Poll: Feedback/opinions on CNC router kit idea

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Background:
A friend who saw the 3-1/2 axis CNC joinery machine I'm building suggested that it might be a good idea to offer a 3-axis version of the machine in kit form. It would be identical to the joinery machine except that the z-axis could not be tilted.
The machine would use four 200 inch*ounce stepper motors producing 400 half-steps per revolution to drive 3/8"-12 TPI Acme lead screws - two motors on the x-axis and one on each of the y- and z-axis. This results in a linear step size of 1/4800" and (ignoring frictional losses) increases the "oomph" of the 200 oz*in steppers by a factor of 12. Speed of movement will be limited by the speed of the controlling PC; but 5"/sec is probably not an unreasonable expectation for moderately slow machines.
The nominal work space (the actual range of movement will be larger) is 12" x 12" x 4" (x, y, z).
There are four main groups of parts involved: (1) The wooden structure, (2) The electricals (a controller box that plugs into a PC printer port and provides power to the steppers - and the four stepper motors), (3) the collection of hardware (bolts, washers, nuts, rails, bearings, etc.), and (4) software to convert drawing (DXF) files to CNC command files, and software that reads the command files and communicates with the controller box to produce stepper activity.
Installing the software is a matter of downloading and un-zipping the two packages. One of the packages requires registration and a $60 registration fee - and doing a fill-in-the-blanks configuration. I don't provide either package; but feel that the package which requires registration is a bargain.
Assembling the structure is quick and easy (15-30 minutes with an allen wrench).
Assembling the controller box is probably an all-day job for most people. It involves drilling, soldering, tapping holes, and a bit of screwdriver work.
Some of the hardware requires cutting, drilling, and tapping metal and plastic blanks. Most of these operations don't require what I think of as advanced skills; but I'm aware that there may be woodworkers with no metalworking experience at all. There is perhaps a day's work involved.
My questions:
* Would anyone be interested in such a small machine?
* Should I expect kit builders to assemble the controller or should I pre-assemble it and increase the price to include that labor - or should I offer this as an option?
* Should I expect kit builders to do the preparatory operations on the hardware, should I do that myself and build it into the kit price, or should I offer this as an option?
* Should I discard the kit idea altogether and just offer finished packages?
* Any other thoughts / suggestions?
-- Morris Dovey DeSoto Solar DeSoto, Iowa USA http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto
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On 3/13/2006 4:05 AM Morris Dovey mumbled something about the following:

