CNC for rocket part cutting?

GrouchoDuke

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 18, 2016
Messages
1,545
Reaction score
1,168
Looking for some recommendations. I’m selling one of my 3D printers and considering picking up a CNC router/engraver/cutter/whatever to cut rocket & quadcopter parts. I plan to cut parts from flat plate (carbon fiber, fiberglass & maybe some wood). I think something in the 300x400mm range is plenty for what I want. Smaller might work too, but 200x250 is probably as small as I’d go. This will be for hobby cutting, not production. My budget is no more than $1k, but less would be great. Does anyone have a favorite CNC in this range?

I have one friend here with an OpenBuilds C-Beam. Any others?

Thanks!
 

DinoAP

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 20, 2016
Messages
113
Reaction score
2
I have a Bobs CNC E3. Not too shabby for what it is. Great for fins, CR’s, etc...
 

jlabrasca

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 31, 2016
Messages
1,429
Reaction score
473
I have a Bobs CNC E3. Not too shabby for what it is. Great for fins, CR’s, etc...

How long did it take you to put it together? Back when I was shopping, I looked at some un-boxing pictures in customer reviews and was scared off by that pile of laser-cut jigsaw puzzle pieces.

Looking for some recommendations... I plan to cut parts from flat plate (carbon fiber, fiberglass & maybe some wood)... 200x250 is probably as small as I’d go. .... My budget is no more than $1k, but less would be great. Does anyone have a favorite CNC in this range?

That's a tough one.

I did this calculation a couple of months ago, and I landed on a Shapeoko XL. Outside your price range -- and also well outside my original budget (like you, I was hoping to keep it under $1000). I rationalized a more expensive machine on the grounds that it is made of steel and extruded aluminum, it has a large and active community of users, and there there are even a few 3rd-party vendors making accessories (like a dust shoe, which you will have to get if you plan to cut CF and FG). You are probably operating under different constraints, but for me it finally -- really -- came down to deciding that my time and peace-of-mind were worth $500 additional.
 

DinoAP

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 20, 2016
Messages
113
Reaction score
2
As far as the Bob’s E3 I won’t sugar coat it. It was a metric crap ton of pieces and I put it off for a few weeks. Once I finally got the nerve to put it together it was about 8 hours in total. I would do it again for sure. One thing I learned the hard way is USE LOCTITE!

Figuring out what software to use was the hardest part.

Librecad for drawing the part.
ESTLcam for creting the gcode
UGS universal gcode sender for telling the CNC what.
 

GrouchoDuke

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 18, 2016
Messages
1,545
Reaction score
1,168
I didn't know about Bob's or the X-Carve. On first glance, I like the construction/design of the X-Carve better. The standard-sized Shapeoko might work too.

Keep 'em coming!
 

PBic

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2017
Messages
112
Reaction score
70
Location
Eugene, OR
I just went through this myself, albeit at a budget of ~$1500, and I’m going with a Shapeoko. One of the biggest determining factors for me was the overall stiffness of the Carbide 3D extrusions vs the X-Carve. Take a look at a direct visual comparison at https://carbide3d.com/vs/shapeoko-vs-xcarve/ . Shapeoko also has a large user community. BobsCNC isn’t an option because I live in the moist Pacific Northwest. Now if Bob had water jet cut it from aluminum and steel, I probably would have paid twice the price for it.

Good luck and have fun!

Paul B.
 

AllDigital

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jun 14, 2013
Messages
550
Reaction score
594
Location
SoCal
I’ve had a shapeoko 3 with dewalt 611 for a few years. I use it for aluminum bulkheads, fiberglass, wood, plexiglass, and more. I really love it. It is bigger (16” x 33”), but I find the extra room is helpful for larger material. Make sure you get limit switches, as being able to home the machine is critical for multi step workflows. I’ve done a lot of 3D printing and CNC is harder to learn, but the shapeoko software (create and make) is great for most things you will make and easy to use once you get the hang of it. Proper bits are critical for aluminum or harder. It might be slightly out of budget, but it is a workhorse and is forgiving if you jam up the Spindle.
 

jlabrasca

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 31, 2016
Messages
1,429
Reaction score
473
I’ve had a shapeoko 3 with dewalt 611 for a few years. I use it for aluminum bulkheads, fiberglass, wood, plexiglass, and more. I really love it. It is bigger (16” x 33”), but I find the extra room is helpful for larger material. Make sure you get limit switches, as being able to home the machine is critical for multi step workflows.

Not to rat-hole this discussion, but I think that limit switches are standard equipment with the Shapeoko 3 now.

I do multi-step work flows all the time and I never use the limit switches to home the machine. In fact, I am not entirely sure that the limit switch on the Y-axis works. I just don't turn off the electronics between operations (I do unplug the spindle when changing out mills, because I read in another thread here about tendons being yanked out by spinning router bits... <g>)

I&#8217;ve done a lot of 3D printing and CNC is harder to learn, but the shapeoko software (create and make) is great for most things you will make and easy to use once you get the hang of it. Proper bits are critical for aluminum or harder. It might be slightly out of budget, but it is a workhorse and is forgiving if you jam up the Spindle.

Agreed on the endmills. I don't know if the $1K budget includes endmills, but they cost. Good quality coated endmills (for aluminum and brass) are particularly expensive. It will be heartbreaking the first time things suddenly get quiet and you realize you've left half the cutter in the stock and the machine is just cutting air

Don't let it discourage you, but CNC machining is a hobby all to itself. You can go broke and also make yourself crazy pretty quickly chasing after the precision you know the machine can give you. Eventually you will start to worry about tramming the carriage and the run-out on the spindle.

https://elairecorp.com/routercollets.html

https://www.precisebits.com/gateways/EndMillsHome.htm

https://www.endmillsandmore.com/col...ducts/cnc-router-end-mill-6-piece-starter-set

Here is the dust shoe I got when my mill ate my shop-built and jury-rigged shoe.

https://www.suckitdustboot.com/
 

rhildinger

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 29, 2013
Messages
106
Reaction score
0
This is way outside the OP's original budget, but I was curious if anyone has ever used a Glowforge for this purpose?
 

dhbarr

Amateur Professional
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jan 30, 2016
Messages
8,618
Reaction score
3,014
This is way outside the OP's original budget, but I was curious if anyone has ever used a Glowforge for this purpose?
I wouldn't recommend it. Just sent some polycarb through, 10 passes lots of smoke & char.

I'd stick with a router, bad idea to touch carbon fiber or epoxy w/ a Laser and glass strands just slag.
 

mkadams001

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 10, 2009
Messages
879
Reaction score
1
I wouldn't recommend it. Just sent some polycarb through, 10 passes lots of smoke & char.

I'd stick with a router, bad idea to touch carbon fiber or epoxy w/ a Laser and glass strands just slag.

Don't cut polycarbonate with a laser...acrylic is fine.
 

GrouchoDuke

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 18, 2016
Messages
1,545
Reaction score
1,168
Thanks for all the great thoughts, everyone. This all really helps.

I just went through this myself, albeit at a budget of ~$1500, and I’m going with a Shapeoko. One of the biggest determining factors for me was the overall stiffness of the Carbide 3D extrusions vs the X-Carve. Take a look at a direct visual comparison at https://carbide3d.com/vs/shapeoko-vs-xcarve/ .
That comparison is awesome. Looks like a comparison between an F350 and a Yugo. I'm really curious if that much is really needed for carbon plate though. I guess growth capability to cutting big blocks of metal would be cool though. I haven't personally used one a "hobby CNC" to cut carbon plate, so that'd be good to see.

I’ve had a shapeoko 3 with dewalt 611 for a few years. I use it for aluminum bulkheads, fiberglass, wood, plexiglass, and more. I really love it. It is bigger (16” x 33”), but I find the extra room is helpful for larger material. Make sure you get limit switches, as being able to home the machine is critical for multi step workflows. I’ve done a lot of 3D printing and CNC is harder to learn, but the shapeoko software (create and make) is great for most things you will make and easy to use once you get the hang of it. Proper bits are critical for aluminum or harder. It might be slightly out of budget, but it is a workhorse and is forgiving if you jam up the Spindle.
Thanks. Yeah, maybe $1000 was the wrong number. You can have it cheap, fast and good...but you can't have all three. After a little more research, I'm curious about the belts though. Any issues with them?

