CNC for ~$5K? - RC Groups
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Aug 20, 2012, 04:46 PM
Inherent Tinkerer

CNC for ~$5K?

Hi All,

I'm looking at CNC mills and would like advice on what would be the best for approximately $5k. If possible I'd also like to add the 4th axis (rotor) to it as well. Being able to do aluminum would be nice but not necessary.

Any suggestions?


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Aug 20, 2012, 05:22 PM
Registered User
Yup - look through cnczone . com That site has about every one you can imagine represented in some manner there.

Good luck - you should be able to make out jsut fine with that budget, depending on the size you want.
Aug 20, 2012, 06:43 PM
Registered User
What your making most often, makes a big difference in what you should get. Also need to consider your electrical power. Larger mills are often 3 phase, or 220v. Large mills are great for removing lots of material, but might not be ideal for the small stuff. Small mills often have rigidity, and accuracy problems. Mid sized mills are hard to find for a good price.
Aug 20, 2012, 07:12 PM
Inherent Tinkerer
Thanks guys.

I'm looking for something that I can use to make plugs/molds with and the I can also cut lite ply formers with. Being able to do aluminum is a plus but not necessary. Size - 24 x 48 would be good but larger would be better. I like the looks of this one but don't know about the quality:

Thanks again,

Aug 21, 2012, 04:20 PM
Registered User
Also budget for software, or you will get sticker shock. What level of software you need depends on the job you are intending to do.

Aug 21, 2012, 06:17 PM
Inherent Tinkerer
Thanks, Gerald.

What software should I be looking at? I already have SolidWorks and Rhino. Will be purchasing Mach 3 as well.


Aug 21, 2012, 08:27 PM
danfield's Avatar
Originally Posted by jtprouty
Thanks guys.

I'm looking for something that I can use to make plugs/molds with and the I can also cut lite ply formers with. Being able to do aluminum is a plus but not necessary. Size - 24 x 48 would be good but larger would be better. I like the looks of this one but don't know about the quality:

Thanks again,

OK, I was reading MILL then the size.. Yikes. Then the link, ok a CNC Router. A 24 x 48 Mill would be huge. I have a 9 x 42 Enco manual Mill aka Bridgeport, that's about 2500 lbs of metal. It's hard to make a router stiff enough.

The Router in the Link, for the money that's quite of bit of machinery. With a spindle and variable drive. Didn't read the fine print to see if that 4 axis is included. I would have to see a video of it cutting Aluminum though. Maybe as it does have spindle so you can lower the RPM and maybe still have enough power. With a standard Router ( the motor part ) when the RPM is reduced enough to match the speed the machine can cut, it may not have enough power.

I bet it is not stiff enough just looking at it. Unsupported side rails ( bending ) and the uprights just don't look rigid enough to me. Foam, balsa, MDF probably Corian or molding board it should do fine.

In this league, I think I would check out CNCRouterparts. They have an 80/20 Kit and there's Joe's 4x4 or FLA Kits which I have seen go through Alum, not really well like a Mill but it was doing it. Most of these Kits might be in the $ 1200.00 range. Pretty much a bolt together affair. The CNCRouterparts package of 425 oz motors and a Gecko G540 drive is about $ 600 with their special motor cables and a power supply.

So a couple of grand you can build a kit I think will outdo the link router. But I might stand corrected if I saw it run.

Then there's the software. You can spend big and that might make it easier to get going , or you can go cheap and the hard way. I went cheap and the hard way. Linux box running EMC2 ( nice once you get it going ), various CAD stuff. CAD/CAM I use HeeksCNC, incomplete but it's pretty cool. Profili Pro or DevFuse can generate the Gcode for what I think you want to do. I have used the Mold functions in Profili Pro, works pretty well for wing panels.

When I was going with Mach3, I kinda like CamBam to do the CAM functions and light drawing. Pretty cheap but more important, I understood it pretty quick which was a plus.

Enough for now.
Aug 21, 2012, 09:35 PM
Registered User
Ahren at is a good guy. His 2x4 might be what you want:

I'm sure you can probably talk to him about extending the 48 inch length as well because if you want to cut molds you will want some 'extra' area for the flange.

I built a similar one that has a 25" x 80" cut area. You can do that + software for less than 5K.
Aug 22, 2012, 12:13 AM
Inherent Tinkerer
Thanks Dan and Heliboy.

Dan, really appreciate all of your input when I have questions. I looked for videos for the machine that I posted a link on but can't find anything. I like the CNCRouterparts kits and think I could put one together with few problems. I think they would work well with aluminum but don't necessarily need to do that. I'll have to figure out what router to use with it but that's not a major stumbling block.

Heliboy - I'll have to ask them if they can make it longer for me. I wouldn't think it's a major deal but will have to check.

Really appreciate everyone's help,

Aug 22, 2012, 12:09 PM
danfield's Avatar
You're welcome. I misspoke on the price of the kits, though I think they must have gone up,,, considerably since last I looked.

Many guys bought the FLA kit a while back. There are a number of Youtube vids on it running and build vids. Website has a couple of vids including going through alum.

Or if you're an enterprising scrounger of materials have the means to cut/drill metal, buy a few parts, make the rest they offer plans as well.

Added depth shouldn't be much more expensive, going wider means more strength and more money.

