suggestions for a first CNC milling machine
  • it was suggested to me that this might be one spot to ask for suggestions on a perspective first time cnc milling machine. I was half way sold on the larger zen toolworks DIY machine till I started looking seriously at what it was capable of and not capable of. I need something that will handle metal's and plastics primarily, not mdf or other woods. The cnc ready Sherline 2000 looks very promising, but given the price involved, I'd really like to know if anyone else has had experience with this or similar machine and whether it's a good choice or not. NOTE: I have zero machinist training so I'll be starting from scratch.

    Any thoughts or suggestions would be very welcome.
    -john
  • A lot depends on what exact materials you plan to cut, how big they are, how often, and how much precision you need. 

    But... My impression of this type of machine is that it's not really rigid enough for use in cutting metal.  Certainly, you *can* do so. But, if you've used other machine tools in the past, you'll find that it flexes *much* more than you'd like for precision metalworking at reasonable speed.  And amongst machines of this sort and price, the Sherline doesn't come to mind as the best of breed.  Once you add a CNC package, you're looking at $2500+, where there are some other good options to consider.

    There are a *lot* similar-scale machines, at similar prices.  Each have their fans.  

    A few others that you might look at:
    - The IMService router  http://www.cadcamcadcam.com/122404sale.aspx  (likely great for plastic, so-so for aluminum, no-good for steel)
    - Chinese routers, like the CNC 3020T.  ~$800 w/ motors and controllers, looks pretty solid.
    - MAXNC-10 or MAXNC-15 mills

    Another rule of thumb to consider: If it looks insubstantial enough that you could pick it up, it's probably not a great choice for cutting metal.  
  • Hey there, new here but I'll weigh in on this one.

    I 100% agree that if you can pick it up, it's not going to cut what you want. At least not quickly, or pretty-like, or with large bits. 

    First question would be, have you ever used a manual milling machine? If not, I'd suggest going manual before CNC. CNC requires you to know feed rates, and requires a good bit of "feel" for the machine. Unlike 3d printers, its not just load up and go.