Offer all 3
1) complete kit (I'm interested in that) 2) partially assembled kit (for those who don't like fiddling with elect) 3) fully assembled (for those that want it now and have no patience for assembly)
--
Odinn
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Just personally, I think it would matter how technical the work would be before I would jump into a kit like that. It doesn't sound too bad the way you describe it.
So that would lead to the age old question: what is the value of the completed machine compared to the finished machine? If the kit only saves me 25%, I would probably rather have you build and most importantly WARRANT your work. That would certainly be easier on both of us than endless frutrating phone calls back and forth only to find that the instructions were correct, the assembly was correct, but one of the parts was defective.
I think you are correct in wondering that some/many would be uncomfortable drilling, shaping, tapping, connecting and any other processes that come along in the project might be more than they want to tackle. Even if they can do it, they may not want to. A lot of folks would rather be working on projects rather than building tools.
Robert
What are your target price parameters on this?
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nailshooter41 penned the following: >I think you are correct in wondering that some/many would be >uncomfortable drilling, shaping, tapping, connecting and any other >processes that come along in the project might be more than they want >to tackle. Even if they can do it, they may not want to. A lot of >folks would rather be working on projects rather than building tools.
Maybe they would want some help. I am new at fine woodworking, but I love building and repairing machines and tools and is something I have experience with. Hey Morris, want a field tech rep to assist builders? The software part is, unfortunately, something I do not have experience with. Personally, I would want a larger cnc router kit than you are building.
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Sailaway (in AHlRf.110$ snipped-for-privacy@fe08.lga) said:
| nailshooter41 penned the following: | >I think you are correct in wondering that some/many would be | >uncomfortable drilling, shaping, tapping, connecting and any other | >processes that come along in the project might be more than they | want >to tackle. Even if they can do it, they may not want to. A | lot of >folks would rather be working on projects rather than | building tools. | | Maybe they would want some help. I am new at fine woodworking, but I | love building and repairing machines and tools and is something I | have experience with. Hey Morris, want a field tech rep to assist | builders? The software part is, unfortunately, something I do not | have experience with. | Personally, I would want a larger cnc router kit than you are | building.
Everybody will want some help. Everybody will _need_ some help. Somewhere down the road I may be able to afford a savvy technical resource; but doday it's just me.
The software part is important. That's what drives the first letter of 'CNC'.
There are larger machines already on the market - check out the ShopBot for a reasonably-priced larger CNC machine.
-- Morris Dovey DeSoto Solar DeSoto, Iowa USA http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto
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Odinn (in snipped-for-privacy@adelphia.com) said:
| Offer all 3 | | 1) complete kit (I'm interested in that) | 2) partially assembled kit (for those who don't like fiddling with | elect) 3) fully assembled (for those that want it now and have no | patience for assembly)
[1] is easy to provide.
[2] is probably a must. See below.
[3] probably will be with electronics assembled and everything else ready to bolt together so as to minimize risk of shipping damage.
I think I need to put a photo of the control box (without the cover off) on my web page so that people can judge whether or not they want to do this assembly themselves. I didn't think it was difficult; but then I'm a computer geek and ham radio type - I might not be the best test case. :-)
-- Morris Dovey DeSoto Solar DeSoto, Iowa USA http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto
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There is one _really_ good reason to provide all the various forms of kit.
Some people have the skill-set _and_the_tools_ to do all the prep work.
Some people have the skills, but *don't* have the requisite tools. Having to buy tooling for "probable one-time use" _greatly_ increases the 'effective cost' of the kit. This will 'price it out of the market' for a fair number of these people.
Some people know they don't have the skills needed -- having the option of buying with that work 'already done' means that they _are_ still a potential customer. Again, you write off that section of the market, if you don't cater to their limitations.
Then there are the ones who "don't know that they don't know" how to do the things that are required to build the project -- regardless of how basic those required skills are, there *will* be people who tackle it without those skills. These are the ones who will drive the 'support' function crazy (If they' aren't already, that is:)
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Morris Dovey (in KQxRf.2$U%. snipped-for-privacy@news.uswest.net) said:
| I think I need to put a photo of the control box (with the cover | off) on my web page so that people can judge whether or not they | want to do this assembly themselves.
Done. It's not the best of pictures - but then I'm not exactly the best of photographers. :-)
-- Morris Dovey DeSoto Solar DeSoto, Iowa USA http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto
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Home hobbyist Serious home hobbyist Small cabinet shop Custom cabinet shop Production cabinet shop Small, medium or large commission furniture/custom woodworking shop
Each has a point the machine will cease to have value. For me, I rarely shy from a tool due to its cost/value. That said, I want multi router but no matter how extreme I stretch my justifications, I can't make it fly. I am planing on making my own in the near future.
Dave
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Teamcasa (in 1142268345 snipped-for-privacy@sp6iad.superfeed.net) said:
| I all depends on who you plan to market it too. Projected price | point. Home hobbyist | Serious home hobbyist | Small cabinet shop | Custom cabinet shop | Production cabinet shop | Small, medium or large commission furniture/custom woodworking shop | | Each has a point the machine will cease to have value. | For me, I rarely shy from a tool due to its cost/value. That said, | I want multi router but no matter how extreme I stretch my | justifications, I can't make it fly. I am planing on making my own | in the near future.
For this machine, I'd be inclined to cut the list off after the 'custom cabinet shop' entry; and warn that even a small cabinet shop could make good use of a 48x96 machine - and that if the 48x96 machine were in place, it would probably suffice.
That's true of the hobbiest market too, but not many hobbiests can/will spend for the larger machine.
This machine should be just the ticket for learning and/or for small, intricate work requiring greater precision/repeatability than is otherwise reasonable.
-- Morris Dovey DeSoto Solar DeSoto, Iowa USA http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto
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Morris Dovey wrote:

