First CNC Router

Hi Everyone,

My team has some money to spend and we are looking into purchasing a CNC router. There are a lot of machines that seem okay and within our price range. We are looking in the 5k-10k range. I talked to other teams at districts but it appears that schools either already have a router or have a sponsor who can do the milling for them. Any suggestions on what models are good? We probably only need a 3-axis router but if there is anything else out there please leave a comment.

UPDATE:
After doing more research I realized I need to get a relatively larger bed size around 4’ x 3’ or larger. However larger bed sizes seem to cost a lot more. Also, how useful is an a-axis attachment(4th axis) for a 3 axis router?

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If you’re not tied up in bureaucratic purchasing rules, OMIO X8-2200L (USB).

If your school is… well, bureaucratic, Velox/Laguna.

EDIT: See also… CNC Routers for FRC Robotics

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Here is the link to the FRC CNC Router mega thread. I would suggest reading through this to get a better idea of what the CD community prefers.

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an OMIO X8 is slightly below your price range but is still an amazing machine. The only problem is that it’s from china so it’s a bit of a pain to order I’ve heard. We have a Laguna 4x4 which we have used for the past 2 years and it has worked amazing well. It’s slightly above your price range at around 13.5k. With any router I would recommend getting either a chip blower or some sort of mister because we have had problems with chip evacuation in aluminum.

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Unsure who has been saying this, but I had absolutely zero issues ordering and shipping it to our school in CT.

All info is in the router thread linked above.

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NYC schools raise hell if you try to get them to buy something like an OMIO from China. We had to go through a lot of hoops to get ours.

Oof, ouch. Yeah, city schools have the worst red tape.

Does anyone know of a U.S. based Omio vendor, or a similarly capable machine sold by a U.S. vendor? We may be dealing with similar “bureaucratic purchasing rules”. I’ve read the megathread so I’ve seen the suggestions in there but I don’t recall seeing anything in the same price range (<$4000 or so) that is confirmed to be similarly capable with aluminum. Alternatively, any advice on how to jump through the hoops?

(For example, does anyone have any experience with cutting aluminum on a Shapeoko? I saw someone with poor results in the thread.)

Gonna put in another recommendation for the Omio. It’s an excellent machine, and we put a lot of parts through ours this season.

With a Shapeoko you definitely can cut aluminum it just won’t be very fast at all and probably won’t be very accurate. This could become a pretty big issue if you want to make something like a custom gearbox or when you have high part demand during the season.

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I am building a custom cnc router using china ball screws and square linear rail. You save a lot of money and can get more area/dollar. I would recommend staying away from small machines unless you plan on only using it for brackets, plates, etc. Good luck!!

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This is a fine approach for a personal machine, but I would not recommend it to teams generally. While designing and building the machine is a doable challenge, remember that CNC tooling is a long-term investment in your team. Support has to be at the top of your mind. Every homebuilt machine is a project in and of itself, and you don’t want it to collect dust if you leave the team and something stops working. While more costly upfront, a commercially available solution will be better supported with troubleshooting resources and spare parts in the future. If the point of having the router is to cut robot parts in build season, make sure it is going to reliably do that for years.

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Which axis option do folks recommend?

If you are referring to how many axis your machine should have, 3 is more than enough for anything you’re doing in FRC. Yes a 4th could be useful in rare instances for indexing a part. But in 99.99% of uses, you’re only going to be using the 3 axis (really only 2 with the z used to change your cutting depth).

We have a CNC router parts pro CNC 4’x4’ and it seems well suited to frc applications

How much work was it to put together, and who was involved in that process?

CHAOS 131 has been running with a Stepcraft Q204. We have been quite happy with it. They have an American Vendor in CT and will accept a PO from FIRST teams. It is in your price range and removes a lot of the red tape.

Tip: Pay the $600 to get the aluminum bed and pay the $350 to get the part probe. I find with our team, the longest time sink with the machine is finding the origins and tool offsets. The part probe greatly improves that process

https://www.stepcraft.us/shop/product/q-204-cnc-system-202614?category=48

We had a more constrained set of requirements so we went with the MM-1000 spindle with ATC. The tool change ability is nice but the tool rack is a bit disappointing so we will be upgrading it this off-season with one of our own design. If we had no limitations on the system’s power draw we probably would have selected this spindle instead:

As it is, we are able to take 0.100" doc and 0.080" stepover cuts with a 1/4" endmill while feeding at 78 ipm in 6061. We don’t run out of rigidity in the gantry but we do run out of power in the spindle when we ask for much more then that. They take 0.5" doc passes with the 3.5 porter cable router when they test the machine in the CT facility.

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I see you Alex, you can’t hide from us forever. :wink:

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My team runs a shapeoko 3 xxl and we love it. It chews through plastics and woods really well and it does aluminum with the right tooling and enough time. I ran many aluminum parts on it this year for our robot and it worked great. The accuracy was good for FRC but not as good as a proper VMC or more expensive router. However, If possible I would buy the omio X8 because it is a much better machine for aluminum than the shapeoko can even dream of being.

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It took us a couple weeks to assemble and set up the software in the off season, we had two students take the lead and a mentor tag along

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