the $3,000 to $5,000 range, you can absolutely produce your own aluminum parts.

Also, why do you say Shapeokos are obsolete?
Oops I thought they were made by inventables (that would explain why it wasn't on their site).

Is there any reason to buy the Shapeoko XXL if we don't plan to cut aluminum? If we did get the Shapeoko what thickness will it do well?
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Unread 04-19-2018, 08:13 AM
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Re: CNC router for prototypes

[quote=MrCamilleri;1759286]Is it ever necessary to put a screw down in the middle of the material to hold it firm?
YES!! We purchased a Velox this summer and absolutely love it. The only problem we had was the aluminum plate "rising up" when making cuts. This caused the machine to take off way more in a single pass and made for some gruesome sounds and finishes. We now cnc our holes first and then go through and drive screws down before routing out our profiles. Works great!
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Unread 04-19-2018, 08:50 AM
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Re: CNC router for prototypes

If you're looking for something in the price range of the X-Carve, you might want to look at the Shapeoko 3 (the XXL if possible). The X-Carve is based on the older Shapeoko, which really needed more rigidity. I got a Shapeoko 3 XXL last week to supplement the more expensive router in my classroom, and the heavier extrusion is much stiffer than the previous variants. We've been able to cut wood surprisingly aggressively.

I haven't tried aluminum on mine yet, but it should be able to handle aluminum if you're willing to take shallow passes. It won't be as quick as the more expensive routers, but it would at least give you the option to make replacement parts yourself even if you send out the design to a professional shop for the primary parts.
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