Question: CNC and Woodworking

I was wondering if any woodworkers own or use a CNC machine . I'd like to hear your comments on the various brands brands. I'm interested in the one offered by shopbot tools (only because of the price). PLMK. Thanks, Dave
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J&D wrote:

At work we have a Busellato with a 5' X 12' reach. It may be a wee bit out of your range and took a couple few wheel barrows of dead presidents to get it in the door.
sorry...
UA100
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I can definitely recommend the ShopBot. I have an older model and I understand the latest model is even better. They have great support and the machine is put together so that a one or two man shop can afford it and maintain it. It is not the fastest machine out there, but as I am not into cranking out parts by the thousand, this does not matter to me Having the Bot has also opened up other types of work to the shop. We have done 3d carvings, dimensional decorative panels, and some sign work. All the usual disclaimers apply, I do not work for them, just a very satisfied user.

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Good morning Dave,
I have a ShopBot PRT96 in the garage that we just used to cut a complete battery testing line with (23+ sheets of 1" HDPE). Working with HDPE is pretty close to working with wood ... without some of the moisture issues!
I'm very happy with the PRT96 ... it has performed as advertised. Cutting speed is related directly to spindle power and cutter choice; we made 95% of our cuts with a 1/4" diameter "O" flute straight bit. Running a 4" cutting length, 1/2" bit in the PC router is quite an exciting task the first time around ... it can really throw some chuncks.
You WILL need to set up some sort of dust collection. I'm using the 1.5 HP Delta with a garbage can cyclone pre-collector. I still get dust and chips all over the place, mostly around the top edge of the sheet.
The provided software is 2.5-D (not 3-D) ... this means if you are cutting different depths, you need to lay out each depth as a separate cut file. You can then join all your cut files together and create one shopbot file you then run.
You can contact ShopBot and find a user in your area willing to demo their machine to you. You'll get a better appreciation for the size, speed, and sound level in a typical shop environment. You will want at least 3' on the back and left sides, and at least 6' on the front of the machine. You really should plan for the right side of the machine to be facing an open door or huge work area to load the material. It takes two of us to load a 4x8 sheet of plastic without bouncing things on the machine (though, I must admit, a 4x8' x 1" sheet of HDPE runs over 150 pounds).
You will also need hearing protection. It's a race as to whether the PC router or the Delta dust collector makes more noise. Good eye protection is also required, as some chips go flying no matter what.
Bits ... I'm using Onsrud bits, mostly on the recommendation of ShopBot, and from my experience with this machine. I've only broken one solid carbide bit (my dumb mistake ... had the bit too low and tried to move it through the base ... with the router off).
Always double check bit height and zero adjustments before running any job. I had a couple of files where I missed the "Safe Z" height, and put a nice shallow cut on the face of a part (I hate that).
If you are cutting small parts ... you must either select tabbing or be sure to not cut all the way through the material. If not, you'll have parts flying all over the place ... damaged by the bit during launch! You may also consider a vacuum holddown table option, but only if you need to cut lots of small parts (vacuum holddown is best suited for production work, not one-ups).
Hope this helps. ShopBot has a forum for users that I highly recommend reading. There are a great deal of tips and tricks regarding the finer points of CNC woodworking, as well as links to even more information.
HTH
Rick

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