Agreed on the endmills. I don't know if the $1K budget includes endmills, but they cost. Good quality coated endmills (for aluminum and brass) are particularly expensive. It will be heartbreaking the first time things suddenly get quiet and you realize you've left half the cutter in the stock and the machine is just cutting air

Don't let it discourage you, but CNC machining is a hobby all to itself. You can go broke and also make yourself crazy pretty quickly chasing after the precision you know the machine can give you. Eventually you will start to worry about tramming the carriage and the run-out on the spindle.
Good point about the endmills. Yeah, much like 3d printing I figured this would be a hobby of its own. Before long, I'll have all the tools to start a rocket kit business...and then I can really spend all my time & money on rocketry. :)
 

patelldp

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2009
Messages
5,647
Reaction score
90
Shapeoko 3 XXL and eBay user drillman1 for end mills here. It's about as good as you can buy for a belt driven unit.
 

jlabrasca

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 31, 2016
Messages
1,429
Reaction score
473
... Before long, I'll have all the tools to start a rocket kit business...and then I can really spend all my time & money on rocketry. :)

"Before long...." this kind of nonsense will start to seem like a good idea

20180330_144740.png
 

Jdog13

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 21, 2017
Messages
56
Reaction score
2
I have a Bobs CNC E3. Not too shabby for what it is. Great for fins, CR’s, etc...

I have one and it is great for plywood and plastic, but I'm not sure you would be getting good results with cf or fg. You also have to remember how dangerous those are to cut.
 

DinoAP

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 20, 2016
Messages
113
Reaction score
2
I have one and it is great for plywood and plastic, but I'm not sure you would be getting good results with cf or fg. You also have to remember how dangerous those are to cut.

Definitely would want a very slow feed and speed and good dust collection.
 

GrouchoDuke

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 18, 2016
Messages
1,545
Reaction score
1,168
"Before long...." this kind of nonsense will start to seem like a good idea

View attachment 341834
Oh boy. With how much time I already spend designing parts to 3D print for rockets, I can only imagine how much in never-ending machining hell I'll be.

Definitely would want a very slow feed and speed and good dust collection.
Yeah, good point. It's a good excuse to buy a new respirator too.
 

JohnCoker

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Apr 13, 2013
Messages
2,237
Reaction score
928
It is indeed awesome to be able to make perfectly interlocking parts. I love my CNC machine, a ShopBot desktop. I highly recommend it, but it's way outside that price range.

body-rings-v2.jpg
 

ericm541

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 29, 2017
Messages
235
Reaction score
25
If your not afraid of Chinese products check this place out https://www.omiocnc.com/ at work we purchased the largest one the smallest is just under $1,000 290mmX390MM cutting area. I like the machine we've cut balsa to aluminum they come with decent spindles. I already had 15 years of CNC experience prior, not that it's needed though, we were cutting parts out the day we got it. There's pros and cons with the china products, i suggest read though everything and even ask questions.
 

SCP

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 23, 2011
Messages
419
Reaction score
25
I never make recommendations in these types of posts, but was surprised not to hear any other ideas on a used full size old knee mill, like the original Bridgeport Boss Machines....? I am only trying to spur the thought, and every situation is different, like portability, weight, shop space, volts/amps available, the list is endless......but I got my first CNC by buying two old Bridgeport Boss 5 machines (fully functional) for 1500 I think it was. I didn't even power them up, I completely gutted out the controls and put in a modern PC based control, and sold one of the machines to pay for the entire project. So you could say that was a hobby machine as it became a hobby type project just gutting them and getting them working with my own DIY controls.

That machine still does some work to this day, reliable old workhorse and rigid enough to make real life effective cuts in aluminum or anything. Since then, of course the FADAL is the flagship of the shop, but I love the old "real" iron, and adding the newer control was quite a fun project. I would never have time for a project like that again.

I have no experience with the smaller hobby machines.......and if its really just cutting balsa....then what the heck just do it. Have fun with the decision! You will have a lot of fun no matter what machine you get. Just hope if its a hobby level machine, you get some real productive time out of it. Hobby to me and the associated prices (I can't believe the low cost, that blows me away) means the machine itself will take a lot of babysitting as it is a hobby in and of itself.
 

jlabrasca

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 31, 2016
Messages
1,429
Reaction score
473
I got my first CNC by buying two old Bridgeport Boss 5 machines (fully functional) for 1500 I think it was...

