CNC Router question...

Discussion in 'Replica Props' started by coryalex, May 24, 2015.

  1. coryalex

    coryalex Active Member

    Trophy Points:
    I'm looking for advice from those with experience with CNC Routers/Mills and prop making.

    I am seriously considering purchasing a CNC Router for a business venture (making supplies and patterns for industrial equipment and cutting cabinetry components), but I'd like to know how well it can be leveraged in producing detailed replica props from a CAD file.

    The props and prop components would be mostly "flat-ish" in nature, but I'd like the machine to complete the details for me as much as possible, so I can do the lion's share of my work on the computer... having the result be as close to "finished" when it comes off the machine as possible.

    I already have a good deal of experience with 3D printing (I built both my Vera rifle and Heavy Weapons Guy minigun from TF2 using my Makerbot Replicator, all designed in SketchUp), but I'm looking to use different tools and mediums in my craft... and I think a CNC Router is the next logical step.

    I'm currently looking at this machine...
    It has a work area of 48" x 48" and has a 6" gantry height.

    I'm also looking at VCarve Pro as my software package. (I'd like to design in SketchUp where possible, but you can make things directly in VCarve for cutting, too)

    So, does anyone have any experience to share with me on equipment (specific style, manufacturier, features)? or software (type, brand, or other)?

    I'd love to pick the brains of those who have already blazed a trail down this path and not reinvent the wheel, if possible.

    Thank you in advance for your time and assistance in my decision making.
  2. Forge

    Forge Member

    Trophy Points:
    Hi Coryalex, afraid I can't offer too much advice as I have just started down this road myself. I am actually working my way through Vcarve Pro tutorials this morning. I bought an 840 Stepcraft machine which is working out great. I hadn't done a lot of research primarily because I did not have a lot of brand choices here in Ireland and the distributor was local so shipping, support etc was close by. Nonetheless, I am still glad I went with this machine, for the following reasons.

    - It's been ten years since I've went at a CNC, I could have dove straight in with a large machine but chose to start small and learn the ropes first.
    - The Stepcraft has interchangeable heads, so instead of the mill head I plan to use a combination of the plotter and drag knife for pepakura work.
    - Another interchangeable head is a 3D printer nozzle and in the future they plan to release a laser cutter.
    - Cost, all in the machine cost €2700, including machine, mill cutter, Vcarve Pro and accessories, cutters etc.

    As you can guess, with a low price the SC machine is more for hobbyists and not geared for mass production work, which is fine for me at the moment,
    in the future when I make a bit of money from it I might upgrade. Stepcraft have just opened up in the US too. Anyway all the best with it.
  3. Pro Mod

    Pro Mod Well-Known Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

    Trophy Points:
    CNC is definitely the way to go as in my opinion it's far more versatile than RP and laser.
    The major benefit being that you can machine so many different types of material from foam used in flight cases to aluminium.
    From the description of what you want to produce the machine looks okay, but I'd discuss with them your 3D machining requirement and get them to produce some examples of what it can really do.
    Just remember that if you’re looking for ultra high surface finishes then it can take a long time and a number of tool changes as you move from roughing out to the final finishing phase.
    The other great thing with that machine is that you could cut 8' x 4' boards.
    One thing I would consider is a vacuum bed as is much less hassle than * or bolting your work down - but it just depends on what you intend producing.
    V-carve is a good software but I'm not that sure about Sketchup. Rhino is definitely better but considerably more expensive.
    Good look with your new venture!
  4. coryalex

    coryalex Active Member

    Trophy Points:
    Thanks for the good information. I appreciate you taking the time to respond.
    I will contact Laguna to see what they have to say.

    If anyone else has anything to add, I'll leave the thread open for a bit... maybe I'll even post back about what I ended up doing and what my actual results are. :)
  5. hydin

    hydin Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

    Trophy Points:
    I don't have a router, but I do have the urge to get something made on one after seeing Volpin Props new one :)

    Does anyone know if the 3d models for the router need to be different than the 3d models for shapeways? I know they need to be not "hollow", but for instance, I'm thinking of a wooden mask. Can I make the 3d mask file the same as I would for shapeways and send it to someone who has a cnc, and they be able to use it? Would it be better to have a "front" model and a "back" model instead of just one all inclusive piece?

