There are plenty of threads on CNC, but none are quite on target for a question I have:
How would you compare the applicability of different types of CNC machines to FRC? Our team is excited to be moving into a new larger space (though we are remote learning right now), and there will be some investment in metal manufacturing machines the team will share with Career & Tech Ed classes in a new dedicated metal fab shop. There is an interest in exposing students to a variety of methods, and currently under consideration are a 4x4 CNC router, a desktop (or at least small footprint) waterjet, and a CNC plasma cutter. For plywood, an existing laser cutter will be available, and possibly an existing wood-only router as well.
Our lead mech mentor has suggested a CNC Mill (e.g. CNCMasters Supra line) will add more versatility than the other (mostly 2-axis) machines. He also provided his own readout on the options in terms of capability, safety, maintenance, waste/messiness, etc. We do have manual mills and lathes already (a large & small machine of each).
I know the Omio X8 is a recommended small router, but I think something a bit larger & made-in-USA would more likely be purchased (the school’s 4x8 router used for wood only is Shop Sabre brand I think).
As far as types of CNC machines useful for FRC. If we have a CNC router, do we really need a CNC plasma cutter? Or would it be better to go for the CNC mill (I suspect the latter). Are there applications best suited to the plasma?
Also, on the topic of coming up the learning curve with CNC, despite the potential to get a CNC mill, it seems like 2-axis sheet cutting is likely a good place to start, and then as students master that, move on to more complex things (i.e. on a CNC mill or router). Am I thinking about that right?
The other factor I’ll mention is time. Our team is reasonably well-resourced, except we get a below average amount of meeting/shop time vs. other teams. During a normal season, we’ll meet 2 or 3 times a week starting in January. During the school year before that, we’ll only meet weekly or even just every other week (so training up new students before Jan is challenging). Shop at the school is completely inaccessible during summer, and most take summer off, except a few of the more enthusiastic students and mentors will try to do a project/class or two. The school system has said that, within a couple years or so, it will introduce one or more robotics classes during the school day, and I believe this will be a game changer for us. For now though, time is incredibly precious, and we need to keep things as simple as we can. So again, from that perspective, 2-axis sheet cutting CNC seems like a logical skillset to add first.