Laser / CNC FoxAlien x Woodmads CNC Router WM3020

SolarYellow

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I stumbled into a thread last night where I discovered affordable CNC routers. I'd seen non-affordable (at least in my hobby budget) CNC routers before, but didn't know affordable ones were a thing. I might have good uses for it apart from rocketry, as well as it supporting rocketry in materials including wood, G10, phenolic and carbon. Might even be able to use it to slot boat tails and stuff like that. The biggest rocket I've thought about so far is 3 inches, and that's kinda big, dumb, low, slow and fun territory. Pretty sure I have no interest in going bigger, as almost all my interest is 24-29mm MD, maybe BT-55 stuff.

Of course, I've jumped down the rabbit hole on CNC routers. Started off looking at the Genmitsu line, as links to it were posted in the other thread. Was most comfortable with the 3020-Pro Max due to its rigidity. Followed that theme, read some reviews, ended up looking at the FoxAlien x Woodmads CNC Router WM3020.

It's similar in size and concept to the 3020-Pro Max, but has upgrades like limit switches at both ends of each axis, linear bearings and ball screws on all three axes, and is easily adaptable with parts from FoxAlien to use DeWalt or Makita trim routers, which provide a massive increase in speed and torque. They say a table extension kit is in the pipe, presumably to convert to 3040 (I'm straight up making up that 3040 thing, but it makes sense to me as the likely target).

It's available for $676 with free shipping for the next week or so, rather than the $899 it is on Amazon, but still shipped from a "US Amazon" warehouse. https://www.aliexpress.us/item/3256804459064615.html That's a lot cheaper than upgrading the Genmitsu 3020 Pro Max.

Between a lower-cost machine like a Genmitsu 3018 upgraded to 3040 and the more rigid machine with massively more HP easily available, I lean toward the more ridgid and powerful. Just thinking about all the likely uses I might put this to, I think they'll all fit just fine in the 3020 cutting box. Space is also at a premium because of the amount of stuff I have in my garage. Having the router take up a significant chunk of workshop/bench space would probably be a bigger negative for me than a few hundred bucks cost plus or minus on the program, to be honest. If I unexpectedly end up wanting to use it for larger stuff enough to justify the cost and space requirements of a larger system, I don't think the cost of the new machine will bother me at that point.

I kinda figure if I hit that deal linked above, I'll end up in it for $1000 +/- with the Makita router and some basic other extras.

I know there are people here making runs of parts on a Genmitsu, and others set up on a full-scale metal mill. I drive a desk at work, but have access to a real mill with a DRO. Even had a little spindle time earlier this week. However, it's not CNC. So I'm not looking at this CNC router and thinking I'll use it for things it really shouldn't be used for. I'm thinking about moderately complex stuff that's fairly small and light duty.

Owning equipment does have to be weighed against "sendcutsend" and other options such as the several people offering those services through the forum here, but I like the ideas of rapid turnaround rather than waiting days, being able to do-over if my design has an issue or I think of an improvement once the parts are in my hands, and being able to make just one or a couple little parts without getting eaten by lot charges. It would be neat to think of something while my mind wanders at work, come home, draw it up, and have it in my hands, made with precision, that night. Especially if the parts can get cut out while I make a snack.

Does anyone have experience with this machine in particular or FoxAlien stuff in general? Any concerns that I should think about or consider alternatives for?
 

Sandy H.

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Your question was does anyone have experience with that machine or that brand and I have neither, so feel free to skip/disregard anything I post from here on.

I built a machine I found on a forum after buying the plans and it looks very similar to what you linked to as a base unit. Mine is made from wood and uses skateboard bearings vs. that one being made from aluminum and using linear rails. The wood structure is fine, but the skateboard bearings are 'junk(*)', so that's a big plus for the design you posted.

Mine uses similar lead screws and they seemed fine. Mine uses NEMA 23 steppers, an ethernet Smooth Stepper and a driver system I don't recall, but was pretty high end for the time (2010-2013-ish???). I used Mach3 for the control software and VCarve for the path generation. I think I had around $1000-1500 in it and it was DIY per plans, not purchased complete.

The big takeaways I have from the project is that it was very fun to build and I learned some techniques I hadn't known. Well worth the cost of the plans ($20-30-ish??). The electronics were rock solid. The bearing system was the weak point. Good software makes it fun, freeware might make it miserable, not sure.

The fact that the machine you posted uses a real trim router, not a tiny motor, is a positive. I never felt like my Bosch trim router was a weak link, while some of the other ones I've seen with tiny motors seem like a joke. I did buy precision collets, as the factory collet was terrible compared to what was needed.

I think what you posted looks like a solid foundation, but the steppers might be weak compared to NEMA23. I have no clue about the rest of the control system included, but I will say that the machine cost 1/3, the electrical hardware cost 1/3 and the software cost 1/3, give or take on my home build. Many years have passed and electrical hardware and software have likely gotten cheaper, but I don't know about quality.

Seems like a solid foundation to me. Hope you find exactly what you're looking for and get great joy from using it.

Sandy.


(*): I say the skateboard bearings are 'junk' and to be specific, if you're doing a proof of concept or a MacGyver project, they are amazing and I recommend machine tinkerers have some rounds and skateboard bearings on hand at any moment - great tools for the toolbox. I found the implementation used on this machine to be very high maintenance due to forces and vibrations. Given the proliferation of 3D printed parts, there is likely a good eccentric bushing that could make it much more simple to maintain. For testing and fun, perfect. For production/related work as implemented, not ideal/'junk.'
 

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SolarYellow

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Well, I stayed up way too late reading about software and thought about how I'd use it and what I would do with it. Think I'll have fun with it and just enjoy doing the things I imagine doing. So even if I could probably get the tasks done some other way, I should do what I enjoy. Went ahead and ordered the WM3020. Hoping it's as fun and interesting as I think it will be.
 
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cwbullet

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Well, I stayed up way too late reading about software and thought about how I'd use it and what I would do with it. Think I'll have fun with it and just enjoy doing the things I imagine doing. So even if I could probably get the tasks done some other way, I should do what I enjoy. Went ahead and ordered the WM3020. Hoping it's as fun and interesting as I think it will be.
I am not sure fo the quality on the 3020s.
 
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