Aug 22, 2012, 05:06 PM
danfield's Avatar

You know, I was taking a second look at your Ebay machine, having seconds thoughts. I made a couple of mistakes. It appeared the back of the gantry was open as I thought I was looking right on through, not so. There is a 1/2" thick pc. of mirror finish alum plate, that is good. The X rails do appear to be fully supported, bolted to the 80/20, can't quite see it all. I think I would prefer if the rail were on top but... don't know. Should be OK. I might also like the 2 X bearings to be a little bit more separated, but.... That might be something you could modify later IF it's an issue.

Thing is, there's a lot of value there for the money. 5/8" Ball Screws on all axis, that has to be a nice thing even if not top quality they are Ball Screws. There's quite of bit of $$$ there.

The 4th axis shown is an adder. They are saying it's engraver, hence the Spindle. The engraver guys with sometimes very small tooling can't have any sloppy spindle's or it will break the cutter.

Then there's a "Spindle" !!!! Included and the Water Cooled to boot , it says water and air. Maybe water "or" air??? There are plenty of Threads here on the Chinese spindles, read up. Though I think most opt for the 2.2 kw unit. I don't know if this smaller one will do you. You also get the water pump. I think most of the smaller units talked about are Air Cooled, the 2.2 usually gets water cooled. I want a Spindle... :-)

The X motor is a Nema 34 @ 594 oz... that should do ya. Y & Z are Nema 23 @ 240oz. I don't know, many use the 390 oz units or the 425 oz. Also Nema 23 so they would bolt right in. You could swap Y and or Z later for about $ 50 ea.

No clue on the Controller and Power supply. After much agony what to get, I bit the bullet and got the Gecko G540 and the CNCrouterparts 48v power supply and I am very happy with both. This is an unknown controller, and a 30 v 3 amp PS.

What if they would or could back out the controller and power sy, you could get your own??? Maybe they might even upgrade the YZ motors to 390's.

I would still like to see some vid or reviews on it, but it's starting to look much better to me. Just some thoughts. Maybe someone might have an opinion as well.

Edit: Also a Variable freq drive. Those might be around $ 150 or so? There's a bit of change $$ in the all 80/20 bed as well.

Aug 24, 2012, 08:14 PM
Registered User
PPLJR's Avatar
I would check these guys out...:

I built the 2x4 Black Toe for about $3500 (Everything less software). Their kits are complete except for the actual table ( that can be built rather inexpensively). For software look at Cut 2D and Cut 3D from Vectric. There are some new machines on his site that have larger throws (z- axis) and cutting area (4X8).
Aug 24, 2012, 08:25 PM
Father of Fr3aK, DLG Pilot
tom43004's Avatar
I built a 2x4 foot router about three years ago for around $3k. I'm in for about $6k in software on top of that. I now have a usable setup.

FWIW I spent about four months just reading about it and asking around. Well spent four months IMHO because it kept me from buying or building junk.

Cut 3D lasted me about a month before I outgrew it. It forces you to work with solids rather than surfaces and that leads to heavy complications in import / export / boolean functions. I tried BobCad (junk) and settled on RhinoCam Pro which is basically Mecsoft's VisualMill product packaged inside Rhino. I now love my machine and software, though if I want to do sign work I usually still boot up Vectric's Vcarve Pro because it's so simple and quick.

It's an adventure building or even buying one of these things. The learning curve is very very steep no matter how smart you think you are.

Areas of study:

Stiffness of the machine
Drive mechanics
Hold downs
Tramming / Truing
Dust collection
Materials and cutting speeds
Cutting with different tools
Toolpathing for optimal quality and less post finishing work
Toolpathing for optimal speed
Servos / Steppers
Mach3 Tuning
E-Stops / limit switches / home switches

If you build a NEMA34 machine, plan on running at least a 50A service for it. By the time you run a router or VFD/spindle, dust collection, vacuum hold down, drive motors, computer, monitor, lighting, etc you'll need it, even if you don't have to add cooling to the environment.
Sep 11, 2012, 03:11 PM
Registered User
try Taig from the dearmond tools search in wb and say to Dan Sam from Israel send you its geat kachine with hight precisions i use and th support you get from this man its reap amazing wke look Sam
Sep 20, 2012, 11:21 PM
Registered User
Lboogie's Avatar
I don't have any opinion on the machine. I built my router from scratch and just converted a Grizzly Mill for CNC.

If you already have Rhino, I recommend MadCAM for the CAM tool paths. MadCAM has far exceeded my expectations. I have the 4Axis version. Jokim is the main man at MadCAD and has never let me down. Every time I had an question he had the right answer the first time, every time.

When looking for a CAM solution I tried a load of software using the month long trial period, I tried Dolphin, BobCAD (avoid at all cost!), MeshCAM, FreeMill, RhinoCam, etc...

I finally decided on MadCAM based on:

1) What it can do per dollar spent
2) Ease of use inside of Rhino
3) Availability of tutorials and direct help from the software's creator
4) No reoccurring costs

I called up Novedge and negotiated a price after I did the full trial period.

I can't say enough good about MadCAM for Rhino 4. Jokim wrote this software for use in his own mold manufacturing business, he uses it every day to build molds for industry.

I don't have any affiliation with any of these companies other than being a very satisfied Rhino4 + MadCAM user.


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