I'm not sure about 12x12. 16.25 x 16.25 would probably have a larger market ( 16" panels could be machined). Also for many many turners the largest swing over bed would max out at 16" so this would allow recesses for inlays etc. I would guess there is more market for larger x,y with lesser z.
Having done some heavy work with stepper motors in the past (11ton positioned to 0.5mm in x,y, over an 8' x6' throw) I've always wanted a lightweight toy to play with in the shop by have never had the time to run down the details nor find motors and controllers that don't cost a kings ransom. Another market you may find well served would be folks who want to put in some sort of diamond cutter to do custom glass work.
hex -30-
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hex (in snipped-for-privacy@i39g2000cwa.googlegroups.com) said:
| Morris Dovey wrote: || || The nominal work space (the actual range of movement will be || larger) is 12" x 12" x 4" (x, y, z). | | I'm not sure about 12x12. 16.25 x 16.25 would probably have a | larger market ( 16" panels could be machined). Also for many many | turners the largest swing over bed would max out at 16" so this | would allow recesses for inlays etc. I would guess there is more | market for larger x,y with lesser z.
Tell me what size and make me an offer :-) | | Having done some heavy work with stepper motors in the past (11ton | positioned to 0.5mm in x,y, over an 8' x6' throw) I've always | wanted a lightweight toy to play with in the shop by have never had | the time to run down the details nor find motors and controllers | that don't cost a kings ransom. Another market you may find well | served would be folks who want to put in some sort of diamond | cutter to do custom glass work.
Once the basic x, y, z capability is in place, the options for choosing tools to mount is pretty much wide open. (I would not suggest installing a plasma cutting head on this machine, though!)
Choosing the right components is the most difficult part of the job. It's a lot more difficult than finding the best prices.
-- Morris Dovey DeSoto Solar DeSoto, Iowa USA http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto
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Ball park prices please ???
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mike hide (in KNmdnV-0k snipped-for-privacy@comcast.com) said:
| Ball park prices please ???
Less than US$2K. How does $1895 sound? I'm not sure that's where the price will settle; but if any prepaid orders arrive this month, I'll honor that guesstimate.
-- Morris Dovey DeSoto Solar DeSoto, Iowa USA http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto
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On 3/13/2006 4:05 AM Morris Dovey mumbled something about the following:

Oh yeah, one more thought. Any chance of making this a bit larger, say 18x18 or 24x24?
--
Odinn
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Odinn (in KaydnXXqdPIMKovZnZ2dnUVZ snipped-for-privacy@adelphia.com) said:
| Oh yeah, one more thought. Any chance of making this a bit larger, | say 18x18 or 24x24?
Sure. Tell me a bit about what you want to do with it and I'll be happy to quote.
-- Morris Dovey DeSoto Solar DeSoto, Iowa USA http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto
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On 3/14/2006 8:14 AM Morris Dovey mumbled something about the following:

I have no idea what I want to do with one yet, as I can't even get into my shop to come up with any ideas of what I want to do (my daughter and her fiance have been getting furniture together to get a place of their own, and my shop happens to be the storage area for all of it).
Mostly what I'm thinking about is signs and cabinet door panels. Who knows what else I would think of if I had the capabilities.
--
Odinn
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Odinn (in g6idnSgUSfLYRYXZnZ2dnUVZ snipped-for-privacy@adelphia.com) said:
| Mostly what I'm thinking about is signs and cabinet door panels.
2' x 2' will get you started on signs. If you're able to build a good reputation for good quality at a good price, you'll know when to get a bigger machine (and you'll be able to afford it if you plan for that move from the start!) Murphy's Law applies here: people will ask for signs 50% bigger than whatever size equipment you have...
For cabinet doors a 2' x 3' capability makes more sense (measure your own overhead cabinet doors!) Beside doors, that size will handle other cabinet parts - and can handle hinge receses, pilot holes for drawer slides, and all of the system and construction holes for the euro-cabinets. Here, too, this is a 'getting-started' size machine. If it works for you at all, then it won't be long before you'll be wanting to work on full 4' x 8' sheets with a larger machine.
Both of these applications involve working with sheet goods and so don't require much z-axis capability - which helps hold the cost down.
A good guesstimator might be to figure $1K/foot of width plus $1K/foot of length. There's probably a point at which that algorithm breaks down; but it should work for machines with a small z-axis capability.
| Who knows what else I would think of if I had the capabilities.
I can guarantee that you'll never run out of possibilities. Your "want to try" list will grow much faster than your machine (regardless of size and speed) can cut. Eventually, you'll find yourself thinking about /building/ machines to do operations that aren't possible/convenient with whatever equipment you have. DAMHIKT :-)
-- Morris Dovey DeSoto Solar DeSoto, Iowa USA http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto
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Good feedback so far - thanks to all who've responded!
Yesterday I routed aluminum for the first time and added a couple of pix to the web page (link in sig). As I was watching the 'Bot cut, it ocurred to me that the small machine would actually do a better job on this operation because of the smaller step size. Still, for a first effort it came out fairly well.
Tech note: the cut was made with the spindle running at 4000 RPM with x- and y-axis feed at 0.125"/sec and z-axis feed set at 0.01"/sec - the bit was a 3-flute 1/8" solid carbide up-spiral.
Non-tech note: I broke three bits before I got the feed/speed combination right. :-(
-- Morris Dovey DeSoto Solar DeSoto, Iowa USA http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto/JBot.html
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I would be interested in just schematics and software. I have dozens of real good steppers and am in the process of building my own linear bearings and sleds for the xyz axis'.
Doug

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