For several months I have been considering purchasing either a CNC Router or a 3D printer. I have been doing research into both categories, and wanted some help making final decisions. Currently, I am leaning towards a 3D printer, but the right router could sway me. I’ll first outline my use case, design requirements, and similar info to ensure that we’re all on the same page. Sorry in advance for the long post…
At this point, I envision myself using the device as a tool for personal and school projects (I’m a junior in college), as well as possibly for FRC. I would like a personal router or printer as opposed to using the tools at my college’s machine shop because I would like to have unfettered access. That is, I want to be able to use it for projects outside of classes without having my motives questioned, so to speak.
The requirements of course differ for each machine, but a few are shared. First, my max price is $4000, but I would prefer to keep it in the $2000 to $2500 range. Second, because I want to use these for projects and not have the tool be the project in and of itself, I would prefer to use a well-developed kit or a turnkey system.
Machine specific info:
Minimum area of 2x3 feet, would primarily be cutting aluminum sheet/plate.
I have currently priced out two options, details for which can be found in the attached Excel document. My main concern with a router is both size and mess: as a college student, I don’t have too much room to store a router, and machining would create messes that are potentially hard to contain and clean up. This is the primary reason I am leaning towards a 3D printer at this point.
The primary requirement here is material strength. Again, I want to be able to use the parts it produces for projects, not just for pretty models. I have experience with the Dimension/Stratasys uPrint SE and found that it produces very durable parts (made a decent number for my team’s robot my last year as an FRC student). After this, my priorities are build area then surface finish.
After doing some research, I have been considering the Makerbot Replicator 2 and 2X and the Solidoodle 3rd Generation printers. This is a website that has aggregated information about 3D printers that I found very helpful. If you have experience with any of these, I would love hearing about it. Also, if you would suggest a different printer model, I would also be interested.