    Is it possible to have a cnc cut out a wooden mask anyway? I mean, out of a big block of wood, cutting the back out, and having the cnc guy flip and center it to have the front cut out of the mask (or front to back, whichever)

    I never really paid much attention to this part of the hobby because I don't really do much modeling, and it's never been something I've had to think about before.

    Any help's appreciated.
  6. msleeper

    msleeper Sr Member

    Trophy Points:
    The level of detail that you can get off of a CNC router is a matter of what bits you use. The smaller the bit, the more precise the detail, the longer a cutting job will run. Very similar to 3D printing in that regard.

    48" x 48" is really big for your first CNC. There are a bunch of smaller ones that are probably better suited for a novice. The last thing you want is to spend thousands on a machine you decide you don't like or won't use. Unless money is no object to you, in which case good luck!
    TazMan2000 likes this.
  7. coryalex

    coryalex Active Member

    Trophy Points:
    Totally understood. Yeah, I wouldn't want to get in over my head with something I could use or afford... definitely not recommended. :) However, I have a long background in manufacturing, 3D modeling, and a fairly good history with 3D printing. Also, I've got to have the larger work area for cutting the pieces for my business ventures (not quite as complex as my prop desires, but larger in scale). :)

    I had been looking at the X-Carve or similar "hobby" type machine until an opportunity presented itself for me to invest in an industrial machine... which is a great deal more attractive for obvious reasons, if I can make the product to pay for it. Things are looking positive on that end, so my fingers are still crossed.

    I think I may need to contact the manufacturer directly with some specific questions, but from the sounds of things, I'm on the right track. Thank you, everyone.
  8. TazMan2000

    TazMan2000 Sr Member

    Trophy Points:
    Before you get into buying a CNC, you really have to see if it will fit your needs. FIgure out what you want to build and see if CNC is the best technology to assist you in making it. I had this same dilemma a while ago and realized that CNC would not be as useful as I thought it would be. Nonetheless, there are things that a CNC router can do that would be difficult for a printer and vise versa.
    As much as it is suggested you get a small CNC router to start with, I'm sure that your customers will require large pieces of material to be carved. I guess you'll have to make a business decision whether you are able to recoup the costs of your equipment by doing projects for friends/customers. As you know, bigger always means more money. But then again, it could work in your favour.

  9. jayroth

    jayroth Active Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

    Trophy Points:
    If you have the room, and the budget, that Laguna is a good machine. I would have bought one myself, save for the space requirements (and when my space issues resolve, I will).
  10. coryalex

    coryalex Active Member

    Trophy Points:
    The pieces that will pay the bills are similar in technique to the piece here...

    The pieces will range from 6" OD up to 24" or 30" OD... so I need the big area.
    My biggest question is whether or not a CNC will be able to handle cutting the tapered draft required for foundry patterns... and the CNC in the video is clearly doing that. :) That's excellent for me.
    If the Laguna can do exactly that, then I'm probably in business.
  11. TazMan2000

    TazMan2000 Sr Member

    Trophy Points:
    Oh yeah. Most CNC routers can do that. Sounds like you're good to go. Post some pics of your work when you get the machine.

  12. coryalex

    coryalex Active Member

    Trophy Points:
    Of course! This is the RPF, right? ;)
  13. Pro Mod

    Pro Mod Well-Known Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

    Trophy Points:
    I'd say the machine looks perfect for what you intend to produce.
    Would you mind telling me how much the Swift CNC is, as I'm always curious about the price differences between the States and the UK.
  14. RobertH

    RobertH Well-Known Member

    Trophy Points:
    I have a Laguna IQ HHC CNC. It has a 24x36 inch envelope. Had it for a few years now. I use it mostly for prop replicas and various home furnishing, decorative items.

    Highly recommend Laguna Tools as a company...great customer support.


    Sent from [location encrypted]...somewhere on the Tharkside of Barsoom ;)

Share This Page