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Ritz

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#1
I originally posted this in the practical machinist forums where I quickly found out that low budget home equipment was not to be discussed....

Quick background...my intro to machining anything was as a youngster working at the ancestral family business (a car repair and tuning shop since the 30's). So I have some experience in doing things like machining brake discs/drums and fabricating parts out of aluminum on a crude mill. Sometimes a part just wasn't available and you had to improvise. I've done some basic machining recently with a cheapo HarborFreight mill and some jigs to finish off some parts for various gunsmithing projects (another interest of mine along with hotrodding cars and woodworking).

So I've got this cheap Sieg/HF mill and some basic tooling and I'd like some advice on how to get better at this. I've thought of joining a local "maker coop". If you had an eager recruit today and could offer some advice on where to start if they were interested in doing CNC projects in materials like aluminum and wood, what advice would you give them? I've got a good job and a fair amount of space to work with and am not particularly budget constrained. Just looking to develop good habits and improve my understanding. I'm a computer guy so CNC tools have me intrigued. You mean I could just write some code and bang out cool stuff? Awesome!

Where's the best place to start?

Best,
 

brino

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#2
Hello,

First, Welcome to the Hobby-Machinist!
Feel free to ask any questions here. We don't discriminate against any equipment vendors or home hobbyists.

I have no CNC experience myself, but I am sure some of our friendly, knowledgeable members will be here shortly.

-brino
 

Uglydog

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#3
Ritz,
Welcome to HM!
I'm a vintage iron guy, so no help from me, sorry.
Regardless, I won't diss you. Glad you are here!!!!

Daryl
MN
 

rgray

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#4
Watch out it very addicting. You probably already know that.
I started 6 years ago and last december I brought home a 10,000 lb cnc lathe...."honey can I keep her"
Already I'm thinking I need a vmc to go along with it.
 

Ritz

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#5
I'm not sure I could pull off "Honey, this CNC machine followed me home" thing. :)
 

Boswell

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#6
Welcome to the forum. No Minimum Equipment standards here. I am a 100% hobbyist, no formal background in machining but I am a computer geek so CNC was a natural draw for me. Really the best way to get going in CNC to get a CNC Mill or Lathe and start learning by practice. I am not sure how much you know so forgive me if I state something that is obvious to you. Typical CNC machining is done with three steps.
1. CAD: Create a 3-D drawing of the part you want to make. Lots of CAD software at all sorts of prices. I use AutoCad v12. I hear Autocad 360 is very good and free for non-commercial use but there are others.
2. CAM: Used to take a 3-D drawing created in the CAD software and turn it into G-Code that a CNC machine uses. This is not simply a conversion. you have to tell the software how you want the part machined. Again lots of software choices from free to expensive.
3. A CNC Machine that can take the G-Code from the CAM software and turn it into actual machine motion that will make the part you initially drew in the CAD software.

You can replace steps 1 and 2 by directly programming G-Code by hand. We have some forum members that do that and I have done it to a limited extent. I personally find that I would rather spend my time getting good with a CAD and CAM software package than getting good at hand coding. However it is very handy to under stand G-Code so you can make tweeks or changes to the G-Code output from you CAM software if needed.

As for a CNC Mill or Lathe, they come in all sizes and price ranges. You will have to decide if you want to start low cost until you get some experience, If you want to take a manual Mill or Lathe and convert it CNC, Jump right in with a high end system or hit the middle range.

You will get the most from this forum by asking specific questions are talking about specific goals when asking for advice.

Whatever route you take, we will all look forward to hearing about your journey and looking at all the pictures, I am sure you will be sharing :).
 
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Ritz

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I'm looking forward to sharing. Thanks!
 

agfrvf

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#8
If your lowbudget FreeCAD is almost as good as autodesk 08 and has cam software.
 

spumco

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#9
Fusion 360 all the way. Free for us hobbyists, pretty easy to learn.
 

Ritz

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#10
I'm hoping to find a CNC capable mill for under $2k-ish that will allow me to leverage my existing investment in R-8 tooling. The really cheap stuff I see online in that price range appears to be rather low quality so perhaps I'll need to consider used gear and keep my eyes peeled.

Edit: The really cheap Chinese cnc engravers look like fun, but I can't see how any of those things would hold together after any significant use.

Fusion 360 looks pretty nice!
 
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Ritz

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#11
Replying to myself...heh. I'm leaning towards a company in NJ that converts a TAIG mill to CNC and upgrading that to a brushless motor to dispense with the pulleys for spindle speed control.

https://www.deepgroove1.com/cnc-mill

I like the idea of paying a little more to get something that's already integrated and is known to work and produce decent results.

Thoughts?

Best,
 
D

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#12
Welcome aboard Ritz. I think you have come to the right place, you will find the answers that you are looking for here without getting browbeaten by any of the other members. I also happen to be one of those older iron guys so I may not be able to help you much with your CNC questions but I can certainly assist you if you have any questions or problems with the forum.
 

Boswell

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#13
I like the idea of paying a little more to get something that's already integrated and is known to work and produce decent results.
I am with you Ritz. You will find that we have the full range here. I purchased a Ready to go CNC Mill from Precision Mathews and have done some upgrades. Others here have built their own or modified existing Mills to one degree or another. It does seam that unless you spend BIG $ that you will need to spend some time upgrading or tinkering with your mill from time to time. Mach3 is a common control platform and it can be a little finiky to get setup but at least for me, once I got it dialed in I have had little or no problems with it.
 

Cadillac STS

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#14
The main thing is to think about what you will use the CNC mill for so you get what you need for what you want to do.
 
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