CNC Router Recommendations: For aluminum and polycarb

Hello FRC’ers. Wondering if you have any advice on the purchase of CNC router for our team. Looking for year-round use and aluminum and polycarb material applications. We are flexible on software but use surfcam right now. Our budget is between 3,500 and 7,500 dollars. We would entertain trying to source a reconditioned model if one is best suited to our needs. Open to advice on size, but we were thinking no smaller than 3x3 or larger than 5x5, as we make a lot of smaller surface area and/or narrow but longer dimensioned parts. Thanks for your valuable advice…hate to make a bad purchase for this FRC Team.

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What kind of power do you have or could you get added to your shop? If you only have 110V that limits it a little, but if you have or can get 220V that opens up your options a bit. Though for your budget you might only be able to get one powered by 110V.

The Omio X8 is always a good option but a little small for what you want (only about 2x3). I think Avid CNC and Velox are usually 2 is of the recommendations for larger format budget options.

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+1 to all of this. Velox is out of business unfortunately, but the Omio X8 2200L-USB is very standard. Avids are cheap and accurate for their 4x4 model. The Omio can be had directly from OMIO CNC for about $3600 shipped, or from WCP for about $700 more. I recommend the latter, as you can get an enclosure and a 2x1 jig with it, and US-side support.

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What you are describing is pretty much exactly the Omio X8-2200L.
The 22" x 33" cutting surface, while slightly smaller than what you described, should be more than enough for most uses. If you really need/want the extra cutting space, take a look at Avid.
The Omio has the benefit of being by far the most prevalent CNC router in FRC, for a number of reasons including: very rigid construction, a powerful spindle (2.2 kW, nearly 3hp) which allows for fast cutting of aluminum, and a relatively low price. Because it is so common, there are a lot of resources made & maintained by members of the FRC community, which, if you ask me, is invaluable. (The guy above me (Anand) has a bunch of resources for the Omio.)

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Thank you for the quick response. We will add this to our options for sure!

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We have a X-carve and it works quite well for us. It is tabletop and 110 volts. I think it can do aluminum but I am not 100%

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Thanks for the videos as well. Certainly speaks well to see it move that fast and only use a mister for lubricant. Size is reasonable as well. Price seems in range and would give us a chance to get a used lathe as well. We want the kids to also learn the older fashioned way of machining parts as well, but we just cant compete in a crunch with out the automation.

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As others have already pointed out, the Omio X8 is a good option in your price range. We’ve had ours for a few years now and are quite happy with it. It’s a bit on the smaller side but we’ve found this hasn’t been an issue for most projects. It cuts both Polycarbonate and Aluminum fairly well and is able to maintain dimensions with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

The problem with looking for larger routers in your price range is you’re likely going to end up sacrificing power/torque and/or Rigidity, both if which will result in a bad experience in the long term. We’ve thought about getting a bigger router too, but the decent ones start at around $15k-$20k.

Also, though their newer models might be much better than the one I had almost a decade ago, the belt-driven “stick a literal hand router in it to use as the spindle” X-Carve I used had an extremely hard time holding tolerances, especially when pocketing round holes. Again, the new models may be better, but keep in mind that you get what you pay for.

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I can confirm that it can do aluminum. We have an X-Carve with the upgraded Z-axis and it handles aluminum just fine.

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I’d highly recommend the enclosure. We don’t have one right now, but as of now I don’t let students use it and keep them out of the way as we had a part go flying from it after a bad program, not to mention the chips going everywhere.

I do wish WCP still sold their custom wasteboards or had the drawing for it at least. We kinda just use a piece of MDF cut about the right size and guessed the holes.

I recently found a cnc mill for about $7000 fully built out its the mr1 by langmuir systems Build | MR-1 CNC Gantry Mill | Langmuir Systems

Thank you for info. looking at it now.

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How do you like your MR-1? What works well and what doesn’t? What is the learning curve, and how easy is it for students to operate? Any overall thoughts? Thanks

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We’ve been happy with our AvidCNC PRO4848 for 5+ years now. We’ve had to replace a few pieces along the way, but overall it’s been a good machine for what we’ve needed. The price was competitive (at least at the time), they’ve had good customer support when we’ve had issues, and most important for us it shipped as a kit so we could fit it through our standard size doors. The 4848 is 4x4’ (hence 48x48") but they also have a 4824 (4x2’) or 6060 (5x5’) option.

I wouldn’t recommend this as a first machine as the working x and y dimensions are smaller than even the Omio, and would be overkill for machining simple flat sheets of aluminum or polycarb.

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We dont have one. Me and some friends are going to buy one this summer for personal projects and i can do a post once we get it. Currently we have a shapeoko 3 xxl and it has worked great for poly aluminum and wood but aluminum is slow which is why we are looking at this.

I have one and it’s kind of janky. Once set up, very powerful, but overkill for FRC and not enough bed area. I’ve had to drill out some holes and mess with the software and I’m not even done with construction yet. The process has been mostly painless, just a couple of little tweaks. The pre-assembled version is definitely the way to go.

If you ping me in a couple weeks I can link you to my future writeup on the MR-1 forum.

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Our team has had the privilege in using 4 different CNC’s.

  1. Our school originally had a shopsabre (or something close to it). It’s a bit out of that price range but it was very good. It can even go through some steel.

  2. Our next CNC was the Omio cnc. We got the luck of the draw and had no problems with shipping. The CNC can bit a little finicky with a few issues but over all a great work horse. Can chew through metal and plastic alike. The only downside is the work area is a little small. Video of it cutting here

  3. We then also had a CNC donated by a mentor called a Queenbee. The big bonus of this CNC is that it is very affordable for the price. I would suggest getting the Queenbee Pro v2 (it has bigger ball screws than the other models). You can can find it on various sites but here is a link. There’s a few things about this CNC though. You will have to put it together yourself and is a little time consuming. You’ll need to supply your own tubing and other items that the kit doesn’t include. The machine is rigid enough for FRC but you have to really take care when building it or you can get a little wobble. Also, for the larger spindle sizes you will NEED to have 220v outlet. Video of it running here, and here. (we had problems with air so we were going a bit slow)

  4. Then one the student’s got a sponsor who donated yet another CNC. This was the Onefinity woodworker I believe. It can be found here. This machine is by far the best. It gives even the shopsabre a run for it’s money. We currently only have a Makita router running on it but we considered ripping the spindle off of the Omio to put on the machine. The CNC is built like a tank and is super rigid. The control interface can be networked and is easy to use. Now, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The wire management is a bit annoying and to upgrade it with a spindle is a bit labor intensive. Again to get full use of the machine I’d highly recommend getting a 220v outlet for the spindle. Video of it cutting some polycarb here.

(idk how long the videos links will stay and might break, sorry if that happens)

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WCP will have a 4 ft x 4 ft router made by omio releasing soon. We hope to take pre orders mid march and expect machines to arrive in June/July.

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That is amazing news RC!!!
Do you have any idea on the ballpark price to the nearest thousand $$$ yet?

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