Machine choices

I am in the market for a CNC machine. Initial use will be in the
engraving of custom keyboard keycaps (plastic). I also want to use it
to make custom jigs to hold said keycaps for engraving, painting and
other manufacturing tasks. This tooling could be made out of almost
anything.
I would also like to have the ability to machine metal. Aluminum is
fine.
My budget is $10K or less. What are my options? I looked at the
small ShopBot machine and it looks very interesting. I am almost
certain that these machines not good for machining aluminum.
The engraving I have to do is small letters, about 0.050in to 0.125in
of height with (obviously) very small cutting tools. I thought that a
traditional vertical CNC machine may either be overkill for this or
just not adequate.
Given the very wide range of cutting that I want to do and the range
of materials, what are my machine choices?
Do I need to modify my thinking and try to go with a small table-top
engraving machine (about $3K) and then buy a low cost vertical CNC for
my tooling and aluminum work?
BTW, another requirement is that I need to be able to get from
Solidworks models or AutoCAD drawings to cutting as easily and
painlessly as possible.
Thank you,
-Martin
Reply to
m
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Martin:
If you don't get the help you want here, you can ask your question in CNCZone.com its a hobby related machining forum. You could also try the Google archives of rec.crafts.metalworking, that same question has probably been asked over there many times before.
Reply to
BottleBob
Look into Sherline, Taig, Syil, Sieg, Wabeco, Tormach, Smithy, and Industrial Hobbies, which are roughly listed according to size and are mostly under $10k. There are others but that will give you a good start. They are all hobby mills with limits on work envelope, spindle HP and/or speed, and travel speeds as compared to much more expensive commercial CNC mills.
Tormach sells SprutCAM for about $1k (only with a mill) which gives you 3D CAM and indexed 4th axis now and on-going development for continuous 4th/5th axis. That's a lot cheaper than any other comparably-featured CAM program I've seen.
Mike
Reply to
Mike Henry
Thanks very interesting. Some of these companies really need to think about the image they portray with their (really bad) websites.
The Tormach looks interesting. I like the package.
If I was going to be picky I'd try to find something with a larger work envelope. I have a part that will need to be machined out of 1/2 inch Al plate. It would required about 22x and 15y for work envelope. Of course, you could do it in two steps on a smaller machine...but, since we are being picky...
My concern with regards to mills is that I don't have a tangible sense for whether or not they'd be good for engraving small text on plastic. I am not concerned about the ability to cut it, of course. I am just wondering if engraving small text on plastic cleanly requires higher speed and more precision than these mills can offer. Most of them quote sub-1mil precision. Again, I just don't know if this is enough. CNC engraving specs I've seen are in the 0.0002 range. Whether that holds in terms of repeatability, backlash, etc., is a different matter.
Thanks,
-Martin
Reply to
m

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