You got two Bridgeport mills with stepper motor controls, $1500? Was that apiece? And where do you shop?!

I have no experience with the smaller hobby machines.......and if its really just cutting balsa....then what the heck just do it. Have fun with the decision! You will have a lot of fun no matter what machine you get. Just hope if its a hobby level machine, you get some real productive time out of it. Hobby to me and the associated prices (I can't believe the low cost, that blows me away) means the machine itself will take a lot of babysitting as it is a hobby in and of itself.

Its kind of apples and oranges. The use cases for a Bridgeport (or a Tormach) don't much overlap with those for a bench-top CNC, but you might be surprised by how capable the bench-top machines are getting to be.

https://community.carbide3d.com/t/m...ack-on-the-shapeoko-3-start-to-finish/5468/44

Certainly not production-worthy for even moderate volumes, but precise and powerful enough for for one-off parts fabrication.

If I was shopping now, knowing how much use I get from the tool, I'd be looking at this

https://www.cncrouterparts.com/benchtop-standard-2424-2-x-2-cnc-machine-kit-p-369.html

Easily $3K by the time it is dressed and ready to work, but a more robust machine than the Shapeoko.
 

GrouchoDuke

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 18, 2016
Messages
1,545
Reaction score
1,168
Yeah, I&#8217;d love to use a makerspace here. Sadly, they don&#8217;t have any sort of CNC machine there.
 

mkadams001

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 10, 2009
Messages
879
Reaction score
1
If I was shopping now, knowing how much use I get from the tool, I'd be looking at this

https://www.cncrouterparts.com/benchtop-standard-2424-2-x-2-cnc-machine-kit-p-369.html

Easily $3K by the time it is dressed and ready to work, but a more robust machine than the Shapeoko.

We bought the 4' x 4' Pro model with plug and play with spindle, base, and software (Vcarve pro and Mach 3) That will set you back about $12K. This works everyday for hours. If there is a problem (which is rare) or need help, CNC Router Parts will answer within a few minutes. Fairly easy to build. Follow the instructions on installing Mach 3.

What I am saying is that this is good company and good machine. Plus, I can add on to increase the size of the table without a lot of effort.

Just for fun if you want to check this out take a look at this video of frank howarth building one....https://youtu.be/dY8v0j6uEJc



Sorry, this is far away from the $1000 budget and nowhere near a bench top machine. However, I think any machine mentioned that is close to the $1000 budget will get the job done for cutting balsa, light ply and such.
 

jlabrasca

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 31, 2016
Messages
1,429
Reaction score
473
Yeah, I&#8217;d love to use a makerspace here. Sadly, they don&#8217;t have any sort of CNC machine there.

Yeah, even if they had one available I wonder what the folks in charge would say about cutting CF or FG plate? The not inconsiderable health risks notwithstanding, FG is murder on the tool. It wears out the endmills really fast, and the dust is abrasive to all of the parts that slide, spin, or roll.

The makerspace nearest my house (a 10 minute walk, if I dawdle) does commercial fabrication as well as providing tools and instruction to the membership. About the time I was starting to get interested in digital fabrication, they decided that the laser cutter and full-sheet Shopbot were too important to the non-makerspace part of the business, and took them away from the members. That was actually a big part of my decision to get my own CNC.
 

JohnCoker

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Apr 13, 2013
Messages
2,237
Reaction score
928
Yeah, even if they had one available I wonder what the folks in charge would say about cutting CF or FG plate? The not inconsiderable health risks notwithstanding, FG is murder on the tool. It wears out the endmills really fast, and the dust is abrasive to all of the parts that slide, spin, or roll.
Well, if you bring your own cutters, the wear shouldn't be an issue. Yeah, the dust is nasty to breathe and CF dust can ruin electric motors.

The makerspace nearest my house (a 10 minute walk, if I dawdle) does commercial fabrication as well as providing tools and instruction to the membership. About the time I was starting to get interested in digital fabrication, they decided that the laser cutter and full-sheet Shopbot were too important to the non-makerspace part of the business, and took them away from the members. That was actually a big part of my decision to get my own CNC.
That's too bad! I was able to use the Shopbot for years at the TechShop. Good luck with whatever you choose.
 
Top