I had been wanting to get a CNC machine of a couple of years now but there were things that were holding me back.
I didn’t have room for the kind I wanted, that I needed for the projects I had in mind, and they were very expensive.
Additionally, it appeared their would be a pretty steep learning curve since the work process often included multiple software programs. There are a multitude of CAD, CAM and G-code programs to choose from.
There are a lot of tutorials online for these programs. Some better than others but few that really covered the entire workflow process. It was also difficult to get a feel for the process without actually having a machine to work with.
I was still more than a little hesitant to spend the $1k-$10+k needed for the minimum sized/quality of machine I felt I would need for the projects I had in mind until I had a chance to learn how to use one first.
Fortunately, while searching YouTube for more training videos I came across a very positive review of the SainSmart line of Mini CNC machines. As luck would have it the Genmitsu 3018 Pro version was on sale, for a very limited time, for just $185. I was and am fully aware that these small machines have many issues with quality and performance. It wasn’t going to allow to do the projects I had in mind. What it did allow me to do was learn whether or not I wanted to invest the much larger sum of money needed for the right machine. Anyway, I ordered it with two extra packs of bits for a total of $210 with delivery.
While waiting for delivery I watched a multitude of videos about these mini CNC’s. I found videos on assembly, best practices, how to calibrate steps, maximum recommended feed rates, and more. One week later It was delivered and after just an hour of assembly I was successfully cutting my first test project. It was just a sample file that came with the machine for a simple engraving. I was thrilled!
Over the next few days I started on several projects from scratch. Testing feed rates different bits for different purposes generally with increasing difficulty. I made:
- a caddy for my bits, wrenches and hold downs.
- some snowflake ornaments
- and some travel phone stands
At the same time that I’ve been working on those projects I’ve also been modifying my workstation. I’ve added lighting, dust collection and a web cam to monitor cuts.
I’ve been holding off until I finished my Phone Stands to enclose the machine and do some soundproofing.
Click below to see my CNC projects: